angel Kyodo williams

Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

doing darkness

In culture, politics, relationship on October 15, 2009 at 9:10 am


change vs. transformation

These days, people are tossing the word transformation around and pasting it on everything from baby diapers to “How to Write a Budget” workshops as the latest hypnotic marketing voodoo. The same tired products and ineffectual programs are becoming “transformative” this and “transformational” that, hoping to gain the allure of freshly brushed pearly whites just by adding that oh-so-enticing gleaming star of transformation. The result is that in most cases in which we talk about transformation, we’re actually opting for a hyped-up variation on change, or worse yet, a dull and impotent rendition of it. This wouldn’t matter so much except for the fact that actual transformation–otherwise known as “deep change”–happens to be what we really need.

Owing to my own transitions and subsequent learning in the past year, I’ve been carrying two recurring themes everywhere I go. (1) The need for a clear articulation of the difference between “change” and “transformation” and, (2) distinguishing what is required to have the latter. I point to the metamorphoses of caterpillar-to-butterfly and nymph-to-dragonfly to illuminate both the path of transformation and some of the lessons we can take from their journeys to light our own Way.

As one of the oldest insects existing, the near-mystical dragonfly once darted where dinosaurs roamed at ten times it’s current size. But that was when trees were towering and provided more nutrients, cover and oxygen. Since then, dragonflies have downsized from wingspans as great as 20-30 inches to the more nimble 2-3 inches of today. Though dragonflies almost never walk, they’ve reduced their symbolic and consumptive footprint to a tenth of what it once was in response to the decrease in resources. We have much to learn.

Just as unique as their ancient friends, butterflies capture our imagination as embodiments of beauty and freedom. Their youth as caterpillars are spent doing nothing but consuming everything they can. Their voracious appetites cause them to shed their skin repeatedly, but they just end up bigger, stronger, faster caterpillars. That’s change. In order to complete the metamorphosis into butterflies, caterpillars must create and enter the darkness of the chrysalis where they break down into a kind of genetic goop. Special cells, unsurprisingly called “formative,” direct the actual process of becoming a butterfly. Both the seed and evolutionary inclination to transform exists within. Before that happens though, caterpillars must literally experience partial death and a destruction of their current form as they know it. That’s transformation.

Like majestic Monarchs, if we really intend to achieve the beauty, power and freedom that is our birthright as a movement of people that seek justice for all, we need to go beyond ,or TRANScend, our current FORM as we know it.

Six Ways to Know Transformation

Here are six key points to help you recognize (and influence) when change becomes deep change…when it is transformation:

1. it can’t be undone: it can’t be undone: Unlike change, which can be undone with a shift in context or the swipe of a presidential pen, there’s no going back on transformation. The depth of change that takes place is so deep, rooted and resounding, that the former way of being is no longer possible. Though our prison system may suggest otherwise, the truth is that our current society can no longer bear slavery as we know it. Likewise, while institutional racism abounds, pre-Civil Rights segregation is essentially socially unacceptable. Our society has moved beyond these once common fundamental injustices.

2. it is neutral: As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the reality is that we can have transformations, social and otherwise, that are neither life-affirming nor progressive. Think war-crime worthy Nazi Germany or occupation & bombing of Palestine. the transformation of those societies to allow heinous injustice to other human beings to be widely and popularly acceptable exemplifies transformation’s inherent neutrality. While transformation can’t be undone, a dangerous new can take the place of what came before without clear intention. The decisive question we must ask is “Transformation towards what?” If we want positive transformative outcomes, we must intentionalize and work toward them.

3. it is rigorous: To the naked eye, transformation often takes place at such a slow rate and on such a subterranean level, it is nearly imperceptible until you’re on the other side of it. But further investigation reveals a consistency and rigor to the process that is undeniable. Deep change requires deep practice. Simply put, we have to stay with it in order to see transformation through.

