Self-Renewal & The Art Of Transformation

May 10, 2014 § 15 Comments

serpents, http://www.unique-design.net/library/myth/serpent.html[Lawrence Turner Design]

“Whenever there is a strong lock used there is something extremely precious hidden. The thicker the Veil, the more valuable the jewel. A hoard of treasure is guarded by a large snake; do not dwell on the hideousness of the snake, contemplate the dazzling and the priceless things you’ll discover in the treasure.”   ~ Rumi 

“Men may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things.” ~Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” ~ Romans 12:2

Just like a snake, we must periodically shed our outgrown psychic skins.

http://ericasodos.wordpress.com/2012/12/, snake shedding skin

During a time when this need is pressing, the snake becomes uncomfortable. From the outside he may appear sick—his skin dull & ragged. He feels— he knows!—something is wrong & has to change. Something must be done! Intuitively, he begins the shedding process by rubbing his deadened dermis against rough surfaces. It is painful, but he feels compelled. When he is finally free of the outdated layer, he is more luminous & vital than ever!

This natural process reflects our own need to periodically embark upon an inner journey of self-renewal.

Taylor James, human metamorphosis, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics[Taylor James, “Human Metamorphosis”]

When it’s time for a sloughing off of psychic weight—outmoded belief systems, behaviors, situations—we are alerted by a sense of palpable emotional discomfort.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture of distraction, where the numbing of emotional pain is par for the course.

shutterstock_71677819, http://marycrimmins.com/our-ways-of-numbing/[Mary Crimmins, “Our Ways of Numbing”]

Television, comfort food & alcohol are some popular forms of socially acceptable self-numbing. However, those modalities are at least straightforward, in that they are acknowledged as being distractions.

More insidious, because it is rewarded & ennobled, is the “busyness” phenomenon. Because productivity has tangible positive results in one’s life, it’s also an extremely good cover story for not doing much needed inner work.

If we feel emotionally uncomfortable within ourselves & dive headlong into (outer) work, we may feel temporarily better because we are not engaging with the difficult emotions pressing at our awareness. When we come home, we’ve worked hard & are, understandably, tired. The last thing we want to do is engage with challenging questions & uncomfortable emotions. So the “I-worked-hard-I-deserve-it” syndrome sets in—we flip on the TV or the computer, grab a beer—& maintain a vicious cycle of almost unrecognizable escapism that can go on for years.

information-overload, site credit: http://socialmediastrategiessummit.com/blog/the-new-consumer-how-social-media-has-impacted-consumerism/

“For many years,” relates blogger Gabby, in her post “Escapism As A Lifestyle.” “I worked two and three jobs at a time to make ends meet. A few weeks ago, I quit my regular weekend job. It was such a relief to know I wouldn’t be working weekends anymore. I did not expect the panic that would invite itself to my table and have coffee with me in the morning. For me [it had been] a means of escaping. Being so busy I didn’t have the time to look at myself and think about what I really want out of this ‘one wild precious life’.

“I panicked and started filling up my life with other things, just to keep me busy. It took only about two weekends of this before I realized what I was doing. Which is good, because not all that long ago, it may have taken me years to figure out what I was doing.”

escapism_by_kokopa, site credit: http://kokopa.deviantart.com/art/Escapism-371012430[“Escapism” by Kokopa]

Unshed psychic skins begin to take their toll. We feel a vague sense of discomfort that may be hard to name. Perhaps we feel anxious or disconnected from a certain aliveness we recall having once felt, but we’re not sure how to get it back.

“Numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating,” notes Brene Brown, “because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.” (“Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live.”)

hiding-photodream-art, site credit: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/hiding-photodream-art.html[“Hiding”]

Everything living requires renewal. Our cells shed automatically, but our emotional life requires more intentionality. If we don’t consciously process our feelings & old wounds, address our pain & pressing questions, we begin to suffocate under the weigh of old, dead layers.

