Learning from Transitions

I’ve recently had reason to consider transitions in life. Now that I’m noticing them, I’m fascinated by how we manage them, how we consider them, and how it helps to honour them. The big transition for me currently, is in seeking a new strand to my career, but previous major transitions have been in relation to losses and gains: the adjustment after my parents died, or the gain when I met my now-husband. But transitions are not always so big or dramatic. We daily transition from sleep to wakefulness, from indoors to outdoors, and where this shows up with my clearest awareness, is the transition from everyday life into and out of my meditation practice. I believe we can learn from these smaller transitions, practice them, and see whether this helps us cope with the larger ones.

Take my transition as I settle into meditation practice. I feel my body slowly calm, fidgeting reduces, and physical ease increases. I feel the full range of emotions present, far more varied and changeable than I’m normally aware of, and I notice spaces forming between my thoughts. At the end of a practice, I notice in fine detail the moment my body begins to make larger movements, and even the moment just beforehand, when I can sense the intention to move travel through my body. I notice how it takes time to switch back into my everyday activities, and how the stillness in my body, emotions and mind continue, but gradually lessen, as I move away from the practice (unfortunately).

This level of awareness of transitions isn’t usually so available to us when in the rush and busyness of daily life. We might notice feeling hot when we come in from outside, dressed in our winter coat and entering the centrally heated house. That kind of transition is noticed because we’re uncomfortable. What about the transitions that are happening every day, as we move from task to task in our work, as we finish work and move into family life, as we drop a friend off in our car and continue our journey alone, as one TV programme ends and we flick through channels to find the next?

Transitions interest me because they are everywhere, largely unacknowledged, and offer countless moments through the day to pay attention and learn. If we rush blindly through transitions, what does that tell us about ourselves and our attitude to life? If we are impatient with our wish to arrive somewhere, what don’t we notice about the journey? Transitions are endlessly occurring, and when we remember, it can be helpful to honour them. If we respect them, not only as important steppingstones between activities, but as themselves worthy of our attention, maybe we can learn to flow with changes more gracefully, even the unwelcome ones. We can cope a little better.

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