The Huge Gift of Change
Transformation, a butterfly would tell us, is no small feat.
I believe that #transformation requires time and space for integration. I know this because I’ve experienced it.
Last summer I had the opportunity to attend an inspiring conference — the BLD Leadership Conference. The theme of the conference was itself “Be Inspired.” I was grateful to participate as a workshop leader for the conference, and have the opportunity to network with like-minded business owners and #BCorp employees.
What I didn’t realize was that the opportunity to be outside of my normal sphere of life meant I was more open to being touched, inspired, and rocked awake than I realized I would be. I mean, I know about the power of retreat — I’ve spent 20 years on a meditation cushion being moved by the power of going on retreat and having my mind and heart blown open. But I didn’t expect to have a similar experience going to a conference!
And yet. I went to a workshop about a really exciting new movement happening in the BCorp world — #WeTheChange — and it ripped me open, in the best possible way. I offered to read the declaration outloud for the group, which starts:
“We are empowered women* creating a radically inclusive and richly regenerative global economy.”
And by the time I got to this: “We honor and protect the Earth for future generations,” I was in tears.
*THIS* is what I have been waiting for! Finally, an acknowledgement that how we work with our minds and hearts affects how we show up to the world, how we take care of our children, families and our planet. This is the inclusive approach I have been aching for.
And suddenly I knew why I’ve been working so hard to create GENUINE.
Suddenly, I knew that I too have experienced disempowerment in my own life — in my childhood, in my previous career helping to run a meditation center and online news magazine for my spiritual community. Suddenly, I realized that I too have longed to be recognized for who I am, not what I do. And with that recognition, I felt the prickle of transformation.
I felt connected with the other women and men in the room who felt this potency too. I felt rooted and connected to my ancestors who also struggled to share their story and were not heard. I felt suddenly that I knew why I was working so hard, and that it is absolutely the right thing to be doing.
This opening point was not easy or comfortable. In my experience, there is a lot of effort required to just bear with the process. Think: tiny baby bird breaking through protective eggshell. Think: caterpillar that has to literally dissolve to become a butterfly.
Transformation, though sometimes merely a lofty goal, can be very earthy, real, attainable, and achievable. But only if we stay with our experience.
At that conference, once the workshop was over, I wandered out into the meadow, lifted my teary face up to the breeze, and felt a vivid sense of connection to the earth. I could taste the shifting sands beneath my feet. I could feel the jagged edge of the shell cracking before my very eyes.
Transformation without integration, however, sets us up for a merely cosmetic experience.
Without space and time to truly fall apart, be challenged by circumstance, squeezed by pain and shriveled into exhaustion, we would not dissolve into our new form. Without the dissolution, we would not come out transformed on the other side.
What that meant for me was that on my long drive home from the conference, I had to feel all the feels, as they say. I cried. I got mad. I panicked a little bit. And then, I paused. I looked out at the view, the mountains carved by long-ago glaciers. I remembered to breathe. And then, as the space and time settled me down, I came back home to the center of myself.
Integration, therefore, is like the process of weaving multicolored strands together. Integration is the process of allowing our experience to be simply what it is, letting it stew and merge together in new, previously unimaginable ways.
If I had not given myself the opportunity to feel the raw edges of emotion in the aftermath of the conference, I would have missed out on the most important part of transformation. I would have missed out on the connectivity between my little story and the larger stories of women and men all around the world. If I had not let myself lean in to the pain, I would have completely missed the connection point to my inner mission.
Integration, therefore, like meditation, is the process of becoming familiar with (Read more by Pema Chodron here). It is the process of slowly unifying our insight with our experience, steadily allowing circumstance to join with our intelligence.
Our culture is good at forcing transformation and skipping integration.
But, if we can actually be with who we are and allow that to be what it is and then integrate ourselves into our very own life, we will experience profound transformation.
Sarah Lipton is a visionary. For over two decades, she has guided thousands of leaders as they navigate the challenges of leadership. She is the founder of Genuine, Inc, pursuing the mission of transforming society through community. Sarah is an author, keynote speaker, podcaster and leadership expert living high on a hill in northern Vermont with her young family and huge garden. Get in touch with her today to join her movement.