Path Basics

Riding the Edge of Transformative Change: Making an Ally of Your Fears

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An edge marks a jumping off point, a cliff’s edge, or a moment of irreversible change.  It’s also a border place, where one thing ends and another begins.

Transformative change is an edge where your soul’s desires intersect with your fears; it’s a place of power, if you know how to navigate its conflicting directives.

Transformative change is an edge. When you heed your soul’s desire to heal and grow in alignment with your deep, beautiful Self, you awaken powerful forces that will take your life in new, empowering directions.

It’s like jumping off a cliff, leaving behind the things that you know and opening yourself to what else is true and possible. And once you wake up to your soul’s desire and make this jump, you can never go back to sleep.

This edge of transformative change can be messy and confusing. The jump you make is really a leap of faith into a border place where the new has yet to take form and the old still has a hold on you. The very desires that push you to change also activate potent fears that want to freeze you in your tracks.

Your soul’s desire knows the parts of your beauty and wounding that are the keys to your deepest healing and evolution. They hold your secret longings that push you to claim a life in alignment with your deep, beautiful Self, and your best gifts and qualities.

Your fears are experts on your trigger buttons, and the inner and outer voices that order and control your life. From this mastery, they can deliver well-targeted, ‘what if’ poison darts that can paralyze your impulses to take your life in new directions: what if I lose my job?; my partner?; my sanity?; what if my mother never talks to me again?.

The push and pull of these competing forces may make you feel crazy, and cast doubts on your commitment and ability to heal and change your life. But the opposite is actually true. Strong fears indicate that you are truly riding your edge of transformative change, and getting somewhere new. This is a place of immense power if you know how to navigate its conflicting directives.

The trick is to listen to both of these forces, desire and fear, and to make an ally of your fear. Your desires show you how to change your life. Your fears tell you why this is a bad idea, inadvertently sharing essential information that can help you wisely and successfully bring positive transformation to your life.

These ideas are best understood by trying them out for yourself. Here is what that process can look like.

Making an Ally of Your Fears

For this exercise, work with something from your own transformative edge: what do you want to change in your life right now?

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Claiming Your Personal Leadership: A Grassroots Vision of Change

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Our culture trains us to believe that only special people — the superstars of politics, business, sports, the arts — can have real influence and power in society. We give them the center stage, the microphone, our adulation and make them our leaders, while our own light is dimmed by their giant shadows.

What matters is who you are, not what you do. The world needs you to claim your personal leadership, and trust that what you have to offer is worthy and needed.

While it is true that people with money, charisma and acclaimed talents do wield a disproportional share of societal influence and power, it doesn’t follow that they are the primary change agents in our world.

Over and over again, my dreams have been telling me one clear message: humanity is riding an evolutionary edge, and that transformative, life-affirming change will happen at the individual level, and then be passed on, person to person, in a great, long chain of touching and being touched by others.

Our human society cannot be remade by a select few superstars, but by each of us claiming our personal leadership and choosing to lead an authentic life based on our unique configuration of gifts and best qualities. Profound, lasting transformation arises from the grassroots of individuals who are remaking their lives for the better.
A Leadership Dream

Recently I had a powerful dream that speaks to this message.

In this dream, I am at a political rally with my partner. Two politicians are on stage delivering their speeches. They smile, look good, and make grand promises, but it is nothing but double-speak and empty words.

My partner takes the microphone from them, gives it to me and asks, “What are your thoughts on politics and leadership?”

And this is how my dream self responds: “Each one of us must ask ourselves, right now, this moment: What do we want as our personal legacy of our precious time on this planet? Are we not accountable for the future well-being of our children, and our children’s children, and the other life forms that share this world with us? Do we have the right to just do what we want and leave others to pay for our excesses? Can we stand by while our economic, political and social systems lead us down a destructive path?

“These questions apply to all of us, the citizens of this Earth. The time of expecting others to fix the problem, of recklessly pursuing our self-interest, and of burying our head in the sand is done.

“Whether you are the most powerful person in this room, or the lowliest, the mantle of leadership falls equally upon us all. This mantle of leadership requires you to look inside for the gifts and offerings that are yours alone to bring to collective table.

“Be you poet, politician, gardener, caretaker, tycoon or gravedigger — it does not matter what you do, it matters who you are. The world needs you to show up more deeply and profoundly as yourself, and to trust that this is your part to play. What you have to offer is worthy; it is enough.

“Change begins when you settle your mantle of leadership upon your own shoulders, and when you stop grasping outside of yourself at things that can never feed your soul. Because what you most deeply desire is not money, nor power, nor the pretty trappings of the material world, but to live an authentic life, based on what is best and beautiful inside of you, and to reach out and honor the same in others.

“We humans are brilliant creatures that can solve most anything we set our heart and will to. We can be leaders in our own circles of influence, partner with those of like mind and intention, and set right the abuses and excesses of human society. Together, we can mend our hearts, our homes, our communities and our precious planet home.

