Have you ever experienced a part of your self or life fall apart?
At the same time, has something beautiful, new and ultimately better emerged?
This morning I woke up full of strong impressions and fresh understandings that feel like a new and embodied understanding of transformation and emergence. I have a stronger sense now of how and what to pay attention to during times of transition to enable emergence: how to let ‘everything’ (old) fall apart while gently nurturing the faint or feeble ‘new’ grow.
One visual metaphor that helps immensely is below. I recall Brian Robertson sharing the story of him being in some training or course to do with personal or leadership development and being asked to draw what development looks like on a blank sheet of paper. While others with the same task had drawn linear progressions, spiralling dynamics or messes (i.e. mostly from 3rd-person perspectives), he simply drew what it looks like for a chick chipping away and cracking the eggshell from which they are emerging.
What Brian’s story and visual metaphor captures so beautifully for me is the 1st person experience of seeing what you know and trust in your world fall apart, crack and break. Yet what is cracking is not ‘you’ and not the whole story — there is someone or something there that is coherent, whole and perhaps curious about what is emerging. Whether it’s a new sense of the core of one’s being, a taste of something new or the pull of potential, there is a faint light, a subtle heartbeat or a new sense of identity emerging that is the only way forward. Letting the cracks appear and the old, familiar and ‘certain’ fall away while nurturing the new and forming to become.
Here’s a short extract of a longer list of how I’ve experienced aspects of this in the past year:
- Being open and letting go simultaneously of self-identify as a cyclist, hermit and EnlightenNext student in favour of new relationships and obscure (but more aligned) physical and spiritual practices,
- Spending more than a year holding a space for inquiry and uncertainty to discover, test and embody my life purpose, values and practices. Letting go of old plans, ideas, wish lists in favour of just a dozen words and concepts that are sufficient guidance for every moment,
- Experiencing how increasingly incredibly ‘expensive’ it has become to maintain particular ways of thinking and working. Noticing the limits of the old ways success, and the increasingly expensive side effects (e.g. loss of relationships, integrity and resilience),
- The organisation I’ve invested 4 years in facing big decisions and transitions to respond to the financial, commercial and social context, which is overwhelming and distressing while at the same time never feeling more clear and coherent about the mission, values, people and fundamental proposition,
- People I deeply care about dying, falling ill, growing babies, separating, and otherwise experiencing and sharing their own major life transitions.
I’m grateful for all of this happening, especially grateful if considering that friends, family and community may benefit from my increased empathy and ability to help in their own transitions. Without the ongoing and in-the-moment presence and support of spiritual teachers, enlightened coaches, communities of forgiving peers, and fellow fragile humans….perhaps the cracking open would just be distressing and regressive rather than nurturing and evolutionary.
I also marvel at how the process and experience of emergence has been so beautifully articulated in human developmental models, poetry and other artefacts created by sages, mystics. teachers and scientists who have often made such transitions completely unsupported by surrounding culture, and in doing so created new territory for humanity and humans to follow.