Remember being in second grade, or even seventh grade, and feeling confident you'd know what it meant to be an eighth grader or a tenth grader when the time came? Not worrying that you weren't in eighth grade at the age of 7?
We gave ourselves permission to be wherever we were in our developmental process. Now that we’re grown up, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to know everything right now.
After seeing so many people walk the path of transformation, I’ve realized there are many phases, and they don’t look the same in any two people’s lives. Think of life as your school. You’re constantly learning lessons and growing. While we need to give ourselves permission not to know everything now, it’s important to know where we are in the process. No matter our current phase, though, these three rules stay the same:
1. Don’t expect yourself to be anywhere other than where you are. Accept your current place on the path.
2. Anticipate the very next phase beyond the one you’re in, so you can be prepared for it when it arrives.
3. Be compassionate and understanding to others, regardless of their progress on their own personal journey.
I've described the five overarching phases below:
If you’re reading this, you’re either past or nearly past this phase. If you were asleep, my work wouldn’t resonate with you. But I bet you remember when your conditioning and fears ruled you. That's when you were asleep — playing the victim, assuming we don’t have the power or ability to change our own lives. Placing blame, neuroticism, fear, and lack of fulfillment are common side effects of being "asleep." At some point, we realize we’ve been living our lives on cruise control and decide to stop.
Usually, after a good old-fashioned expectation hangover (when we’ve expected certain things from ourselves or others and found ourselves disappointed — again), we finally wake up and start asking ourselves why that keeps happening.
We begin to learn that our experiences aren’t random, and we start looking for answers. We connect the dots and recognize that life is about learning and finding our true selves. We have a lot of realizations — both exciting and perhaps difficult to deal with.
In this phase, we shift from knowing to doing. If you feel like you have a lot of information but things in your life aren't reflecting that knowledge, you’re probably in the integration phase. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and make things happen.
Awareness is not enough for transformation. We must change our belief systems and behaviors. We can let go of our old stories and upgrade our programming. Here, now, we do the courageous emotional work of healing old issues so they no longer define us or hold us back. We take the tools we have and the skills we’ve learned and put them into action.
You might find yourself getting “do-overs,” or chances to respond to situations you’ve encountered before in different ways. This is the most powerful way to break a pattern. Do-overs are the way you integrate awareness and action.
Once we’ve made new habits and are starting to inhabit this new way of being, we begin to accept. We are not new people. We’re just more authentically ourselves than ever.
Does this mean we are totally evolved and never have anything to work on? No. We are still human. The only difference is that now when we get an expectation hangover, we can move past it and into acceptance.
We stop fighting with reality and either accept it or change it. We are happy with ourselves and no longer slaves to our impulses.
5. Application and service
This phase is about a bigger vision: changing the lives of others. We feel called to share the love we feel. You might be tempted to jump into this phase before you've finished integrating. Be patient with yourself. There is no “gold star” or finish line on this journey.
To reiterate, this is not a one-size-fits-all model, but it may help to lend structure to your unique spiritual journey. Every phase is rich with learning opportunities, so be grateful for whatever phase you’re in.
Keep in mind that you may go back and repeat the phases multiple times, when an expectation hangover triggers awareness of a problem area, or new insight inspires further self-discovery.
I’d love to hear if this structure resonates with you and which phase you think you might be in.