In Between Seasons: Navigating major life changes

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto |  Copyright: Coldimages

Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto | Copyright:Coldimages

“In between seasons.” My partner Jackson said these words the other day about the fact that we are between Winter and Spring. It’s Spring according to the calendar, but the actual weather says otherwise. Today was alarmingly cold. I wish I hadn’t been so eager to put away my winter clothes.

When I heard the words “in between seasons,” I felt something inside of me shift and settle deeper into understanding.

In the physical realm, this is literal. Some days are cold, some are warm. Some wet, some dry. Some sunny, some grey. Some trees are in full bloom, others are still sporting bare branches. Nothing is consistent nor predictable; every day is fresh with possibilities.

In my inner world, I too am in between seasons. My 30-year-old sister died eight months ago (leaving three children under 10 years old behind) and my father died a month ago, after a three-year-long cancer journey.

I feel like I am on a bridge between realities.

I am grieving and celebrating. I am remembering them and challenging myself to stay present at the same time.  

I am travelling between childhood and adulthood. I am growing into the version of myself that exists in the world without these two people who have known me forever.

Grief, itself is an in-betweenness. A starting over.

Photo by Lauren Cowart

Photo by Lauren Cowart

So what do we do on these bridges? How do we navigate significant life transitions, while keeping our spirits high and our hearts intact?

On my journey, I understanding that there is no destination helps me navigate change with a sense of openness. Life is an ongoing series of transitions. We are always in some kind of in-between space. There has never been — and there never will be — some fixed, static state of being.   Nothing in the natural world is stagnant or fixed. Everything is always transforming. The process may be slow, like a rock forming over time, or quick like rain bursting from a cloud.

No matter the pace, things are always changing.

We suffer when we resist change — when we hold onto the delusion that anything is permanent. We struggle when we cling to what was instead of accepting what is. Acceptance does not mean not having a strong emotional response to something, it means recognizing an uncomfortable situation without attempting to change it or protest it.

Here are ten practicesthat help me navigate significant life transitions:

  1. I do not rush to some unforeseen “destination.” I challenge myself to stay present in each moment, despite the discomfort it involves sometimes. I lean into these awkward middle spaces by being patient and kind with myself as I evolve.

  2. I give myself permission to move slowly. Like, really….reaaaaaaally slowly. I try not to rush. I choose the easy route whenever I can. I forgive myself for sleeping late. I give myself more ample time to complete my projects or tasks. I release all sense of urgency. Change can often send me quickly spiraling into “the future,” obsessing over “what’s going to happen” if I don’t “do something, fast!”  I interrupt negative thought patterns about productivity and worthiness and say, out loud, that’s a lie. (Thank you forever and ever, Kelley Palmer, for sharing this gem!)

  3. I spend time with people who love me and around whom I feel allowed to grieve, process and be fully present. I minimize commitments and prioritize fun. I make plans only when they directly serve my joy (like scheduling dance classes or dinner dates with friends) or wellness-experiences (massages, visits to the garden, etc.).

  4. I move around. I dance, stretch, do yoga, take walks. I get in my body. “Being in my body” means I am connected to my breath (taking full inhales and exhales and not holding tension in my gut, lungs, or shoulders).  It means being present in the moment — having all my attention directed towards my current experience, and not the past or future. This has been crucial for me during moments of transition, which can feel so full of uncertainty and anxiety.

6. I journal every day (and am kind and patient with myself when it doesn’t happen). I write three stream-of-consciousness pages first thing in the morning. I think of this practice as “transcribing the thoughts I hear in my head.” The pages are not “writing” for anyone to read it; it’s a mental sweep. It is my self-check in. It is the time I hold space for the thoughts that travel through my mind.  The act of moving my hand across the page and seeing the words appear in front of me helps me notice recurring thoughts.  I think it, I write it, I see it. I notice it, I act on it.

7. I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I could try to put this into my own words, but this excerpt from the Soka Gakkai International is so spot on — The essence of Buddhism is the conviction that we have within us at each moment the ability to overcome any problem or difficulty that we may encounter in life; a capacity to transform any suffering. Our lives possess this power because they are inseparable from the fundamental law that underlies the workings of all life and the universe. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo could be described as a vow, an expression of determination, to embrace and manifest our Buddha nature. It is a pledge to oneself to never yield to difficulties and to win over one’s suffering. At the same time, it is a vow to help others reveal this law in their own lives and achieve happiness.

Chanting is a daily reminder to myself that — as a Buddha — my wisdom, compassion, courage, and potential are unlimited, and there is no challenge I cannot transform into something valuable for myself and others.

8. I meditate. I think of meditation as “a period of time during which I am focusing on breathing.” Thoughts always appear, and my responsibility is to notice them and return my focus to the breath. When I notice that my attention has shifted from breath to thought, I gently (and without judgment) bring myself back.

9. I write and say what I am grateful for. Affirmations are defined as “positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.” I like to think of them as “loudspeaker messages to the Universe, which then get locked into my psyche on a subconscious level.” My gratitude lists help me be resilient in the face of painful and destabilizing experiences. I like to think of gratitude statements as lottery tickets for my eternal abundance. Each statement is a ticket. The more tickets I have, the more likely I am to win.

10. I do what I can to support others. When I am in an in-between moment, supporting people in my community always helps me zoom out from my own life and tap back into a sense of purpose. My purpose becomes an anchor, when I remember that I am here to fulfill a great mission to end suffering and help people become happy, I feel a great sense of calm, despite the chaos that might surround me.


~

As a Buddhist, it is my belief that in the infinite past, I made a cause to have the exact life that I am having now. Suffering, grief, heartache, illness, dying, death, rebirth, and all. ⁣⁣⁣

I chose this. I willingly accepted this karma. It is my mission to survive it and show others that joy is always possible. ⁣⁣⁣

These practices and ways of being have helped me remember that everything in my environment is conspiring with me for my growth and expansion. These practices have been used as a potent medicine in my life against all that threatens to keep me stuck to smallness and despair.  They allow me to move through the world with clarity, perspective, intention, and wonder, through the rocky seas of change.

I hope they help you do the same.

On the journey with you,
Jamila


Jamila Reddy is a writer, transformational coach and lifestyle designer on a mission to help people uncover their gifts and find true happiness. She has been featured on Greatist, TedX Black Rock City, and author alexandra elle’s hey, girl: the podcast.

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