The Seasons of Transformation
by Steve McAllister
Just as the earth moves through the seasons each year, we also move through personal seasons, and understanding their associated patterns can help us to heal at many levels and fully experience our evolution in consciousness.
My personal journey began when I embarked upon a four-session course titled “The Four Sacred Seasons of Wellbeing,” which was designed by Network Chiropractic founder Dr. Donald Epstein and facilitated by Dr. Tatiana Agafonova in Sarasota, FL. By exploring the 12 Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) techniques that align with the 12 stages of human healing, participants strive to reach their optimal state of being. These seasons of Discover, Transform, Awaken, and Integrate serve to open our awareness to our subconscious patterns and reformat ourselves in order to live more fully and happily.
In the Season of Discover, we begin with the first stage of Suffering. Much like the Buddha's first Noble Truth that all life is suffering, in order to begin this journey of healing we must come to the realization that we are suffering. We're presently helpless and feel disconnected. We sense that something is wrong. Healing in this stage comes with acceptance that "nothing works right now."
As I followed the breathing patterns and recited the declarations, this stage of suffering was not disempowering, as it is when the ideas sneak up on me unconsciously, but rather, vigorously empowering. This stage and each of the stages that follow serve as a way to simply come to grips with the age-old journey of consciousness that each human being makes. This stage of Suffering is where we often find ourselves feeling inadequate, helpless, and unable to have any effect on positive changes in either ourselves or the world around us. And yet going through the practice of bringing those feelings into the light to have a good look at them was very healing.
The second stage is concerned with Polarities and Different Rhythms. It is the recognition that just as we have the extreme lows of suffering, we also have the immense highs of exuberance. There are aspects of myself that I really appreciate, and aspects of myself that I truly despise. It is the somewhat eternal struggle of good versus evil, the battle of duality that occurs within each of us. It is often this battle and the perpetual state of instability that it conjures which keeps us enslaved to our crises.
With this exercise, I was more able to understand my responsibility in this battle. As I was able to discern the different rhythms within me, I was able to manifest greater control over them. Where I felt weakness, I was able to deliver strength. Merely by recognizing the patterns and cycles, and bringing them to my consciousness instead of letting them continue to wreak havoc unconsciously, I felt a greater sense of control over my own emotional state and a greater regard for myself.
The third stage in this Season of Discover addressed being Stuck in a Perspective. After acknowledging my suffering and the duality, which keeps me returning to lows after every high I achieve, this stage was very helpful in making me realize the full extent of my plight. Each of us that are going through this human experience often finds ourselves stuck in the same quagmire.
During the exercise, I was able to explore my own quagmire and realize how the perpetuation of my own personal perspective keeps me from growing as I am able to. Again, the endeavor of intentionally directed consciousness brought an overwhelming sense of empowerment largely through the act of forgiveness. For through the entirety of this process, forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love are the healing that we seek.
As we subconsciously go through these stages of suffering, polarities, and stuck perspectives, we pummel ourselves with hidden judgments, which have been collected from the world we negotiate on a daily basis. Coming face to face with these ideas, and/or becoming aware of the polarities and stuck perspectives within us, gives us the opportunity for us to forgive our culture where it has misled us and to forgive ourselves for being so easily misled. Once we discover that power of forgiveness, we are more fully able to forge ahead to the Season of Transform.
In the stage of Reclaiming Our Power, within the Season of Transform, we come to the realization that we deserve more than we have allowed ourselves by dwelling in the Season of Discover. By taking our power back and opening up the floodgates of our courage, we discover new insights into our possibilities for creating the lives that we want. Where we once were ruled by subconsciously following the whims of our polarities to continually submerge ourselves in suffering, we now find greater strength to control our own consciousness in our journey of healing.
This exercise features a very empowering breathing technique used by yogis throughout the world and in a variety of traditions. Combined with the declarations, this is a very powerful step toward the reclamation of personal energy. The regulation of the breathing alone through the technique of alternating nostrils is at the same time both energizing and peaceful, and serves as a verification of how simple it is to restore our power and move on from perspectives that no longer serve us.
In the stage of Merging with the Illusion, we come face to face with what the Hindus call Maya, this world of illusion which we experience through our five senses and serves as the foundation for our suffering. It is in this state that we experience ourselves as an ego separate from all that is and the world around us as a projection of our unconscious thoughts. Reclaiming our power and coming to grips with a strengthened sense of self, we are able to merge with this illusion, not denying that it exists, but realizing that we have the power to negotiate our relationship with it.
Through the combined breathing exercise, body posture, and declarations, I found myself training my consciousness to confront this illusion and move through it. By facing my shadow side and recognizing the source of the light within me, I felt more adequate in operating within the parameters of the collective unconscious that I am continually creating with the rest of the world. Instead of denying this illusion, which we all take part in developing, I felt more able to accept that I do indeed have an ego, a shadow, and an inner child just screaming to be recognized. Having compassion upon myself for having to deal with these various parts enabled me to have compassion on the rest of the world for having to deal with the same exact thing.
The next stage has us in Preparation for Resolution. As we have gained greater clarity of the suffering we cause ourselves through the polarities we entertain and the hurtful perspectives that assist in causing it through the Season of Discover, and recognized the power that we have in merging with this illusion, this stage further helps us to prepare for discharging the tension and anxiety we subconsciously cause ourselves by not opening up to our true selves. This stage is about building up the energy it will take to truly transform ourselves from the victims of our subconscious to the co-creators of our consciousness.
In preparing for this exercise, Tatiana impressed that it takes guts to move forward. While that is true in any endeavor, as I engaged this exercise with the direction of the breathing and accompanying declarations, I felt the development of the courage I would need to progress forward. Channeling my energy to my abdomen, I felt a buoyancy as my chi strengthened, preparing me to face whatever challenges might lie ahead.
