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Inner Radiance Blog

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Between Time

As the new year approaches, I have been thinking about changes I want to make in 2009. It's a powerful time--a time of rebirth and growth. It's a time for reflection of how far we have come and where we would like to go. The months leading up to the end of 2008 have been filled with change for me personally. I sold the first house I ever owned, moved both my home and my office, and am still adjusting emotionally to these changes.

Amidst the chaos I felt last fall, I was asked to write an article on dealing with transitions by a friend and colleague who had just lost a loved one. I would like to share it with you here.

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding
~John O'Donohue

Fall is my favorite season. I love the colors, the way the air feels fresh and clean. It's almost as if you can taste the possibility of things to come. This season has always been about transitions. Nature shows us with breath-taking beauty that change is the most poignant of paradoxes. It is both beneficial and unavoidable. Changing seasons remind us that we must find a way to release the old to make room for the new.

It is this in between time that offers us insight to our deepest, most sacred selves—when what we used to know is no longer true and what fills the space has yet to come into fruition. Transitions can be difficult, because they bridge the known and unknown. Times of transition can often bring feelings of emptiness and confusion, when questions remain unanswered.

We go through transitions both when we are building on our life's dreams and also for unexpected reasons. The loss of a loved one, the end of a long-term relationship, or the diagnosis of an illness may propel us quickly into a state of transition. What many people fail to realize is that periods of transition that are in line with our heart's longing can also be disorienting. Conceiving a child, starting a new business, getting engaged, or preparing for college-age sons and daughters to leave home may be bittersweet.

This period of transition, coupled with the current financial market has been challenging for many of us.

As Bernice Johnson Reagon says, "Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they're supposed to help you discover who you are." Whatever the reasons for transition, the following tips can help you navigate the transition smoothly and learn about yourself in the process.

  • Stay in the present moment as much as possible—Thinking about what could have been or trying to plan for what might happen in the future can drain you physically and emotionally. A good question to ask yourself is, "What do I need right now?" At first, you may come up with answers about next week, next month, or even tomorrow. It is helpful to focus on the present moment. You don't need to know all the steps along the journey. Just take the next best step.
  • Stay physically active and get grounded in your body—Nothing beats exercise for helping keep everything in perspective. Try a yoga class; go for a long walk; or take a bicycle ride. Physical activity helps us to feel alive and spurs creativity. Plus, by being physically engaged, you can clear some of the mental chatter of worry.
  • Choose to look for and focus on the positive—My mentor once told me, "Fear is a gross misuse of imagination." I try to remember this about fear when I'm faced with anxiety, imaging what could happen. When we contemplate the unknown, we are sometimes caught up in the fact that "anything can happen." Why not turn that idea around for your benefit? Yes, anything can happen, that includes things that are beyond comprehension, which are positive, things beyond your wildest dreams.
  • Set positive intentions—Think about what it will feel like when you are on the other side of this transition. Use all of your senses to feed into this picture of your life: smell, touch, sound, taste. What will it feel like in your body? Imagine being healthy and vibrant. Picture with great detail what your new job will be like or how it will feel to hold a new-born baby in your arms.
  • Let go of expectations—Be open to the outcome and appreciate the learning and growth the transition offers.
  • Trust that you are resilient and have the strength and resources you need—Have you ever heard we are never given more than we can handle? There is a Chinese proverb I've always admired, "You can only go halfway into the darkest forest; then you are coming out the other side." Trust that things will get better.
  • Understand that life has a rhythm of its own—As individuals, we are constantly evolving, becoming. Our transitions move us forward in life. According to Harrison Owen, four spiritual laws govern all of life: whoever comes are the right people; whatever happened is the only thing that could have happened; whenever it starts is the right time; and when it's over, it's over.
  • Breathe—In Loving What Is, Byron Katie talks about how breath is one of the most powerful mechanisms for healing. We can bring intentionality to our breath and let it soothe our minds and bodies. Even if you are not conscious of it, your breath flows naturally. Katie says it's not about our "doing the breathing," but instead about letting go. In that letting go, "we are breathed." Just as our breath works as it should, she suggests our lives do as well.
  • Reach out to family and friends—Making connection with those we care about and scheduling time for fun can help during challenging times. People who are witness to your life can help you stay grounded and optimistic.
  • Seek help—I love working with clients in transition, because my job is to mirror back to them their own brilliance and resources. Change can be scary; it helps to have someone to walk with through the waters of transition.
  • Look for resources that can inspire and uplift you—One of my favorites is Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life by Julia Cameron. It's filled with reflections and tidbits that can bring meaning when nothing seems to make much sense.

May you be at peace where you are and be carried by the surprise of your own unfolding.

(This article was reprinted from Biznik. If you are interested in hearing other tips on dealing with transitions, you can see the original article here: http://biznik.com/articles/moving-through-transitions-with-grace).


At December 19, 2008 at 7:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is wonderful Elizabeth. My favorite part was “why not turn that idea around for your benefit? Yes, anything can happen, that includes things that are beyond comprehension, which are positive, things beyond your wildest dreams.”. I also love how this sounds like you...I can hear your voice. Thank you for sharing it with us.

At December 20, 2008 at 10:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a shift from what we normally hear. It goes beyond the predictable "sleep, eat right, and exercise" advice to target what we need to do on all levels to care for ourselves in periods of transition. It's easy for me to interpret disorientation as a sign that I'm on the wrong path, even when I'm doing things I love, which is really confusing! I love the reminder in your article: "What many people fail to realize is that periods of transition that are in line with our heart's longing can also be disorienting." Thank you for that perspective and the sense of peace that brings.

At December 20, 2008 at 4:17 PM , Blogger Elizabeth said...

Beth and Rachel,

Thank you for your comments. Of course all of those things are important--eating right, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your body. However, these three things are only one facet of self-care. I truly believe that making healthy changes requires addressing the body, mind, and spirit. Our imagination is a powerful gift that can help us to move through transitions with grace.

I'm glad that you found the article helpful.

Blessings, Elizabeth


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