May 23rd 2008 -
Okay - whether by choice or not, you find that you are now in a transition phase. Maybe you were laid off from work, or you decided to quit and pursue a new career. Maybe you are newly divorced or suddenly widowed, and must start life anew on your own. Maybe you have become chronically ill, or are suffering from a catastrophic illness. Whatever the cause, you simply cannot live the same life you have been leading.
Or, maybe you just find yourself vaguely but persistently dissatisfied with the old familiar patterns of your life, and sense that something - something big - needs to change. The life you have been leading is no longer satisfying.
Sometimes circumstances force us into a transition period, and sometimes it just seems to happen for no apparent reason. Whichever it is, there are times in our life when we find ourselves in the dark, without having a clue what is next.
And what is our customary response to the darkness? Well, for most of us, this stirring up of the status quo can make us feel very uneasy. And for many, this unease can escalate to fear, anxiety, worry, and even panic.
Transition times are, by definition, filled with uncertainty. The old trails we used to walk aren't there anymore and we must blaze some new trails.
But despite the discomfort and pain, transition times are not only a normal part of life, they are also essential for our growth and expansion.
I believe that every transition - even one that has been thrust upon us by circumstance, even one of tragic loss - is always a chance to grow and expand who we are. During these times, previously unused strengths and unexpressed potentials quietly emerge. These potentials are like tiny, invisible seedlings underneath the soil, pushing at the surface, pushing away the soil until they finally pop into the air and we recognize new shoots we've never seen before.
Which brings me to caterpillars. Yes, caterpillars. Do you know what happens when a caterpillar goes into a cocoon? "Oh sure", you might say, "Everyone knows it turns into a butterfly."
But that's not the whole story. How a caterpillar becomes a butterfly is the really fascinating part, and has a lot of significance for any of us going through a major change in our lives. The fact is, that in order for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, it literally has to fall apart, cell by cell, and then reorganize into a whole new organism. This is the process of Metamorphosis, or transformation.
Marcus Bach wrote a book about 20 years ago called "I, Monty." In it, Monty the caterpillar narrates his life. Monty describes how one fine Spring day, he was sitting on a branch, enjoying the leaves and the beauty of the day.... when, all of a sudden, he found himself weaving strands around his body, and things grew dark all around him. He watched and wondered as he observed his body falling apart: his eyes going off into one corner of the shroud he was in, his legs going to other areas. He thought -philosophically, but not frantically - "If my eye is over there, then who am I?”
Monty wonders, muses and speculates about what is happening to him - but he never panics. He does not cry out, "Oh no! This can't be happening! Why me?" He refrains from projecting frightening, catastrophic outcomes. Instead, he remarks, "Hey! Can this be dying?. Either I was still alive or else the dream did not end with dying, so why worry?"
Waiting patiently in his shroud, enveloped by darkness, Monty simply surrenders to what is happening, and trusts - trusts the process, trusts his ability to get through the process, and trusts a gentle voice in his head which whispers soothingly to him as he hangs in the shroud. Monty does not struggle against the process in any way - he seems to know that struggling would be useless. Instead, he waits, observes, lets it happen - and lo and behold, things change dramatically, and - well you know what happens!
FINDING YOUR WAY
We are all caterpillars at different times during our lives, waiting to emerge from a dark cocoon. So when you can't see the light, or even the road right in front of you, try following these guidelines for getting through with greater ease and equanimity - more "Monty-like," if you will. The suggestions below are brief. More details will follow in future articles.
1) Allow yourself to grieve your losses. As uncomfortable as it is, grief is a natural part of moving through and past loss. It takes as long as it takes. There are many productive ways to process grief. Be sure to avail yourself of help and support when you need it.
2) Believe in the Principle of Change. When the darkness closes in, some of us have a tendency to become overwhelmed, and to believe that the darkness is now our reality, forever. But life is always about yin and yang. Nothing ever remains the same in this world. Light yields to dark, and darkness fades again to light. It is only a matter of time. Like the caterpillar, your old Operating System has fallen apart, and is in the process of coming together in a new and potentially better way. Your core Self is transforming.
3) Learn how to accept, encourage, and love yourself unconditionally. This means supporting yourself with compassion and positive regard -no matter how needy you feel, how awful you think you look, or what a mess you think you have made of your life. Learn - or get help learning - how to recognize and release guilt, regrets and shame. Turning these negative patterns around and practicing unconditional love for yourself (and others) is crucial to true transformation. With self love, you can experience peace in the present moment and begin to build a better future. Loving yourself also means accepting love and support from close friends and family. Reject thoughts that you don’t deserve help or are a burden, then reach out.
