Embracing the Transitions of Life
Tell me, what’s been your experience with navigating life transition? As we engage this human experience, moving through the natural course of life, it is normal to experience continuous states of change. At times these moments are more pronounced, think milestone occurrences or events: weddings, funerals, graduations; the shifting of roles within partnership, into parenthood... While at other times they occur in softer, more subtle ways: the turn of night into day, tending to physical growth - our hair, the lawn. Subtle or pronounced, in truth our experience invites the embodiment of an ever present state of change. Through the years we transition from homes, jobs, relationships, seasons... As Heraclitus shared many years ago, “the only constant in life is change." Knowing that this consistent flow exists guides us to recognize it as an important aspect of life that is worthy of bringing our attention to so that we may intentionally support the development of skill around. Just over 16 months ago, I adopted a nomadic lifestyle. Along the path of this journey, I’ve been experiencing a near constant immersion with change. As some of you know, as I've traveled through the United States my time has been spent "deep diving" with people and places for periods of 2-3 months (give or take) at a time; adapting daily life and work routines while intending to maintain quality of and consistency of life, which for me includes meaningfully connections with others, nature and play. Over the course of this journey there have been many beginnings and endings, similar to the energies of a commencement ceremony, an inherent simultaneity lives within this exchange. Though I didn't know it at the start, in many ways this journey has become a study of how to be in relationship with the ever flowing currents of change: the coming and the going, the starting and the ending, a dance of anticipation and apprehension ~ simultaneously wrapped up into one. I have found the mix of emotion and thought to be both fascinating and challenging, depending on the lean of the moment, where excitement & joy for one aspect may be felt side by side with sadness, longing, guilt or dread. The territory of transition is profoundly interesting to navigate, especially for those of us committed to honoring or being with our emotional states. And the question arises, how do we hold steady as we approach moments of change, navigating the emotional shifts of 'experiential weather'?
This powerful quote by Jon Kabat-Zin sheds light on how to move through the mixed emotions and changing tides, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” Later this month, Katie MacIntyre, Certified Breathwork Specialist and I will be co-hosting ActivXchange's #thirdthursday Connection Event ~ Finding Flow Amidst Transition ~ Empowered by Your Breath ~ where we'll be addressing this topic more in depth. In the meantime, today I want to share with you one practice I use to supporting surfing the waves of change. Ball Jar Gratitude Practice: first gather a few items: a large Ball Jar, stack of sticky notes and a pen (it doesn’t have to be complicated, any bowl, scrap of paper or writing utensil will do). Next, find a space where these items may rest - a location where they will be seen as gentle reminder to engage in the practice. Then, with these items, create a routine – identify a time to engage with the practice either at the start or end of each day, (and/or also whenever you feel called). Use the sticky notes to capture any thoughts, feelings related to both the, what is being stepped away from and the, what is being stepped into. In my personal practice of this, the capturing of thoughts/feelings becomes a practice of allowing, which I attempt to engage while holding an air of curiosity for each of the aspects that arise. Keep in mind: consciously supporting oneself through transition is not an act of perfection, rather it is a continual practice. This practice is one that continues to support me in cultivation of an honest, grounded lens through which I wish to navigate change. I find it helps to keep me from tipping into high levels of stress, guilt or shame, which are known to arise when we take steps into that which is rising anew.
Here is a picture of me captured by a fellow retreat participant during my recent stay at The Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, MT. In this moment, though I was a good 90 miles from my Gratitude Ball Jar, I was taking some time to ground into my feet, feel into my breath and acknowledge the beauty of my surrounds. Just a few days earlier I packed up my belongings from the short-term rental I had been calling home in Bozeman, Montana while simultaneously packing and organizing for the next chapter frequent movement and change amongst of this nomadic life event. I was allowing the mix of emotions to be seen, felt and heard. This included a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the lands of Montana for calling me in, for the warmth of the sun on one of the first summer-like days I'd felt in months, for the birds, the lake, the trees, the incredible retreat leader and fellow participants. Gratitude for my family, with whom I'd soon be flying to the east coast to gather with, for my grandfather - who recently passed and his up coming Celebration of Life. All while also holding space for the uncertainty of the next steps, a little sadness related to shedding parts of myself that I can feel are changing, "being left behind" as I tune into my experience of wading a little further into the flow of life's unknowns. Throughout this journey, I've now stood on the edge of this proverbial dock many times, coming to know that the intensity of such swells can easily gain power and momentum, influencing my perspective. Over my years of supporting clients as well as my own personal journey through life's moments of change I've found that our perceptions move through a range that I've found may include:
~ Doom - Problem - Challenge - Experience - Opportunity - Gift ~
And though at times "the weather" may unexpectedly shift, there are things we can do to get our bearings, to support ourselves in choosing the perspective that will best support our trajectory, of mood, thought, physical location... The intentional practices of focusing our attention is but one of these tools, conscious connection to the breath is another resource of our personal power.