The story is set in early 1970s. It is in a tiny village in Kutch dessert of Gujarat, India.
It is early morning. Women from every house start walking barefoot on dessert sand. They go on for miles to fetch water. Their head is heavy with series of containers on it. Veil is covering their face. They rationalize that ‘it is to protect me from venomous gaze of men!‘ There is a rush in their gait. They need to come back asap to clean home and make food.
At home they eat only after all men have taken their meal. They are not allowed to talk in loud voice, look in eye or dance in front of men. If they miss any of this, shaaat….a tight slap across face. The taunts and barbs of men would make them weep in agony. Physical abuse would hurt sometimes. They would suffer in silence or in company of another women. And yet there were no complains.
This is normal for them. There is no oppression or submission. How can there be? There is no awareness of missing out on anything. How will someone who is blind from birth know about light? How will the turtle who has spent the entire life in a Well know about the glories of sea?
A 16 year girl from a bigger town gets married and comes to this village. She is full of vigor and energy. Dancing was how she expressed her self. She missed it after coming to this village.
As she starts going out every morning to fetch water, she is bonding with other women. She starts asking questions. Elder women would be dumb struck by her questions.
“This is how it works here”
“Well, what if you try another way? Imagine your full potential”, she would try to coach them!
Albeit all this would land on deaf ears. Where is place for imagination when there is no desire to change?
One morning on their way back to village they saw a drummer. The young girl got excited. She made the drummer play beats for her. She started dancing. All the other women hurried away, fearing that if any men would pass by and see them. The little one did not bother. She was in her trance. And why not? After months she got a chance to move her body and feel free. Exuberance was radiating her face.
This became a daily routine for her. Everyday few more women would join her. On one day all women gathered around in circle and danced to the tune of drums. They moved around in circle. Their limbs coordinating in perfect grace. Tears rolling down their cheeks. Their feelings were beyond articulation. As if there was an alignment with something much deeper in self.
They have tasted the freedom. The ground beneath had shifted. Now there was no going back.
They kept experiencing more freedom in this part of their life. Thus they started standing up for themselves at home. They were no longer bogged down by the barbs and taunts of men. They knew that it had nothing to do with them. It was men’s ignorance that was making them the way they were. Now women would feel the pain, shrug it off and yet stand tall. Their comfort zone had increased.
A part of them healed and this catalyzed a transformation. This transformation gave them courage to stand up for themselves. Again, this transformation catalyzed even more healing. To the courageous heart there is no looking back.
Like Yin and Yang, every transformation has a healing hidden in it. And every healing catalyzes a transformation. Both are inseparable.
When I got to know about Coaching For Transformation, the first question in my mind was why not Coaching for Healing?!
The initial part of course is philosophical and abstract. (Exactly how I like it!) It gave me an opportunity to reflect. This essay is an outcome of that reflection. What is emerging is profound to me.
What is Healing?
Well, what is the opposite of healing?
Wounds are a reality of physical and emotional life. It is natural for all to get wounded and feel hurt. In physical wounds we are trying to protect our body. In emotional wounds we are trying to protect our self-image. Let’s call this self-image as our comfort zone. Anything outside our comfort zone will trigger us, wound us and hurt us.
The process of healing is opposite of hurting. It is expanding our comfort zone. When I expand my comfort zone, triggers that were earlier offending and hurtful are no longer bothersome. I outgrow them. When a part of me heals, that part no longer blocks me. This is a process of expanding and becoming more ‘Whole’ It adds something to our well-being and joy.
Imagine a 5 cm radius circle. Healing makes it a 6 cm radius circle. 5 cm circle was not broken. It was whole on it’s own. Now at 6 cm radius it is ‘more whole’. There is no end to this process. It is always evolving.
How does one Heal?
What do we do when in hurt?
There are infinite ways to react to hurt. To simplify, imagine a physical hurt. If some living being has hurt, it is normal to have urge to hurt them back. If some inanimate object (say stock market) has hurt, there is likely to be suffering, stories and rationalization. One would bitch, whine and complain. If the hurt is recurring, one is likely to develop hate and prejudice. These are all expressions of pain — physical or emotional.
Healing is a way to respond to pain. Not automatically react to pain.
Pain and healing are two sides of same coin. They are inseparable. Suffering is different. It keeps one fixated on their wounds. Suffering is staying in our stories. Pain is a fact, suffering is a choice. Pain is an experience that we learn from. Suffering and trauma impacts in such a way to immobilize our capacity to learn from it.
Healing is a process that happens after we experience pain. Raw and unadulterated pain. It is grueling. One has to shred their stories if one has to go through this. When we stay with our pain we are mourning our unmet needs. Doing this means staying in the moment. For me this is staying with my body sensations and breathing.
In embracing our pain we meet healing.
When the women started crying while dancing to the drums they were in touch with their pain. They were observing and experiencing their pain. There were no internal stories. There was no hate for men. There was no sympathy for themselves. They were being in the moment. This changed something deep in them.
Let us move to the other side, What is Transformation?
