A little over two weeks ago I was preparing notes for my next video blog post. The theme was “Growth from Crisis”, focusing on using the conditions of the Covid crisis to actually nourish your personal growth.
That week, though, George Floyd was murdered and rapidly, another, much older pandemic exploded once again into full view, demanding to be acknowledged and dealt with: the pandemic of racism and systemic injustice.
“Growth from Crisis” could also be said to be the theme emerging from the majority of demonstrators and (knowledgeable) commentators. The call to learn and grow and change for the better. Between all the disruption around Covid, and all the social disruption of demonstrations against violence and violence against demonstrators, it may feel like there is too much disruption happening, too much to process, to look at engaging in conscious, intentional personal change right now, but this is exactly the right time.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, a time, an energy of disruption is an opportunity for growth, for change. And actually, it is when you resist the energy of growth that you experience the most stress. Growth is an innate, natural energy that arises from within – from within you as an individual, and from the social group as a whole. Resisting it creates a lot of stress, pain and suffering. Growth energy is life energy; it seeks to create wholeness, wellness, integration (i.e. inclusion) of all parts, and harmony.
Next week, I will post the video that I had planned, but this week I want to show you how what’s happening socially is the very same process that happens within you, within all of us, inviting us and moving us towards realization of our true potential.
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We often only become aware of the need to make some kind of personal change when we experience difficulties, repeated challenges, failures and even suffering. We only become aware that our patterns of thinking, or of feeling and reacting, or of behaviour, aren’t working for us when we become aware that we are burned out, or depressed; that we’ve lost or are in danger of losing, a job, or a relationship; or that we’re stuck in a job, a life we don’t like and don’t see the way to fulfilling our dreams and potential.
It usually takes discomfort and disruption to even realize that there is a problem. But even then, we usually resist really admitting and confronting it until we don’t have a choice. Until it’s so obvious that we can’t deny it. Until the cost of denial and avoidance is higher than the (perceived) cost of doing something about it. The demonstrations and the protests are inviting, asking, demanding that we listen to deeper truths about the patterns in society that we continually ignore - systemic racism - and that continue to cause ongoing suffering; just like your own inner discomfort, unhappiness or pain, or maybe someone you love, might invite, ask or demand that you stop brushing things off and take hard look at the long-term patterns that cause you or others to suffer, and to commit to some real change. If you understand one, you can understand the other.
Even when we do stop and take a look, we often can’t see our own patterns, we can’t see what others see – the automatic patterns of thinking and acting that keep us stuck, or keep us going in a loop. Because your mind is part of the problem; it created the problem with its familiar, default patterns of thinking, and often it can’t step outside its own box, its own patterns, to see things from a completely different perspective.
It often takes someone else to point out the problem in the first place, and it often takes someone else – a friend, an elder, a counsellor, therapist, coach or teacher – to shed a different light on the problem, to teach you a different way to think about it, and to show you the way out.
We can only succeed in making real, lasting systemic change, when we listen to those parts of us that actually have the problem - the parts that are in pain - and when we listen to others who can guide us to see and think differently, and to envision new ways of doing things.
So, this is what is happening socially, now. The same process applies. A collective pattern (systemic racism) of which we are more or less aware, depending on our experience and place in it, results in suffering; we’re at the point where the parts of us that are suffering and that strive for wholeness and wellness, and that have been ignored over and over again, are making their voices heard. And insisting to be heard.
On an individual, personal level, this sometimes happens through physical or mental illness - pain, burnout, depression, anxiety – when these parts of us that hold the suffering will no longer be ignored, dismissed or denied. Our overall organism tries to force us to stop and look, and change for the better. Both individually and collectively, it is a huge opportunity for growth, for healing, for a change of direction, for making leaps forward towards our best visions of ourselves.
There is always resistance to change – individually and collectively. There is always resistance to growth. There is always a part that defaults to the status quo, to the familiar. That part engages in denial, in minimizing or, if all else fails, in negotiating the appearance of change through action that does not fundamentally change the systemic patterns. If you, or anyone you know, has ever struggled with an addiction, you know exactly what I am talking about.
On the other hand, we can embrace the moment, the momentum, the energy of positive change, of growth, and commit to making our finest visions of our lives – both individual and collective – come true.
You can look at the disruptions we are experiencing socially right now, or that you are experiencing in your own life – as stressful, unpleasant and unwelcome - even scary; or, you can see the opportunity for making conscious, intentional change that these opportunities invite, and seize the day, embrace it, embrace life.
Next time, I will talk about how you make that happen!