Yesterday, after leading worship services at UU churches around New England for the last several weeks, I came home and lead the service at my own UU church in Hartland VT. The theme was personal healing and transformation through life changes and transitions.
We know in our heads that life is change, life is full of transitions, but we don’t often see change as transformational. We don’t welcome many of the changes in our life, certainly not the unexpected ones, or the ones where we lose something precious. Those changes we may well resist and feel deeply aggrieved.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, especially this month being the anniversary of two huge life changing events in my life. One was the fire at my childhood home, nearly 50 years ago, and the other was the death of my mother 3 years ago. What I’ve discovered from my own inner work is that such changes and transitions can truly be transformative and renewing, IF we are willing to experience them fully. It means experiencing what Miriam Greenspan calls the “dark emotions” of grief, despair, and fear around major events – not
just as loss and pain, but as love, compassion, gratitude, hope, faith, and joy. In so doing, we experience ourselves more fully through them. Love, especially, is like a grease that helps transformative change to happen. Through being willing to stand in what I call, not coincidentally, the “fires” of life, we become more spacious, more open, more resilient. We grow larger. It means being willing to go through our discomfort and darkness, to come out the other side. As the novelist Albert Camus put it, “In the depth of winter, I found that there was in me an invincible summer.”
Going through our dark emotions has to do with using our awareness to connect and engage with the energy of these emotions. This involves the skills of attending, befriend, and surrendering to them, which allows the energy to flow through us and eventually out. It also involves focusing our spiritual will in order to set an intention, reframing your story into a wider context to discern new meaning, purpose, and value about what happened, and serving others to support their transformation as well as your own.
None of this is quick or easy, but for many of us, sooner or later, powerful forces within break through our barriers and compel us to begin the journey. As Anais Nin wrote,
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”