If all of us grow and learn throughout our lives. These lessons change how we see the world and ourselves. Things adults do look crazy when we’re young. Things care-givers do can look crazy when we’re very old. And in between there are dozens of transitions regarding who and where we are.
When we think of our lives, we tend to think of two periods. Our highs are those moments when our wants become irrelevant in the face of all our abundance. At these times our feelings are so enormous we feel like they are exploding from within us, and radiating outwards.
The other times we think of are our transitions. These are the tumultuous times during periods of major change. At the start of life, our transitions are about capability and achievement. There are things we want to do. But later in life things reverse.
When we’re older, we realize that time is limited, and achievements carry their own baggage. We learn there are cases where ‘success’ is sometimes worse than ‘failure.’ We may have won someone over to a proposal, but in the end a good divorce is still better than a bad marriage.
In many cases, transitions will also impact others. Many families know this effect from when their parents divorce, or when children went through puberty. As people in our household change who they believe they are, they also drag along everyone else, and those people will often need to make substantial accommodations for their ‘new’ roommate. This is what love does.
When we’re facing them, there is no getting around the fact that transitions require us to abandon safe, known territory for unknown less-safe feeling territory. It makes sense we would feel some resistance to that.
Despite our resistance, our transitions are, in many cases, inevitable. That can be due to age, disease, our relationship status, or even something like a job loss. These are all shifts in identity and the transitions will be challenging.
If we see difficulty as things being ‘wrong’ and we imagine we have a life that needs ‘fixing,’ then we will be lost in stresses over things we have no control over. But if we can see life’s transitions as obligatory, then our job is not to avoid the storm, it’s to find our way through that storm safely.
That sort of journey benefits from our presence. But we cannot be present if we are either lamely wishing the storm away, or if we are trying to find some way around it. This is why learning to accept these transitions will help them to pass more quickly.
Our resistance to life merely slows it down, but it does not stop it from flowing forward. Trying to prevent a transition, whether it’s in a 16 year old daughter or my father in his 90’s, the only way out is through –to the next transition.
The trick for most people is, that process can take days to weeks to months. It is no small thing to become an adult, or to surrender our control, whether it’s us or someone else. We need to respect that those transitions will take time for others and for ourselves.
If we can take the initial shock of discovering we or our lives are in a transition period, and then respond to that with awareness, that’s as good as it gets. These periods will still be where life’s most unpleasant experiences are, but despite that we should not make the mistake of trying to reject the flow of change.
To accept, is to stop thinking resistant thoughts to what ‘is.’ When facing change, we can anticipate that thoughts will hit us at the start, But after that, it is important to recognize that our suffering is connected to our expectations and wants. If we can see those wanting thoughts, and if we can let those go in favour of accepting what ‘is,’ then no matter how ugly a transition might seem from one side, it can always be meaningful looking back.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.