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Sacred Psychology of Change
Life as a Voyage of Transformation
by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.
Chaos As Prelude to Personal Metamorphosis
This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.
The new science of chaos teaches that chaos itself is a creative force for change and a prelude to metamorphosis. It is an essential process through which Mother Nature organizes, renews and revitalizes her kingdom. A fascinating aspect of this process of change is that it is generated from within each natural system and is wholly self-organized. Thus a flower, a plant, a tree comes into being from the seemingly chaotic but self-generating and organizing power of the Infinite within the seed. And so do we.
In the great miracle of human life, through a seemingly chaotic inner process of sperm production, ovulation and conception, a fertilized egg begins its journey of life in the womb of the mother. Moving with invisible timing through an intricate process of cell division and stages of embryonic development, a new life begins. A soul enters the earth, clothed in flesh through the indwelling power of the Infinite in man and woman.
So what then is chaos? I believe chaos is the revitalizing, creative movement and flow of the Infinite One in all creation. To me the evidence is preeminent in the magnificent, ever-changing patterns in the heavens and the earth and in the evolution of the consciousness of mankind.
Chaos is perhaps not really chaos at all, but rather an embryonic form of transforming change, the means by which we continually evolve in consciousness and increasing awareness of infinite possibilities.
Chaos theory is all about the remarkable ongoing process of creation that occurs moment by moment as energy and matter, thoughts and feelings, particles and magnetic fields collide, interact, and crystallize into new concepts and shapes. The chaotic movements of any system or interaction gradually self-organize to form a unique pattern not previously visible or even predictable—a type of boundary beyond which the chaotic movement does not go. This pattern, shape or boundary is known in chaos theory as a "strange attractor."
As we study the process of chaos, we expand the narrow room of our human consciousness. We grow in awareness and appreciation of the Creator and Regenerator of all life. As we more and more comprehend the vastness and intricacies of the universe and our own planet Earth, we experience an increasing reverence and humbleness before our God.
We could view change as the interaction of the three figures of the Hindu Trinity: Shiva who destroys unreality, creating chaos; Brahma who creates new patterns out of the old elements and Vishnu who preserves and locks in the new patterns.
We also discover by taking a page from Mother Nature's handbook that we may learn to greet the chaotic nature of change as an opportunity for self-metamorphosis and transcendence. How does it work? Let's take a closer look at the science of chaos.
Chaos Creates Transformation and Renewal
Scientists have discovered that the moving and colliding of energy and matter, seemingly chaotic, create transformation and renewal. A simple example is the fact that although we cannot precisely predict our weather from moment to moment, weather patterns over time conform to certain boundaries, to an emergent order recognized only in retrospect.
The new sciences of quantum physics, chaos theory and biology are doing innovative experimentation with chaos. One dramatic experiment was conducted from the space shuttle Atlantis. Scientists hypothesized that the aurora borealis, "the northern lights," is an electrical-magnetic phenomena created by sun-charged particles called solar winds streaming toward the earth at supersonic speeds and intersecting earth's invisible magnetic field.
They tested their hypothesis by bombarding the earth's magnetic field with electrons fired from the space shuttle Atlantis. Sure enough, a glorious, resplendently colored, artificially created aurora borealis appeared in the sky from the waves created through the collision and interaction of the electrons and the magnetic field.
Chaos theory suggests that information is the primary force in the universe, the source of all change. From a spiritual perspective, I believe that "information" is in truth the many facets of the Mind of God, that God is the center of all information and that through creative use of information we are actually expressing a divine matrix.
Thus, the Universal Mind provides the divine raw material. It is up to us to use it wisely and compassionately to offer solace, comfort and inspiration to others, to come up with creative solutions to problematic situations and to expand the narrow room of our human consciousness.
When we access the cosmic information system, creative new ideas spring forth in our minds and hearts. In the very presence of seemingly chaotic interaction we find our vision expanding, our ideas multiplying and our consciousness opening to new and diverse ways of meeting the challenges at hand.
Scientist and business consultant Dr. Margaret Wheatley offers her understanding and development of chaos theory to help people relate to one another more constructively in today's complex business world. She believes that we have the opportunity to experience renewal and revitalization during chaotic times, that we can benefit from today's fast-moving cycles of change rather than sinking into despondency and non-productivity.
If we let go of rigid thinking and choose to interact, brainstorm and share with one another, we encourage what Wheatley calls "the participatory nature of reality" and its accompanying process of chaos to reconfigure our thinking. Through exchanging information we allow our inherent personal and organizational self-renewing properties to generate creative ideas and new approaches to the changing scene—whatever it may be.
When we think about it, we realize that nature abounds with creative self-organizing systems that at times seem chaotic and destructive but are in reality life giving. Volcanoes erupt and create new landmasses; oceans beat upon rocks and beaches, wearing them down, changing the form of the earth.
