Learn to get in touch with
silence within yourself
and know that everything in
this life has a purpose.
- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states that we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
- Anais Nin
Honoring Natural Cycles of Change and Transition
In times of painful or difficult transition, it is easy to forget that our need for challenge and growth is as inherent as our need for food. From the minute we are born, we enjoy exploring and learning new things. As soon as we have reached a certain sense of mastery in one area, we move on to the next developmental task despite the fact that we will at first fumble and stumble at attempting the new skill.
The transition from leaving a comfortable state of satisfaction and mastery to one of uncertainty, challenge, and risk occurs throughout our life span. It seems to be a vital ingredient to feeling alive and invigorated. Our creative spark and life energy are fueled by the friction and chemistry that exists between certainty and uncertainty, safety and risk, the known and the unknown, routine and adventure, and the loss and gain that we consciously or unconsciously experience every moment of the day as evolving beings.
The right balance between stability and change differs not only from individual to individual, but also from culture to culture. Because of the many opportunities for growth inherent in transition and loss, many ancient earth-based cultures “artificially” and periodically challenge the mind, body, and spirit through fasting, shamanic journeys, isolated meditation, vision quests, and other rites of passage. These ancient spiritual traditions are based on the premise that learning to let go and embrace our changing nature, much like the seasons of the earth, is necessary to realign us with life-enforcing earth wisdom, energies, and rhythms.
Our contemporary world, in contrast, has increasingly placed more value on technological advances that enable us to predict and control more and more of our natural world and life style. We forget that the safety and illusion of mastery and stability can block our access to creative adaptation, freedom, and innate strengths, stifling our spiritual growth in the long run. When our focus shifts from our inner compass to outward success defined by careers, power, money, possessions, and an avoidance of all growing pains and discomfort, we often respond with symptoms of anxiety, depression, addiction, and emptiness. Natural cycles, dips, and role shifts may lead to feelings of incompetence, worthlessness, failure, and intense stress. A vicious cycle may develop when we try to beat these feelings by responding more frantically to external demands instead of making inner changes that support us.
Instead of dreading times of transition and/or feeling stuck in dysfunctional patterns, it is possible to learn how to welcome the ebb and flow of positive and negative changes unique to your life and the rich time for inner work that they provide. They allow for self-exploration, an opportunity to conquer nameless fears, and a chance to reconnect with your boundless, wise self. To resist these natural life-death cycles of change is to deny yourself and the world the gifts of the transitional process––to emerge from the temporary fog with a deeper appreciation for your most sacred self and powerful connection to the ways of the earth.