Note: Read all the way to the end of this post to find out how to enter to win free registration to Spectrum: A holistic visual journaling workshop.
“All transitions are composed of an ending, a neutral zone and a new beginning” – William Bridges
In my last post, I talked about how the journey from Story A to Story B is almost always longer and more complex than we expect it to be. As the second diagram suggests, we must enter the labyrinth of transformation, release the old story on the journey in, sit quietly at the centre and wait patiently to receive what is there for us, and then make the return journey out of the labyrinth and into the new story that’s ready to emerge.
Several people have contacted me to say that the post resonated and that they find themselves in that in-between place. Some of them express their discomfort and want to know “what should I be doing in the in-between place?”
Here are some of my thoughts on how to live in the in-between place:
1. Let go of the mindset that you have to DO something. We are products of a culture that has convinced us that in order to have value, we must be active, we must produce things, and we must – at all costs – stay busy. I know it’s hard to break away from old patterns, but that mindset will not serve you well in this journey. New seeds do not grow on ground that is plowed every day. Nor can the land continue to be fruitful if it is not allowed to lie dormant through the winter. We need to learn a lesson from trees, release our fruit in the harvest season, release our leaves so that our trunks do not need to keep pumping sap through them and risk freezing, and simply lie dormant over the quiet season. Only then will we be ready to receive what is waiting for us at the centre. Only then can the new story begin to grow.
2. Be quiet. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3) The in-between place is not a time for a lot of noise or conversation. It’s a more introverted time – a time to sit in your own silence and wait patiently for the wisdom to come. Turn off social media, cancel the parties, and just be quiet with yourself for awhile. The deepest wisdom in our hearts can’t be heard above the noise. If you can, go away for a silent retreat for a few days, or at least find time regularly to wander in the woods or in labyrinths.
3. Find the practices that sustain you and take you to a deeper place. This may be the time to bring in a new practice – dancing, yoga, meditation, Mandala Discovery, art journaling, walking, photography, etc. Find something that helps you get in touch with yourself and release the old stories.
4. Find an incubator where the new story can begin to grow in safety. It’s hard to believe in the new story that’s emerging if everyone you know is still stuck in old stories. To nurture your new story, find places where you feel safe trusting in what is possible. Find people (online or in person) who are also inviting in new stories and be intentional about supporting each other and growing new stories together.
5. Break away from the things that keep you stuck in the old story. This may mean you have to walk away from old jobs and unhealthy relationships. It may mean giving up some of your volunteer commitments that keep you too busy to walk the labyrinth. Be courageous in seeking what you know you need to get through this. Practice saying “no, this is not what I need right now”.
6. Be as honest as you need to be with the people around you. Be clear about your needs. You may need to tell your life partner “I need to be by myself for awhile. This is not about you – it’s about what I need for this transition I’m going through. I would appreciate your support.” It may mean you’ll need to tell your Mom “This is what is now true for me. It might make you uncomfortable, and it might not be true for you, but I’m asking you to respect my journey anyway.”
7. Allow yourself to grieve and to hospice the old story into its death. You’re letting go of something important. It’s a story that has sustained you for a long time. Don’t take that lightly. Allow yourself to properly grieve its loss. Don’t rush through the sadness or any of the other emotions that show up. Offer respect and gratitude to the old story for the role it played in your life. Give yourself permission to really feel this pain.
8. Be patient. The most difficult thing about this in-between place is that it doesn’t end as quickly as we want it to. Old stories need time to die. New stories need time to germinate. You won’t serve either story well if you rush from one to the next. You won’t serve yourself well if you don’t take the time that’s needed in between.
9. Remember that your journey is your own. No two journeys through this will look the same, so you’ll need to trust your own wisdom to get you through. You can seek advice from other people, read books about it, or take classes, but at the end of the day, nobody can know exactly what you need except for you. Trust that. Learn to listen for the voice of intuition.
10. Lean on a Higher Power. You’re not walking through this alone. God/dess wants to walk the journey with you, supporting you and holding you up when you get weary. Practice doing the things that help you get in touch with the God of your understanding – pray, meditate, be in nature, go to the synagogue, etc. Trust that something bigger than you wants this new story to emerge just like you do.
What’s your experience of the in-between place? Do you have any other points you’d like to add or any questions you’d like to ask? Add a comment to this post for your chance to win free registration to Spectrum: A holistic visual journaling workshop (where I’ll be teaching a workshop related to this post, on an art journal process inspired by labyrinths). Contest closes Friday, February 28 at 8:00 p.m. central.
Also, don’t forget that you have until Saturday morning to register for Mandala Discovery.
Note: All links to Spectrum are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a portion of the registration fees if you register through these links.