This has led me, and my colleagues Muriel Turner [" ] and Percy Garcia ["¡], to expand the ceremony into a more comprehensive program that better prepares participants to have and to incorporate new insights into their lives. The program described here is designed to provide Westerners with a more effective program for personal growth.
3 - What Grows?
Personal growth implies understanding and change. Understanding leads to the improvement of what we already have, and by "change" I mean rearranging and adding to what we are. Consider the process these two paths play in the incorporation of new insights.
When we encounter a new idea we first try to understand it. Ideas that we can't understand will lose their relevance. Once deemed relevant an idea may turn into an insight. Yet even once an insight has been recognized we are likely to let it go if it conflicts with our deeply held beliefs.
With this in mind, our first proposal is to focus on gaining a better understanding of our insights, and to resolve the conflicts that ensue. It is not enough to recognize personal insights as significant ideas, to become useful they must become new patterns of thought and action.
Incorporating changes into our life requires reason and reflection. To achieve transformation we must reach beyond our epiphanies in order to expose and resolve obstacles to change, and this may cause physical distress and painful emotions like fear, rage, or despair. If these conflicts block our realignment, then we must address them.
4 - What Changes?
Meditation clears the mind; contemplation aligns emotion with intention; exercise reprograms the body. So much for refinement and realignment, but what about deeper transformations? In most cases "personal growth" refers to becoming better people, not different people.
This is a subtle point: unless we're deeply troubled we are attached to our sense of need, we remain attached in order to feel fulfilled. We struggle to find what we're attracted to "” maybe it's love or happiness "” and we do not aim to redefine what we're seeking.
The Sufi mystic Meher Baba's (1894-1969) simple admonition, "Don't worry, be happy!" is unsatisfying to most of us looking for happiness because it tells us to give up the search. We may consider giving up old habits and bad attitudes, but we rarely consider changing our basic constructs.
This is only sensible: isn't our moral quality and our intellectual potential linked to our values and sensitivities? Tinkering with how we perceive the world in order to be happier sounds suspiciously like plastic surgery of the soul. What do our basic values and sensitivities consist of, anyway?