Have you ever found yourself in transition?
Let’s break this down: How you ever found yourself in a transition that you chose? Have you ever found yourself in a transition that you didn’t choose?
Those can feel a lot harder, can’t they? Transitions we choose can sometimes feel exciting, empowering, refreshing. But if we didn’t choose it, it can feel like the rug got pulled out from under us. Those can also be the best spiritual lessons ever!
Chris Chenoweth, who has spoken here in the past and was the minister at Unity Village Chapel for years, called these kind of lessons “Blessons” because they were both blessings and lessons all in one topsy-turvy package.
I recently moved from an apartment to a house with my son, and it’s been a whole bunch of blessons left and right and it’s been a great time!
While I was packing, I somehow managed to pack all of my coffee filters two weeks before my move, or at least I thought I did. And let me tell you why this is a big deal. I’m the person who sets up the coffee the night before so all I have to do in the morning is push a button because when I mess around with ground coffee before my coffee, I end up making a mess all over the place. That’s the kind of morning person I am. I’m cheery and pleasant, just don’t ask me to make any major life decisions before at least half a cup of coffee.
I was packing and taping boxes together with a tape gun. You know those large tape dispensers that get the job done fast? I’m taping up boxes and somehow I pick up this tape dispenser by the sharp edge and poke a couple holes in my finger. So now I’m bleeding everywhere, and do you know what else I packed?
No, I hadn’t packed my Band-Aids because I hadn’t gotten to the bathroom yet. The things I barely use, like Band-aids, were right where I needed them in the moment; while the things I use every day, like coffee filters, were packed in a taped-up box somewhere. So, lucky me, right? The Universe was watching out for me that day, right?
Yes, so I bandage up my finger, not because it was a bad wound, but because I didn’t want to bleed all over everything as I was boxing things up. So I bandage my finger and I’m finishing boxing up the kitchen, and guess what I found? More coffee filters. Doh!
So why am I telling you all of this silly stuff? Because things can be topsy turvy in times of transitions! That’s part of the fun!
St. Francis advised his followers to“wear the world like a loose garment,” What he meant was that in order to be free, you need to be in the world without being attached to how it hangs on you.
Transitions, times of change, are those times when we are pushed to hang more loosely, loosen our grip on what we thought was solid ground, because there is no permanent solid ground in life! Things are always changing, and if one thing in your life isn’t changing now, just stick around–it will!
Wear the world like a loose garment. Jesus demonstrated being in the world but not of the world. That’s not so hard when it’s a simple move and we’re talking about coffee filters, but what about losing a job, or a loved one, or a minister, or a house in a hurricane?
I learned from my meditation teacher, Jane Elizabeth Hart, to manage change with grace and wisdom. She taught me about her “Seven Steps” process soon after I first met her 25 years ago, right before I got married because it was a big life transition, and the whole title of the original Seven Step process is “Seven Steps for Moving through Life Transitions.” That’s exactly what it’s for!
It came to her in a vision when her mom passed. She was grieving and didn’t know what to do. She saw these Seven Steps and the different facets of a grieving process: Gratitude, Good Times, Hopes and Dreams, Disappointments and Difficulties, Forgiveness, Release, and Completion. She knew she had to work those steps, too, so she journaled them and was able to move forward after losing that outer connection with her mother.
Over the many years or working with this process, for changes big and seemingly little, I learned that embracing any change is part of life, and it is possible to flow with it, even when you puncture yourself with a tape gun!
In my therapy practice, I share the “Seven Steps” all the time because it’s a great tool for working through all the emotions and confusion that come up during times of change. Doing this work does, indeed, make the crooked road straight! So I share it with everyone I possibly can, as often as I can!
Whenever we have something in our life that we have invested time and energy into, it becomes part of who we are; be it a relationship, a home, a car, a job, anything! When something becomes part of our identity, it’s a garment that we’re wearing. When it’s time to change, we need to take it off the old garment, appreciate all its aspects, then let it go, so we’re ready to put on the new and improved garment of the next scene in our play.
Anytime I’ve ever moved, I’ve taken the place I was moving from up those “Seven Steps” in order to release the attachment and emotion from the current situation so that I’m walking into my new circumstances as clear and open as I possibly can. Before I started packing my coffee filters prematurely, I took my condo up the “Seven Steps” to let it go and move forward.
Our road is clearer when we aren’t taking our emotions, positive and negative, into our new situation. But we have to do our part on that.
I don’t always quote the Bible in talks—I usually leave that to the professionals—but when I do, it’s because a quote or a story has stood out to me and meant something significant to me over the years.
One story that I both love and resist (and you’ll find out why shortly), is Jesus’ parable about the ten virgins:
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (NIV)
1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Why do I resist that? Because it’s a great story about being prepared for the next step that’s coming, and that means work on my part, and I’m human, so I resist that! Isn’t there enough work to be done during a transition? Why would I put myself through more work?
Because, like the women in this parable, we have to be prepared for our next step. If we’re not clearing the way for that step to happen as seamlessly as possible, we could end up missing something very important—like making our transition much easier on ourselves!
What’s one thing we can be fairly certain of in times of transition? Uncertainty! We’re moving from one thing to the next, and we have only an imaginary idea of what’s coming, based on the little information that we have.
In times of transition there is so much going on already, why would we want our emotional baggage to interfere and put a hindrance there that isn’t necessary? Why do that to ourselves instead of doing what I call the “front-end maintenance” of the spiritual/emotional/mental work of releasing the old and preparing for the new?
Right now, think of a life transition that may be coming in the future, maybe a making job change, getting a new car, moving to a new home, perhaps someone in your life is preparing for a life transition that will take them out of your life somehow. What in your life needs releasing? What garment needs to be worn more loosely, or replaced altogether?
Use the “Seven Steps” or some other conscious, thorough release process to let it go so that you can walk forward free and clear. Then when you prematurely pack your coffee filters, it’s no big deal! You can adjust and keep moving forward!
Note: This is not a verbatim transcription of the talk. In preparing for a talk, one often prepares far more than needed, and remembers far less than desired. At least, that’s true for me. So this “article” is based on my rough notes before the talk, which is not exactly how the talk went. But, I’m a busy professional, so this is the least time-intensive thing I could post with the video. I hope you enjoy it!
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