Transformation vs. Translation

Last Sunday, Jane shared from Rev. Robert Brumet’s book, Living Originally, an important distinction between two types of spiritual teachings: transformational and translational. Brumet cites Ken Wilber as the originator of this distinction, defining translational teachings as those that are intended to improve or translate a moment–from a difficulty or hardship to an opportunity or something to leverage within the context of creating a more favorable experience. Translational teachings are focused on creating a more enhanced, confident, empowered, and authentic self-system. Translational teachings are ego-friendly insofar as they do not alter the ego’s functional role in consciousness.

Transformational teachings, on the other hand, seek to point us to a new reality that is only accessible within the context of a new identity. Transformational teachings wreak havoc for the ego because their focus is not about survival or making things better. They are about helping us to break the habit of being ourselves (check out Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.) They point us away from the familiar and compel us to embrace the disowned and orphaned parts of ourselves. These teachings are more difficult to engage because our ego tends to undermine any intentional effort to explore our own interiors and face our own demons.

Waking from a dreamJane added a great analogy that makes the distinction between translation and transformation clear. Let’s say you have having a bad dream. Translational teachings, techniques and practices help you reframe your bad dream into a not so bad or a good dream. Transformational teachings, techniques and practices help you wake up from the dream (of your conditioned self).

What does translation and transformation look like for the individual and then for the church organization?

Let’s say your current dream is a story about insufficiency and lack. You are having the outer experience of scarcity that is linked to the inner shadow belief: I AM not enough. This is a common dream that has become a nightmare for so many people these days. Rather than waking up from the dream of not enough, translational teachings suggest that you can remedy the discomfort of not enough by getting more.

Translation teachings focus your efforts of improving the dream bytranslation enhancing outcomes, scenarios, options, and possibilities. Just imagine what winning the lottery might do within the dream of not enough. You’d feel better. The world would seem manageable. You could even enjoy a renewed fantasy of giving 10% to your church. Keep in mind that lottery winnings, or other seeming improvements are always short-lived when they arise in the dream of not enough. The reality of abundance is always eclipsed by the belief: I AM not enough (see Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money).

The point is that, while the dream can improve, improvement does not lead to transformation because the evolutionary driver (the discomfort of not enough) has been temporarily disabled. Without the evolutionary driver there is no effort or need to wake up. We are satisfied with improvement, progress, and relief from worry. Yet, eventually the original narrative of the “not enough dream” will sneak back into the person’s bedtime stories. While translational teachings improve our experience, they do nothing to transform our identity or the context of our meaning-making (projections / reality).

Transformational teachings, on the other hand are all about waking up from the dream and discovering a new ground of being that is transformationno longer linked to an ego-centered body-mind. Waking up from the dream of not enough and being born into the reality of omnipresent abundance occurs when we have differentiated ourselves from the identity that was created when we took on the belief in our own sense of not enough. When we separate belief from identity we can see that we HAVE a belief, but that the belief that we have is not the truth of us. This is the first step of integration.

Next, we need to inhabit the new reality (or self system / identity) and reinforce its validity by taking authentic action consistent with who and what we have come here to be. With respect to a person waking up from the dream of not enough, the emergence into a new way of being must be in the context of Principle or Purpose. (Think about Neo from the Matrix movie when he was liberated. While he awoke from the illusion of conformity and fate, he needed to reorient himself to his Purpose–to be the ONE. Yet, it took time for him to grow into his new identity free from the constraints of matrix (dream / old patterns).

Organizationally, translation initiatives–the adoption of practices geared to create profits, growth, productivity, or mission fulfillment, are inherently about leveraging opportunities and enhancing the sustainability of the enterprise. In churches, translation strategies are about predict and control, increasing revenues, attendance, and preserving the heritage (identity) of the ministry. However, just as for the individual trapped in a dream of not enough, our ministries are also sleepwalking through this maze of compelling forces. When a ministry is dealing with not enough it is looking for relief, for a bailout, or for evidence that prosperity teachings and prayer are truly the answer to insufficiency. Once again, the translation strategy for alleviating the discomfort of lack is to get more–more people and more money. The fix from the dreamscape is seen to come from efforts to improve the dream rather than from transformation which is all about waking up.

Waking up organizationally, from the dream of lack is a gradual process that begins with the leadership of the ministry (the Minister(s) and Board). Transformation at the leadership level of the ministry is not always welcomed, easy, or direct. Shifting from predict and control to being Spirit-led when lost in the dream of organizational insufficiency almost always triggers the sense of not enough in individual Board members themselves. They in turn attempt to manage the church’s sense of not enough the very same way that they try to deal with their own experience of lack–by trying to get more. The problem is that leaders look to their communities for the more that is needed to relieve the discomfort. These efforts are all about trying to improve the dream rather than waking up from it.

If lack is really a dream state, then abundance is our reality when we awaken. We don’t have to create sufficiency, we have to awaken to its presence as our essence. We can only experience sustainable abundance when we are engaged in demonstrating generosity without ceasing. Just like Paul admonished his followers to pray without ceasing, we need to admonish our communities as well as ourselves to practice radical generosity as an antidote to falling asleep. When we give as Source for the purpose of being Source unto our life, we come from an awakened context. Generosity that flows from Source (from our essence) is energetically attuned to integration rather than increase. Please think on this deeply as it will reveal an alternative approach to setting up the context for teaching the practice of tithing. Tithing is less about increase, more about integration. With integration comes transformation.

Blessings, Gary