Shortcuts to Transformation: Dream On

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On my bike ride today, while mostly on side streets with views of trees and charming houses whizzing by, I still managed to take in a few taglines on advertisements that act as perfect content for the topic of instant gratification and its direct conflict with real growth.

“Don’t wait for payday. Get cash now” “She lost 50 lbs. in 3 ½ weeks.” “Because life doesn’t wait for a cold.”

With all of the promises for instant change and happiness, appealing to our desperate selves, it seems that a realistic claim about change is just not going to get our attention. I mean how inspiring and compelling is this:

Get the career of your dreams! In only ten short years of training, practice, fumbling, succeeding, failing, acquiring wisdom, changing direction, feeling pain and building your confidence, competency and reputation.

While it doesn’t pack the punch that “Five weeks to a six figure salary” does, realistically that’s how change works. It’s about time we deal with reality. Have you ever grown a carrot? A carrot grows as fast as a carrot grows. Ever grown a baby? Nine months people. You’re not going to see an ad that says “get a full term, healthy baby in 3 ½ months!” Because that’s not the natural order of things. But we keep thinking we can shortcut, rush through or bypass what it actually takes to transform.

Sustained change takes time and work. Quick fixes are just that…quick. Comes quickly and goes quickly. Have you ever lost 10 pounds in a week? Chances are those pounds were found again in just as short a period of time.

We live in a culture where we’re inundated with promises for instant relief, instant transformation. We need to start being honest about what it actually takes to take care of ourselves, each other and create the change we want. “Because life doesn’t stop for a cold.” Really? An honest and appropriate tagline for dealing with illness might look more like “Rest. Your body is begging for it.”

You want a fulfilling career? Deep connected relationships? Strong and healthy body? Peace of mind? If you want a different lifestyle or pace than the one you’ve got, an education, supportive community, depth, awakening, transformation…

Then do the work.

How long will it take?

The rest of your life.

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5 comments

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Sunday, 09 October 2011 20:16 posted by Philip Corkill

    Catalysts to Transformation: Game On

    Hi Chela:-)

    I agree with you and yet there's a couple of sort of Koans here. I'll just mention two that catch my eye.

    One is that while we are inundated with unrealistic promises we are also inundated with a real crisis all over the world including at home and what seem to be realistic horror scenarios of what might be coming.

    While there is probably a lot of propaganda here from those selling mass transformation, I've seen enough of what's really going on to feel a certain urgency about collective transformation.

    So the koan is: Shortcuts won't work but the trodden paths are too slow.

    Another you have given:

    "Then do the work. How long will it take? The rest of your life."

    When we are willing to dedicate the rest of our lives to something we may bring a fire to it that takes all our heart. When we do something with all our heart, we progress a lot more quickly than if we do it half-heartedly. Usually the lower the fraction of devotion the slower.

    So we might say: If we're honestly willing to give it the rest of our lives (i.e. all we have) it might not take that long. If we give it a fraction of attention between our favourite soap-operas, it might be many lives and still nothing will have happened.

    How about: Do the work. What will it take? All of your heart.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Sunday, 09 October 2011 20:20 posted by Philip Corkill

    I like:
    Do the work. How long will it take? All of your heart. What will it take? The rest of your life.

    ;-)

  • Comment Link chela Monday, 10 October 2011 01:15 posted by chela

    Love it. I agree with you wholeheartedly about shortcuts not working and trodden paths too slow. The urgency is really very real and I think one of the challenges is that with very large issues that need tending, both inside of ourselves and around us, is how to not get seduced by quick fixes, due to the urgency.


    The challenge with experiencing urgency around the enormity of these crises, is that can often lead to feelings of desperation or overwhelm. When motivated into action from these feelings, we may start to make moves towards that which we think will make the most significant difference the quickest, which is fair. That's where quick fixes might actually look like the best route. But when it comes to sustainable change, it's often not the biggest, fastest boldest moves that really matter. It's the small ones consistently over time that are grounded in some kind intention with a wider perspective and a longer view of time.


    And often the solutions don't present themselves so obviously as what we're being inundated with. Real change can often feel counter-intuitive because we all have habitual responses to stress. For me, when I want to be more productive in my work, I will actually believe that I need to put more hours in, up the goals for a given day and hold myself to strict deadlines. Nothing kills my work faster. Laying around reading novels, having a nap and doing a bit of yoga at home with a candle lit will actually give me the nurturing, creativity and strength that I need to get all that work done in a third of the time it would take if I was flailing through full of stress.


    When I consider the trodden paths that are too slow, I consider the ways in which we, as individuals or collectives build strategies to deal with life, much of which may work and some doesn't. The parts that, over time, continue to be ineffective, eventually lead us to moments of crises when the ache for change becomes fierce. But often all that is available to us is our past ways of dealing with, which don't work. The quick fix is again, very alluring from this place. So how do we know when the work we are doing is in order to 'get there now' or soothe us or gratify us and when the work we are doing is the work we must be doing? How do we discern and what do we check for?

