Taking on Transitions

Photograph by John McSporran

Photograph by John McSporran

What happens when we decide to make a change?  When we decide to give up the familiar and known and move into something different and new?  When we switch jobs, or let go of relationships, take on a new life role, or move to a different place, what happens to us in these big shifts?

It’s painful, unsettling, overwhelming, disorienting, and wildly uncomfortable and uncertain.

We step in or avoid.  And we have our reasons for both.  Fear or calling.  Fear for stepping in and avoiding; fear that if we don’t shift we’ll never know what could have been, fear that if we do we may be making a huge mistake we’ll regret for the rest of our lives.  Perhaps we hold the desire for comfort.  Or The Call to Adventure.  Perhaps we are beholden to a sense of responsibility. Or we are drawn by a sense of purpose.  We may choose to engage or avoid an Ego Death, feeling it’s stubborn determination and convincing influence.

Like it or not, transitions are part of our very human-nature experience.  We may not seek them out but they will eventually find us and introduce us to a different sense of Self.

The pain of transitions can vary.  Moving from one way to another asks us to recalibrate the mind and move into mystery, invites us to shift the way our blood flows, and activates our feeling states.  May we learn in our watching of day moving to night and night to day.  The darkness invites a reliance on difference senses, new ways of knowing the world.  Some living beings thrive here, others take this time to rest.  The trees and plants change the way they breathe, consuming oxygen at night but not releasing any until the sun rises again.  The morning light brings out the high-spirited birds, while dusk brings the soaring bats.  And we all hear the sounds of nature during these transition times, screaming out in joy or resistance to the change.  Changes change us all, waking us up and allowing us to fall unconscious again and again. 

This week, I have experienced a number of changes.  I watched as I fell into an unconscious ego pattern of “I know” or “Yes, I can do that” or resisting and longing for the old I gave up, all without really knowing or honoring a new and different me in this process.   While at the same time, I find that I surprise myself with how capable and resilient to change I can be; how I can shine in spaces I have never stepped into.  All of this brings up vulnerabilities.  Wild doubts, worries, insecurities.  And the Big question of “who am I?”

Even in talking to friends, I wondered if I was acting like “myself”.  When challenged, I found myself shutting down, feeling wrong or bad on some level.  Thinking, if I stayed in the status quo, I would be feeling self-assured and confident to respond.  I found myself in states of shame and self-judgment, struggling to be in compassion with myself as a piece of my ego dies. Changes really rattle our ways of being in the world.

New roles shatter the way we once thought of ourselves and knew ourselves to be, we can begin to question who we are, sitting in uncertainty, asking: is this how I normally respond to situations?  Will I be this way from now on? Or will I return to my sense of self once I am oriented to this new state?

The call for me, is to go to the land.  To bring my questions with me intentionally as I walk and meet tree and wind and rock.  To listen, see, feel the lessons of transition around every corner of the path I walk on this vast earth.  And to acknowledge and mark the transition happening for me, in this microcosm of my life, by marking my threshold, by burying a rock, by sitting in timeless space and allowing the answers to come in their mysterious ways.

The true gift in the death of the ego and the old, which we most experience in states of mystery and transition, is in the taking on of becoming more of who we are meant to be.  Through the wild discomfort, a great knowing can arise, if we consciously meet our new self, with kindness and courage, in times when day becomes night and night becomes day again and again.

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