Transforming Lives–What’s Up with That?

transformation I have mentioned in previous posts that we are practicing “Transforming Lives” as our mission / purpose statement at Unity Spiritual Center. I refer to this as a practice because I believe that this is the most effective way to “live into” the experience of being on purpose as a spiritual community. Our congregation already loves the notion that we are here to transform lives–not to support transformation or inspire transformation, but to BE it and DO it–transforming lives. Transforming lives is becoming the context for all that we do at Unity Spiritual Center.

However, just affirming our purpose of transforming lives is insufficient to create transformational experiences within individual community members. Who’s to say what a transformed life looks like from one person to another? Who’s to say the particular process by which transformation happens? How can the ministry facilitate transformation when people are in different places in their spiritual development? These are all valid questions when being so bold as to claim a “transforming lives” mission. Yet, the real bottom line is whether or not people experience transformation, however they define it. We all know that transformation is about waking up and not about improving the dream. So, we need to appreciate that we will first be inclined to desire non-threatening change rather than a radical restructuring of our identity and life patterns (even while understanding that this is what is best in the long run).

Part of the challenge in moving people into a transformational context for getting to the next level is having the entire community understand basic principles regarding the spiritual journey and the transformation process. It could be said that the spiritual journey or path is, in and of itself, a transformational endeavor. To awaken to matters of Spirit necessitates a transformative context for perception, meaning-making, and understanding how evolution works. There are many useful models and metaphors that convey these principles. Consider adult development, spiral dynamics, or any other developmental model that reveals a process of moving from one stage of development to another.

Ken Wilber told me that if we would teach adult development, spiral dynamics or any other developmental schema in our churches, as a part of our spiritual curriculum, great emotional and spiritual maturity would manifest. In other words, we can evolve beyond victimhood and move beyond a sense of not enough. transformation1We can attain a level of understanding and maturity that enables us to refrain from sourcing our well-being or our discomfort outside of ourselves. We can get to our next level and discover that we are Source unto our own life and that no outer condition has the capacity to diminish us. These exciting milestones are the effects of a transformed life–a movement beyond the “yesterday self” into a new identity no longer tethered to the life patterns and limiting beliefs of the WHO that has gone before.

Yet, you just can’t talk about transformation from the pulpit. Why? Because people unfamiliar with living a transformed life won’t have sufficient context to move past their ingrained patterns of perception and meaning-making. While they may understand that the source of their discomfort or well-being is not “out there” for instance, they may not be able to refrain from reacting when triggered, if they lack the tools for the kinds of neural shifts in perception and meaning-making that would elicit a principled response. In other words, transformation must also alter the neural pathways and create new brain maps that constitute a more mature identity and self-system. They need concrete transformational moments, lots of them, to begin to connect the dots that have the power to eclipse their default operating system which constantly reboots psychological presets that constitute their personality, ego, and pain body.

In my experience, the Art & Practice of Living with Nothing and No One Against You workshop and the Q Process™ is the most expeditious program for creating transformational moments for people in the short term. And, now that over 150 people (and counting) have been through the program, we are able to have transformative conversations on Sundays. The community is learning the “language” of transformation and the principles that support transformational living.

Once people experience a depth of transformation that leads to new behaviors and greater emotional and spiritual maturity, a cultural tipping point emerges. The “felt sense” that transforming lives is what really supports healing, integration, and renewal, both in the individual and the organization, makes perfect sense. The next step for us as a ministry is to expand the delivery systems and options for transforming lives. There is only so much that can happen on Sundays or even in a Q Process™ workshop. Therefore, how we configure our model of ministry (ministry practice) will determine our approach to whether or not we are living our mission or just affirming it as our intended purpose.

Final1Medium_JPGIn my previous blog post, I shared how the SpiritGroups small group ministry program can provide a holistic and organic approach to creating transformational moments as well as increasing ownership, balance, organizational coherence and accountability. This program when coupled with transforming lives as the mission, supercharges a ministry’s capacity to get to the next level.

You can shift from asking people to support your ministry to inviting them to become partners in transforming lives. Feel the difference? Can you sense that people hunger to support that which is an extension of their own desire to make the difference? When transforming lives is your mission and when individuals have had an authentic experience of being transformed at depth, they welcome the opportunity to co-create that experience for others through their tithes and service.

I will be speaking the next two Sundays at Unity Spiritual Center as Jane is away. I plan to talk about transformation and the process of transformational living. I will be discussing three key components that make transformation possible: self-awareness, choice point, and authentic action. All of our services are recorded and includes both the Center Updates with Dr. Gary and the Sunday message. If you are interested in how our conversation about transforming lives happens, check it out.

Blessings, Gary