When I think of experiences that provide me the most inner growth, I notice they all have a common thread: Whatever is going on is not representative of what I consider to be my “normal” everyday experience.
In the case of the last 6 months, trauma is definitely not a part of my historical everyday experience. Most of my life has been fairly enjoyable, peaceful, and lacking of major conflict. Sure I’ve had my challenges, but nothing that was truly horrifying (until last year).
And while I don’t advocate you go out looking for trauma, my experience has shown me that embracing it and working through the trauma has given me riches of personal growth beyond my imagination.
It was a step FAR beyond my normal experience, and the trauma challenged me every single day to live what I know to be true. It also challenged me to decide whether or not I’d continue to identify with who I was, or if I’d step up to the unbelievable challenge and become more of the incredible person that I am discovering and know myself to be.
Now, if you don’t want to be traumatized to step out of your “normal” experience, there are other ways. 🙂
Here’s a true story to illustrate…
One day last year, I was walking down the street when I noticed a hole in my pants. It wasn’t just any hole. Not a little one where I scraped my knee. It wasn’t invisible inside my pocket. No, this one was a reasonably sized hole right in the middle of my butt!
And I didn’t notice it at home. I noticed it while I was walking into the mall to make a purchase. I was faced with two options:
Option 1: Waste the extra time and energy to go home, change my pants, and return.
Option 2: Don’t worry about it and just buy what I came for.
Many people would go for option 1. We place so much emphasis on our appearance and fitting in socially, that many of us would rather avoid the pain altogether of feeling like we’re being looked at and judged. In otherwords, many peoples’ FEARS would virtually guarantee that they have no option except for Option 1.
Nevermind that those are complete strangers who will never see us again. Nevermind that they may not even notice. Nevermind that even if they did, they probably wouldn’t care. And nevermind that we usually judge and criticize ourselves more than anybody else would. Many people would choose option 1.
On the other hand, many people on the spiritual path would recognize these thoughts and choose option 2. In this way, we give ourselves an opportunity to work through the fear and pain of rejection and judgment. Being present with the inner voices trying to control our behavior provides an opportunity for self-growth.
(let me rephrase that)
When I was in that situation, I chose option 3.
Since I’ve already done a lot of Inner Critic work, I knew that option 1 wasn’t an option for me. Option 2 wasn’t going to challenge me in the slightest. I became curious.
Specifically, I got curious about whether or not I could really goad my Inner Critic into speaking up. I wanted to explore a little bit more about what is true for me. I wanted to see if this was an opportunity for growth.
In the meantime, ask yourself whether you’d go for Option 1, Option 2, or if you would have created your own Option 3. 🙂
Instead of choosing Options 1 or 2, I chose Option 3. The obvious Option 3 would be to walk into a nearby store, purchase a new pair of pants, put them on, and continue with my day. Had I been going someplace else, it’s possible I’d have chosen that option. It’s reasonable.
For the purposes of my inner growth and development though, that option would have been no different than Option 1. Simply buying a new pair of pants would have been the spiritual equivalent of overmedicating myself with the[ lies about positive thinking. Buying my way out of the situation would have been a metaphorical band-aid.
Not to say that’s the wrong choice. Not at all. It’s just not one that would have challenged me to explore my inner terrain further. It wouldn’t have given me the opportunity to deepen my personal transformation.
Another reasonable option would be to pause and sew up the whole (if I had a needle and thread with me). That’s also a reasonable option. If I pressed for time, that option would have challenged me to explore my inner relationship with time. I don’t carry around a needle and thread in my wallet though. There are other options which have varying degrees of impact on our spiritual development.
For me though, the choice was obvious. I reached towards the back of my pants, found the hole…
And made it much MUCH larger. 🙂
It was an opportunity to answer a very simple question: If I make my situation more extreme, will my Inner Critic also get a little more vocal?
One of the best ways I know to deepen my spiritual transformation is to explore extreme situations (whenever it’s safe to do so). Extreme situations pull us out of the familiar “Who I take myself to be” identity and give us an opportunity to become “somebody else.” Not literally. Figuratively though, we get to explore the answer to my question “What if I stopped being myself?”
A few years ago, tearing my pants into a larger hole is something I’d have never done. My fears would have overwhelmed and incapacitated me. I’d probably have turned around and gone home. Not this day though. What I discovered was interesting. In addition to not caring about the hole at all, I had an unexpected experience: joy and delight.
Although my Inner Critic didn’t have an opinion, my True Nature was clear:
Stepping outside my comfort zone…
Choosing to not be “myself” for a little while…
Brought me a sense of profound freedom.
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