What is Spiritual Transformation?

A Conversation between Tanis Helliwell and Verena Deeken

 “When these self-constructed barriers between our ego and soul, and between others and ourselves, break down we truly become a soul-infused personality.”

What is Spiritual Transformation?

T: Spiritual Transformation happens almost naturally when people are in more pain than joy. Many people have filled their personality with material things to the brim. Then at some point they realize they are still not happy. Through this realization they come to one of two conclusions: either they still do not have enough material things so they decide to get even more, or they begin to realize that they are not leading their life in a way that brings lasting happiness.

This second thought is a spiritual breakthrough leading individuals to establishing a new set of values where they say to themselves, “I will never gain a firm foundation by acquiring more material things, going on more holidays, or experiencing more entertainments. I have to find peace and happiness inside myself and to do this I must change myself.”

Spiritual Transformation is a Global Movement

It’s interesting to notice that spiritual transformation as a mass movement is now occurring throughout the world and that it is very recent in human history. Until 50 years ago local communities had a fairly homogenous set of values regarding religion or rules of conduct and this is what I call the old values. Then, triggered by technology and both World Wars we saw a collapse of these values, especially in North America and Europe. A new set of values emerged which were based on materialism.

Suffering is based on attachment to material things in the world.

Around this same time, a counter movement came from the East to the West. This included meditation, Buddhism, Hinduism, and yoga, all teaching basically the same thing: suffering is based on attachment to material things in the world. These ‘Eastern’ thoughts have infiltrated our global consciousness and offer us another route to happiness other than the one of materialism that the western world has been pursuing.

Some people, however, seek to return to the safety of the old values that were in place 50 years ago. They seek safety in Christian, Muslim or other kinds of fundamentalism, which are based on the belief that ‘only’ Jesus, Allah, etc. will save them and that they can only experience eternal happiness after death. It’s important to note that fundamentalism can also be found in ecological, health, spiritualism and many other movements.  Any kind of movement that says: “I know the answer and all others are wrong are in principal fundamentalist. These harken back to the old us versus them community system.

Fundamentalists are often generous, loving and compassionate individuals but their belief system is based on an old, collapsing value system. They are trying to simplify the global world into an old local community idea – you try to surround yourself with others who think and act like you, and you try to go back to safety rather than moving forward in this world.

So you mean they’re not dealing with the more complex issues we’re facing today, that they are thinking in terms of black and white, good and bad?

T: Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated and everyone might have an answer to the pressing matters we are facing.  Spiritual transformation is when you move beyond saying one person is going to save us – this is old value thinking that looks for the good parent and being someone else’s child and feeling safe again. One person’s interpretation of God can be far too narrow. Anything that excludes others is narrow.

To embrace the paradox of finding our own truth and accepting the truths of others, embracing the complexity of the world as a whole we need an open inclusive approach based on deep listening and compassion.

What happens during Spiritual Transformation?

T: Spiritual transformation is allowing that none of us have all the answers. Allowing ourselves to be in the unknown, allowing old beliefs to dissolve that are based on fear and scarcity, allowing ourselves to make mistakes and loving ourselves throughout the process. And to keep on refining our path day by day and loving, forgiving and trusting others, ourselves and spirit more as we look for solutions in our personal, work, and global lives.

I just read Anita Moorjani’s book: “Dying to be Me” where she writes about her near death experience and the unconditional love that surrounded her. She describes it as compassion and deeper understanding and not only forgiveness because forgiveness still has an element of judgment: of you’ve done me wrong and I forgive you for that. But unconditional love passes no judgment.

T: For the majority of individuals, compassion and deeper understanding emerge out of forgiveness for past wrong-doings we believe we have done or others have done to us. We must first be capable of forgiveness to move to compassion. Our confusion, our anxiety, our fear on the one hand and our hope, prayer, intention on the other hand is the path that leads to authenticity. To stay honorable on that path, we need to admit where we truly are in the process, both our strengths and weaknesses, and what we hope to develop, and also to  ask spirit to assist us. We evolve step by step. If we are not prepared to acknowledge truth and accept the areas where we are strong as well as those where we have fear, then spirit will not be able to fully work with us.

The path is to be authentic and to know that what is authentic now may not be so next year because we have grown.

The Goal of Spiritual Transformation

This is what we can do. If we accept ourselves and others as we are, we do not put pressure on ourselves for enlightenment. For what if we fail to attain enlightenment, is it our fault? Is our life a failure? Enlightenment is not ours to choose but for spirit to give us. It is grace.

All we can do ourselves is live in this moment with integrity speaking our own truth and having compassion with ourselves and with others. And then we will naturally evolve spiritually and take this into our relationships. Spirit will give us opportunities to develop. All we have to do is to stay awake in the present moment and unconditionally accept the opportunities and challenges that spirit gives us.

It seems that we must come out of the spiritual closet now, that we must come clean and walk our path for all to see.

T: True. There are certain points in our development where we need cocooning as we are very vulnerable when our old values no longer work and our new ones are not yet stable. But, ultimately, we need to stand up and as you say take risks in the real world rather than keeping our spiritual life and values private. Spirit will help us to do this.

We must examine our unconscious, our shadow. Therein lies our real power.

Three Major Steps in Spiritual Transformation

So would you say that the many conflicts we are seeing in the world, that I am seeing in my personal life right now, are the shadows from the unconscious that are coming out?

T: We must examine our unconscious, our shadow. Therein lies our real power. If we do not bring our unconscious into consciousness we will project our own unresolved fears onto others and that will hurt them and us. There is a way to encounter these shadows and the unconscious, which is the path of spiritual transformation.

The first of the three steps we pass on this journey normally is where we are in physical, emotional or spiritual pain and we want to escape that pain and seek happiness. Often this will turn into a quest for spirit. The quest for happiness is ultimately a quest for spirit. This is the starting point for most individuals.

It takes us into the second step where we learn forgiveness, deep compassion, acceptance of others and difficult situations, and deeper understanding of ourselves. We start to stabilize our emotions of anger and despair. We start to attain a neutral non-attached position and we stop grasping for elusive happiness. During this process we might go to a life coach or psychotherapist to help integrate more parts of ourselves and to heal old wounds. This might help us to stabilize our personality even more.

During our third step we must encounter and absorb our unconscious and our shadow parts that we may still be projecting onto others. Our shadow is unconscious and therefore unacknowledged. This takes immense courage to face the places of our shame and blame. During this time we may discover that our perfect mother did not in fact love or look after us, that our father controlled us, that we were unwittingly cruel to others. This knowledge may be so painful for us that we actually forgot and severed this from our conscious life but the wound lies in us and still needs to be healed.

These unknown, unconscious prejudices and woundings of which we are not aware, must move into our awareness. This is a very important step and it takes great courage to admit it to ourselves and to others and not to become defensive when others accuse us or to be shamed when we admit it to ourselves. There should be no shame or guilt in this stage of our spiritual journey.

It is essential to realize that the pain resulting from the ego’s attachments, and the fears and desires of ourselves and others is the same. When these self-constructed barriers between our ego and soul, and between others and ourselves, break down we truly become a soul-infused personality.