Unfortunately, the signs of needing self-renewal mimic the symptoms of depression & anxiety—human experiences which modern psychiatry is all too eager to label a condition, prescribe pills & call it a day.

pills like candy

The blogger of “Spiritual Emergency” writes about her experience of what a traditional western worldview would categorize as schizophrenia, which she processed through a mystical-transformative-shamanic lens. Noting that this approach empowered her to find her true self & center, she observes:

“Mainstream reductionist psychiatrists […] by and large presume that if an experience (such as chronic depression) is unpleasant, it must be stopped or band-aided, but because an experience is painful or difficult, it doesn’t necessarily follow that’s it’s not valuable, or therapeutically worthwhile as a ‘wound which heals’.”

Solar System byTill Gerhard, site credit: https://www.frieze.com/issue/review/altered_states_of_paint/[Till Gerhard, “Solar System“]

There are many times in my own journey when, if I had regarded my feelings of emotional discomfort—or “anxiety & depression” as we commonly define them—as simply a chemical imbalance & not the voice of a buried aspect of myself trying to come through & tell me what was untended in my life, I would never have found that next “trapdoor” into a deepened, expanded level of being.

In our lives, we periodically come across what appear to be ceilings in our personal-growth & sense of wellbeing. They always, however, contain trapdoors. You just have to keep feeling around for where the door to the next level is hidden…

http://www.jodyrobbins.com/hotel-el-ganzo/

Releasing old pain is an essential aspect of the art of self-renewal.

For me, finding that trap door has involved radically honest self-reflection & the willingness to face & experience my unresolved emotional pain head-on. We have to keep in mind that having emotional pain does not make us defective, it makes us human (at least, humans of this current un-enlightened age of Earth).

“Grieving is an intrinsic part of the healing process,” notes psychotherapist Daniel Mackler in “Grieving The Ultimate Loss: Your Imperfect Parents.” “Everybody suffers loss, right from the beginning. The primary loss is the fact that no parent, at least no parent who is not fully enlightened, is perfect. Grieving is long, painful, and confusing, but richly rewarding. Life is not complete unless all traumas are unearthed, grieved, and thus resolved. Those who fail to complete this process live forever in a limbo of partial misery, stuck unconsciously in the past and unable to escape […]

“Most believe that a healthy life feels no pain. This is why the majority are insane. Avoiding all pain is not healthy. Grieving is horribly painful, and totally necessary. Grieving is beautiful.”

http://impressioniartistiche.blogspot.com/2012/12/massimiliano-gasparini.html#.U2g1916Cbq0[Massimiliano Gasparini]

A heart-healing excercise I’ve found helpful is to, in a manner of speaking, go to my heart & “knock there” to see what needs processing. This involves first finding/creating a peaceful, meditative & relaxed state, then putting one’s attention on the area of the heart.

How does it feel? Often, our first response is that we feel nothing. Don’t let this deter you. We live mostly with protectively blocked heart chakras, because our world is harsh & our culture does not encourage inner excavation as the essential part of life’s journey that it is. Keep inquiring. Meditate on the heart & eventually you will begin to receive impressions. What psychic swords are still stuck there?

3 of swords heart

Using symbolic imagery like this is useful. Just as our subconscious communicates with our conscious mind in symbols, so, too, the heart speaks.

Try mentally pulling a psychic sword out of your energetic heart. Who, or what experience, put it there? Asking yourself these kinds of questions can be very useful in identifying the areas of one’s emotional life which need attention. By attention, I mean simply confrontation (identifying & feeling the emotion). This alone will start the process of release & consequently, healing.

Heart in Hand by: Małgorzata Wielek-Mandrela, site credit: http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-Heart-in-hand/389735/1545830/view[Małgorzata Wielek-Mandrela, “Heart In Hand.”]

The idea of the heart as the locus of man’s emotional life is not accidental. Mystical traditions of both East & West have long embraced the idea of a heart chakra. In today’s climate of materialist cynicism, it’s all too easy to see the heart as simply an organ whose function is to pump blood to the rest of the body.

