It may seem as if the crisis has suddenly arrived out of nowhere, but our dreaming awareness has usually registered an impending crisis before it registers in our conscious mind. We notice seemingly trivial clues that don’t fit into our existing patterns. A large buff coloured envelope. A frowning forehead. A strange ticking becoming louder and louder. A partner’s eyes looking suddenly away. Our dreaming awareness often gives us this distant early warning of the storm on our horizon but we usually just ignore it because it does not fit a familiar pattern.
When we become immersed in a crisis, our reaction is often to try and change our environment and the behaviour of those around us in an attempt to restore previous patterns and old familiar stories. The more we do this, the worse our crisis usually becomes. Instead, if we allow ourselves to change and embrace our new selves, we discover a whole new freedom. When someone says ‘I want to change the world’, what they are really saying is ‘I want to change myself’. As Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
As we embrace the freedoms of change that have been liberated by our crisis, something truly unexpected happens. Our dreaming awareness begins to connect the disparate patterns of the familiar and unfamiliar, improvising old themes into new motifs and variations. We take our old stories and new insights and start jamming on them, remixing them, mashing them up, creating new patterns. Sometimes the new pattern emerges as a minor innovation. Sometimes it seems to be a work of genius.
What seems to be genius is actually the ability to step out of old patterns and into new stories of the future. As William Gibson remarked ‘The future is here already; it is just unevenly distributed’. But to reach into our new futures we have to let our broken stories go and release ourselves from long held maladaptive myths. Our new stories may not give us the outcome we expected but they will always give us the ending we truly need.
By stepping out of our old stories we also step outside our own selves and receive the powerful gift that it gives us, which as Robert Burns observed, is to ‘See ourselves as others see us’. We become an audience for our stories as well as the principal actors in them and that intimate distance often provides a sudden self awareness that lets us know when we are really free.