We’re in the throes of transition (Spring is here!) and it’s got me thinking a lot about change. I love how the depth of a concept continues to reveal itself through the process of living it; change is something we’re faced with on a regular basis, and yet, we are constantly relearning what it means. Transition is often thought of as the movement between two points—it’s the space between where we’ve been and where we’re going—and while transitions are the only obviously route from point A to point B, we spend most of the journey looking for a shortcut.
Maybe it’s just me, but transitions are usually something I just try to survive; attachment to the familiar and aversion to the unknown toss me around like a game of pinball until, battered and bruised, I’m forced into the fetal position. Sometimes I take my head out of the sand and brave the beating because I’m desperate to speed forward towards the promise of a new destination. Either way, I’m keen on glossing over the braces and acne phases of life.
When we look back on challenging periods of transition, the hope is that we can stand confidently on firm ground and say, “Yep, I get it. I got the crap beat out of me, but what I learned in the process has proven invaluable to my life; in fact, without having endured the process, I wouldn’t be who I am today.” Change leaves its mark. After all, the tapasya (purification process) of change primes us for wherever it is we’re going, burning through the layers of ignorance that prevent us from seeing our own depth. All of this said, it’s hard to entertain wisdom when you’re in the thick of it. I mean, who has the wherewithal to philosophize the purpose of skydiving when they’re free falling without a parachute?
This brings me to a quote I’ve (ironically) clung to during times of change. “The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
This is #goodnewsbadnews.
Jumping off the cliff of familiar into the abyss of not-knowing isn’t nearly as terrifying if there’s no ground below. The bad news is that this whole idea of enduring change in the hopes of one day arriving at a definitive destination is merely an illusion. Life is one big show about change, which leads us to the really bad news: we are in a constant state of transition. We are, in fact, perpetually free falling through the space in between.
As I try to swallow that horse pill, I’m left wondering how I might better manage change. Turning to my practice for support, I find that, for me, it all boils down to faith. I’m not necessarily talking about faith in God, although I think a belief in something higher than yourself lies at the heart of faith. I’m talking about faith in the process. I’m talking about faith in Life—that it has your back. Don’t get me wrong – I can sit here and type the word “faith,” but in my own life, I struggle to sit tight and trust that, no matter what happens, I’m going to be ok.
Faith asks us to trust that we are exactly where we need to be. This is neither easy nor obvious. We’re hardwired to ground ourselves in certainty; free falling is not how we roll. I stumble on faith only after my search for dry land has failed, leaving me desperate and exhausted. In those dark moments, faith feels like holding hands with a good friend—those people in our lives who love us so much that they’re willing to tolerate the intolerable with us. They hold the space for us to flail and cry. If we were to look at ourselves through the eyes of faith, we would see so clearly that we’re going to be ok.
Cultivating tolerance for the discomfort of transition allows us to harness the power of transformation. If we can relax into the frustration and the fear, our inner MacGyver emerges, because feeling stuck is exactly what teaches us how to get ourselves un-stuck. I see this clearly on my mat. I may spend years staring down a pose, completely dumbfounded, until one day the answer appears. Faith gives me the space and courage to be curious. Faith is my surgical nurse, handing me paper clips and duck tape so I can fashion my own parachute.
Whether I like it or not, my practice has opened my eyes to the process of transition. I find myself acutely aware of all the moments that make up that awkward and painful space in between where I’ve been and where I’m going. Sure, there are days when I bury my head in the sand and pray for the end, but with faith by my side, I can relax into what feels like a deep truth: right smack in between who I was and who I’m going to be is exactly who I am.
I will leave you with an excerpt from Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet, which always inspires me to have faith in the unknown.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”