The slow process of transformation

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on


Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

 

The process of learning new life lessons is seldom fun, but I'm always so delighted when I reach the point of identifying the lesson in some difficult circumstance I've encountered.

I'm positive that now that I've learned that lesson, I am a completely changed person, and I'll never make that same mistake again!

Unfortunately, that's usually wildly over-optimistic. Transformation seldom happens that easily (at least for me), especially when I'm dealing with deeply rooted patterns.

Life always finds ways to test me, and I quickly learn that I have more work to do.

At first, I often don't even recognize the test until I've already flubbed it. I may catch on sooner than I would have without the original lesson so that I can reduce the damage by choosing a new pattern of acting in the middle of the mess, but I'm still discouraged to find that I'm not as changed as I thought I was.

As I continue encountering the test, I start recognizing it sooner and sooner and choosing healthier patterns sooner and sooner in the process, but it's still hard work to notice it early and get it right.

But the day always comes when I encounter the same test and choose differently from the start. I know I've learned the lesson and have really changed when I don't even recognize the test until after the fact, but I still enacted new, healthier behavior. I've practiced enough by that time that the healthy behavior came naturally to me.

When I reach that day, it often takes me by surprise to realize just how much I really have changed, even though it's been a long hard process to get there.

This process of learning new behavior reminds me of a poem by Portia Nelson that I first heard in my yoga teacher training program that describes this process of learning quite well.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE CHAPTERS
by Portia Nelson

1. I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost...
I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2. I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3. I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in...it's a habit
My eyes are open; I know where I am;
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4. I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

5. I walk down another street.

That poem has stuck with me in the years since then as such a powerful encouragement in the times when I keep finding myself landing in the same hole.

It encourages me to keep working at it until I reach the point where I suddenly realize that I have taken a new street without even noticing it. I didn't even consider going down that old street. When that finally happens, I know that something big has shifted, I've learned the lesson, and now I'm ready to move on.

It's such a surprising feeling to notice this shift, even when I've thought I'd mastered the lesson a dozen (or more) times in the past only to find myself falling into the same hole all over again. (Evidently, I'm not quite as quick at this as Portia was.) I get so frustrated with myself for not being as transformed as I thought I was sooner.

But deep change comes slowly (at least for me). There are always many layers that need to be peeled away by the testing process before the root can be accessed, but once that root is reached and dealt with, the final transformation often seems to come effortlessly when I'm not watching.

Where are you learning to walk down a different street? Do you find that you go through a similar process in changing deep patterns in your life?


 

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