Saturday was the inaugural run of a new workshop by Annette Karr, titled “The Four Paths to Personal Transformation.”

Saturday was the inaugural run of a new workshop by Annette Karr, titled “The Four Paths to Personal Transformation.”
The workshop provided participants a greater understanding of the cyclical process of change and tools that can enhance progress. Karr focused upon how four spiritual components  — via positiva (awe, wonder), via negativa (silence, grief, humor, release), via creativa (birthing, creativity) and via transformativa (healing, justice) can be used as building blocks in maintaining a balanced and productive life.
Karr spoke of the predictability of natural cycles — daybreak to sunset, the change of seasons — and how that knowledge can provide us with a sense of security. Day follows night. While seasons vary in temperature and moisture, even the harshest winter is followed by the warmth of spring.
Creative projects, relationships, illness and healing are more open-ended cycles, often leaving freedom to expand or conclude the cycles as we choose.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of patience or trust, many cycles are terminated before productivity is realized.
Karr divided the workshop into four sections with time for participant response and feedback.
The majority of time was spent on the section known as the via negativa, the most difficult of the four paths. Karr said, “The via negativa is a path of mystery, suffering and letting go.”
Because it can be painful and because it requires the person involved to “do the work,” it’s often short-changed. This can lead to a repetition of negative or undesirable outcomes.
An example brought up was marriage. The courtship and honeymoon phase might be the via positiva, where everything is fine. For marriages not founded in love, this may be a shallower time of hoping that marriage will fix everything. When the honeymoon is over and the couple realizes the other person isn’t perfect, or the new mate hasn’t fixed everything wrong in their spouse’s life, the via negativa may result. This is meant to be a time of reflection, learning and introspection. It may be a time of forgiveness and of letting go of anger and disappointment or grief.
If dealt with successfully, it can lead to the via creativa, a time when the couple can work together to build their dreams, and the via transformativa, when the couple may realize those dreams. But the hard work must first be accomplished.
Karr said, “We are reminded that the spiritual journey dwells not only in the light but can take us to our depths. But that can be a place of strength-building and nourishment. It means allowing ourselves to experience pain without avoiding it, or medicating it with consumerism or addiction. We may experience the ‘dark night of the soul’ and find, through contemplation, a deep rest and peacefulness.”
Karr likened the transformative cycle to a spiral.
“It’s not a ladder you’re climbing up,” she said. “If the work isn’t done, you won’t advance. You’ll just go around in circles. But if you learn from past mistakes, or remember to measure your progress, you’ll see how much you’ve grown as you reflect back to where you were.”
Along those lines, Karr used the example of a woman who endures an abusive marriage, finally escapes it, feels better about herself for a time, but then focuses upon her loneliness.
“Soon she’s back in the same bar, looking for the same kind of man, doomed to repeat the same cycle, because she hasn’t learned. There was pain and misery, but no time of reflection, no personal growth. No via negativa.”
Participants offered the reflection that in serious illness, people sometimes find great strength and peace. Karr agreed and spoke of a time when a friend’s family refused to allow the woman to consider that her terminal illness could result in death.
“In their love for her, they refused to allow her to die,” Karr said. “They sought out every possible cure, and she went along with it, wanting to please her family. When the woman visited me, she had a plastic smile wrapped onto her face. She told me, ‘I’m being positive!’
“When she asked me what I might have to tell her, I said the word coming to me was ‘release.’
“At first, she seemed terrified. Then, a great relief overtook her. She said, ‘I’ve been spending so much time trying to live that I haven’t been living!’
“She must have said something to her family because the push stopped. I never saw her alive again, but I discovered that she began planning her own wonderful funeral and spent quality time with her family. She was able to live her remaining days as she chose.”
Change is inevitable. Karr’s class offers ways to make those changes work for the better.
The idea of presenting this class sprang from an online seminar Karr attended by Matthew Fox on the Four Paths. Fox draws from many belief systems, though he bases his core beliefs upon creationism, with his background in the Catholic church. Fox is now an Episcopal priest.
Karr’s presentation draws from Fox’s thoughts, as well as her own and several other sources.
Karr intends to offer the half-day workshop again in early summer. For more information, call Annette Karr at 620-241-4532 or e-mail her at