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The Role of Change and Transformation

Change and transformation in our lives is what allows for our personal growth.

As babies, we are born into an existence in which we are completely dependent upon those who care for us. Our dependence on these others forms our foundational survival skills and our worldview. We adopt the survival skills of our caregivers, as well as their views on the how the world works, and our place in it.

As we grow, we begin to explore our world and test our own theories. We gain our first real exposure to our social world through daycare or later kindergarten. This exposure tests our perception of the world, and the experiential knowledge of others.

The older we get, the more life experience we gain. The more we experience life itself, the more inner-wisdom we gain. Our bodies file away this information, and forms what is known as bodily felt wisdom. Our gut feelings, hunches, or intuition.

These gut feelings, hunches, or intuition are what allows us to adapt and transform our beliefs, thoughts, way of being, or how we interact within the societal systems.

When significant change or transformation happens without warning is when we are forced to face the existential given of the unkown. During these times of struggle and difficulty, we embark on an inner-journey of discovery and self-exploration.


When we learn to observe ourselves, without judgment, we allow ourselves to see ourselves as we really are, instead of as we wish we were. Creating space and focusing provides us with the ways and means of developing a daily practice of ‘checking in‘ with ourselves, and understanding why we are feeling the way we are, and explore the possibilities of what we can do about it, or should do about it.


If you meditate regularly or do relaxation exercises, you might want to make sure that you don’t become too relaxed during this exercise. Sometimes you may have to move to feel certain parts of your body.

Step 1:  Direct your attention inside the body:

  • Find a quiet place (your physical sacred space), and make sure that you are comfortable and will not be distracted or disturbed. It is always easier to receive signals from within when you are surrounded by silence. It’s better not to lie down as in a relaxation exercise. In order to focus, careful attention and conscious awareness are necessary.
  • Next, direct your attention inside your body and see how you feel inside in this very moment. You can close your eyes if you want. Some people find it easier to concentrate on their inner world when they close their eyes.
  • If you are not used to feeling your body from within, then take some time to follow your breath and, slowly, bring your awareness to all the different parts of your body. Create a path that leads inward from your head, hands, and feet, until you reach the area of your abdomen, chest and throat. These areas are especially important. Check whether you experience certain sensations there. (For example, something might be heavy, empty, clenched, etc.).

Step 2: Creating space:

  • First, use the Clearing Space exercise included in the resources of this lecture.
  • When you have gone over any preoccupations, and have put each of these things at a distance, you will often feel differently about yourself, which in itself can sometimes provide a sense of relief. If you wish, you can acknowledge this experience more fully by “naming” it with a word, image or phrase.

Step 3:  Focusing:

  • The next stage consists of focusing on something that requires your attention. You can also wait until something pops into your mind that you want to explore. Or you might ask yourself the question: “How do I feel about my life right now?
  • Now, choose something specific explore. Take time to examine how your body feels. Sometimes you may become gradually aware of a vague, almost imperceptible sensation inside your body. Sometimes something might manifest itself immediately. Observe everything that arises. There might be images, memories, thoughts, vibrations, emotions or a combination of all the above. Everything can be “something”. To learn to be at ease with whatever emerges, you might want to refrain from defining it for the time being and simply consider it as “something”, until you can find a more accurate name for it.

Step 4: Be good to you:

  • Pay friendly attention to what you find, like you would when listening to a friend. You don’t have to be happy with it – you don’t feel happy when your friend has had a bad experience either. Receive it like something that just happens to be there, without judging it. Use this receptive and interested attitude to acknowledge and receive whatever presents itself.

Step 5: Finding the right expression:

  • Start by searching for expressions that more or less reflect how you feel. This process of describing what you feel in words – which you can also try to capture in a drawing or in another form of expression – will help you get to the heart of the matter.
  • Present the description or the visual image that came to the place in your body where you felt something. Ask yourself the following question: “Is this right?”

Step 6: Wait for affirmation from your body: When you have found something that expresses the heart of the matter, your body will indicate that this is “correct”. You will notice, for example, that you become more relaxed. You might also feel more clarity, or something may suddenly happen in another part of your body. This simply means that something that was previously unacknowledged has now manifested itself, or that something has changed in how you deal with this issue.

  • Don’t force anything. Try to stay in sync with how your body feels. If expressions emerge, then check whether your body affirms the expression or whether it is consistent with what you feel inside. If things don’t feel quite right, then continue to look for a description or expression that is a better approximation.
  • If nothing happens, then take a step back. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It is important that you establish a relationship of trust with your inner world. Take the time to build an inner relationship.

