Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

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Re: "Transformation" on Hold for CSIIE
by Zachary Seibert - Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 01:12 PM

As a practitioner in the "transpersonal" realm, I have also encountered the oversaturation of "transformational" rhetoric. Your description of the term being applied "like a condiment on everything" certainly strikes a chord with my own observations. The oversaturation of this transformational languaging dillutes the potency of the work, especially when it is not coupled with persistent effort and action to affect the actual changes one supports. It becomes simply rhetoric, stripped of meaningful context.

While I admit that the overuse of "transformational" and "transformative" has evoked a nearly cynical response in my thoughts at times, I still find myself extremely reluctant to release the term. Reading your response instead engenders in me a desire to more actively engage in the work itself, and to rise above my own lack of enthusiasm for the terminology that best describes my efforts. The word "transformation", itself, inspires in many people an image or feeling sense of immediate change. I suppose it is that very fallacy of immediacy that so often leads to disappointment and discontent in clients, students, and teachers and practitioners as well. While the instant change, or epiphany, may happen in individual cases, it is hardly the rule. Most truly "transformational" work is an ongoing process, it takes time to integrate and to unfold new potentials, and these inevitably lead to further frontiers. I suppose what springs to mind for me is that perhaps with all this oversaturating rhetoric, the word "transformation" has become confused in the cultural mind with the mythical "quick fix".

It seems to me an accident of expansive language, aggravated by the lack equally expansive dedication and effort. Caught up in the elegance of semantics surrounding the work, some practitioners and scholars have possibly lost contact with the steady and powerful drive of transformation itself that drove them to choose their terms in the first place. I am myself thrilled with the languaging of transformational movements, and yet I do find myself having to dig pretty deep into any of it to get at the meaning, to get at the nature of the work that's being described.

Reading your initial post, I am reminded to be especially mindful of the way I use these terms. The concepts that they represent are so embedded in the core of my work and values that it would be dangerously simple to accidentally dillute the potency of the concept with overuse of the word. Of the self-corrections that this inspires in me, I believe the most important is that I back up the word "transformation", with progressive and sustainable efforts at productive change.

Staying with the wisdom beneath the rhetoric is a continuous lesson.