Mind the Gap


Once upon a time, I had this moment of bravery, and I joined my friend up on my roof to assess its need for replacement.

It seemed like the responsible, adult thing to do, though I do admit I was trying to impress him (as I kinda liked him) even though heights terrified me.

Getting up was not so bad. Kinda cool, actually.

The embarrassing challenge was getting back down. The ladder was only inches away from the rooftop,  but it may as well have been a mile, as I sat there reliving a 7-year-old moment where I once followed a boy to the top of a canoe rack. (Will I never learn?)

I cried for who knows how long until some annoyed adult finally rescued me.

My friend, thankfully, understood my fear. He knew from experience the body's instinctive reluctance to leave the stability of the rooftop, shifting one's entire body weight over to the far lesser stability of the top of a ladder. He tried to make it easier for me by reaching to brace my arm or leg or something, but I think I just snapped at him, "DON'T TOUCH ME!!!" (Sorry, B. Thank you for still liking and respecting me.. :)

Point is, navigating transitions can be dicey.

In some cultures, standing at a crossroads (especially at midnight) guarantees a sure rendezvous with the devil. Certain times of the year are believed to be portals between the spiritual and physical worlds, as the veil between them grows thin.

Times of transition - whether internal or external, brought on by choice, or otherwise - represent the falling away of the habitual and the familiar. What we've come to count on as true, as a foregone conclusion... what we've aligned our center with ... is now up for question.

During transitions, anything is possible. And sometimes that's the problem.

When stepping off one set of ground rules before planting on another, there's a period of, well, groundlessness. And if our center is now without a 'ground' to align with, we may feel the panic of uncertainty. The fear of misstepping. Falling through the cracks. Losing our way. Never making it to the other side.

Not to mention, not knowing what we may find once we get there.

An eastern view....

We in the Northern Hemisphere are currently in the season known to Chinese Medicine's Five Element Theory as "Late Summer". But this 'fifth season' is also considered to be the transition time between the other four. It's associated with the Earth element - the Center, and therefore stability - and yet, these periods can be felt as anything but stable.

It's hard to know how to plan, how to dress, but also the body is undergoing an acclimation process. Like in nature, the direction of our internal energy is shifting - either going deeper within as it gets colder, or pushing outward with a rush of 'spring cleaning' as it warms up.
These changes can have the effect of making us lethargic, cranky, snappy, dizzy, headachey, too cold, too hot, more susceptible to colds and flu until our centers have recalibrated with the climate.*

Other examples of transitions we are likely to encounter:

  ~ Moving to a new home, changing jobs, changing relationships
  ~ Change of leadership in a group or community
  ~ Changes of our role within a family or workplace (kids leaving home, etc)
  ~ Loss of an influential person in our lives
  ~ Hormonal changes (big ones, like menopause, but even monthly menstrual cycles....)

The changes don't have to be 'negative'. Even welcome transitions - like a promotion, or retirement - come with a whole new set of parameters and routines to learn.

Some of us handle transitions more smoothly than others, or certain situations better. But navigating change is part of our development from the moment we are born.

In his book, "Magical Child", Joseph Chilton Pearce describes the overlapping of transitional stages, referring to a 'matrix' - the set of experiences that are known to us at any given point in our development as infants.

While some transitions could be considered traumatic on their respective scale, we are hard-wired to expect, not only change, but a certain degree of familiarity as we overlap experience between the former stage or matrix, to the one we are moving into. This is nature's way of easing the transition.

For example, suddenly going from the warm, dark, watery womb to the shockingly bright, noisy air of the world could be overwhelming and highly stressful.

But, ideally, the mother's warm enveloping arms give enough remembrance and consistency of the former matrix to soften the transition, thereby keeping the change within the infant's capability to integrate the new experience without trauma.

I believe this is what the Five Element theory is suggesting by associating Earth with times of seasonal transition, as what we instinctively reach for are familiar comforts when we are moving into unfamiliar territory.

Imagine moving to a new home - or even traveling to a far away place.

In preparing to leave our familiar environment behind, we have to discern what to pack for the interim that will serve our daily needs and what will allow us to feel the most secure ... the familiarity of the previous matrix.

Sometimes, we don't know what the next step is ... only that where we've been parking is no longer supportive or valid, and it's time to move on.

A precarious place to be, yes?

The beauty of times like this, is that we have the opportunity to really hone on in what matters most to us, what we need to feel centered and secure, what things represent a connection to our Center that become portable - even as the world around us changes dramatically.

Sometimes, it's tangible stuff. Sometimes, it's internal ... a trust in our innate sense of place, or self-esteem, or confidence in our ability to feel at home anywhere.

How do transitions affect you? What do you notice? Are you able to reach for stability of some form to help you through these times?

Come. leave a comment below or on the FB page. I'd love to hear from you.

Stay tuned next time for "What to do when you can't find your feet..."
* Regarding self-care during seasonal transitions - this is recommended as a time to take those 10-14 days as the climate begins to shift to adjust your diet and activities to be in closer harmony with the oncoming season, so as to minimize the symptoms of imbalance. For a more in-depth study of this, check out my five-week ecourse, "Staying Healthy Through the Five Seasons".

** Many thanks to Steve, who randomly posted the phrase "Mind the Gap" on his facebook page. I knew the reference, though did not know his context. Forgot about it entirely, until several days later, it popped into my head during Meeting for Worship, and I thought, "What a great metaphor for making transitions!"