I thought I had always been fully committed to this work of human transformation, because I was born aware and questioning. That helped. But when I study my own lifeline and do some truth telling, it’s clear that I’ve taken more than a few detours.
I haven’t exactly blazed a straight path towards enlightenment, nor have I accomplished a mountain of social good. But you don’t care that much about my life details and you shouldn’t. It’s your life that matters to you. So, let’s establish a starting point right now to measure progress.
Take your transformation temperature. How eager and engaged are you with the personal process of transformation that I’m championing? One hundred would be nuclear hot, zero is dead. Before you volunteer a number, here are a few questions to guide you:
- What kind of books do you read, what kind of movies do you watch?
- What’s your diet like? Why do you choose what you eat and drink?
- What motivates your choices in friends, activities, etc.?
- Do you consider yourself a consumer or a creator?
- Do you have a mentor?
- Do you maintain a daily spiritual practice, like meditation or yoga?
- What noble causes do you support in the world?
Your honest answers to these questions determine your current life temperature. Having just read this list, invite a number to float into your awareness. What is that number, between zero and one hundred?
If it’s sixty-eight, are you okay with that? Or are you embarrassed, as I was, surprised and humbled to realize that you may not be as devoted, as activated, as you thought? What matters is what you do, what I do, what we all actually do, day to day, — not what we believe. Behavior reveals our priorities and our lived values.
THE TRANSFORMATIONAL LIFESTYLE
I’m advocating a transformative lifestyle because we’ll be doing this for a while and there will never be one defined moment when we cross some sort of finish line. Change sneaks up on us, then, bang! The most radical change is death but I’m talking about living.
Who can speak of such a moment? Regular folks, I mean, not the Buddha or Christ. Transformation is usually incremental, a nudge here and a nudge there, plus those memorable epiphanies that brand us with their significance. It all adds up.
We’ve had moments. Some of them were explosive, others happened quietly in the background. I struggled to quit smoking for years. Then I read a book about health and became fascinated. Suddenly I was a nonsmoker. Friends were confused; “What do you mean you don’t smoke? I’ve known you for three years and you’ve always smoked.” Not anymore. Five or six futile attempts riven with withdrawal agony hadn’t prepared me for the ease of not quitting.
The difference this time? I didn’t try to quit smoking; I committed myself passionately to being healthy. One day my priority was the pleasure of smoking; the next day it was the pleasure of being healthy.
All I ever felt since that day was better.
Smoking was a habit, not a smart one. I have other bad habits and so do you. We all have our addictions. To live a transformational lifestyle is to change habits proactively.
Can we really do this, when we probably struggle to stick with our New Year’s Resolutions for more than a few weeks? What will make the difference, what will help us persevere?
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Here’s an unlikely clue. Why can trees hold their limbs outward and upwards for years? Try extending your arms right now. How long can you manage? And how does it feel?
So, what’s the difference between you and a tree? Yes, there are fundamental physical differences and the easy explanation relates to structure. But there’s a metaphor in here to inspire us.
The tree has roots. Those roots anchor it solid into the earth. The trunk extends upwards as do the branches, all connected to those roots, anchored in those roots, which balance the heft of what’s above ground. The result? There’s no effort involved in branches reaching towards the heavens.
To reach up without also dropping down invites toppling. A tree with shallow roots is easily blown over, no matter how large it grows. In fact, the bigger it is the more likely it is to fall. For individual durability, our own roots must weave deep into the earth. This means being as alive in the dark as we are in the light, being fully human (our name derives from “humus” – the organic component of soil) and active in the human world.
The exceptions are some trees, like the mighty Redwood, that have shallow roots but connect underground with their neighbors. They literally hold each other up.
We strengthen our humanness by willingly traveling in the dark underworld of this madhouse, diving deep and linking with others in compassion for the suffering we all bear. This can exhaust us over time. It can drive us to discouragement and despair unless we also reach upwards for inspiration. Too much darkness or too much light — we must find the balance to enjoy a transformative life.
We are called human beings. The human part is unavoidable; the being part takes deliberate effort to experience in fullness. We don’t hear much about being at all and a whole lot about doing. If we’re interested in this “other,” we’re on our own to find help, from books like this, for instance.
Direct experience of God is not a blessed rarity reserved for the sainted. We all have recollections of bliss and epiphanies in many forms. We may dream, meditate, pray or chant, sit with a monk or embrace our wives or husbands, read a poem, watch a film. There are a thousand ways to experience the Divine. The Divine lives in everything as grace.
Are you growing that relationship? Are you going steady, are you married, separated, or recently divorced? Do you actually have a consciously acknowledged relationship with the Divine, or are those moments of random, unfocused, fleeting contact all there is? Casual encounters are not the best way to grow any relationship, hence my encouragement to adopt a regular spiritual practice. I’m establishing this as one of two priorities.
The other priority is nature. Some of us are fortunate to live in nature. Urban dwellers need to be inventive. Buy a plant for your office, gaze out the window at nearby trees, take your lunch to the park.
The secret to accelerating our personal transformation is to deepen these two relationships. They actually turn out to be one, because the Divine lives in everything.
In the film, The Matrix, Morpheus advised Neo that no one could tell him what the Matrix was, that he had to experience it for himself. Likewise, no one can tell you what a deep, loving relationship with the Divine is like, although I am trying, just as Morpheus did for Neo.
You have to experience that relationship for yourself.
You’ve had your moments, we all have, and some moments have lasted long enough to compel you towards more. “I’ll have what she’s having,” is what director Rob Reiner’s mother said in the film When Harry Met Sally as she and other diners in a restaurant witnessed Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm.
That was a movie. The real thing follows the same principle but conveys a wholly different magnitude of transformational impact. Any person who is deeply connected with the source of life is radioactively attractive to others.
We want what they are having. They’ll want what you are having.
Copyright 2016. Natural Wisdom LLC.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Now or Never: A Time Traveler's Guide to Personal and Global Transformation
by Will Wilkinson
Discover, learn, and master simple and powerful techniques for creating the future you prefer and healing past traumas, to improve the quality of your personal life and help create a thriving future for our great grandchildren.
About the Author
Will Wilkinson is a senior consultant with Luminary Communications in Ashland, Oregon. He has written and delivered programs in conscious living for forty years, interviewed scores of leading edge change agents, and pioneered experiments in small scale alternative economies. Find out more at willtwilkinson.com/