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- Jonathan Lockwood Huie (jlh @sail7.com)

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

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Transformation

When we think about learning in the sense of school education, we are generally thinking about facts and skills. Education in that sense is generally both a time-consuming, and a linear process. By "linear" I mean that if you are memorizing the 81 elements of the single-digit multiplication table, you will learn a few more facts each day. If it takes a week to memorize the table, you have probably memorized 11 or 12 facts each day.

Transformation is very different from linear learning. In transformation, one can, in a single moment, begin to view life very differently than the moment before. Sometimes, transformative moments occur naturally. Being present at the birth of one's own child might be an example of that kind of transformative moment. You watch the new life emerge. You go "wow!" And then what? Maybe the experience is gone an hour later - and your life is just the same. Maybe your reaction is fear that you might lose the precious new life. Or maybe you experience a lasting spiritual connection with all humanity and all creation that you never believed possible. What makes it "transformation," is not the outcome, but that it is a sudden shift, and that it relates to your overall experience of life, rather than to discrete knowledge.

Transformation can also be intentional. While one cannot just say, "I am going to transform how I experience life, right now," one can create situations that greatly increase the opportunity for transformation to happen.

For millennia, people around the world have used ceremonies to encourage transformation. Music, dance, singing, chanting, drumming, and fire have all been transformation-inducing elements for ages.

Anything and everything that interrupts the habits of everyday life, supports transformation - travel, spiritual retreats, as well a ceremonies. To consider one example, early societies had extended coming-of-age rituals, such as sending a boy into the wilds to live alone for several weeks, and expecting that an adult would return. While such an experience does not always transform one's outlook on life, it does strongly support and encourage such transformation.

Personally, I have participated in a number of events that were designed to support transformation - including a spiritual journey with don Miguel Ruiz to the sacred site of Teotihuacan, the Landmark Forum, and a week at Byron Katie's School for the Work. Some of these experiences were truly amazing - but always, what matters most is the attitude one brings with them to such events. Transformation cannot happen unless one is open to new experiences and willing to consider a variety of new perspectives.

Werner Erhard, the founder of EST, the predecessor of the Landmark Forum, said,

All Knowledge is Divided into Three Domains:
"What We Know",
"What We Know That We Don't Know", and
"What We Don't Know That We Don't Know."

That is the key to transformation. Transformation is about the third part of that quote. When we don't know what is missing in our lives - because we have never experienced it - there is no way we can create it or search for it. What we can do, is to disrupt our lives in a way that creates the possibility for Spirit to find a way to enter our lives in a new way and to give us gifts we never imagined.

This Traditional Zen Koan illustrates another key to transformation.

Overflowing Cup of Tea:
The Zen Master poured his visitor's teacup full, and then kept pouring.
The visitor watched until he could no longer restrain himself.
"It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," the Zen Master said,
"you are full of your own opinions and assumptions.
How can you learn truth until you first empty your cup?"

What prevents our transformation is never knowing too little. The problem is always "knowing" too much, and not being open to new experiences, perspectives, and gratitudes.

Mark Twain said much the same thing in his down-home style.

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.


I recommend that everyone occasionally allocate the time to create a total interruption from daily habit for a few days, to create the space for transformation to occur.

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