4. it is whole: Transformation must take place at all levels in order to be achieved. It isn’t enough to transform only ourselves as a slew of self-help and navel-gazing spiritual teachings may profess. People form organizations, organizations become institutions, institutions inform cultures, cultures give rise to whole societies. Through and through, we must weave the fabric of our movement culture with ways of being, knowing and doing that embody precisely how we want to see society transformed: into an equitable, sustainable and just place for all.

5. it always unfolds in the present: Transformation is both path and goal. While it appears that transformation has a beginning and end, we are always somewhere in the process of one cycle of transformation or another. But our current shape, where we are along the way, shows up in the NOW.Not in the past, not in the future: How we are showing up right now is the state of our transformation.

6. we don’t know what it looks like: This does not mean without intention. As affirmed earlier, a strong, aligned intention is not only desired but critical to affecting the overall direction of the process. However, if you can imagine the exact outcome, it’s more likely to be change than transformation because our vision is necessarily limited by our current perspective and conditions. At the point at which we surrender to the process of transforming, even our vision for desired outcomes dissolves into the “goop” which makes room for those formative aspects to direct our emergence into what we will become. So you want transformation, but are hell-bent on control? Um, not so much.

What’s In A Name? Ideally Everything

Finally, I submit that in naming and framing the new social movement that burgeons just beneath the surface of our everyday work for justice from Ithaca to Istanbul, we need a descriptor that embodies the principles of such a movement into the very name itself. More than any other movement that has come before, this one must embody it’s principles at all levels…including in it’s name. Thus we need an expression that is as much the path as it is the goal. A name that is now, not later. One that calls for us to be active, rather than passive; generative rather than prescriptive; a verb (action from inside) rather than adverb (qualified from the outside). The theory and ideas might be transformatIONAL, but the movement and its practice must be transformatIVE.

And more than political, it must be social. Yes, our politics (ways of governance of people,) systems, structures must undergo change–they must be brought into alignment with the values of our heart’s yearning, not our fear’s recoiling. Indeed, our government must be aligned with our deep need for connection rather than our contempt for difference.

But the reason for shifting the political landscape must be in service to the greater goal of shifting our social landscape (ways of being with people,) so that we can change the fundamental nature of our relationship to one another, to the planet, to the world and to life itself through the vehicle of a deep change in relationship to ourselves. In our society and in our hearts, we are still willing to use force–to bomb people into peace–thus empowering our government to do so. This, we must transform ourselves to no longer be able to bear.

I often muse that if the aquatic larva knew that it would one day leave its known realm to take to the sky, it would never, ever go, and transformation would be averted. But it is birthright that calls. In this Way, we have to allow ourselves to hear and respond to the evolutionary and revolutionary call that pulls us inexorably forward into becoming our newly formed selves–personally, politically, organizationally, institutionally, across all society–making room for a vision yet to be seen.

Right now, we must actively, generatively, take rigorous, intentional action towards wholly being that which we envision, and surrender to what we cannot. We must be so that we can become.

In it’s new form, the dragonfly can dive breathtakingly into a precipitous vertical drop, become a mere blur as it darts about at breakneck speeds, only to come to an apparent dead stop, hovering magically in mid-air. For the most part, it’s the sun that dragon and butterflies need to fly…but they need the dark to grow their magic wings. So do we. It is only once we emerge from the darkness that we will dare cast off our hardened shells to truly take flight.

Let’s do the darkness so that we can all fly together.

With gratitude to Robert, Staci, Steven, Adrienne, Zulayka, Claudia, Marie, the New Dharma Community and all my transformative teachers, mentors, students and friends–aKw

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact information intact.

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the courage to be human

In leadership, relationship, spirit on September 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm

akw palms

a path to transformation

New York City — September 11-12, 2001

The devastation of this day is staggering beyond measure.

