On creating spaciousness and honouring the neutral zone

“Treating ourselves like appliances that can be unplugged and plugged in again at will or cars that stop and start with the twist of a key, we have forgotten the importance of fallow time and winter and rests in music. We have abandoned a whole system of dealing with the neutral zone through ritual, and we have tried to deal with personal change as though it were a matter of some kind of readjustment.” – William Bridges

One of the women in my women’s circle shared recently that she has a hard time explaining to her husband where she goes every Thursday. “He just doesn’t get it,” she said. “He keeps asking ‘But… what do you do there? What’s the purpose?’ He can’t understand why we’d want to sit in a circle and share stories of our lives when we’re not accomplishing anything or learning anything.”

This is a common story in my work. “But what will we do?” people ask when I talk about my retreats, workshops, or even coaching sessions. I talk about making mandalas, walking labyrinths, and sitting in conversation circles, but that’s often not enough for people who believe life is only valuable when we’re doing/accomplishing/fixing/building/growing/learning something.

We have created a culture in which busy = important, accomplishment = valuable, and idleness = wasting time. Even when we go away for retreat or sit in circle, we think we have to be able to name what we accomplished in our time away. If we don’t have a checklist of “things we got done” then the time wasn’t valuably invested. To say we simply wandered in the woods for a few days is the equivalent of admitting we’re lazy and unproductive and that we can’t be trusted to contribute to society.

We fear laziness, we chafe at lack of productivity, and we hide in shame when we take too long to “get over things”.

We have become a society that has lost the capacity for spaciousness in our transitions.

Take grief, for example. We think if we can name the “five stages of grief”, then we’ll be able to clean up the process, hide the messiness, and get through it faster.

Birth is the same. In many cultures, a mother is expected to return to “productive” work only weeks after the biggest life-changing event she’s ever gone through.

And those are the “big” ones. When it comes to “smaller” transitions (changing careers, ending relationships, having a car accident, etc.), we’re hardly even given permission to talk about them, let alone experience the full weight of them in our lives. There are more important things to do than to sit around in sharing circles talking about the hard things life has thrown our way.

In one of the best books I’ve read on the subject, Transitions, William Bridges calls the space between the ending of one phase of our lives and the beginning of another “the neutral zone”. Some time around the industrial revolution, we lost touch with the neutral zone.

“In other times and places the person in transition left the village and went out into an unfamiliar stretch of forest or desert. There the person would remain for a time, removed from the old connections, bereft of the old identities, and stripped of the old reality. This was a time ‘between dreams’ in which the old chaos from the beginnings welled up and obliterated all forms. It was a place without a name – an empty space in the world and the lifetime within which a new sense of self could gestate.”

Again and again in my coaching work, I find myself in conversation with people who fear the neutral zone. When we begin the conversation, they talk about some big change they feel they need to make in their lives and they express frustration about their lack of ability to get there quickly and easily. “What’s wrong with me?” they almost always say. “I know that it’s time for change, but I can’t seem to find clarity or drive to get me to the next stage of my life. I feel like I’m stuck in quicksand.” Again and again they beat themselves up for not living up to some arbitrary expectation they’ve placed on themselves or they feel others are placing on them.

Somewhere in the middle of the first conversation, I nudge them to give themselves permission to “just be lost” for awhile. Usually, there s some resistance to this. Lostness is not something they’ve ever been taught to value. Lostness = unworthiness.

By the second or third conversation, most have spoken aloud their desire for more spaciousness. “I just feel like making art for awhile” or “I just need to learn to give myself permission to feel this grief deeply” or “I’m going to take a few months just to ‘be’ and not ‘do’.”

It’s remarkably hard to get to that place of spaciousness and acceptance. Sometimes it’s even hard for me, as a coach, to invite them into that place. The voices in my head often remind me “They’re paying you good money for this – shouldn’t you help them accomplish something? Shouldn’t you do something more valuable than give them permission to just be for awhile?”

That moment of doubt always passes though, when I remember how crucial it is for us to transition well and to honour the neutral zone before we step into the new beginning. If I give my clients nothing else but the permission to honour their own timing in their transitions, then I have done well.

What we don’t realize, when we rush through the neutral zone, is that we’re short-circuiting real growth. If we deny ourselves of the fallow time, the winter season when seeds lie dormant underground, then our growth will be stunted and unhealthy, and, more often than not, the emotions we denied ourselves will emerge in less healthy ways later in our lives.

We need the neutral zone and we need to honour and give space for it in others as well.

A bamboo plant spends three or four years growing a good root system before anything emerges above the ground. In the same way, we need to invest in our rootedness before the growth will be obvious to anyone else. We need to create the space and time to “just be” before we are ready to “do”.

