Life in Transition
“Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it." ~Pema Chödrön “
In yoga class this morning it occurred to me just how powerful transitions can be in our lives. There was something special about the practice this morning. What was it? I wanted to be able to acknowledge the teacher on my way out, knowing as a fellow teacher how student feedback can be so valuable, but I wanted to say more than simply "great class". So, I reflected for a moment...what was different about it? The poses were in essence the same as in other classes, the music was good but nothing out of the norm, I felt challenged for sure (sweating a lot more than usual) and yet I never felt that I could not keep up, that I needed to regroup in child's pose to catch my breath or that I was turned around in such a way that I felt lost on where she was headed from one pose to the next. There was a fluidity to the asanas and there were clear TRANSITIONS from one posture to the next. These transitions awarded each of us individual space to settle into the next posture and experience our own state of FLOW (or at least I hope that everyone else had a similar experience). There was a level of confidence I had in where she was guiding us and I trusted the process to unfold.
I had already planned to write about transitions and so the fact that I had this experience really prompted me to explore the numerous transitions that we all experience in our every day life and how perhaps there may be something to learn from this yoga experience in allowing ourselves to embrace them in such a way that we can truly experience a state of flow in everything we do.
From my background in child development and psychology, I have always understood how difficult transitions can be for children. I have often heard teachers talk about a child having a "difficult time with transitions", i.e. moving from one activity to another. We all are creatures of habit and change can require more energy from us. For children this can be even more difficult. “Transitions are hard for everybody,” says David Anderson, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “One of the reasons why transitions may be hard is that we’re often transitioning from a preferred activity – something we like doing – to something that we need to do.” Difficulty in transitioning can take the form of resistance, avoidance, distraction, negotiation, or a for your 3 year old this may be a full-blown meltdown.
As a young child, my life was full of transitions and many were unexpected. I feel strongly that a key factor determining how I moved through these was the structure and support that was put in place to guide me. Creating a new routine was also always key and I think I have carried that with me as an adult, a parent, a leader, a teacher, a coach... in all areas of my life. I went away to college, moved and reestablished myself in new cities several times and once even moved 4 times in 4 years in one state.
As a parent, my eldest daughter was always given a "5 minute warning" which helped in preparing her to leave a location, end an activity, or to start something new that perhaps she was less excited about. I can remember vividly at 2-3 years of age her saying "Mommy, 2 more minutes...?" As I reflect and consider how this has translated into my career, I think that in addition to always working to create structure, systems and processes to aid in moving through the inevitable changes of growth and progress, another key has been embracing change in such a way that there has been confidence in that what is coming next is even more exciting or at the very least I trust that it will help me grow and learn.
Bringing this back to my yoga practice, I could certainly have had a much different experience had I not been as open. First, I could have been very disappointed as the teacher that I thought was teaching was a sub and let this set the tone, being disappointed or unhappy, let down because my expectations were clearly no longer going to be met. This would in fact have affected MY energy, which likely would have affected a very different outcome. Each day, I transition from my role of mom and wife in the morning to a coach, where I then transition from one client call to the next. One meeting to the next. Sometimes I am also transitioning into role of Board Member, Volunteer, Yoga Instructor, all in the matter of hours...before transitioning back to my role of mom and wife in the evening. Wow, I am exhausted just writing that out. And, I know that throughout any given day, it DOES bring up emotions for me just as it does for our children. Certainly, there are days when there is a similar FLOW to my routine and schedule, like I experienced in yoga class today and other days when my energy may be off and things seem a little "off".
It is on these days that it is important for me to remember not to resist. To not close down out of my own discomfort. Instead to shift myself to be open to whatever is to come next. As Pema Chödrön writes in her book When Things Fall Apart “Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.”
Transitions for us and for children are a natural part of the human experience. From an early age it is important to provide safety and security of the routines and schedules and of course maintain those for young and old alike. However, most impactful will be for all of us to model how we feel through the discomfort, the uncertainty. This can apply in our leadership roles especially, not needing to always feel like we have everything figured out. Showing those around us, whether our children or our teams, that we can feel the feelings, dive deeper into them, to learn from them. Psychologist Susan David explores this in her wonderful TED Talk, The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. Judging our circumstances or any given change (transition) as good or bad robs us of the fluidity that can lead us to a place of flow as we maneuver all life's twists and turns.
Here are a few ways to create FLOW through transition:
-Frame the transition as a gift and opportunity. There is growth, learning, and healing that will come from it. Be open and be patient. This is the inner work of personal transformation.
-Embrace the discomfort. Be a mindful observer of all that is going on around you, feel into the feelings, get curious, have empathy, get creative, and connect with deeper meaning and purpose.
-Trust. Embrace the support that exists around you, knowing the idea of loss of control is truly an illusion.
-Consider what energy you are bringing to the environment. Shifting through transitions or guiding others through requires us to be conscious of what energy we are bringing to the environment? Perhaps we need more time to pause and shift... Similar to ..."Mommy, 2 more minutes..?"
Managing life's inevitable transitions more successfully can not only allow you to experience ease and flow, it also builds your strength as a parent, as a leader, as a human being. This strength breeds confidence, confidence to handle whatever challenges life may throw your way, because that is one thing we can all count on... life is ever changing and we are always in transition.
"When shifts and transitions in life shake you to the core, see that as a sign of greatness that’s about to occur.” ~Anonymous