We have all heard the radio, watched the television with our mouths gaping in disbelief, our hearts wrenching in despair. We have heard talk of resolve and determination. Plans for justice and retaliation. Unanswerable questions being asked and unimaginable events being lived.

The fact is that as a culture and as a people, we are not equipped emotionally, psychically and spiritually to manage the magnitude of this tragedy in our minds. We have, mercifully, lived for so long under the dark shroud of ignorance to the scope of our vulnerability.

I want to encourage you all, first and foremost, to be still. To listen to your heartbeat. To be silent. To breathe. If you listen deeply, it is the voice of sanity and compassion that you will find there. It is the voice that will remind you of your connection with all beings.

Yes, you are connected with the untold hundreds, possible thousands of unknowing people that lost their lives instantly in the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes.

You are connected with the undoubtedly horrified passengers and crew of the airplanes turned into weapons of mass destruction.

You are connected with the brave rescue workers, firemen, police officers that willingly ran into flaming buildings as others poured out, only to have two of the world’s largest structures of steel, glass and concrete fall in on them along with the countless victims trying desperately to escape.

You are connected to the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, nephews and cousins of all those people. To their teachers, their coworkers, their friends and their lovers that must carry an unthinkable burden forth.

And you are also connected with the men or women that, with frightening calculation, walked onto the planes of four major airlines, knowing that they would pilot their own deaths and take the lives of innocent people on their journey.

We cannot close our eyes or our hearts to not one of those people. We cannot close our minds to the unbearable truth of the consequences of our actions. Of creating, perpetuating and sitting on the sidelines of a culture that passes off violence as a reasonable tool to achieve peace. Of doling out so-called justice only to those who are not in our favor. Those who do not say the right things, have the right color, were not born into the right caste, worship the right gods and live the right lives. Our unbalanced sense of justice is increasingly available on behalf of only those who can afford it or offer enough benefit in exchange. Most of us sat idly by, comfortable that our distance made us safe.

Now how many additional lives do we need to see taken to make us feel truly secure? What punishment will feel like it is enough?

It is tempting to find oneself taking aim at a nameable group and pulling the trigger of anger. Which is why now, more than any other moment in our history, we must make the most courageous effort, take the hardest step towards living in an altogether different way.

If we are lulled into seeing the people that have committed this desperate act and the people that will surely pay with their lives in any act of retaliation as separate, different, Others that are not a reflection of the darkest parts of our own selves, we will lose this crucial opportunity. We will lose the window to a realization of ourselves as more compassionate, more thoughtful, more fully connected with the events of our world, and thus more responsible. This bears repeating: if we continue to refuse to take personal responsibility for the cause and conditions: for the oppression, the inequity, the sheer unnatural imbalance of our existence, we will never witness an end to this.

So I implore you to not allow your inexpressible confusion, sorrow, helplessness and fear to numb you into turning over your agency. Do not let your desire for a new illusion of personal safety, of “freedom” to give license to further violence.

Our military may be “powerful and prepared” but are we? Are we prepared to, with fierce determination, with the strength bestowed by personal realization, insist that we will no longer let violence be perpetuated in our names, in the name of justice, and most cruelly, in the name of peace?

We must band ourselves and our hearts together to put an end to the cycle of violence that we now know we are not immune from. We must put an end to the wars being waged against our humanity and become warriors for the common cause of peace.

We are desperate to have the answers to every question, to always know what to do and how to respond. It is obvious that there is so much that we don’t, but what we do know is that the way it has been done is not working. You have permission to turn off your TVs and radios and simply feel your pain.

You have permission to not know.

It is easy to see ourselves as good and well-wishing when the fabric of our very being is not called into question. But can we be open and honest about who we really are, about the evil acts we are capable of conceiving while staring in the face of our own remarkable frailty? And can we use that to change?

We need to find peace in our own hearts first.

