Transition Time… Again

It seems everywhere I turned this week, someone was announcing the arrival of Transition. On Friday we passed the autumnal Equinox when the sun appears to cross the equator from north to south heralding the first day of fall. Even in Texas, recent days have brought a palpable change in the temperature and the quality of light. At these times of seasonal transition, the buzz is that we are experiencing a moment of shift, a time-sensitive opportunity to let go and to prepare for the next season of our life – out with the old and in with the new.

I’m the Transition poster child, here in my new hometown with my new nephew, building a new house and a new private practice – I’m even physically in transit as I type this, writing from 30,000 feet in the air. And in truth, it seems everyone I know is in the midst of some fairly large transitional turbulence – a new marriage, a new job, a major remodel, a father’s death, an imminent relocation. Either I’m hanging out with a self-selecting crowd of transitioners, or there is a larger trend at work here. Being in transition seems to be the new black.

The implication of all this transition talk is that it’s somehow contained: we’re passing through a discreet blip on the calendar, an unsettled moment sandwiched between some larger, more serene moments. Pretty soon, we’ll get through it and be on the other side. We’ll be in the MIDDLE of autumn, in the full swing of the school year, firmly established in the second year of home-ownership. Things are gonna settle down. Any minute now.

What struck me today is that this sense of turbulence isn’t remotely unique to this spot on the calendar. The transitions just keep coming. There isn’t a period up ahead when life promises to stop delivering tectonic shifts. While I have caught myself blaming this condition on our modern lifestyle (“…we’re so addicted to speed and excess information and multitasking and hasty decisions prompted by marketing campaigns, no one makes time for stillness any more…”), in reality, it’s a fact of the human experience, just part of the package. The ancient Buddhist teachings on impermanence underline the ever-present nature of change. The only constant really IS change, and that was true even back when Heraclitus first said it in the 5th century B.C.

As common as it is, that doesn’t diminish how uncomfortable it feels (to most of us) to be in transition for long. According to Ayurveda, as I wrote in my last post, transitions (even “good” ones) aggravate vata dosha, which can lead to a variety of discomforts like stress headaches, constipation, joint pain, indigestion, feeling off-center, ungrounded or outright panic-stricken. Teaching us how to pacify vata is one of the great gifts of Ayurveda as a health system, helping us to tolerate the turbulence of life’s passage with greater ease.

As I prepared to get on this plane (one of the most vata aggravating activities out there), I reminded myself what would help me feel grounded and comfy in my skin in the days ahead:

  • Stick to my routines – to the extent possible, get up at the same time, eat at the same time, do my morning routine as usual.
  • Eat vata-pacifying foods – warm, moist, soft comfort food. (Soup and oatmeal are good bets to seek out in the slim pickings of an airport.)
  • Ask myself regularly, “Am I thirsty?” and then drink something, preferably something warm. At the very least, avoid ice.
  • Stay warm. Keep a scarf in the car. Cover my head, and ears in particular, when it’s windy out.
  • For God’s sake, don’t stop abhyanga (applying oil to the skin before showering) – this is an easy one to let drop by the wayside while traveling or feeling time-deprived, and all the more potent at those times.
  • Create some mental stillness. People-watch instead of trying to accomplish something during my connection. Close my eyes and breathe. Look out the window and daydream.
  • Think of something I’m grateful for, and then tell the responsible people. Dwelling in gratitude is the best anti-anxiety medicine there is.

So, welcome to autumn, my friends. Welcome to this time of transition – and to the one that’s coming right after it. Plato’s surprisingly timely words of advice remind us that humanity has been engaged in this turbulence all along:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

11 Replies to “Transition Time… Again”

  1. October 9 now, several more Transitions da*n sure snuck under the radar and BLASTED through since you first posted this meditation, didn’t they. Oh precious, prescient you. Lucky you anticipated the newest waves coming, got yourself [and us] armed and ready, it sure looks like you’re being stretched from all your loving angles. I love you, wishing you deep CONSECUTIVE nights of salutary sleep [“sleep..that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care…sore labor’s bath….balm of hurt minds…chief nourisher in life’s feast”]. Lacking sleep, Tylenol PM!!

      1. “And the beat goes on…. (where is that quote from???)”

        You mean where is “the beat goes on” quotation from? haha, I can only offer Sonny & Cher on that one. The other quotation from my comment? I told Pam you’d recognize this one of PJ’s many oft-quoted-dinnertable-Shakespearian rants, does it ring a memory bell, or maybe you were down below the table with Ian during that one, tying people together by their shoelaces. Act 2, Scene 2 Macbeth.

  2. A motorcycle is more stable when slightly accelerating around a curve or over rough terrain. Similarly, we humans have a better chance of successfully traversing the turbulence of transitions if we have momentum as we approach the challenging times you mentioned. All of our spiritual practices build this momentum. It is well known in medicine that the state of our health at the time a pathogen enters our body significantly influences whether get sick or not. Similarly, the state of our consciousness at the time we encounter a challenging transition will determine if we react or respond to the situation. Developing the ability to respond rather than react is a sign, measure, and fruit of our yoga practice.

    1. Ah Dana, so well said! I love this idea of building momentum through our practice, and that this momentum directly affects our experience of the inevitable turbulence itself. The turbulence is just as real, just as earth-shaking, but our ability to remain upright and moving forward is enhanced through the momentum we have built up. Yes. Thank you for this image. Peace and light to you…

  3. “humanity has been engaged in this turbulence all along”

    I LOVE that you inserted Koruna’s photo just above this quotation, caption-like. Your narrative pacing skills delight. LOOK at the transition “turbulence” she’s come through, her legs allllll torn up, scabs and scratches down to her feet, triumphant at the threshold, her expression: I’m Bloodied and Scarred and Ready For More. My two nieces, my inspirations. All my love….

    1. Claudia, I recently had two different people (regarding two different situations) repeat some of your teaching on how to navigate turbulence – I’ll paraphrase (my interpretation of their intertpretation!): “When the proper response to a situation or a pending decision is not clear, I try not to move at all and wait until clarity arises – I don’t act until then. You would think that in the decade I’ve been trying to live by this strategy that I would have encountered one time that this hasn’t served me, but I haven’t.” These words have been serving me well now, too, in recent days. If it’s not clear, sit down and wait. Much love….

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