spiritual practice

Transitions Don't Last Forever

Finals week. First trimester. Starting a new job. Recent breakup.

These all have one thing in common: they are periods of transition. And they can be some of the most difficult times in our lives. But, as I once read, also the most growth-filled.

A few years ago, I had this realization. Early childhood and adolescence is easy, relative to adulthood, because it's so organized. We are moved along through classrooms and rites of passage and everything has a time and place. There are sometimes even appropriate outfits to wear. We know what to expect, we know what's expected of us, and we know what we need to do to move along to the next "classroom".

I've noticed, with clients, that once adults graduate college (if we choose that path after high school), we sort of get stuck. We don't have anyone telling us what to do, where to go, and how to do it. We don't have clear directions on what jobs to get, how to manage our time effectively, how to cook/feed ourselves and negotiate relationships with other adults struggling with the same challenges. So, we make choices based on what makes sense for who we are and the best skills we have at the time. We choose partners, jobs, clothes, haircuts, cars, etc. We do our best with people who are also doing their best. And sometimes it's a damn mess.

Before I grounded myself in a spiritual practice, I always saw my life as a never-ending, gut-wrenching, marathon of agonizing leaps from one lily pad to the next. I never saw them as connected. I never saw them as essential to my growth--to my path of awakening and maturity.

I always asked aloud what I was being punished for. I kept friends on the phone for hours, begging for answers to help me through yet another major life transition. I always experienced the same feelings and emotions: panic, powerless, hopeless, scared, depressed, abandoned, dejected.

When I saw my life as one big question mark, I was often really uneasy and anxious. I saw each change as an omen that I was doing something wrong. I clung to situations and relationships with people even when they didn't serve me, just so I had a sense of having "ground" or being stable, even when I wasn't.

I don't live my life that way anymore.

I realized that our classrooms and learning opportunities never really stop when we graduate with a diploma from high school or a degree from a university. Our lives are one continual education. And if we see life that way, and welcome it, we understand that transitions are going to keep coming into and out of our lives--just as they did when we moved from 3rd grade to 4th, anticipating our favorite teachers for homeroom.

While transitions may be extremely uncomfortable, here's the good news: they don't last, that's why they are called transitions.

If you see your life as one continual practice session, one opportunity after another to try, fail, learn and try again, as opposed to the penultimate measure of your character and self-worth, you may find transitions to be less taxing emotionally and mentally. You will welcome them, knowing they serve a wonderful purpose to move you from what wasn't working or ideal toward a place of growth and evolution. They are essential so you can learn whatever is necessary before you reach the next stage of your process. The adjustment is normal. Things will shift. You are changing and growing. This isn't always a pleasure to experience--but it is necessary for your path.

Greet your life, each day and month and year--each minor and major transition--as another classroom, another "grade" passed successfully. When you make a change, anticipate that things will be a little rocky, receive that change as you would catch a raw egg---gracefully, delicately. You don't want that thing exploding all over you, right? How can you take what you learned from the past and apply it to this new situation or experience? How can you embrace all that you aren't yet to become who you want to be? How can you make the transition work for you?

You have made changes before, and you are just fine. Really, you are. Anticipate the change, anticipate the unfamiliar, and watch how easy the transition becomes.

When making a change, be it a job, a relationship, exploring a new identity or a new exercise routine or even trying new foods, always factor in that you will have an adjustment period and remember it will not last. Recently I made a few changes in my life and there was about a week where I felt REALLY out of control. My sleep quality was extremely poor. I doubted my choices and I anticipated the worst. I complained a lot. I was scared.

Then I remembered, "this is a transition period."

When I recentered myself and remembered that the changes I was making meant things would improve in every aspect of my life, I allowed myself time to grieve the old and embrace the new. As soon as I had that clarity and created the time and space for this emotional shift---all the undesirable symptoms dissipated.

Every single one.

And they were replaced with feelings like grace, gratitude, joy, balance, optimism and abundance.

I sleep through each night, content and relieved.

Remember, if you're being fearless and seeking growth and change in your life, transitions will happen--and they will happen regularly. Prepare for this! Embrace it!

And remember, the transition won't last forever. That's why they are called transitions.

Food Has a Shelf Life, Just Like People

Food has a shelf life. The good kind, anyway. This is a concept I'm introducing to my clients and other people in my life.

If your "food" has an expiration date printed on it, chances are it doesn't belong in your body. There are a few exceptions--like yogurt...um...kombucha...bottled oils (coconut, olive and sesame)...

I can't think of too many other exceptions that are real food. Things like fresh greens, fruit, whole grains, beans, veggies---these don't have expiration dates because they don't last long. A few days, maybe. Like Michael Pollan says, "don't eat anything that won't eventually rot." If what you're eating won't eventually rot, think about what it's doing inside your body.

What makes it keep its shape, texture and color? What are those things doing to your blood and organs? If you can't pronounce it, why are you ingesting it?

If your food doesn't expire in a few days and isn't packed with preservatives, it still has a shelf life. Whole grains and beans--if you buy them fresh in bulk and don't use them in about 4 months, toss them. Bottled oils? Give them a whiff to make sure they haven't turned rancid from being exposed to the air each time you open the bottle. Rancid oils smell something like turpentine. If you don't know what that smells like, visit a local paint store.

Fresh veggies and fruit? If you aren't eating them within the week, freeze them or ditch them. If they are on sale because they've been sitting around too long--please don't buy them. They aren't alive anymore. They are of no use to your body. These foods are to be consumed for the many vitamins and minerals they contain. Time, air quality, dust, etc. affect the quality of the product. Practice some radical self-love and throw out anything that isn't fresh, vibrant, colorful and perky. That's right--perky. Ever try eating limp lettuce? Or an overripe apple? What is enjoyable about either of those experiences? Nothing. Correct. It's not hard to see why more adults have a hard time getting veggies into their diets...maybe they are eating CRAPPY, OVERRIPE, GROSS VEGGIES!

Let's think of your friends the same way. If food has a shelf life that runs its course, the same goes for your friends. Do you have someone in your life who's been around for a while but you feel depleted every time you see or talk to this person? Or maybe facebook reports the same complaint from the same people day after day after day. I had a few who never have something positive to say--only negative, biting, judgmental banter. I deleted those people from my list.

If I don't eat food because of what it contains, I don''t surround myself with people who are filled with qualities that bring me down, bring out the worst of my own character traits or treat me with disrespect. I know a few people like this. I'm doing my best to be patient because my spiritual practice calls me to do so. I am learning to draw a fine line between being patient and drawing a healthy boundary that involves telling someone, "our time as friends has come to a close".

Sometimes it doesn't even have to be that blatant. You can simply clean out the cabinets and closets of your life---toss tired carrots along with the people who complain every moment of the day. We all have it hard. We all struggle for love, peace and understanding (for ourselves and others) but we have to balance positive and negative. If someone you know doesn't seem to seek that balance, what is that person bringing into your life? How are you growing and thriving from that relationship? How is it making you a better person?

Toss out the garbage. And every day, work on not being garbage yourself.