Yoga Journal

Quantum Leap

During a meditation, Doug, a long-time yoga student of mine, had a profound spiritual awakening, accompanied by the recognition that there was something inauthentic about the life he was leading. Among other things, he saw that his medical practice had gone dead, and he desperately needed to take a sabbatical to contemplate his path. Doug’s wife didn’t agree, and his decision exposed all the fault lines in their 20-year marriage. Now they’re discussing divorce, while Doug studies yoga therapeutics and spends hours a day meditating and writing. He says he cries several times a week and feels as if he’s swimming in a fast, hot river of emotions—his own and other people’s. Even more unsettling is the fact that he doesn’t know where all of this is taking him.

Doug’s experience of radical uncertainty is typical for someone who’s deep inside a transformational process. In one of Rumi’s poems, a boiling chickpea speaks up from out of the stew pot, complaining about the heat and the blows from the chef’s spoon. The chef tells him, “Just let yourself be cooked! In the end, you’ll be a delicious morsel!” Over the years, when yoga’s fire has felt especially hot, I’ve re-read that poem and appreciated how well it describes the psychic cooking that takes place during certain phases of transformation, which, after all, is a process in which you literally allow yourself to be softened, opened, even broken apart, in order to expand your sense of who you are. When you’re in the midst of the process, you may feel like that overheated chickpea—or like cookie dough, raw and untogether. Even more dislocating, you may not know exactly who you are. That uncertainty—the feeling that you’re in between your old self and an unknown new one—is one of the signs that you’re in a true transformative process.

Transformation is different from spiritual awakening or

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