Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
It has been said that change is the only constant in life. Change is taking place everywhere around us, all the time. As we navigate the winds of change, we all need support: whether going through a divorce, recovering from an illness, embarking on a spiritual awakening or starting over in a new community.
All forms of change require us to learn new ways of being and functioning. One of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself during times of change is to find appropriate support. A basic understanding of the learning process that moves us through change will boost your ability to find meaningful support for every stage of your journey.
Humans move through three core stages in every area of change and growth – whether you are trying out a new sport or adjusting to life after losing a loved one. You may find yourself at a beginning stage in one area or your life and an advanced stage in other areas of your life. Success lies in being able to determine how your personal learning needs to be supported with appropriate feedback, support or adjustment. When we get stuck in any one stage, growth stagnates.
Beginning Stage – KNOWLEDGE
The beginning stage of learning or change is the thinking or cognitive stage. This is the stage where you may decide to learn more about something – perhaps you choose to explore spiritual realities and delve into many traditions, teachings, and materials. During this stage, you spend a lot of time acquiring information, processing new concepts mentally, and figuring out how everything fits together.
During the beginning phase, personal growth tends to be sporadic, uncoordinated and often somewhat lopsided – not unlike watching a toddler taking their first solo steps. Mistakes are common and it is often difficult to filter out irrelevant information since discernment is a skill that gets refined with time and practice. You may get overwhelmed easily when there are too many things happening in your life at one time or if you put pressure on yourself.
One of the most valuable forms of support during this phase is to ask for constructive feedback and encouragement from others. You can also support your own progress by giving yourself room and grace to fail and making a commitment to keep going after each setback. Repeated effort provides the practice needed to become more familiar with the new skill or learning.
Intermediate Stage – APPLICATION
In the intermediate stage, you start applying what you have learned so far to implement meaningful change into your life. You now move beyond simply knowing about things into the practical application of your knowledge; you experiment with new and different ways of being in order to live it. During this phase, you start connecting the dots in your learning. With the experience gained from practical application, you start shifting your perspective to embrace new attitudes. On the spiritual journey, this stage finds you moving out of the intellect and into the heart, from where you start clearing away everything that is illumined by your emerging Higher Awareness as no longer useful.
During the application stage, you may try many different approaches to your goal before experiencing a sense of accomplishment. Clients looking for tools of self-transformation often experiment with different meditation techniques or forms of exercise during this stage. Since practical application brings about real-world outcomes, you may also become acutely aware of the external environment in which you operate. This heightened sensitivity can bring with it a strong need for the external encouragement on your progress to build confidence and assurance. If not balanced with your personal convictions, this need for external affirmation can evolve into expectations of external validation that may erode your personal power.
On the journey of personal growth, you will spend most of your time in this stage, continuously challenging and clearing outdated beliefs to facilitate continued growth. Constructive feedback becomes vitally important and you may rely on a few trusted sources for feedback. There is also a need to balance input from others with increasing responsibility for your own growth. You take on more responsibility by actively maintaining balance, clearing out dissonant beliefs, aligning to your core truths and reconciling your inner life with outer differences.
Advanced Stage – INTEGRATION
In advanced states of learning, you take full responsibility for your actions and your behavior becomes self-regulating. You have moved from the stage of knowledge about things to do it, and now you are becoming it. You no longer look outside yourself for affirmation, guidance, and support, but find it through your ever-present connection to Source. Listening and dialoguing with the Divine Presence within, becomes an automatic, on-going process that facilitates personal diagnosis and adjustment in areas of imbalance whenever needed.
Functioning at this level brings about a keen awareness of your interconnectedness to all forms of life. This emerging awareness makes you highly effective at being a positive influence for change, shifting the level of consciousness around you simply through the sum total of what you have become. At this level, growth or development may be incremental and may appear smaller, because the individual deals with fine-tuning and deep inner work that may not be visible to others.
The next time you feel a little lost on your path, take a look at which stage of learning you are at in the area where you feel wobbly. Then, find the support that will offer you appropriate correction and feedback for that stage of your process. You’ll be amazed at the difference this awareness brings!