Learn to create spaciousness in your life by giving yourself permission to wander in the woods, to make messy art, to stare into space, to sit in long conversations with friends, to feel emotions deeply, to savour good food, to say no to some of your commitments, or to go on a pilgrimage or vision quest.

This is not time “wasted”, it’s time well invested in your own growth and well-being.

Interested in more articles like this? Add your name to my email list and you’ll receive a free ebook, A Path to Connection. I send out weekly newsletters and updates on my work.



A personal post about becoming a change-maker

wise inner work

“The success of our actions as change-makers does not depend on what we do or how we do it, but on the inner place from which we operate.” – Otto Sharmer

maclean-sLast week, the city that I love and call home was named “the most racist city in Canada.” That hurt. It felt like someone had insulted my family.

The article mentions many heartbreaking stories of the way that Indigenous people have been treated in our city, and while I wanted to say “but… we’re so NICE here! Really! You have to see the other side too!” I knew that there was undeniable truth I had to face and own. My family isn’t always nice. Neither is my city.

Though I work hard not to be racist, have many Indigenous friends in my circles, and am married to a Metis man, I knew that my response to the article needed to not only be a closer look at my city but a closer look at myself. I may not be overtly racist, but are there ways that I have been complicit in allowing this disease to grow around me? Are there things that I have left unsaid that have given people permission for their racism? Are there ways in which my white privilege has made me blind?

vigilEver since the summer, when I attended the vigil for Tina Fontaine, a young Indigenous woman whose body was found in the river, I have been feeling some restlessness around this issue. I knew that I was being nudged into some work that would help in the healing of my city and my country, but I didn’t know what that work was. I started by carrying my sadness over the murdered and missing Indigenous women into the Black Hills when I invited women on a lament journey.

This week, after the Macleans article came out, our mayor made a courageous choice in how he responded to the article. In a press conference called shortly after the article spread across the internet, he didn’t get defensive, but instead he spoke with vulnerability about his own identity as a Metis man and about how his desire is for his children to be proud of both of the heritages they carry – their mother’s and his. He then invited several Indigenous leaders to speak.

There was something about the mayor’s address that galvanized me into action. I knew it was time for me to step forward and offer what I can. I sent an email and tweet to the mayor, thanking him for what he’d done and then offering my expertise in hosting meaningful conversations. Because I believe that we need to start healing this divide in our city and healing will begin when we sit and look into each others’ eyes and listen deeply to each others’ stories.

After that, I purchased the url letstalkaboutracism.com. I haven’t done anything with it yet, but I know that one of the things I need to do is to invite more people into a conversation around racism and how it wounds us all. I have no idea how to fix this, but I know how to hold space for difficult conversations, so that is what I intend to do. Circles have the capacity to hold deep healing work, and I will find a way to offer them where I can.

Since then, I have had moments of clarity about what needs to be done next, but far more moments of doubt and fear. At present, I am sitting with both the clarity and the doubt, trying to hold both and trying to be present for what wants to be born.

Here are some of the things that are showing up in my internal dialogue:

  • Isn’t it a little arrogant to think I have any expertise to offer in this area? There are so many more qualified people than me.
  • What if I offend the Indigenous people by offering my ideas, and become like the colonizers who think they have the answers and refuse to listen to the wisdom of the people they’re trying to help?
  • There are already many people doing healing work on this issue, and many of them are already holding Indigenous circles. I have nothing unique to contribute.
  • What if I host sharing circles and too much trauma and/or conflict shows up in the circle and I don’t know how to hold it?
  • What if this is just my ego trying to do something “important” and get attention for me rather than the cause?

And so the conversation in my head goes back and forth. And the conversations outside of my head (with other people) aren’t much different.

At the same time as this has been going on, I have been working through the first two weeks of course material for U Lab: Transforming Business, Society and Self. In one of the course videos, Otto Sharmer talks about the four levels of listening – from downloading (where we listen to confirm habitual judgements), to factual (listening by paying attention to facts and to novel or disconfirming data), to empathic (where we listen with our hearts and not just our minds), and finally to generative (where we move with the person speaking into communion and transformaton).

As soon as I read that, I knew that whatever I do to help create space for healing in my city, it has to start with a place of deep listening – generative listening, where all those in the circle can move into communion and transformation. I also knew, as I sat with that idea, that that generative listening has to begin with me.

If I am to serve in this role, I need to be prepared to move out of my comfort zone, into generative listening with people who have been wounded by racism in our city AND with people who live with racial blindspots. AND (in the words of Otto Sharmer) I need to move out of an ego-system mentality (where I am seeking my own interest first), into a generative, eco-system mentality (where I am seeking the best interest of the community and world around me).

