So What — Now What???
The personal growth and self-discovery journey has brought you a long ways from where you started. Your self-awareness has skyrocketed including a deeper understanding of yourself, your past, your personality preferences, your core issues, your goals, and a deeper understanding of life and your purpose. For many the feeling is a total transformation from who you were only a few years ago. The butterfly has emerged from the cocoon! (By the way, a great book using the butterfly analogy is )
Bliss and true happiness is the reward now….right? Well at many levels the answer is yes, but for many we realize a profound truth, our work begins! A couple of examples to illustrate this.
Just watched the first episode of “Enlightened” (HBO series) last night. The main character, experiences tragedy landing her in deep depression and chaos. She speaks of attending therapy and is shown in a spiritual retreat filled with meditation and celebration. She returns home on a high, feeling more relaxed and stating that she has forgiven the past. However, the reality she experiences quickly tests her “enlightenment” as she falls prey to many of her old issues.
In the movie, Razor’s Edge with Bill Murray, Bill’s character after much soul-searching has that magical moment where the lightbulb goes off and a great realization about life unfolds. Following this moment he leaves the monastery to return home. He meets a former acquaintance whose life was in despair following the tragic loss of her husband and kids. He would rescue her from her turmoil and addictions. After a period of bliss in this new relationship the past once again haunts his girlfriend who returns to her “dark side” and is later found murdered. He is devastated and falls into a depression. But this is short-lived as he realizes the need to move on. At this point he shares something along the lines that he thought that there were privileges as a result of the work he had done with himself, only to realize that although he had changed, the world around him in many ways has not.
Self-awareness is a double-edged sword (see prior post). It provides the new gift of sight and understanding which provides meaning to life, but it also brings with it responsibility and accountability. Once we are aware of something, we must integrate within our thoughts and behaviors. To know (have greater awareness), and not yet to do (to take action on that awareness), is not yet to know (knowledge without application is meaningless). So how do we integrate this awareness into our life? How do we put our new beliefs and vision into practice?
Another challenge at this point is the desire to save everyone around you. You return with this incredible awareness along with the desire to tell everyone and show them the way. Although worthy in terms of intention, many only realize as was the case in The Razor’s Edge, that those we wish to change, are not interested in what we have to share or say. We are hit with the profound realization that we are in many ways alone.
I recall returning home from my last backpacking trip (Eastern Europe) where I came to the realization that it was time to settle down and start a family, something I knew deep inside that I wanted to experience in my life. I returned to a simple home only to find myself in similar struggles. I decided I would start a business where I would invite others on camping trips to focus on their personal growth through activities and being in nature. I advertised the “experiential” opportunity only to have no one call. Surely this had to be, so I increased my advertising only to experience the same outcome. I was devastated. How could this be?
I found myself enraged wherever I went. I would go to the grocery store only to hear those in line complain about the prices and the wait. At one point I replied, “Do you know what you really have here. Do you know how many people would love to have your problems?” I became more reclusive, not wanting any exposure to people. I longed for another backpacking trip to get away. This continued for several months until my great mentor, Tom Sawyer, cut through what was going on with two key statements. First, he said, “you are a man without a country.” I had no idea where I belonged. I no longer subscribed to the materialistic ways and values promoted within the US. Yet this was home.
Second, he said, “It is now time to chop the wood and carry the water.” This was the realization that I would not receive a “get out of life” pass just because I had changed. It was time to make a choice to either escape or face this reality and jump back into life, meaning that it was time to find work and settle down. These realizations were not easy to accept. My ego felt entitled to preferential treatment. Slowly however this reality settled in and I started to think about what was next.
I met many on my continued journeys that shared their own struggle with respect to returning to “normal” life. The common denominator was that we had changed, and with this change we expect that life will be different, only to experience the harsh realization that life is what it is here. We wish to return to the bliss we had known on our spiritual retreats or as the saying goes, “it is easy to be the priest on the mountain.” It is a time of integration of our learnings and accepting the reality of continuing to chop the wood and carry the water.
Over time the dust settles and we realize the need to focus and affirm ourselves on our discovered vision, values and purpose. It is a time to ultimately return to our new beliefs and learn how to trust in these beliefs. We must know walk our talk by putting into action what we learned. Another phase of growth begins!