Many people find their ways to spiritual paths, to personal paths of transformation when the ground they always knew to be there falls out from underneath them. The ground has fallen out beneath us America. Let us all find the wisdom to see this unspeakable tragedy as a doorway to meaningful change, as a precursor to collective transformation. If we do not accept this challenge, if we are not brave and unrelenting in our demand, but instead cower behind the “quiet, unyielding” and clearly insatiable, emotion of anger, the loss of thousands of lives will not be merely unspeakable, they will be in vain.

A meditation, prayer, affirmation for our humanity:

“May all beings be granted with the strength, determination and wisdom to extinguish anger and reject violence as a way.

May we seek, find and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within us and allow them to permeate our every action.

May we exercise the precious gift of choice and the capacity to change that makes us uniquely human and is the only true path to freedom. “

copyright MMI. angel Kyodo williams. all rights reserved.

Note: This essay first appeared September 2001 in connection with the events of September 11, 2001 and its expected and most unfortunately fulfilled aftermath. It was widely distributed online. The final prayer subsequently became the Warrior Spirit Prayer, the signature prayer of the New Dharma Community, a transformative practice community founded by williams, now based in Berkeley CA and with circles forming in cities throughout the US.

If any good at all comes of it, may that benefit be extended to ALL my relations. —aKw

angel Kyodo williams, the changeangel, is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

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the greatest transformation

In culture, identity, relationship, spirit on July 15, 2009 at 7:32 am

“I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending that haunts our sleep so much as the fear… that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.” —Rabbi Harold Kushner

In this past month, two things became clear: any commitment to writing about transformation calls for addressing the greatest transformation any of us will make at least once.

The second thing is that we live in a culture that celebrates eternal youth, never-ending life, and an insatiable thirst for immortality. Conversely, we avoid that greatest of transformations, known as Death, as a natural and inevitable rite of passage. Death happens daily, yet most of us are largely removed from it, safely positioned on the passive side of our computer and television screens or the printed page. Thus, when faced with it or its pending probability directly, we are woefully under-equipped to negotiate it.

Here a sampling of reflections, learnings & resources for the journey all of us will eventually take:

Two deaths in particular have impacted me greatly this month. One was that of my naturopath, Dr. Cecilia Hart. The other, was of course, Michael Jackson.

Both were unexpected, felt too sudden, too soon and riddled with questions of “how can this be?” They were both young. Both Virgoes. Both committed to Heal the World…and both so clearly in need of their own healing. One has become intimate and full of personal responsibility in a way that i would not have expected. The other has been far away and collectively held in a way that I would have hoped for.

In losing Michael Jackson, who without a doubt embodied the most complex relationship we, the people have with celebrity and celebrity has with itself, my soul brother Greg Tate captures it best: “What Black American culture—musical and otherwise—lacks for now isn’t talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral…”

a moving and prescient poem by Alice Walker written in 1991…
from Natural Star – for Michael Jackson
I am in mourning
For your face
The one I used to love
To see
Leaping, glowing
Upon the
The stage
The mike
In your
I am in mourning…

In losing Cecilia, who helped guide my health back into balance after discovering dis-ease, I’ve lost, for now, my health insurance: insurance against a system more concerned with medicating then healing even as it denies access to the basic right of health to millions. She belonged to the growing legions of naturopathic doctors, alternative healers, complementary health practitioners, chiropractors and more that stand up to legitimize healing practices that affirm wholeness and well-being, rather than dividing our wholebodies into separate problematic parts to be conquered one office visit and co-pay at a time.
After she died, the mystery of her notable slowness was unraveled. Unbeknownst to her clients that read untold pages of books waiting for her, Cecilia literally prayed over each herb, pill and powder to activate the healing energy of that vehicle. She called forth the power of those potions to be in right relationship with the body they would be in. She helped myself and many others reclaim our health and restore confidence in our innate ability to heal ourselves through better relationships with our body-minds. A lifelong teaching every one of us can practice today.