So that is my intention, starting this week. I already have a meeting planned with an Indigenous friend who has contributed to, and wants to teach, an adult curriculum on racism, to find out how I can support her in this work. And I will be meeting with another friend, a talented Indigenous musician, about possible partnership opportunities. And I will be a sitting in an Indigenous sharing circle, listening deeply to their stories.

I am not sharing these stories to say “look at me and all of the good things I’m doing”. That would be my ego talking, and that’s one of the things I’m trying to avoid. Instead, I’m sharing it to say “look at the complexity that a thinking woman (sometimes over-thinking woman) goes through in order to become an effective, and humble, change-maker.

That brings me back to the quote at the top of the page.

“The success of our actions as change-makers does not depend on what we do or how we do it, but on the inner place from which we operate.” – Otto Sharmer

The inner place. That is what will determine the success of our actions. I can have all the smart ideas in the world, and a big network of people to help roll them out, but if I have not done the internal work first, my success will be limited.

If I don’t do the inner work first, then my ego will run rampant and I will stomp all over the people that I say I care about. Or I will suffer from jealousy, or self doubt, or self-centredness, or vindictiveness, or all of the above.

If I don’t do the internal work and ask myself important questions about what is rooted in my ego and what is generative, then I could potentially do more harm than good.

So how do I do that internal work? Here are some of the things that I do:

1. As we say in Art of Hosting work, I host myself first. In other words, I ask of myself whatever I would ask of others I might invite into circle, I look for both my shadows and my strengths, and I do the kind of self-care I would encourage my clients to do when they find themselves in the middle of big shifts.

2. I ask myself a few pointed questions to determine whether the ego is too involved. For example, when my friend came to me to share the work she wants to do, hosting circles in the curriculum she has developed, there was a little ego-voice that spoke up and said “But wait! This was supposed to be YOUR work! If you support her, you’ll have to be in the background.” The moment I heard that voice, I had to ask myself “do you truly want to make a difference around the issue of racism or do you just want to make a name for yourself?” And: “If this is successful in impacting change, but you have only a secondary role, is it still worthwhile?” It didn’t take long for me to know that I wanted to be wholeheartedly behind her work.

3. I pause. As we learn in Theory U, the pause is the most important part – it’s where the really juicy stuff happens. The pause is where we notice patterns that we were too busy to notice before. It’s where the voice of wisdom speaks through the noise. It’s where we are more able to sink into generative listening. In Theory U, we call it “presencing” – a combination of “presence” and “sensing”. There’s a quality of mindfulness in the pause that helps me notice and experience more and be awake to receive more wisdom.

4. I do the practices that help bring me to wise thought and wise action. For me, it’s journaling, art, mandala-making, nature walks, and labyrinth walks. I never make a major decision without spending intentional time in one of those practices. Almost always, something more profound and wise shows up that I wouldn’t have considered earlier.

5. I listen. The ego doesn’t want me to seek input from other people. The ego wants to be in control and not invite partners in to share the spotlight. If I want to move out of ego-system, though, I need to spend time listening for others’ stories and wisdom. This doesn’t mean I listen to EVERYONE. Instead, I use my discretion about who are the right people to seek wise council from. I listen to those who have done their own personal work, whose own egos won’t try to trap me and keep me from succeeding, and who genuinely care about the issue I’m working on.

6. I check in with myself and then move into action when I’m ready. Although the pause, the questions, and the personal practice are all very important, the movement into action is equally important. There have been far too many times when my questions and ego have trapped me in a spiral and I’ve failed to move into action. Just thinking about it won’t impact change. I need to be prepared to act, even if I still have doubt. If I fail in that action, I can always go back and re-enter the presencing stage.

This is an ongoing story and I hope to continue sharing it as it emerges. If you, too, want to become a change-maker, then I’d love to hear from you. What are the processes you go through in order to ensure your “inner place” is healthy and your listening and actions are generative? What issues are currently calling you into action?

If this resonates with you, check out The Spiral Path, which begins February 1st. Based on the three stages of the labyrinth, (release, receive, and return), it invites you to go inward to do this internal work and then to move outward to serve in the way that you are called.

Also… we’re looking for a few more change-makers to attend Engage, a one-of-a-kind retreat that will teach you more about how to do your inner work so that you can move into generative action.

Transition: The empty place between stories

“Something is shifting in my life. I feel lost. Everything I once depended on and believed in feels unstable and unreliable. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

I hear some version of this story almost every week in my coaching work. Somewhere in the middle of their lives, women (and men, though I hear fewer of those stories) go through a period of transition when their world shifts and the ground feels wobbly under their feet. They’ve left behind an old story but haven’t found themselves in the new story yet. They don’t know how to define themselves anymore and they’re not even sure they have much value.