4) Develop a spiritual practice in which you learn to connect with a Spiritual Source of unconditional love. Doing this can be the beginning of receiving insight and wisdom, particularly concerning the meaning around what happened to you. I always hesitate to assert that an event happened so that you would learn such and such a lesson. This is something we cannot really know for sure on this plane. But what we can do is create and purpose One of the best ways to access the wisdom to do this, and even receive direct messages concerning the meaning of a change, is to learn how to be in the Now. This is also called “mindfulness meditation”. Through being totally Present and accepting of what is, we can access a supremely comforting sense of being loved, safe, and at peace. And it is in those moments – or shortly thereafter – that the wisdom has a chance to come through. There are a variety of books, spiritual trainings and teachers who could help you do this. I personally began with A Course in Miracles many years ago, and more recently have incorporated the teachings of Eckhart Tolle into my personal practice and professional work. You may feel drawn to a Buddhist mindfulness meditations, or one of the mystical practices in another religion.
5) Ask what you can learn from this experience. Asking this question prior to your spiritual practice, or prior to going to sleep at night, is another way to begin to access and develop a sense of meaning and purpose. Maybe you are developing strengths you didn't know you had. Maybe you are learning to trust yourself more. Or maybe you are simply learning to have faith that things will work out. These may not be the lessons you would consciously prefer to learn, but they are certainly among the most important lessons life has to offer. The ability to handle setbacks and failures, and the confidence that you have that ability, is the foundation of all successful undertakings.
6) Balance your times of reaching out and receiving support, with times of solitude. Transformation, while a necessary part of growing, can also be exhausting. Your system needs plenty of rest. In addition, with meditation and solo creative activities you can begin to explore and integrate the changes that are occurring within.. Your whole system – mind-body-spirit - must re-organize around the change and find a new balance and new direction. Your insides are literally creating a new foundation for you. If you are continually "out there" and exposing yourself to stimulation from others, that new foundation won't have a chance to form and solidify.
7) Count your Blessings. And no, my name is not Polyanna! Focusing on what you have to be grateful for brings you out of your worries about the future and preoccupation with past regrets. It brings you into the present, and therefore into an experience of peace and power. Gratitude can also generate feelings of love, bringing your heart into a state of coherence. This has many profound implications, including a calm nervous system, access to your intuition or spirit guide for information on how to proceed, increased ability to make sound decisions, and improved immune system functioning – just as a start!
8) Develop a sense of humor. Humor can be found anytime, anywhere - no matter how severe the circumstances. Humor can lend us perspective, a moment of connection with another, as well as some moments of lightness during intense times. (See Becoming a Humor Being by Steve Rizzo.)
9) Get professional help and support. At some point in your process, you may want to avail yourself of one or more kinds of professional help. It could be something as simple as a nurturing massage. Maybe a grief group, or a support group of people dealing with catastrophic illness would be helpful. Perhaps an individual empathic counselor – someone who has the skills to just listen and validate your experiences are just what you may need for a time. If you are feeling stuck in some way, like you are not moving through your process at all, then I would heartily recommend some form of energy healing. In my practice, for example, I use hundreds of flower and vibrational essences to help my clients shift their energy around all kinds of transition-related issues. Anything from clearing depression and lack of will, to eliminating anxiety and fear, to addressing deep abandonment issues and clearing of old trauma can be accomplished with the right essences at the right time..
10) Live in the present, one step at a time, one moment at a time. This is especially true if you are in a sudden crisis, or dealing with a tragic loss. Statements like, "I don't know how I'm going to get through this" are not helpful. The truth is, you may not know how - but if you follow these Guidelines, you will get through. And you will not just get through it - you will triumph!
Copyright April, 2006
Fairfax, CA 94930
Judy Aizuss, M.S., specializes in transformative counseling, soul care, emotional healing and spiritual counseling. In addition, Judy is a gifted Flower Essence practitioner. She uses over 900 essences, using her intuitive skills and 25 years experience to create custom formulas for people and animals. Judy’s own healing journey has ignited her dedicated passion to help others connect with the healing power of the love within and around them. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her website is www.essentialhealingbyjudy.com.