Step 7: Exploring the manifestation:

  • While exploring whatever has come in more detail it sometimes helps to ask yourself a few questions like: “What emotional aspect is there to this sensation?” or “What else in my life feels just like this?” or “What makes this so…?

You can also ask yourself questions about where this is going: “What does this need?” or “What does it long for?” or “What is lacking?” or “How can this be made to feel better?” Take the time to answer each question, because usually the first response always consists of “old information”. New responses do not usually manifest themselves so quickly and sometimes you may have to wait quietly for a deeper response to come.

Step 8: Dealing with unexpected responses:

  • You may experience unexpected responses that you’ve encountered more than once in your life, such as: “Don’t be so stupid!” or “Watch out for…” or “What a joke!” Usually such responses have a sharp, undermining voice, which feels completely different from the softer and slower response of your inner voice. If you encounter these kinds of undermining and discouraging responses, then take another sheet of paper, write the responses down and put the paper aside. If what you have written is valuable information that continues to demand your attention you can explore it in more detail at a later stage.

After you have literally set aside the sheet of paper with these old “labeling” responses, you should return to what was going on just before this “critical” interruption. Take time to reconnect with the feeling that was interrupted and see what else it has to say.

Step 9: Receiving:

  • Cherish what has come that is new, even if this hardly seems worth the effort. Your body may already feel something different while your mind does not understand it yet.
  • Finally, you can ask your body whether something else might still need to happen before you stop.
  • Express gratitude toward your body for what it has given you.

Creating Space

Clearing a Space is an exercise in awareness of what’s going on inside of you and creating some space between you and anything that may distract you. This can help you to take a moment to relax before you begin to explore a specific thought, idea, or task.

Exercise Instructions:

Ensure that you are sitting in a comfortable position with no distractions. Take a couple of deep relaxing breaths.

Welcome yourself warmly, like you would welcome a good friend who you want to listen to in an open way.

Ie: Welcome [insert name]. It’s good to be with you today.

You can close your eyes, or not, and observe your breathing. Notice how you simply breathe in and out, without changing the pattern.

Allow your attention come down into your body. Be aware of your physical self. Perhaps first the outer area of your body, like your feet and legs, your arms and hands, and then sense the contact of your body with whatever you’re sitting on. Now bring awareness into the middle part of your body, sensing your throat, and your chest, and your belly. Let your awareness rest in this whole middle area of your body.

Ask yourself the question: “What is controlling my attention right now?” or “How do I feel right now?” or “How is my life going? What are the main things for me right now?” or you could start with: “What is keeping me from feeling an open inner space at this time?”

Notice everything that comes to your mind and what you observe in your body. Don’t go into anything right now. Recognize whatever comes up as it arises. When a thought comes, do not go into it. Just say “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.”

You can write on a piece of paper some key words. Acknowledge everything just the way it is. Write down a few words on the topics that come to your attention. Take all the time you need, and continue as soon as it feels right for you to continue.

Allow yourself the opportunity to put each of these things aside. You can make that movement in reality by placing the paper you wrote on, at a distance. Continue this process until you have acknowledged and written down all the various things, and found a place for them. The ‘right place‘ to put something aside may be at a small or a large distance from yourself, depending on what your feelings tell you to do. Do not hesitate to change things until you feel that it is ‘right’.

Observe how you feel inside after putting all the papers aside. Feel whether you now have an open inner space.

You may also write down a key word or a phrase or an image to capture the experience of ‘having inner space’. Give yourself a moment to enjoy this experience of ‘being detached from concerns’ and to relax.

Are you now ready to focus your attention on a new task? If this is not the case, take your time to acknowledge whatever else you need.

The Inner Observer

When we talk about the Inner-Observer, we begin to understand how important the process of suspending judgment really is, because we are observing ourselves.

What is the Inner Observer?

The Inner-Observer is the part of ourselves that is neutral and non-judgmental. It’s the part of us that allows us to witness our thoughts, feelings, and bodily felt wisdom like a good friend or companion.

The Inner-Observer is developed through the cultivation of mindful awareness. It is always in the present. The Inner-Observer can watch us having a thought, yet not attach a story to it, or act on it. It can determine whether the thought is a memory, a plan, or an imagined fantasy, without interpreting it.

Why is Developing the Inner-Observer Important When Facing the Unknown?

The Inner-Observer is a neutral witness of patterns of thoughts. The more we develop the Inner Observer, the more we can bring unconscious patterns of thinking, feeling and sensing into our awareness.

