Transformational Guiding

Written by Michael Jospe

What Does Personal Transformation Really Mean?

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In personal growth work, it is common to mistake a heart opening, inspiring, breakthrough moment as a heralded transformation - that moment when the proverbial lightbulbs turn on, the hair on the back of your neck stands up, or you get goose bumps and chills - perhaps tears of understanding and release arise, or a much needed heartfelt connection occurs. These moments often do feel as though everything has changed. New perspectives have certainly been reached. Yet, how long before the “snap back” (Malts) takes place and one is back to one's old ways?

In fact, these moments are not transformational in and of themselves - instead they are better defined as “peak experiences." In fact, you could also call them a “peek” experience (Wilbur), in that such instances afford glimpses and glimmers of profound insight. Where true transformation lies, in contrast, is in the consistent and difficult work of putting into action, or incorporating that newfound understanding into one's life.

From systems theory, in fact, we know that true change occurs during that powerful bifurcation moment when the system has reached its max in energy and disequilibrium, and there is no other option than to brilliantly transform into a new rendition of itself. 

Holding this in mind, it is clear that in many ways we’ve done our clients and students a disservice by adhering to the notion that the peak/peek is the transformation. These moments are but sprouts of transformation - they are deeply important and vital, yet they are only sprouts!

So often, we look outside of ourselves to be transformed, expecting a "quick fix" to whatever ails us. Yet, the opposite is true - transformation is an inside job, and it takes work! The truth is that   anything or anyone that seems to be transformational to you has actually only helped you make your own needed connections, or energized your system in a way that helps you experience a new perspective from which to view your life. True transformation occurs when you integrate that enlightenment into your life's path, using the inspiration gleaned to remain motivated and focused upon the realization of your goals.

The Neuroscience of Transformationimages

For both our internal experience of ourselves and our environment (beliefs, patterns, behaviors, reactions, etc  - our mind) to change, our brains also must transform. We may become confused  and believe that transformational change is this magical, nebulous, unknowable occurrence, but really, it’s not! Consider even spiritual, shamanic, and energetic methods for mental healing and personal growth - regardless of the “dimension”, the external input is sending undeniable signals to our brains. Again, these signals are the seeds of change. Occasionally, that seed may be implanted so strongly that there is no question but that it will come into full bloom, yet the brain still must change in order for the individual to transform.  

Perhaps, for example, you have a predisposition towards impulsivity, yet you want to become more patient and mindful in your decision making. The fact that you feel impulsive and that you act impulsively are two different things. The action of impulsivity is the result of your brain wiring itself in a certain way, most likely due to the signals released by your genes as you interact with the environment. At some point along the way, you became aware that that pattern of circuitry (which dictates your behavior) is no longer serving you. So, you decide to change it. What is it that you are changing? The circuitry in your brain! In order to change the circuitry, every time it gets activated (whether intentionally or unintentionally) you must redirect the flow of energy to a different neural “pathway”. You must keep doing this until the new desired circuitry becomes stronger than the old circuitry. (That is the action of transformation!)  Essentially, you are continually enacting a new program that will eventually become “second nature” and work its way all the back to the source of the previously undesired pattern.

IMG 1098The Seed of Change 

One spring, my family and I were camped in a beautiful Utah canyon. My kids were playing in the creek, taking cups of water and pouring it over a dirt pile they made. As they poured the water, it began to form a trench which became deeper and deeper, much like the canyon we were sitting in. One of them decided to build a dam within the trench to see what would happen. Well, as expected, the water backed up! When the combination of the dam and dirt channel reached the maximum volume of water it could contain, the water spilled over both the sides of the trench and the top of the dam. After a few more cups of water, the water began to form new channels around the dam. Then, one of my boys abruptly decided to remove the dam. Even though the new channels were formed, most of the water conformed to the original channel. After a few more cups of water, the newly formed channels were obsolete and all of the water was running down the original channel again, causing it to grow progressively deeper. 

In coaching and guiding work, our clients often come to us because the “original channel”, so to speak, is needing to change. That knowing is the seed of change - it is the moment in which the individual has entered into a deeper state of self-awareness and contemplation. Perhaps the program you work for provides opportunities for increased self awareness, and through the events and activities that take occur, the seed of change is born. The choice to act upon it and seek support then plants the seed. If in the work of personal transformation our intent is to change the original channel such that the water (energy) flows consistently in a new direction, then we must encourage our clients to harness the motivation that occurs during inspiring "peak" moments, nurturing it until the change truly takes hold, carving indelible and breathtaking new canyons (neural pathways).

In the end, there are two critical components to transformational change: one, the first moment of inspiration or enlightenment when you both understand yourself and recognize your true potential, and two, the longterm, integrative application of that change. As Transformational Wilderness Guides and Nature Connected Coaches we draw on the skills of Professional Coaching and the powerful reflective experience the natural world provides to help our clients find inspiration and enlightenment and integrate it into their lives.

Earth-Based Institute offers certifications in Nature-Connected Coaching and Transformational Wilderness Guiding.

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