Clouds move, seemingly chaotically, changing form, streaming out, bunching up, layering and whirling, holding water and releasing the moisture in rain or snow. Nature's own sprinkler system nurtures the earth, the streams, trees and vegetation, which in turn become life giving as they provide water, food and shelter for animals and people.
Sunshine in the mist following the storm forms a shining rainbow of promise. Nature changes her garments with the seasons. We delight in the many shades of greenery and multicolored flowers of spring, in the bright, rich colors flashing in the summer, the golden yellows, flaming oranges, and deep burnt reds of autumn and the shimmering white of lacy snowflakes, icy ponds, frozen rivers and snow-packed mountains in winter. And then Nature goes to sleep for the winter as she completes her yearly cycle. The earth rests along with the hibernating bears—in preparation for a brand new cycle the following spring.
As spring returns, trees begin to leaf, flowers bloom and birds return from the south where they have spent the winter. Bears come out of hibernation, baby deer toddle after their mothers and butterflies emerge from caterpillars. Children romp and play in the sunshine, people plant their gardens and dormant tulip bulbs begin to bloom. Another round of life has begun.
How do these rounds of nature's yearly life cycle apply to each one of us in our longer life cycle of three score and ten-and beyond? The writer of Ecclesiastes says, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted."
When we take this teaching to heart, we put our roots down wherever we are, but we also prepare for transplanting as necessary. As has been said, "Home is where the heart is." We can be at home wherever we are when we open our heart and soul to life's cycles and lessons. We may welcome each seemingly chaotic cycle of life as a new beginning, a new leg of the journey.
Transplanting Ourselves Can Be a Chaotic Process of Renewal
In our rapidly changing world, many people are changing jobs, relocating, moving their families, starting over again. Moving with the winds of change, transplanting ourselves, can be a chaotic process-but it is also potentially one of growth and renewal.
As one of my clients, Dave, asked me some months ago, "How can I best prepare my family to be uprooted and moved to a new place? And how do I maintain an upbeat stance through this major job change when I realize I'm going to have to acquire new skills, maybe ultimately even a new career?"
This young man was asking reasonable questions out of loving concern for his family's welfare and a strong desire to stay positive through a major change cycle.
I reflected for a moment. "It's a lot to handle all at once, isn't it? Radical change is difficult. But I believe you can make the new job and move a positive experience for yourself and the family. First of all, you'll want to finish up your current job in a way that you will feel good about yourself. That's one priority. Right?"
Dave nodded, "Yes. When I look back, I want to know I gave it my best shot. But I have to start thinking about the new job, too, or I won't be ready for it. Then there's the move. It's a lot to handle."
Many of my clients had gone through this process, so I had the picture. "It's called, overwhelm! Right?"
Dave smiled, "Yeah."
I decided to offer a few suggestions: "It helps a lot to focus yourself on one thing at a time. First, I imagine you need to give full attention on your workdays to winding up the job you have now. That will earn you a good reference. Second, how about taking time this weekend to write down specifically the steps you need to take to get ready for the new job? Once it's on paper, it's somehow less formidable. What do you think?"
Dave looked thoughtful. "That makes sense. It's been pretty chaotic trying to finish up the job I have now, so I haven't done much to prepare for the new one. And I do need to start transferring the details of my current job to whoever is going to take it over. If the higher-ups don't make a decision on that pretty quick, I'll just put it on paper for the next guy."
"That seems like a smart move to me," I responded. "What's next?"
Dave sighed, "Apart from the work thing, my wife and kids are uneasy about moving to a new city."
I could understood that one. "Sure they are. You probably are, too. Uneasiness in the face of change is perfectly normal. But once you start readying yourself and the family for the move, I can almost guarantee that everyone will begin to feel better."
Somewhat reassured, Dave brought up his next concern. "I know that's true. But another factor is that we've lived here for fifteen years and it's the only home our children know. It's hard to think about leaving here, even though I know we have to do it."
I gave him my perspective: "It's definitely challenging to uproot yourselves when you've been in one place for many years. It brings up feelings that each of you need to honor and share; when you share feelings as a family, everyone feels safe and supported. My own take on the process of uprooting and transplanting is that we need to do what we would do with our plants-keep ourselves warm, watered and fed in the process of transplanting, and prepare the earth in the new garden.
"I also see this as a metaphor for deeper questions. I know that you are serious about your spiritual path. What would your path suggest you do to keep the family spiritually and emotionally warm, watered and fed?"
Dave began to relax a bit. "I guess it would be praying for guidance. When Christine and I focus our prayers on a particular issue, we do get direction. I'd say that our souls feel warm, watered and fed when we do our spiritual work and all of us keep on loving each other."