The stage of Resolution seems much more vigorous than the previous stages, and considering the vital movement forward along this journey of healing, it is most definitely and appropriately so. With more bodily movement added to the breath work, culminating in the emanation of sound rather than the declarations as in previous stages, this stage is empowering, yet somewhat exhausting. Dispelling the energy you have built up in the previous stages, this Resolution left me feeling spent, yet fulfilled.
Drawing energy into myself from above, where my arms were upwardly stretched, I pulled that energy down through my body into an abdominal vortex. Feeling the energy build, it seemed to reverberate through my body, all of the tension I had realized in the previous stages becoming electrified within me. This exercise culminated in a releasing of the built-up force within me, as the motion of my arms helped propel it down through my feet with a guttural surge of power. Over and over again, I continued the motion repeatedly, feeling somewhat high by the time I finished, prepared to move on to the Season of Awaken.
Continuing on through the Four Sacred Seasons of Wellbeing – Discover, Transform, Awaken, & Integrate – we move into the Season of Awaken and last of the 12 Stages of Healing. Stage eight is Emptiness in Connectedness, in which the depletion of tension from the stage of Resolution has left us empty and open to the field of all possibilities. Using what is called a selfless breath, connecting the in breath through our mouth and third eye and the out breath through the nose and heart, there is a realization of both emptiness and connectedness, a sort of floating sensation of peace amidst the turmoil of the world.
Recognizing the patterns which have shaped my life up until this point, in this exercise I felt more able to sense my true identity, not merely the ego that gets tossed back and forth between polarities, a deeper Self. I still identified with rhythms as I focused on the breath, but they offered a much more balanced wholeness than the extremes that have plagued me in the past.
Moving into stage nine, the Light Behind the Form, we continue our selfless breath, stretching our hands to the sky with the in breath, connecting to the source of all being, and drawing it into us upon the exhale. This is an incredibly empowering stage where we are filled with the energy of the universe, realizing that we are connected with everything because it is all the same energy.
As I went through this exercise, it felt as if the selfless breath emancipated me from doing things as I normally do them out of habit, enabling me to turn the tides of my own rhythms. As I did, reaching toward the sky above me, consciously breathing and feeling the energy course through my body, there was a sense of elation flowing through me. By cleansing myself through the resolution of the seasons of Discover and Transform, I felt more able to identify the light of Awaken.
Stage 10 is our Ascent, where we have transcended and included our egos, but realize ourselves as the greater whole. A much more dynamic and active exercise than the previous stages, the stage of Ascent offers a rhythmic breathing that flows through the entirety of our bodies, similar to the flow found by fly-fishers, a rhythmic rocking that builds our energy toward connecting with the true source of who we are. Often, after the almost rapturous sensation that accompanies this exercise, we are prone to release not words, but just sounds of exultation. For in this stage, we rise above language and realize ourselves beyond separation and with no more need for the distinctions.
As the Tao te Ching says "the Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." The flow that is felt during the stage of Ascent touches upon that sentiment. As this energy moved through me, there is this release of attachment to the world as I knew it, and an opening up to a greater connection to the source of that world. As the Tao te Ching continues, "Though it has no name, from it come heaven and earth."
From the sense of exhilaration and elucidation that comes with the Ascent of stage 10, we move into the Descent of stage 11. Standing for the first time among these exercises, we take our newfound connection with the cosmos and bring it back into the world, realizing they are the gifts of the universe to the world around us. Extending our arms as Christ extended his on the cross, we inhale the sacrament that is our participation in the world. Exhaling, we draw the world into us, not as a sacrifice, but as a gift that we both offer and receive, deciding to give of our talents, skills, and passions so that the world around us would be changed for the better by our participation in it.
It is through our Descent into the participation of the world that we can fully feel and appreciate the giving and receiving that comprises true abundance. I found this exercise to be very grounding after the elation of the Ascent. Although it is tempting to consider remaining in the blissed out stage of Ascent, the Descent ensured that the flow I felt in the stage before continued to course through me, but in a way that not only benefited me, but also those who share the world with me.
As such, in stage 12, we celebrate Community. Starting with both hands and feet on the floor, we draw energy up through the earth, into our hearts, and out to the sky above as we allow the flow of energy to move our bodies accordingly. Drawing energy in from above, we bring this energy back into our hearts and return it to the world. In the same way, as we go through this Season of Awaken, we draw our existence from the world around us, and return our energy to it through our participation in the community around us. It is through this cycle of reciprocity that we develop our circle of influence and change the world for the better.
One of the more physically active exercises, the stage of Community prepares us for our activity in the world. So often, when I meditate or participate in yogic activity, there is a self centric tone to the endeavor. As my goal is largely inner peace, this is a good thing; however, if our inner peace isn't shared with the outside world, are we fully participating in the world? The sense I got from engaging these stages of healing was that I was being prepared not only to heal myself, but to let that healing spread like an anti-virus in order to assist in the healing of the world.
Exploring the Season of Integrate, we move into realizing our ability for conscious living. Part of this is becoming aware of our particular strengths and our strategies, and emphasizing them. There are three avenues of integration with life—the breath, the energy and the movement. Through whichever avenue you integrate, these 12 stages of healing offer simple yet effective ways to recognize self-defeating patterns that may be keeping you from your highest good. If you're not reaching your highest good, neither is your community.
Author’s note: For a free introduction to Somato Respiratory Integration and to start working through your 12 Stages of Healing, contact Dr. Tatiana Agafonova in Sarasota, FL, at www.Transendance.com.
Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at InkenSoul.com, and sometimes posts at Anything Arts, Sarasota Music Scene, and Elephant Journal, and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, FL. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.