The Auto-Pilot Response Each of us has unconscious motivations for feeling, thinking and acting a certain way, when it comes to the unknown. An autopilot response to the unknown is just going through the motions of everyday life. It is revealed as repetitive patterns, with little to no deviations. (Ie: Get up, go to work, come home, and repeat.) Self-observation is a tool for shedding light on one’s limited perception. Once we can observe the limited perspective of the mind, we can breathe deep, relax our resistance, and halt the pattern and redirect our energy.

My Story

Like most people, my life hasn’t been perfect. I have literally witnessed things and experienced things I never want to see or do again. I could list all the tragic moments of my life, starting with being born with a congenital heart defect, and ending with finding myself in the deep chasm of an identity crisis at the age of 45. However, what is truly important is how I have reinvented and reframed my life to one of peace, joy, and abundance!

We all experience moments in our lives where things suddenly change without warning. Learning to navigate the unknown with confidence, commitment, and courage was the turning point of my life.

I have moved from never going anywhere, to going everywhere! I used to experience a lot of anxiety when faced with the art of ‘peopling‘. I dreaded going to events of large groups of people, until I discovered I am an introvert. Just knowing that little piece of information about myself allowed me to create ways to live in the world that work for me! How exciting is that?!

I used to cry myself to sleep at night, because I felt lonely and unnecessary. I learned to enjoy my own company, which is important, because everywhere you go, there you are. Learning to like who we are, requires knowing who we are as a person. When we explore ourselves, we have three choices: Change it, accept it, or let it go. Through the process of self-discovery, purpose and meaning begin to naturally form in our lives.

There was a time in my life, when the most common statement was, “I can’t afford it.” I know the depths of poverty and all that comes with it. I was a single-parent after an 8 year relationship with an alcoholic pothead. I didn’t get much in the way of child support, and with three little girls to raise, life was a definite struggle. The problem was my worldview, which allowed me to view myself as lesser-than, and undeserving of nice or good things. Once I changed the way I think and feel about myself, I began to naturally attract nicer and better things.

At times, I have had my entire world turned upside down and inside out. The sudden loss of a job, and my youngest daughter moving out to go to college – all within 60 days! This was it! This was the time when I knew that I had to build a stronger, firmer foundation on which to stand and navigate my life. I had had enough of living hand-to-mouth, and feeling like a nobody in a world of everybodys. Come hell or high water, I was going to be SOMEBODY!

In this course, you will find all the tools I used to create the life I live today! So, if you’re ready! Let’s get started!

Meeting Yourself Where You Are

For this course, you will need to understand and practice the suspension of judgment. We all judge ourselves and others on a continuous basis. Why? Because it is part of our natural state of being, and the fact that it serves our ego.

Judgment implies a determination of less than or greater than something or someone else. We compare ourselves and our lives to those of others every day. Especially as we scroll through social media. We compare and contrast all day long and even now as we stand at the edge of the unknown.

The judgment we are concerned with in this course is the judgment we pass on ourselves: I’m not good enough, smart enough, spiritual enough, healthy enough, etc.

As we progress through the course, it’s going to require your ability to suspend your judgment.

In Section 2, we will go over the process of suspending judgment called “Developing the Inner-Observer”.


Welcome to “Beyond Self-Care: Facing the Unknown”, I am, Existentialist, Donna R. Wood, with Butterfly Phoenix, and a certified existential well-being trainer!

Today, I welcome you to the journey through the unknown, where we connect with what it means to be a human being at the deepest levels, and gain the courage, confidence, and commitment to living a life centered in peace, joy, and abundance!

Like the rest of us, you may have found yourself facing the unknown. However, when we accept the unknown as part of the flow of life, we can better prepare ourselves emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially, when times of significant change and transformation occur.

The existential approach takes us beyond simple self-care, because it zeroes in on the challenges and themes that matter in the end, and provides us with a firm foundation on which we can build a life of balanced wholeness and deep joy.

Many people automatically think that existentialism is some metaphysical, neo-Pagan, spiritual mumbo jumbo. Although living existentially makes room for spirituality, it is not solely based on spirituality. It is a philosophy on life that finds its foundation in personal awareness and responsibility.

In the materials for this section you will find a basic overview of the unknown. So, when you’re ready, let’s begin the journey beyond simple self-care into the unknown, and learn how it can enrich your life, your relationships with yourself and others, as well as allow you to master the balance of wholeness, commitment to self, and the courage to live the whole human experience.