  • Comment Link Trevor Malkinson Monday, 10 October 2011 20:44 posted by Trevor Malkinson

    A few things have come out of the Occupy Wall St. protests recently that made me think of this post. Both (the philosopher) Slavoj Zizek and Naomi Klein reminded the audiences down there that they need to prepare for the long haul.

    From Zizek:

    "Mr. Žižek also offered some practical advice. Noting the festive atmosphere in the park, he warned, “Don’t fall in love with yourselves. Carnivals come cheap.” The meaningful work will be what comes afterwards.

    Mr. Žižek suggested that the left “abandon certain taboos,” including hard work, discipline and following orders, if they support the agreed-upon goals. And he advocated reclaiming certain notions that had been adopted by the right wing, including family values".

    http://www.observer.com/2011/10/slavoj-zizek-speaks-to-occupy-wall-street/

    I think Zizek's point about discipline is an important one. It's interesting if you look at what he's saying through an explicitly integral lens. It was during the postmodern period that so many things from the past got rejected, including notions such as "discipline" and "following orders", both of which smacked of the authoritarian/militaristic impulses in traditional societies (ie. blue meme). Zizek has been trying to reintegrate discipline as a value for awhile now, and I've heard Craig Hamilton talk about the same thing in a spiritual context (postmodern spirituality in his experience lacked/rejected the emphasis on discipline that was present in the traditional lineages such as Zen). So that view seemed to be in line with what you've written here, and I thought I'd add that to the mix.

    Secondly, Naomi Klein:

    "Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen...

    We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.

    Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less".

    Again, apropos of what you've written here Chela, or at least your piece popped into my when coming across these statements by these figures (whom I admire). I also appreciate the nice tension in the discussion between you and Phil, surrounding the "long-haul vs. times of crisis" problematic. Important discussion. thanks folks.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Friday, 18 November 2011 13:59 posted by Philip Corkill

    My turn for a late addition Chela:-) Thanks for your typically generous and generative additions here Trevor and Chela. I found much wisdom in your responses.

    I have been unable to find a way to take this discussion further. I didn't know how to get from where Chela was coming from, through what I was getting at, to where Trevor went with this. And I still don't seem to be able hold together and bridge it.

    However, I still think you're right that there's some important and timely discussion points here. Or practice and engagement points. "Tension". Also entwined with Occupy, which I thought was a "kickass" thing to bring to the table. I could just leave it, as I intuit that these points and tension will show up elsewhere, over and over again, perhaps for a very long time. Perhaps these will even remain a neo-koans for generations. So plenty of opportunity to dig into them.

    I also see that this week at Beams is about something else. But, for the hell of it, here's a few seeds from my unsortable garden, since I have a moment to freestyle:

    I was thinking about a good time frame for personal transformation being 7 years. For the reason that some human growth maps talk about 7 year cycles but mainly because I heard that that is the time it takes for the whole body to be renewed at either a cellular or an atomic level (unfortunately I can find where I heard this and don't know how much truth is in it. Anyone know more? i.e. 7 years from now all the atoms in all the molecules in all the cells of my physical body will have been replaced. Mainly by what I eat, drink and breath. But how they are replaced is an monumentally huge arena. “Optimal renewal” seems impossible because our environments are already just too full of shit. But if we took as many actions as we could to optimise this I think we would be on a good track. Physically at least.

    So I'm thinking the catalysts for physical transformation have massively to do with what ever supports the optimisation of this process. 7 (or however many it truly takes) years, I wouldn't call a quick fix but it's also not a life long torture that we can't bear and end up unable to commit to. Then of course it has to be sustained.

    I feel the catalysts for spiritual transformation vary greatly depending on where were at and I suppose I can only talk about the morsels of this that I have experienced. A “transmuted individual” as Bonnitta invented can tell us more but certainly there is great value in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Being with great realisers, taking time and attention for Truth and being in challenging, supportive community are all things to cherish, no end.

    To catalyse a transformation of intellect – changing our minds – all peoples need to be engaging at Beams and Struts;-) Obviously!

    And to transform our hearts, we probably need to get close to others and feel with them and hold love for them. Including ourselves. Compassion in German is called Mitgefühl “with-feeling”. I like that! What catalyses this.

    Chela says “So how do we know when the work we are doing is in order to 'get there now' or soothe us or gratify us and when the work we are doing is the work we must be doing? How do we discern and what do we check for?”

    This I don't know but I think we can experiment and see what actually happens.

    So, I reckon if we engage in “optimising” these catalysing factors wholeheartedly at all times under all circumstance, as Atisha says, I think we will transform in all moments in which we reach the intensity of full devotion. So it's no trouble at all Chela;-) Bring that to Occupy and into Wallstreet and the chances are good for the long haul Trevor;-)

    I also appreciate your emphasis on regeneration Chela. Much neglected part of transformation. Imagine the earth could take a break from us, have a nap, shake, stretch, light some candles and do a bit of yoga every one in a while. Could we fit 7000000000 humans on the moon for a retreat?

    Now, I realise that this doesn't really speak to the tension we were creating or to the occupy connection but here's to posting random seeds sometimes too. Gulp.

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