Transition offers opportunity for growth. Maybe you know something has to give, and yet you don’t quite know how to maneuver the passage. Here I’ll share with you my tried and true, time-tested method for how to proceed during these passages. I’ve used this many times to negotiate tight corners when one phase of life transitions to the next. I’ve even outlined it for you neatly in a 4-part package. May it serve you well!
1. FIRST, SET YOUR INTENTION
Start where you are; get present and honest with yourself about what’s going on.
It’s possible to live your whole life without really being a truthful about things. Most of the messages we get from the environment pass under out radar. So PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR THOUGTS and don’t necessarily believe all of them. Own up to what it is you’d like to release or invite into your life. Setting an intention is different than making a sudden decision based on reacting to the outside environment.
It’s based on feeling rather than grasping for an outcome. How do you know it’s an authentic intention, instead of a greedy desire? You know it by a feeling in the body. There is a resonance, deep down. Maybe you realize you want to let go of your job, or you finally see how your bouts with self-pity no longer fit your needs. Settling into the present moment is the only way to identify authentic intentions.
I recently was waiting in line for a taxi at the airport, when a man—apparently distracted—meandered into the queue immediately in front of me. It was long; it looked like we had an hour or more to wait. I tapped the man on the shoulder and pointed out to him that the queue started far behind me. He gave me a hurt look and moved back. I’m not sure I did the right thing to speak up, but there were others behind me as well who had taken their place before him. Even though I said it without malice or anger, the man was so embarrassed that I realized I could have spoken with even more gentleness. I felt so sad in my heart afterward. So I have made an intention to be more aware of my words, and to speak only with warmth and compassion, even if I need to say something difficult to someone.
Go inside, listen to the body. Identify what you want to release or invite into your life.
2. BEGIN OR RE-COMMIT TO A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
Develop a regular practice of learning to ally with something other than the thinking mind. Concepts got us into this mess of feeling disconnected, so concepts will not get us out. We need to reconnect with the body and the wisdom aspect of the mind, which is essentially spacious, silent and still.
This nature of mind is ONLY ACCESSIBLE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. The easiest way to access it is through coming back to the breath. A mindfulness practice like sitting meditation is essentially a tool to train the mind to be present.
There are many tools to help you do this. Learn one and develop a daily routine.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Sitting meditation
- Walking meditation
- Writing practice
- Daily ritual such as a silent walk in the woods
- Breathing exercises done mindfully
Commit to 3 months of a daily mindfulness practice. Even 10 minutes of sitting meditation. As you doctor probably told you, regularity counts.
3. HEALING THROUGH FEELING
Identify your style of checking out. Otherwise known as: confront your demons.
We all have ways of dealing with the stress of life, some more helpful and healthy than others. Get to know your habitual patterns by observing your mind. Share the information with a trusted friend or therapist. Having a witness, which is partly why therapy helps, helps the process of letting go. Find someone you trust and speak about what holds you back from doing what is in your heart. Recognize the emotions that hold you back. Notice your resistance. Identify blocks and obstacles and fears.
I had to own the discomfort of feeling like a bully with the man in the taxi line.
It’s not fun. I wished I could find him again and give him a big hug. But he’s left now with that imprint and I won’t be able to change that. What I can change is to feel the suffering that I inflicted on him, so that I can acknowledge how I perpetuate my own suffering.
This process can look daunting at first. It’s like sorting your garbage, not really high on the list of fun activities for a Saturday night. Recently in Phnom Penh I came across a fabulous boutique run by Italian designers who help poor Cambodian women make gorgeous handbags out of…trash. They recycle fishing nets and plastic bags and milk cartons to make whimsical and very high quality useful and beautiful items. This is what to do with your baggage. If you managed to combat an addiction, you are now an expert on combatting addiction and your gift is that you can guide people who still struggle. If you changed your financial downfall into a spiritual awakening, you can help others who suffer the same predicament. Life WILL give you lemons occasionally. It’s up to you what you whether you make fizzy lavender lemonade or squeeze them directly into your open wounds.
Identify an uncomfortable feeling that holds you hostage and free write about it for 20 minutes without stopping. If necessary, repeat.
4. LET GO AND ALLOW FOR THE UNEXPECTED
The last step is the most important: to get out of your own way! This is where your intention gets plugged in to something larger than you. You are not the driver. You can set the course by visualizing your intention, but you have to eventually throw your hands up and give up the illusion of being in control. Open to magic.
It’s possible to be so terrorized about the feelings you want to avoid, that you build thick concrete walls around you so as not to feel those painful emotions.
But when an act of self-protection becomes your habitual stance in the world, then it becomes your prison. You not only keep the scary demon feelings away, but you keep all feelings away (because you either feel or you don’t) and this can block you from hearing what your heart wants to tell you. Your heart may be yearning to write music, but if you were shamed by your 3rd grade music teacher for singing off-key, you may have squelched this terrible feeling so you don’t dare let yourself know you want to write music (or paint, or write, or create a non-profit, or design feather and sequin hooker heels) If you can’t admit to yourself your deepest yearnings, you will get messages from outside to remind you. You may secretly write erotic poems, or certain musicians or writers may move you to tears. When you have strong and unexplainable emotional yearnings, these are the things to pay attention to. They are your life force manifesting for you to experience.
Develop a habit of returning to your breath in your daily life on a regular basis. When your mind gets going with your storyline, practice dropping it and returning to the experience of being in your body.
Whatever transition you are going through will be initiated by some sort of message, and often these messages come in the form of obstacles. The obstacle IS your invitation to transition, like a friendly hand held out to help you across the stream. Take the hand, and discover where it wants to take you.
How could you reframe your experience to let this inform your life rather than hold you back from it?
Often we simply don’t want to let go of painful experiences or feelings not because we like them, but because we know them. They are familiar and we don’t know how to be otherwise.
Taking a step toward letting go of the past can be scary. You don’t know what’s on the other side. You know what you are stepping away from, but there is a moment after stepping, before the next foothold becomes apparent, where you just have to wait and trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. You are.