As with everything, there is an exoteric function to the heart & an esoteric one. The invisible life of the heart is a very real thing. It is truly the compass for our life’s direction. And too often unhealed emotional pain—like a snake’s unshed skin—blocks our connection to our greatest resource.

personal-transformation, site credit: http://www.thechangeblog.com/personal-transformation/[From “6 Steps to Personal Transformation”]

Clearing the emotional cobwebs, which block connection with our internal compass, is a key step in self-renewal.

I am also a strong advocate of art therapy & the cathartic value of creativity. It’s a myth that some people are creative, while others are not. Creativity is inherent in human nature. Some people may have nurtured specific modalities & refined their skills for particular crafts, but everyone can self-express if they simply allow themselves the space to play.

Creativity_Nithyananda, site credit: http://www.projecteve.com/effects-of-and-remedies-for-scatterbrain-creativity/[Nithy Ananda]

Creating a painting, song, collage, poem, short personal essay, etc. expressing the feelings you’ve unearthed in your heart work is richly rewarding. It’s as though one has coughed up one’s pain & caught it in the butterfly net of art, wherein it is transmuted into something positive. Transmutation is a powerful act.

It can be particularly rewarding if you continue to craft a piece from a rough, private catharsis to a polished, artistic offering. My book of poems, “Pollen,” is largely a result of processing my father’s untimely death & the consequent existential crisis that ensued. When readers write to tell me that the work has moved them & helped them with their own process it is doubly rewarding. Like oysters, we can transform our painful sand grains into luminous pearls. Thus is the redemption of art.

oyster, pearl, http://www.livescience.com/32289-how-do-oysters-make-pearls.html

Once the initial malaise has begun to clear through processing, intentional visioning—identifying meaningful goals—is a helpful step to continue momentum.

Vision boards are popular these days for a reason…They’re fun! Compiling representative images of your goals in an inspirational collage is a greatly constructive form of play. More tangible & exciting than a list.

Another method is to work “backwards” by writing down the ways you wish to feel, and then making note of what actions & activities promote this feeling.

vision-crane-fire-postcard-image-vision-boarding, site credit: http://loveyourlifevisionboarding.com[Vision Boarding]

So if you’re feeling stuck, don’t worry! It’s simply time for an internal house cleaning. And Spring is a natural season for it.

If you’re feeling lost, do not lose heart. While it’s true life does not, as is commonly bemoaned, come with instructions, you come with a compass—your own inner guidance system, the heart. The connection has just likely been muted & clogged with unprocessed emotion. A little catharsis & honest self-reflection, followed by constructive action, will do wonders.

If you’re feeling depressed, don’t buy the hype; our society is so afraid of unpleasant feelings, it has instilled in us an unhealthy fear of challenging emotions. Depression, like physical pain, is just our system alerting us that something requires attention. Modern culture is pathologically fixated on happiness, with an equally pathological rejection of unhappy feelings. This is a recipe for disaster! Ironically, the only way to reach true inner peace & wellbeing is to traverse the psychological labyrinth surrounding the proverbial treasure.

These are all simply symptoms of the need for self-renewal, rejoice! And enjoy the journey.

Taylor James, human metaphors is, site credit: http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/human-metamorphosis-15-pics

*Psychologist Daniel Mackler’s website of insightful essays on self-healing is a great self-therapy resource. 

Related articles:

“Navigating the Dark Night Of The Soul,

“The Modern Vision Quest,” 

Soul Retrieval.”

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§ 15 Responses to Self-Renewal & The Art Of Transformation

  • sara jh says:

    thanks for these beautiful words, tai! a gentle and timely reminder that i need during a season of renewal in my own life.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Wonderful to hear, Sara! Thanks so much for your supportive feedback.

      I am thrilled it was timely. I try to tune into the collective need for my posts. And it’s always great to hear from readers for whom I have.🙂

      Tis the seas for renewal!

