Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr – Personal Transformation- Part 2 June 10, 2012

CFN – Is personal transformation easy? Not really! The lower nature, or the body, will often be a distraction when it has been ruling for awhile. If you have any weaknesses it will exploit them in an effort to derail you from your goal of moving forward. The body is the animal part of us and anyone who has worked with animals knows they have their own agenda. One example is trying to change a bad habit, taking a walk in the morning instead of sleeping in, you may be able to do it for a few mornings but after awhile the body will want to stay in bed rather than get out in the cold. It takes commitment to override that inclination towards lethargy.

We always have a choice, we can choose the high road or the low road. We can become more loving or we can become full of hatred. It’s a change of mindset from thinking that things just happen to us and realizing that everything happens for a reason. Over the course of one’s daily life we have to learn to become responsive, to adjust our thinking in order to make choices that move us forward with a spiritual consciousness, instead of being reactive and staying stuck in a materialistic mindset.

That’s where the process of transformation comes in. Let us look at a natural example of transformation in order to compare what happens scientifically with what can happen spiritually. I admit that this example has been overused but perhaps it may offer some insights. The example of the caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly is one possibility. No one, looking at a caterpillar, would ever suspect that becoming a butterfly is its goal in life. Caterpillars crawl around on the ground and in vegetation searching for leaves to chew. At a certain point in its growth it becomes inanimate and creates a chrysalis in which it conceals itself. In the secret recesses of this chrysalis it becomes completely liquefied and then its molecules become reorganized into a whole new being. After an intense period of struggle it emerges into a stumpy creature with eight legs and two antennae and two stubs on its back, the process continues as it takes hours to contract its body and wring out all the water content which gets pushed out into the wing structure. This very delicate process, if successful, will result in a set of wings that dry in the sun, permitting flight. The butterfly has a structure for extracting nectar, a proboscis, instead of the mandibles of a caterpillar- it drinks nectar because chewing is impossible, it has become a whole new being. From being an earth-bound creature it transforms into one that can fly. This is a small miracle.

Can the same thing happen to humans? Someone told me that people do not change. Is this belief limiting? Perhaps some people do not choose to change but can people transform?

What would it look like if people did have the capacity to transform? Would they become cocoons and become liquefied? It does not seem likely that transformation of a human being from being a purely material creature to a spiritual being is going to look exactly like the transformative process of the caterpillar to the butterfly. It is not in our genetic make-up to be able to go through that precise process. However, there may be milestones that correspond to the stages of the cocoon and to the eventual birth of the butterfly. What might they look like?

I find it fascinating that when it comes to the transformative process it seems that there is a rule that applies: a former weakness becomes one of our greatest strengths through applying spiritual principles. A materialistic issue can become transformed in to a spiritual strength. One first has to identify our most pressing issues and get them out in the open.

Then a time of premeditation can take place. The premeditation process can take an instant, it can take years. For example, if you are considering stopping smoking, not eating so much, stop getting stoned, perhaps decided that you are no longer going to gossip, or become unhappy with going out drinking every week-end, have a mental health issue or disability, you might be a candidate for transformation. Realizing that we are not happy with our life is very important part of the process. I heard a woman saying that just before she made a complete shift in her way of life all that happened was that she was driving down the road and came to a bend, as she went around that corner she realized that what she had been doing was no longer working for her and she decided to make a shift. The decision to change can be revealed to us in such a simple way.

We come to the next step which is to create a plan to carry out the identified goal. This is the next milestone in the process. I am going to use the example of deciding to stop gossiping as the issue that I have had a personal and ongoing battle. The language used here in terms of choosing to use the word “battle” is also important because becoming more spiritual is a challenging process that requires us to develop “spiritual muscles”.  Gossip is a communication method that is common in our society and it is a means of social control. If you want to know what is going on in the community just go to your local watering hole and listen to the gossip. Gossip is news that is passed second and third or more, handed around behind people’s backs over which they have no control. Being a gossip and passing on these types of messages can be very harmful. Gossip is essential if you are going to have bullying, for one thing. Gossip creates a sense that the person you are talking about stands out for whatever reason. Instead of learning about someone first hand through your own knowledge you take someone else’s word about them. It can be extremely toxic and damaging- sometimes people commit suicide over gossip being spread about them. It is an infectious social illness and we all do it to some extent. So now having decided to stop gossiping what has to happen to actually do it?

That is where a spiritual practice is essential. This is the next milestone in the process of transformation. If I want to do something different, in this case, stop gossiping, then I have to find a way to access a higher consciousness or state of mind. I am not talking about anything “woo-woo” like angel cards or crystals etc. I need to take the time to clear my mind and begin to go inside, or enter into what could be a cocoon stage. If I do this twice a day chances are that I will start having new insights and develop a new capacity to resist the pull of normal social life and pull away from enjoying gossip. Without that cocooning time twice a day, in my experience, I do not have the strength to combat the problem. With the prayer and meditation cocoon, that inner strength seems to inoculate me. It seems that the process of transformation happens over a human lifetime, rather than all in one shot, like the caterpillar to butterfly example. It’s another way of looking at it because it give us the opportunity for continual improvement and learning to be compassionate and just to ourselves. Every day we do good, bad and indifferent actions. As we become more aware our consciousness increases and we can pay more attention to what needs to be tweaked.

It requires effort, persistence, patience, determination, conviction and faith to become more spiritual. As someone once explained, at first faith is a drop of water in the desert, then as you practice, it begins to increase in volume to a few drops, a sprinkle, a shower and finally a downpour now and then. It’s a process and when we are open to the possibility, it is really enjoyable. Replacing a former bad habit with a good habit makes it a practical way forward. So, after this explanation, do you feel like it is possible to transform yourself?

Shirley Barr lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario and is a member of the Baha’i Community.

Non-credited Photos courtesy of  www.monarch-butterfly.com



  1. I enjoyed your column today. Recently I had to deal with the issue of gossiping with some kids. We used to play a game with them called ‘Telephone’ in which the first person tells the next person something, usually just one sentence. The second tries to pass on the sentence to the third and then to the fourth and so on. They are always amazed at how different the original sentence is at the end and helps them to understand that it is better to communicate directly with someone, then there can be not mistake in what was said. When it comes to gossiping, there is the gossipee and the gossiper. Each plays a role in the process. It is just as important that the second, third and fourth etc. person resist the urge to pass on second hand information.

    Good words for thought today. Keep up the good work. Horsetalker

  2. Shirley…..how refeshing!!!! It’s nice to read positive things for a change. Yep……when one feels unfulfilled nothing better then introspection to get back on the right track. Been there/done that and never looked back.

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