You might say I'm a naturalist observing internal landscapes, my own and others, monitoring and recording the recurring patterns, the cycles of change. In my work over many years Iıve noted five distinct predictive patterns we all seem to encounter as we journey from one phase or condition of our lives to the next. Part of my work is simply to remember this in the middle of my own changes, and to remind others of this as I assist them through their life transitions. In this sense, Iım also a spiritual mid-wife of sorts. Just as each biological birth is unique, so is each psychological or spiritual rebirth. Yet all births progress through certain fairly predictable cycles.
Medical doctors are familiar with the process of physical birth and the phenomena that mark each stage. Yet many people, especially in the fields of mental health, are unaware of the stages or signs that occur in the process of psychological/spiritual rebirth. However, once someone grasps this "rebirth" concept, they understand themselves and their experience in a new light. A deep inner knowing of this process exists in each of us because it is an essential part of our life-experience, of our personal and collective history. Yet this knowledge is buried under our modern scientific/materialist sensibility. Weıve been through these cycles thousands of times, but failed to recognize their pattern. And while a part of us intuitively knows how to heal, change and let go, to "die" and be reborn, another part of us fiercely resists this, as infants may resist biological birth. So I compare the process of self-transformation to the actual birth of a child. I believe a kind of psychic blueprint of the process of change exists in our psyche that can direct us through the changes we need to make. The five-stage model presented here is my best interpretation of this psychic blueprint. All I have learned is reflected in these five cycles. Each cycle is connected to a particular element and to a stage in a death-and-rebirth sequence.
The first cycle is connected to the element of water, and to the quality of intuition. It is often associated with a sense of floating, of not yet having taken root in the earth. This can mean anything from an initial period of free-floating, creative ideas, or spiritual inspiration. In this stage our dreams or visualizations may include images of water creatures, like whales, dolphins, or fish, or bodies of water, lakes, seas or rivers.
The second cycle is connected to the element of earth, and to the qualities of confinement and rootedness . This can show up in our dreams as being out upon a beach or on the earth. It is the state of a planted seed, struggling to sprout, buried in the dark earth. It is the baby chick squirming in the egg it has nearly outgrown, not yet able to peck its way out.
We can feel bound, constricted, tied up. We may struggle, feeling and uncomfortable where we are. Yet we canıt seem to get to the next place. We can only grow to the next place, reach a point where we are strong enough to burst through the now confining shell or earth that has protected our life-force. And this growth occurs exactly through what often feels like an impotent struggle against overwhelming forces that bind or trap us.
The third cycle is connected to the element of fire, and to the quality of will. In its Yin mode we may experience inner or outer chaos, turmoil and confusion. There is a boiling up of disorienting, subterranean energies that we must "digest", anchor and transform. This takes time, effort, a strong intention or "fiery" will, and a willingness to endure. In this mode even our outer circumstances may reflect our inner experience, and things may seem to go haywire, break down or become unmanageable and complicated. (In the Yang mode?) we may feel "on fire", passionate emotions, creative exhilaration. Yet even these positive states can reach extremes and become intoxicating, can lead us beyond our good-judgement into risk.
The fourth cycle is connected to spirit, and to the quality of trust or faith. In this phase an opening is created where we realize that we cant do it alone; we need something bigger than our little human egoic selves because we are a part of something much bigger. In this cycle, the futility of living as if we are separate from, or set against the Whole, becomes apparent. It is recognized as counter-productive, self-destructive, and even a bit mad. And surrender "happens." Our defenses drop, and we open like a flower in sunlight. We feel a sense of relief, well-being, acceptance. When surrender happens, our life-force, formerly bound up in struggle and resistance to change, begins to flow through us as creative power, or unobstructed spirit. In this stage we may lose a sense of attachment to an outcome, even as we move toward our goal with a kind of empowered serenity. We may experience "the peace that passeth all understanding".
The fifth cycle is connected to the element of air, and to the qualities of mastery, flow, or seemingly effortless ability. This culminating phase of "rebirth" completes our exit from the dark confining womb, the portal to a "new" life, world or self. Here one feels suddenly free. One can relax, sigh, and breathe clear air. There is a sense of excitement, celebration, newness, and perhaps a need to protect whatıs new. Now an innate wisdom flows through strength, and integrity and us we did not know we possessed. We may find that we become empowered choice-makers, healers, creators, teachers, leaders, and living lives of authenticity, adventure, and mystery. Like a water pump that has finally begun to flow, our efforts now produce maximum results without the previous sense of struggle or frustration. It seems new blood flows through our veins, and our life-force is of a higher voltage than before. We feel enlivened and led by spirit. We are reborn. And when we have completed the work of this phase, learned its lessons and grounded its energy, the cycle will start all over again, at a higher level. Because it never ends. The Native American Medicine Wheel symbolizes these endless cycles of life by which we are brought to wholeness and wisdom.
My awareness of this cyclical model has made, and continues to make an incredible difference in the quality of my own life, and in the lives of hundreds of people with whom I work each year. This book presents a user-friendly model of this five-stage cycle, with each stage clearly defined. This model provides an invaluable and utterly practical map of change that applies to any significant life-process, be it healing, transformation, relationship or creative endeavor. This map will help you to recognize which cycle you happen to be in; to understand issues, experiences and difficulties you may encounter in each stage; and know what is required of you to complete your present cycle in order to move on to the next. It will show you how your personal experiences fit into a larger pattern, giving you a perspective that helps you find meaning in difficult moments. There is a peace that comes when we see how our seemingly haphazard lives flow in endless cycles, in a natural evolutionary process of change.