I could feel the depth of Dave's love for God and his family. "That's a truly heartwarming way to look at it. I'm sure the inner guidance you are seeking will be there for you as you do your spiritual work. And loving each other through difficult times is what family is all about, isn't it?"
Dave was quick to answer, "Yes, we're pretty good at showing how much we love each other-the children have helped us learn to do that. They're so quick to give us a hug and ask for one, too. I can see that's the real foundation-prayers and loving each other.
"Since we're on the subject of feelings, do you have any special suggestions as to how I can help the family deal with their feelings? Christine is kind of uptight about the whole thing, and the kids are a divided house. Danny is jumping up and down with excitement, but Susie and Christy keep saying they don't want to move. I know they're scared."
I nodded. "It's normal that Christine would be a bit uptight and the girls scared. Probably Danny is too, but he's handling his feelings by jumping into his excitement. Take a hint from him. Share his enthusiasm, and lend a listening ear to Christine and the girls. You know how it is with us women. We handle our feelings by talking about them."
Dave smiled. "Yes, I know. I don't think I've felt much like listening because I've been apprehensive myself. But I realize they need to talk it out. It'll help me, too. And when I listen to Danny, I do feel my excitement coming to the surface. Maybe that's what I need to do-just let it come up instead of being 'Mr. Solemn and Determined.'"
Dave and I both laughed. "I think that's a great idea! The entire situation is going to seem less scary to the family once you settle the details of home and school in whatever city you are moving to."
Dave nodded. "We're moving to Denver. I have some vacation coming and we're planning to scout out the territory, visit some schools and pick out a neighborhood. I know we'll all feel better once we know where we're going to live and where the kids will go to school."
He had the physical details of the move under control-the issue was mostly everybody's feelings. So I said, "Yes, you'll all probably feel a lot more at peace once the details of home and school are settled."
Dave responded, "I know I'll feel more comfortable and at peace once I know where we are going to put our roots down. And that brings up another issue. We have to put our house on the market so that hopefully it can be sold by the time we leave. I know the family is dreading that part of it."
I reassured him, "I think the family will take selling the house in stride once they help find a new one. It's really fear of the unknown that makes a move seem so difficult. Once you jump in and start dealing with the unknown, it becomes a known quantity. As you deal with the specifics, everything kind of smoothes out."
Dave looked relieved. "I can see that. I feel better after having talked it over. I'll follow through and keep in touch, but I definitely have a clearer idea of how to help the family through the feeling stuff. We just need to talk about our feelings and start making specific plans."
We were winding down now, so I summed up my thoughts, "I believe you are totally on the right track, Dave, and I know how much it helps to talk it through with someone else. It's like new energy comes in and propels you forward. I think the major point here is to keep expanding your vision and exploring the new opportunity rather than holding on in any way to the cycle that is ending for you."
Dave looked like he was having a sudden "ah-ha." "Hey, maybe it's the 'holding-on' part that has been giving me trouble. I have to admit this whole thing is uncomfortable for me, too. I've been just as attached to my job and our lifestyle here as the family is.
"On the one hand, I know there is no point in holding on to something that's over. On the other hand, it's been hard to get a firm grip on the future because we've all been shaky about the change. I guess I'd better get to work on this 'letting-go' process you're always talking about."
We laughed together. He was right. I have somewhat of an attachment to the letting-go process because I have found that most of our pain comes from holding on to something-a job, a way of life, old habits, a worn-out point of view, whatever we're leaving behind. Dave left the session with a battle plan and renewed determination.
He came in a few more times, and his wife came with him once. They had made a lot of progress. Dave had pretty well finished his present job to his satisfaction and was seeing the new job and the move as an excellent opportunity. Christine was planning her new home even as she was showing the old one to prospective buyers.
They took the trip to Denver as a family and were pleased to find schools and a neighborhood they liked and could afford. They put a down payment on a house in the suburbs and were looking forward to the sale of their present home. The last I heard the girls were getting more positive toward the move and Danny was still jumping up and down with excitement.
Claiming Inner Metamorphosis in the Midst of Tumultuous Happenings
Change can be positive. When we look to the horizon, bounce ideas off of our friends and family and stay open to our feelings as we move ahead with our plans, we create a new vision of our future. We experience an energizing sense of self-transcendence and find ourselves looking forward with hope to the future that we are in the process of creating.
It is this positive state of consciousness along with our expanded vision that draws new opportunities to us. And our internal transformation helps us to discover and enter into the necessary avenues to establish new skills, new relationships and new patterns of living.
When we allow chaos and the Mind of God to reconfigure our thinking, our vision and our perspective, we may claim our own creative process and inner metamorphosis in the very midst of tumultuous happenings. We become as Kuan Yin riding the dragon, surfing the waves of chaotic happenings with equanimity and greeting chaos as an opportunity for personal growth and regeneration.
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