As gentle, soft spring showers subside into the blistering heat of summer, our ascent towards glistening red suns begins. We rise up, heat energy embracing us like a mother reunited with a child long lost, slowly allowing our proverbial outer layer to burn and shed off in the glowing gold light. We are raw and exposed in these moments, freefalling before we grow new wings.
This can leave one feeling euphorically defenseless. In a liberating way, we are guided by a passion that forsakes empirical knowledge in favor of anything new and different. Yearning for change, we tumble along weeded paths because we understand nothing can stay; everything must change, even our very cores.
It is no coincidence then, as the air bakes crisply in the summer sun that many of us find our lives transitioning into unexplored territories. We are ghosts desperately searching for corporal form, not yet having found a comfortable fit as we are subjected to moves and job changes, relationship beginnings and endings, babies born and loved ones dying, and myriad life fluctuations that permanently alter who we are.
I, myself, am experiencing so many changes: leaving my apartment, going back to school, starting a new job, ending my two-year therapy program, and beginning to facilitate activist organizing here locally in Atlanta — and that’s just to name a few.
And it’s not only me — so many people I know are stuck in the murky mud known as transition; because we don’t know what to expect, insidious fear seeps into our cracks and fills them in, creating a state of paralysis. It is not permanent but can mar our decision making.
I think we can utilize this state of shock though, rather than being destroyed by it. If we can survive change gracefully, we can reap its greatness. If we allow ourselves to change instead of fighting or avoiding it, we could yield riches of magnificent proportions. That’s the catch 22: change can be heartbreaking to experience, but is often the only path to salvation. Let the buzzing hum of summer’s poolside shrieks, chirping birds, and belligerent bullfrogs unify in harmony; let yourself find your own vibration that matches, and you will be free to allow transition into your life. That takes practicing these next few tips over and over until they have created their own neural pathways, firing happily along in our subconscious, not needing any help from us. Let us grow new wings. Reinvention awaits.
1. Don’t settle.
You can settle in almost any aspect of your life: a mate, an apartment, a job; ostensibly, it’s settling for an unfulfilled life to ensure that you at least have something to hold onto. Amidst underpinnings of chaos, it is so very tempting to settle. For example, as I get older and see friends get married and have children — a life I know I want for myself — I think, ‘why didn’t I just go for this guy that really liked me?’ Even knowing it would inevitably never work, it could at least dull the pain temporarily, and since everything is temporary anyways, why not? This is a trap the brain sets for you; because the brain approaches everything as a problem to be solved, we can often think whatever soothes our pain is right for us. Oftentimes though, this can just mean we’re settling — not conquering. When I was franticly looking for an apartment a couple years ago, I desperately wanted to find one in a very particular location and almost settled for two separate places. In one, the shower ceiling was so low I couldn’t even stand up in it; the other was a tiny room about 300 sq. ft., but I seriously thought about each of them because of the great location. Thankfully, I had a wise friend who said to me: “Don’t settle.” I listened, and found the apartment of my dreams shortly after.
2. “This, too.”
As you run your fingers up and down along the cold, smooth marble corners of change, allowing it to guide you through darkness, you will inexorably encounter new, scary monsters that make you uncomfortable and tear at the very fragile fabric of your psyche. It is here that we often revert to fight-or-flight mode. But neither denying their existence nor attempting to abolish them is right action. (In Buddhism, right action is defined: “The practitioner should train oneself to be morally upright in one’s activities, not acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to oneself or to others.” Instead, we must use radical acceptance to allow for an expansive, fluid perspective on the world. When something you don’t like happens, allow it in and say “this too.” This, too, is a part of your world and existence and must be acknowledged before moving forward.
3. Minimize outside noise.
In such digitized, compulsively connected times, we often obsessively reach out and search for the answers to our problems. If we spend just enough time googling this, or asking enough people that, we can find what feels like the needle in the haystack. The truth is, the needle doesn’t exist. So as we throw hay up in the air, desperately seeking an elusive “perfect solution” or compass to help us traverse transitory lands, we are burying ourselves in noise. In psychology this is known as “The paradox of choice,” coined by psychologist Barry Schwartz and states: “Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”
If you can create a web of advice that combines your own inner guidance with the guidance from a few sources you emphatically trust, and/or examples of people who are in a place you would like to get to, you will begin to quiet a lot of those swarming voices that are simply fodder and that fail to provide any guidance but rather renders you panicked and confused. Simplify everything.
4. Shift your attention.
A very subtle way to move in a more positive direction in the face of major change is to practice shifting your attention. This is similar to telling someone to just “not think about” but takes it a step further. By shifting your attention and keeping the mind occupied on a neutral or positive object, you automatically cease to think about that which pains you. You aren’t avoiding a problem but rather actively choosing to allow it to exist while not focusing on it for a while. Then, when you come back to it, its power has often subsided allowing you to tackle whatever obstacle with a clearer mind, and probably a better mood because you have just spent your time thinking about a nice picture, or enjoying a dessert; reading a good book or taking a hot bath. Daydream for a bit about something you want or feel good about, and then try and tackle your problem or navigate a new direction in a better frame of mind.
5. Don’t force it.
One of the hardest parts about encountering a big change is relinquishing control and allowing an authentic response to gradually form. When you want things to work out a certain way, and you convince yourself this is the “right way” and that you deserve it, and yet you are not rewarded with said chosen outcome, frustration abounds. Whether it is “right” or not, if you approach something or someone in a forceful manner, you will cause a reaction of equal force. Instead of allowing what should be to exist, you beat it to submission until it fits into the peg hole of your liking. If you would just look for another hole, you would see it probably fits very neatly in there, is just as good as the other hole, and even makes you feel a sense of ease and relief. Nothing is worth having if it is achieved by means of force. At the peak of the wave, you have to ride it out instead of just jumping off because you don’t like where you’re currently at. You will come down in time, so you might as well not risk your life just to get the results that are coming anyway.