A Pathway to Spirit

The Five Stages of Transformation

Four friends, coming together from four different spiritual traditions, divergent backgrounds, and lifestyles, had one thing in common: an experience of serious illness not as a battle but as a spiritual journey.

As the four of us deepened our friendships, we began to recognize that despite the apparent differences between us, there had been some strikingly common landmarks in our journeys through breast cancer. We began to name these landmarks as steps along the way: five psychological and spiritual stages that we had all encountered during the course of our relationships to our disease. Each step was initiated not by answers, but by questions.

We called this model: "A Pathway to Spirit: The Five Stages of Transformation." These stages are not discrete, but overlap and revisit one another, spiraling, deepening, and transforming at every turn. We first shared these stages in our book "

Speak the Language of Healing,


" addressing in depth the issues and questions common to each step of the journey. We hope you will be intrigued enough by these brief descriptions to revisit this site over the coming weeks, as excerpts from our book shed some light on how it is possible for life-threatening illness to be a spiritual path.

The Stage of Impact

Did I create this?

This is the point of entry, the initiation that is heralded by the words "You have cancer," the dark night of the spiritual journey. You will often feel as though you are the only one who has ever been in this place of shock and disbelief. You may feel abandoned and alone. When others come to offer support, they will often bring with them unsettling theories about the origin of your cancer. Did you create this? Did you contribute? You may feel guilty and ashamed.

Although you may be used to calling the shots in your life, now control is gone; your deepest beliefs will be called into question.

There is advice, even for this stage: embrace it all. There is no one right way to do this thing. Anger, shock, grief, loss and fear as well as courage, self-love, acceptance and eventually, humor and joy will also be felt at one time or another.

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Carol Orsborn
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