Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

The power of transformational space

Reprinted with permission from "Yoga and the Quest for the True Self," by Stephen Cope, Bantam Books division of Random House, Inc.

When any of us gets ready to "hatch out" into the next developmental expression of self, we begin looking for the cocoons that will hold us through the rebirth process. I like to call these cocoons transformational spaces--environments made up of webs of special kinds of relationships, safety, freedom, and challenge. We intuitively search for these spaces at those times in life when we're attempting to align with an internal developmental thrust. At these times of growth, we seek out "training environments"--schools, college, the army, a mentor, a psychotherapist, or a spiritual community. The transformational spaces we choose have certain qualities that are essential to work of development. Without them we truly cannot find ourselves.


Effective transformational spaces create the conditions for our growth and make growth all be inevitable. Once we find them and commit to them, transformation is pretty much a "done deal." But here's the rub. Many environments proclaim themselves to be transformational spaces. But many of these fail to provide the real conditions needed for maturation.

Effective transformational spaces do not have to be explicitly spiritual or explicitly psychological. Authenticity may require that we discover a completely nonspiritual, nonpsychological language to facilitate our "hatching out." But whether spiritual, psychological, or otherwise, really effective transformational spaces have certain qualities in common.

1. They create a quality of refuge

These environments are temporary safe havens from the ordinary demand that we must know what we're doing, or who we are. We are allowed and even encouraged to have "don't know mind." As Socrates taught, "the beginning of wisdom is the acknowledgment of our own ignorance." We are encouraged to empty ourselves of our posturing, of being the "one who knows," so that we can fill up with a new kind of knowing. Those all too ubiquitous training grounds that encourage "don't know mind" only to impose a whole new system of beliefs do not qualify. They only complicate the process--or worse.

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Stephen Cope
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