“We each hold the destiny of humanity and this Earth in our hands. I call you to put on your mantle of leadership, to straighten your back, hold your head proud, and get to work.”

Claiming Your Personal Leadership

This dream is an invitation for each of us to claim our personal mantle of leadership. Though this is the work of a lifetime, here are three initial steps to help you begin this crucial task.

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A Hansel and Gretel Spiritual Journey: Finding Your Way Home One Crumb at a Time

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Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way home. Though this plan doesn’t seem to work out so well for them, it offers an evocative metaphor for those of us who are spiritual seekers on a journey home to a soul-based life.

Hansel and Gretel reveal a great spiritual truth: you do your soul work one crumb/life-changing situation at a time; one crumb leads to the next, and the next.

My spiritual journey began in earnest the day I realized there was something essential missing from my life, that was somehow related to my soul. I was in the midst of my MBA studies, lost in a material, career-driven life, with an aching hunger for something I neither understood nor knew where to find.

No matter that I was lost, I had woken up to my spiritual hunger and decided that I needed to change. And that was enough. The Mysteries, those powerful, invisible forces that underlie our waking reality, heard my yes to change, and began to leave a trail of crumbs, in the form of life-changing encounters and events, for me to follow.

A few months later, I completed my MBA and set off on a solo backpacking adventure in Europe. Shortly into the trip, I landed on the wrong train in France, only to hook up with a fellow adventurer, who was also on the wrong train. She was a beautiful young woman from Hawaii, with an edge of wildness and burgeoning, feminine-based spirituality.

We decided to travel together, joining our itineraries. She took me to the subterranean caves of Dordogne to see Paleolithic paintings, and here I encountered the Goddess for the first time. Though I had no words or concepts to explain this encounter, I felt Her pulsing omnipresence the moment I descended into the womb-like darkness of the cave.

My spiritual odyssey unfolded from there; crumb by crumb, clue by clue, sometimes little steps, sometimes huge ones, the Mysteries led me through the dark, scary woods of my lostness.  And, like Hansel and Gretel, my travels were fraught with challenge and suffering, but still the Mysteries led me, challenge by challenge, crumb by crumb.

Somewhere along the way, I understood that I was on a Hansel and Gretel journey, and that the Mysteries and my soul were leading me home to the presence of being and soulful life that I longed for. My task was to follow the trail of crumbs, doing the soul work presented by each, knowing that the next crumb would naturally follow.

Your Hansel and Gretel Journey

As a spiritual seeker, perhaps you are also on a Hansel and Gretel journey. Whatever you have lost and whatever you are longing for, these things set you on your path of soul, leading you home to a richer, fuller expression of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts.

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The Transformative Magic of Your Life Story: Embracing the Beauty and the Ugly

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We humans are not good or bad, beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect, but some complex weaving of all of these things. To witness, embrace and hold space for the totality of our being is a very potent practice that can bring the transformative magic of healing and change to our lives and world.

You’re not good or bad, beautiful or ugly, but a complex weaving of these things. Transform your life by becoming big and wise enough to embrace all that you are.

I am on a hike with a dear friend in a wild area close to the ocean. A creek runs through a small, verdant valley, guarded over by towering evergreen trees. We stop walking, stop speaking, and gaze in slack-jawed wonder at this miniature Garden of Eden, arising from a fertile meeting ground of dappled sunlight and rich, moist soil. The beauty is visceral, a shining green luminescence that thrums up against my own shining core.

“We are this beautiful inside,” I tell my friend.

Later this same day, another dear friend shares a story about having to explain to her ten-year-old son what an army is. Her explanation went something like this: “I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but we give money to a group of people who use it to buy weapons that they use to kill other people.”

This is not a judgment of the courageous individuals in the armed forces who risk their lives in service to their countries, but more a paring war down to its simplest terms and seeing the horror, the ugly, at its core.

We humans are this ugly inside. Not just in relation to war, but in the many terrible, destructive things we do to each other and to our planet home.

Both of these statements are true. We have a whole lot of beauty and a whole lot of ugly inside of us and in our world. These two polar forces, inside and outside, battle for dominion over our soul.  And it is here, in these opposing forces, that you find the transformative magic at the heart of your life story and our human experience.

The Gift of the Beauty and the Ugly

This is never an easy conversation to have. If you are like most people, you’ve been socialized to push away and transcend the bad and the ugly, and to aspire to the good and the beautiful, while skating around the edges of the uncomfortable, unsavory parts of your own personality and our human society.

Yet the ways of the sacred feminine direct you to do the exact opposite. You are not meant to deny or transcend the ugliness you experience, but to show up to the truth of its presence in your life story and our collective reality. While at the same time, you must dig deep into the beauty that is also present in the core of your being and the best of our humanity.

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