William Patrick Patterson, a student of The Fourth Way, has written a personal story of transformation called Eating the “I.”
I love that image! We’re constantly eating ego, constantly chewing on, “How does it show up?” I’m much better able to do this than I used to be. I can’t always get out of the grip, but I try to stay with it, to ask, “O.K., what’s my ego doing? What defenses are up?” And I’m better at loving myself regardless of what I observe. The sweetest example is an incident that occurred years ago. I woke up early one morning and could all but see a little gremlin popping out of me, saying, “I’m no good!” It wasn’t a dream – I was in that just-waking-up stage where a long forgotten part of me finally felt free enough to show itself.
Most people interacting with me probably find me much the same as I’ve always been. The difference is in what happens internally when my patterns come up. I sort for understanding differently. I experience myself differently. I’m more open to my foibles. I’m much more loving and forgiving of myself. This was brought home to me once when talking to a Four who said, “The same old stuff comes up again, and I hate seeing it time after time after time.” These patterns may show up forever. Love yourself anyway!
My old habits aren’t showing up as automatically, I’m not judging myself as harshly, the struggles aren’t as difficult, and I’m more often less hooked. But, for as long as I live, my Nine worldview will still have some influence over my reactions.
As an introvert, I’m having more experience of being present socially and engaging with other people. I pray this is a form of “active engagement,” the Holy Idea for the Nine. But all the struggles, all the resistances, of course, are very Nine-like – to “forget” myself until I was in my thirties, to see myself as my idealized image of “the good girl,” which has fed my passive-aggressive habits. Much of what’s showing up now is what I’m really feeling. I’m also becoming aware of how distractibility can keep me from my own focus. In fact, the most important and visible manifestation of my dawning awareness has been to find my voice.
When I first read from “Nature” by May Swensen, my first reaction was awe. Her poems are uninhibited, free, playful, experimental with form, experimental with words, intellectual and emotional. I thought: “She doesn’t care what people think!” She born early in the century, the same age as my mother, yet was writing these poems when I was being told, “Now, don’t be ‘ugly'” (a Southern term). Under Swensen’s spell, I started writing poems with the ironic overall title, “What Will the Neighbors Say?” The more I write, the more I let myself disclose what I really experienced, the less I’m concerned with how people see me.
Here’s how I think of transformation: a shift occurs. It may be a tiny shift, it may just be a new awareness of self, or it may be a really big one. It’s a constant recycling, but I don’t see it as the same old things coming up over and over. And the recycling isn’t always about “eating” something new. You may be chewing the cud at a different level or with another relationship or in another situation. Some thunderbolts, some minor shocks, some, “Oh, isn’t that interesting?” insights.
A friend asked me where I think I am in the process of transformation. Well, I’m in it. That’s the good news. But there are thousands and thousands of things to learn about myself and I’ve learned maybe eight or ten of them. I once gained new awareness about myself as a complainer. It was difficult learning and I fought it, then I got it, and immediately when I got it, I saw myself the very next moment complaining about something! But I was able to laugh and to be a little charmed by it, in the way that I was by the little part of me that said, “I’m no good!” I haven’t noticed myself complaining for a week or so. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If there were some endpoint – I don’t think there is, certainly not in a lifetime, but if there were – I’m maybe on Day 3.