Cycles of Change: Understanding the Process of Transformation

By Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc

Cycles of change are inevitable: death, rebirth, a constant evolution of physicality and energies across every level of existence; we experience small deaths and rebirth daily and throughout our lives from the daily waking and sleeping cycle to the birth and death of our physical form.

The process of transformation is never a linear path. It's filled with ups and downs, back steps and forward leaps. It can be pleasant and awe-inspiring and dark and terrifying; often it is both, even simultaneously, depending on our vantage point.

As we witness and facilitate our patients' transformations, having awareness of this process may help us help them along their path, knowing when or how to push them through a frightening stage or allow them to find the way on their own. Understanding the cycle of this transformation process also gives us clues to how to navigate humanity and society, understanding that for something new to be formed, old ways of being must also be destroyed.

The Creation of the Universe: The Story of Pan Gu

One of my favorite ways to describe the healing and transformation process is the story of how the Giant Pan Gu created the universe. This story explains the processes of transformation stages which can be applied to any transformative process, whether physical, mental or spiritual. This story is adapted from Lorie Deschar's book Five Spirits.

The universe was once a swirling mass of chaos contained within a huge egg, at the center of this egg was Pan Gu, sleeping and growing for 18,000 years. At last the egg became too small for him and made him terribly uncomfortable. He wanted to move and be free, so he became angry and flailed and raged with frustration until his hand discovered a huge axe. He grabbed the axe and swung it with fervor until a massive crack appeared – the egg had broken open.

All that was light became the Heavens and all that was heavy became the Earth. Pan Gu did not want to be enclosed by the cosmos again, so he held up the Heavens with his head and held down the Earth with his feet. He held them in place for another 18,000 years until they were fixed in place. Then he laid down to die.

As he was dying, his body began to shift and change as it became the parts of the Earth we recognize today. His breath became the wind, his voice the thunder, his left eye the sun and his right eye the moon. Pan Gu's legs became the mountains, his blood the rivers and muscles the soil of the Earth. His hair became pearls and his teeth precious gems beneath the Earth. His sweat and tears became the rains that nourish the fields. Then, after all of this, the mites and lice that crawled on his body became the human race.

Understanding Transformation: 8 Stages

This myth of Pan Gu beautifully illustrates the process of transformation. We can draw insights from the creation of the universe to the minute changes we experience daily. Thinking of the process of transformation in this way allows us to step back and see the bigger picture. The eight stages of transformation as illustrated by the story of Pan Gu are:

Stage 1 – Original Wholeness (the universe encased in the egg): In any stage of life, before we begin a transformative healing process, we are in fact whole, being comfortable in how things are at the moment.

Stage 2 – Breaking: When our reality becomes too small for us, the process of breaking and shattering of original wholeness begins.

Stage 3 – Separation: The duality of yin and yang becomes apparent, the Heaven and the Earth, we can start to see what is divided within us.

Stage 4 – Holding Tension: Pan Gu realizes he does not want to be consumed by the cosmos any longer and must hold up the Heavens and Earth. This is the "practicing" stage of healing, during which we are open to a new paradigm, but have to also continuously build the muscle to form it permanently into reality.

Stage 5 – New Polarities: As the "leftover chaos" slips out of the system, we bring our awareness to our new reality. However, this is still in the dynamic of duality; noticing new polarities, yet also beginning to see where we are headed.

Stage 6 – Preliminary Reintegration: This is the death, the surrender and letting go of old to make way for new. Surrender has actually been ongoing throughout this process; in the reintegration stage, we have made peace with the complete release, surrendering to what is and accepting our new reality. As we do this, we also experience a rocky re-entry. We have accepted a new reality for ourselves, yet those around us – people, places, things – have not and our relationship with these things can be bumpy as new assimilation occurs.

Stage 7 – Reintegration of Leftover Chaos: This stage could quite possibly be one of the most important or truly transformative aspects of the process of transformation. The reintegration of the leftover chaos is the lice and mites from Pan Gu which were transformed into the human race. As we heal, we go through a process of letting go, but because we cannot truly destroy energy in the system. It must eventually be reintegrated, but it must become something new in order to benefit the system. This is where we may finally see the purpose in the pain we experienced. It is becoming new, learning from our past and making the self whole again with that new knowledge. The bone becomes stronger after it heals from the break.

Stage 8 – Creation of New Wholeness: As we have now let go, surrendered, healed and reintegrated all parts of our nature throughout this process, we are "born again" into a new, elevated experience of reality. We will hold on to this new wholeness until once again, the container becomes too small for us and we must start to create another, larger reality.

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