Last summer my family and I bade farewell to the leafy suburbs of North London, a place that had been home for more than a decade.
Our departure from this place that we loved was brought about for very practical reasons appertaining to what we needed and believed was best for our family over the next decade or so.
The adjustment over the last 8 months, along with some changes in my family has me reflecting on what it means to be in transition and how we human beings adjust - or not.
I don't promise that what follows will shine a light on previously dark hidden corners for every reader, but maybe one or two of my observations from personal experience will have resonance for some.
I’ve found myself at various periods of my life applying rational logic to situations, understanding the need or the reasoning behind a particular course of action. I get it. I might even decide it. But I’m coming to recognise that my body and my rational self work at different paces. What do I mean by this?
When we left London I was sad at leaving friends, our children's school, the place I’d called home for a while. As we are settling into our new ‘home’ my body begins to notice the changes, the differences. It starts to notice things that I need to adjust to, what it misses about London. This starts to show up in how I feel emotionally and even physically. My rational brain however is taking longer to work out what is going on and why, what’s at issue. My rational brain is taking longer to come up with the reasons why my body is experiencing xyz.
I'm slightly surprised by this. I'd thought that maybe the rational brain was faster then my limbic brain (the seat of my emotions) But no. As I reflect on my life to date I can see many occasions when my body has been responding to a change before my brain has realised what is actually going on - what, in some cases, is bothering me. The process seems to be - understand the change cognitively - body notices the impact sensationally - cognitive brain rationalises and understands what's going on with the body.
I’ve also come to understand that transition is never ending. It is a constant. I could be very literal and talk bout how often our cells renew themselves, the body itself changes daily (at least). I could be ‘Zen’ like and say that no moment is the same as the previous one , there is transition moment to moment. Some transitions are major life changes, others happen day by day, week to week.
Given this constant state of change, flux, transition, the question arises - how am I with this? How am I with the change? What else is there beyond ‘Oh, it’s fine we are adjusting’? What, might I be reacting to more deeply within me that I haven't yet seen?
Often it’s easier to know what we think about something than what we feel, and even if we get a handle on what we feel, this may only be at surface level. Our real feelings maybe buried three layers down. It’s vitally important that we keep questioning, exploring, and noticing what is happening in our body. What changes are afoot within the body? The odd new twinge today, sudden onset of a skin rash, a change to dietary habits, all of these changes can signify that the body is adjusting to something, and maybe isn’t adjusting so well. It’s called psychosomatic. I think of the body as an early warning system.
I remember hearing an old boss use the word psychosomatic to refer to someone he thought was making up their illness, that it was all in the mind. It was used in a derogatory way despite the definition of psychosomatic being 'a physical illness or condition caused or aggravated by internal conflict or stress'. The body and mind are totally connected.
Psychosomatic or not, pedant or not, there are ways of holding situations that can help us through transition.
- Ask ‘what am I being invited to step into here?’. Change and transition bring new opportunities. These maybe new experiences, new ways to be with situations. Even a redundancy situation, or a death can be an invitation to practice something new. It could be to practice being with grief, painful as it is but we can learn along the way. Such drastic life changes are often an invitation to step into resilience with softness and self-care.
- Ask ‘What is there that I can be grateful for here?’ The practice of gratitude changes one’s physiology. Try it for a moment. Notice what you are truly grateful for and feel how your internal system changes. Gratitude is the anti-dote to bitterness and resentment.
- Practice curiosity. Be curious about your reactions. Don’t pass judgement. Curiosity produces freedom within us, it can be invigorating. We are curious beings. And be curious with lightness. Don’t go beating the hell out of curiosity to ‘emphatically know the answer’. Explore with wonder.
- Notice where you are getting stuck. A change or threat to identity, the creation of a void, a change to social relationships. Dig into why the stuckness, what’s the root fear. Where does that show up in your life and, can you notice it in your body? Is there gripping, tightness, fizzing, temperature? Ease it with breath, movement, stretching.
- Ask what might be available to you on ‘the other side’, once through the transition. How and where might balance be found? What is the yin and yang of the situation?
- If you can think beyond the transition, as far ahead, as large as you can, what do you dream might come from now. Can you make a commitment to focus on the dream, the bigger picture? The transition becomes part of a bigger plan, a small roadblock rather than a major structural change to the highway.
- And perhaps the most powerful questions of all.... ‘What would it take to be comfortable with this transition’? What might you need to let go of?
Whatever transition you find yourself in, with a good dose of grounded, pragmatic optimism and wisdom, you can find the internal resources to journey your way through your path.