Both Michael and Cecilia’s Deaths were also painful reminders that we live in an increasingly litigious society wherein the dispensation of our property, our children, even our very bodies is governed not by obvious relationships and moral right but by strangers behind desks and in robes wielding a legally ordered bullet list that divvies out dominion in a way that may defy the truth of our life choices of family, partnership and love, so:

  • Live the life you want; but write down the Death you choose.
  • And because Death waits for no one…write it down now. (really, right now)
  • Though you can’t take it with you, you do leave it behind for others to deal with (or fight over). Write it down.
  • Your last breath may speak your final desire and still your wishes may be dishonored, overridden or overruled. Write it down early, say it plainly and change it as often as needed.

What matters most is what I’ve learned about the difference between connection and community and how desperately important knowing that difference is for our not only our lives to be good ones, but more importantly for our Deaths.

In an ever-connected, internet-worked world, our Facebook can be thick with Friends, we can be LinkedIn to a web of Connections, our Twitterverse can grow exponentially with little effort. With one simple login, we can create our own private Big Bang. We can scroll a ticker for updates on the status of friends and family, gaining tiny glimpses into the lives of the vast network of people we know intimately, loosely or not at all. Who needs to shout out when you can just tweet? In 120 characters or less, we can be teleported into a virtual visit into someone else’s now.

But when Death comes to Friend you, as it will, you can’t ignore it. Where will your vast but virtual network be then? Will they be there to sing songs, share stories and send your ashes back to ashes, and dust back to dust? Will they memorialize Yes, connections can be made quick, Friends, Followers and Fans, but relationships are still slow…and the best ones are grown over time

a reflection on why being in relationship matters to social change…
in relationship with others by Adrienne Maree Brown

“the most important personal and political skill to develop is how to be in relationship to others…the practice of being in relationship with others is what we are missing. individualism – personal individualism and national or patriotic individualism – has created a loneliness amongst humans which is not survivable.”

  • Mere connection and true community are not the same; without the latter, we can be “connected” to hundreds of folks and still isolate ourselves literally to our deaths.
  • The quality of our deaths is a direct reflection of the quality of relationships we cultivate in life.
  • Relationships require reciprocity: Give AND Receive. Don’t just touch people…be willing to be touched–and moved–deeply.
  • No matter how lofty, your leadership, status, role or position won’t separate you from Death, so don’t let them separate you from a real Life: one that is in true relationship with others.
  • It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes one to rest a soul.

In many traditions, words for healing and words for Death are the same. Wherever our journey of life and Death may takes us, the path should be paved with encouragement, equanimity and ease:

powerfully soothing healing and “death-conquering” mantra sung by Hein Braat and often mistaken for HH XIV Dalai Lama by way of urban legend

the maha mrityunjaya mantra

excerpt from a reading meditation i offer for the sick, dying and dead on the in-between state leading towards Death…
Great Liberation Through Hearing While In Transition
modified from Tibetan Book of the Dead for Reading Aloud by Jean-Claude Van Italie and Tibetan Book of the Dead by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Oh you,
who have come to this place,
Sisters and brothers, friends,
This person is dying.
She has not chosen to do so.
She is suffering greatly.
She has no home, no friends.
Falling as from a cliff,
She is entering a strange forest
Driven by the winds, swept by the ocean,
She feels no solid ground.
She is embarking on a great battle.
Moved from state to state,
She is alone and helpless.

Embrace her with your love.

My friend,
Now is the moment of death.
The time has come for you to start out.
You are going home.
Oh, Nobly Bord,
Now is the moment.
Before you is mind, open and wide as space,
Simple, without center or circumference.
Death has happened.

It happens to everyone.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity you will ever have in life is to choose how you meet your Death. But without a doubt Death itself is the greatest transformation you’ll ever make.

May you go well.

Rest in Peace, Michael.
Rest In Peace, Cecilia.

May you each be liberated.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free.

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams.

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary and
founder of the Center for Transformative Change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

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