      On on,

      Tai

  • […] is just a note to subscribers that I posted a new article ~ Self-Renewal & The Art Of Transformation. But there was a glitch with wordpress, so I don’t think the email went out to you […]

  • Robert C says:

    Thank you! You always seem to produce a lovely and enlightening essay when I need it the most! Keep up the great work. You truly have great insights into what it is to be human.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Thank you so much, Robert,

      It means a lot to hear my posts are resonating. That is certainly my aim, so it fills my heart with joy to hear it’s so.

      On on!

      TC

  • Karol says:

    This is so wonderful. Perfectly worded to remind us what it is to be human. Nobody is perfect. Everybody has hurt. It’s become the norm to label feelings as conditions and conditions should be treated and that adds up to feeling inadequate. I love the mental picture of shedding the old skin. You bring a beautiful sense of peace and okay- ness to your readers Tai, thank you! I’m still quoting from your wabi sabi . You certainly are touching and helping others with your words. Thanks for sharing your light!🙂

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Oh, Karol,

      That brings me so much joy to hear. It makes my week to know my work is reaching & enriching readers.

      Thank you so very much for telling me.

      On on!

      TC

  • “More insidious, because it is rewarded & ennobled, is the “busyness” phenomenon.”
    Exactly!
    People hide behind tasks that were given to them by others, mainly bosses, so they will avoid any self-analysis and introspection. When you carefully look around, it is amazing the number of people who are using their jobs, which quite often are just collections of disconnected, mindless tasks, to avoid their lives. That’s why it’s much easier to be employed than self employed, and that’s why so many people don’t have the strength to leave a job they hate, among other reasons.
    This was a great post. Thanks many times.
    Philippe

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Thank you, Phillippe!

      I’ve noticed the same thing & am fortified by your affirmation as a reader who has seen it too. It’s epidemic, really. And apparently missed by most people…a major societal blindspot.

      I’m thrilled to hear I am covering topics that feel as relevant to readers as it does to me.

      On on!

      TC

  • alanseyes says:

    “While it’s true life does not, as is commonly bemoaned, come with instructions, you come with a compass—your own inner guidance system, the heart.”

    Beautifully said.

    The idea of transformation is fascinating and it does indeed appear that each of us has unique challenges in life to grow and transform into something higher. My scientific self scoffs at the idea but I can’t help but persistently wonder if there is any metaphysical significance to our individual and collective transformative pathways through life.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Don’t let your inner scientist scoff your intuition out of town! If I might be so bold as to say.😉

      While we are programmed by society to pit metaphysics against science, the two naturally overlap & co-exist more than our current climate of thought tends to promote. Actually, this is one of my favorite topics & I hope to bridge this man-made gap in some of my future writings.🙂

      For example, the phenomena of virtual particles popping in and out of existence http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-virtual-particles-rea/ certainly suggests dimensions beyond those we perceive with the five senses.

      Transformation is elemental to science! Intensely metaphysical & totally scientific: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” (Albert Einstein.)

      Thank you so much for your positive feedback!

      It fuels my heart to keep writing.🙂

      On on!

      TC

    • “If you’re feeling depressed, don’t buy the hype; our society is so afraid of unpleasant feelings, it has instilled in us an unhealthy fear of challenging emotions. Depression, like physical pain, is just our system alerting us that something requires attention. Modern culture is pathologically fixated on happiness, with an equally pathological rejection of unhappy feelings. This is a recipe for disaster! Ironically, the only way to reach true inner peace & wellbeing is to traverse the psychological labyrinth surrounding the proverbial treasure.”

      After reading your post, one more time, I must say that you hit a big nail here. Of course feeling depressed is just another tool we humans, as well as some evolved animals have. It tells us that we are engaged on the wrong path and it’s time to recalculate.

  • garibah says:

    Thank you for the insightful and provocative reflection that always follows from reading these writings. I kept expecting to hear you mention a book i’m reading now called “Healing the Mind through the Power of Story” by Lewis Mehl-Madrona. If you have not read it, i must recommend doing so because of the powerful transformation that can occur simply by digging into your psyche through analyzing our past stories and stories of present which we tell ourselves daily (and often subconsciously) that shape our opinions, perspective, and feelings of the world. . . our reality!
    So thank you for the work and research you do.

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