Transformation is a process of paradigm change. From our earlier analogy, the circle is expanding into a sphere or a cylinder or a cone. Maybe even a cube! Transformation is adding new dimensions to our being. Evolution.
Change as a process keeps happening in nature. It is a necessary part of existence. Water turns into vapor then clouds then snow and so many things… There is a predictability to this change. Many changes are across paradigm. They become transformational.
- A super nova star might collapse into a black hole or a white dwarf.
- A larvae may get converted into a butterfly.
- An eagle may isolate itself, pluck all it’s feathers and gift itself a new birth.
Not all eagles can do this. Most of them fail. Not all larvae becomes butterfly. Not all eggs give birth. There is a lot of uncertainty in some changes and thus much more possibilities. This is Transformation.
Transformation involves metamorphosis, an entropic episode that is necessary in order to survive.
In our story what brought transformation in the women?
It was getting in touch with a diverse view of a 16 year old. It was seeing her courage to dance. It was facing their fear and taking the plunge to dance. It was getting in alignment with something internal while dancing. At last it was taking concrete action of challenging the men back home.
They transformed from being meek to speaking up for themselves. From taking on shit to standing in courage.
What is the difference between Transformation and Healing?
Transformation as a process is not limited to human beings or even living beings. It is even observed in inanimate objects. However, healing is a process that can take place only in humans (Even not all living beings).
This is because only humans can observe themselves, reflect on their experience. When we are able to do this, pain becomes an opportunity to heal. It would be irresponsible to expect all humans to feel it. It would also be irresponsible to expect ourselves to observe pain all the time. Healing is a back and forth process.
How can we nurture this unique humanness?
People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life…I think that what we are really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on a purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive. — Joseph Campbell
Experiencing means being in the moment. Not getting bogged down by thoughts of past or future. We live this moment from our heart. Not make meaning and be in our head. This yearning to experience is to experience healing. Thus humans are not only meaning making machine but also healing machines. We are not aware of any other species that has this capacity.
I am aware of the pitfalls of this thinking. Prior to positive psychology, there was a strong tendency to define humans as primarily wounded and in need of healing. This view kept us shackled and focused on past. Not embrace future and create opportunities. This was not helpful.
However many in search of an alternative have gone to the far other side. Positive psychology defines ourselves as thriving, health seeking. This is also dangerous. This view along with capitalism has created a flood of ‘self-help’ gurudom. Promising people of all sorts of quick transformation.
A wound that is not healed can also ‘transform’ and threaten the life. A malignant cell in the human body left without healing, multiplies. It transforms into unhealthy tissue and then cancerous organs. Eating away at physical life. Also, emotional wounds eat away our energy as resentment, anger etc. Kept unchecked emotional wounds of hurt may transform to hate, prejudice and violence.
Thus there is a need to define humans as both. As Transformation and Healing machines.
Empowering beliefs around transformation and healing
Transformation happens with or without any external intervention. For non-humans transformation could be an involuntary entropic episode.(example stars, amoeba etc.)
Healing requires agency and facing unknown. There is a credible threat to getting more hurt when in touch with our wounds. Thus a prerequisite to healing is courage. Courage to look within to reflect and stay in pain. Where do we draw this courage from? For the women in our story it was getting connected to a new person along with experiencing her courage.
Do we have to wait for such moments? Can we proactively seek healing and transformation as a way to grow?
Yes. The answer lies in our beliefs. In how we see ourselves as humans.
I am a spiritual person who believes in many births as different species. When I take that very large view, I see that my human birth is at the cusp.
A cusp where we have transformed ourselves many times across millennia. A transformation from a single cell amoeba to a being that has the quality to observe, reflect on our own experience. This is a quality that helps us separate pain from suffering. Thus human birth is an opportunity to heal. With this healing would also come radical transformation. An opportunity to become something beyond our imagination. In this there is an immense potential to transcend/actualize life. Be liberated from the cycle of birth and death!
I may never know if there is any truth in rebirth or if only humans are reflective or healing etc. But having these beliefs definitely seems to be a ‘Growth Mindset’. It gives me an opportunity to take responsibility for both my healing and transformation.
With this responsibility, I have a choice to go on deliberate exploration of healing and transformation. It feels empowering. I no longer sit around waiting for things to happen. This fills me up with gratitude and joy for human birth. There are so many possibilities. It is exciting.
Transformation and Healing are two words that have caught my fancy every since I have been on a path of personal growth. I have tried to ‘understand’ them in the language of NVC or Transactional Analysis, NLP and process work and now coaching. I have always had a felt sense of these words and yet I would find it very difficult to express and articulate them.
I got an opportunity to articulate this felt sense in this essay. The insight is quite profound and paradoxical.
At the end, ‘Transformation’, ‘Healing’, ‘Coaching’, ‘Therapy’ are all labels. And thus limiting.
The insight is to take life head on from heart! To go on an endeavor to experience and live transformation/healing. Not trying to articulate them and ‘understand’ them.
In trying to ‘understand’ them, I have remained stuck in my head. Seeking ‘scientific evidence’ rather than feeling and experiencing from heart. Well, no more!
What are you doing to invite more experiences in your life?