The stories are almost always accompanied with tears and some measure of shame. They think they’re doing it wrong. They think everyone else has it figured out. They think there’s supposed to be a straight path between the old story and the new story. Or they think they were foolish and selfish for no longer being satisfied with the old story that once felt comfortable.

They’ve been fed a false narrative.

While still in high school, they were told that they’re supposed to figure out “what they want to be when they’re older” and then they’re supposed to follow a straight path to the “American dream.” They’re pretty sure that means that once they’re forty, they should have everything figured out and the question that once plagued them will have all been answered or at least have faded in importance.

But once they get to a midlife point, they realize that the questions are getting bigger and more urgent. They don’t know what to believe anymore. They don’t really know who they are. They don’t understand the meaning of their lives. They discover that motherhood, or their career, or the book they got published, or the dream they brought to fruition doesn’t satisfy them as much as they’d hoped. They’re feeling empty and lost, like a boat adrift at sea.

It’s such a common story that if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it, I could go on a very lovely vacation to the Caribbean.

The first thing I do when I hear this story is give them permission to cry and feel the grief. The second thing I do is tell them “This is where you’re supposed to be. This is a woman’s journey. You have to give yourself permission to be lost for awhile. It’s the only way you’ll find the path to your more authentic self.”

We all need to go through the empty place in order to connect with our deeper selves.

Every woman I know who has found her way into a deepened wisdom and a deeper sense of calling has gone through the empty place between stories. They’ve all found themselves adrift at sea somewhere in the middle of their lives, where they had to let go of old paradigms, old belief systems, and old ways of defining themselves. It was only when they let go of the resistance and the need to “be productive” and “be successful” that they were able to sink into the deep stillness of the empty place between stories.

transformation diagram

Nobody wants the complexity of real transformation.

The mess and the grief of letting go of the old story is scary and uncomfortable. We want the simple solution that many of the self-help books are selling us. We want ten easy bullet points.

But real transformation is more like the labyrinth. Real transformation invites us to step off the path into a complex, labyrinthine journey.

“Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage – ‘a transformative journey to a sacred centre’ full of hardships, darkness, and peril.” – Parker Palmer, Let your Life Speak

The labyrinth teaches us much about the journey through transition.

When we enter the labyrinth, we are invited to release. We let go of Story A. We let go of our expectations, our “American dream”, our comfort level.

Once we reach the centre, we are ready to receive. But our cups can only be filled up again if we reach that place empty and open. We’ve emptied ourselves of the old story so that the new story can begin to grow. At the centre, we receive guidance from Spirit, we receive grace, and we receive the strength we need to continue the journey.

When we are ready, we return. But we don’t go back to Story A. We return with the new story that has begun to grow at the centre. We return with a deeper connection to our authentic selves. We return ready to step into Story B.

What’s surprising, though, and always somewhat unsettling, is that Story B bears little resemblance to Story A. Story A fit into a much cleaner box. Story B has a lot of loose ends and a permeable border. Story A was black and white. Story B has a lot of complex shades of grey.

We are invited into a place of non-duality.

As Richard Rohr says in Falling Upward, the story for the second half of life is one of non-duality. When we are in a story of duality (the first half of our lives), we see the word in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.

Rohr describes non-dual thinking as “our ability to read reality in a way that is not judgmental, in a way that is not exclusionary of the part that we don’t understand. When you don’t split everything up according to what you like and what you don’t like, you leave the moment open, you let it be what it is in itself, and you let it speak to you. Reality is not totally one, but it is not totally two, either! Stay with that necessary dilemma, and it can make you wise.”

Many people resist the invitation into Story B. They want to stay in a place where the world feels secure and safe. They hang onto a black and white world and they judge those who introduce them to shades of grey. Those people often become the fundamentalists who fight with all their might to resist change. They close themselves off in a box of self-preservation rather than step into a place of ambiguity.

But there is little value in hanging onto Story A when the new story wants to emerge. Your comfort will soon turn to bitterness, your safe home will become your prison.

Our world wants us to move, individually and collectively, into Story B.

new storyThere are many thought leaders who believe that our world is in that empty place – the place of chaos – between Story A and Story B.

Yesterday, I participated in the first session of ULab, hosted by Otto Scharmer of MIT and Presencing Institute. On this MOOC (massive open online course) there are 25,000 people who are connecting to talk about the transformation of business, society, and self. We’re learning what it means to be in that “place of disruption” between stories. While on the webinar, thousands of us were tweeting from all over the world about what is ending and what is emerging. There’s a general consensus that the world can’t continue to function unless we step into a new story, a new way of connecting with ourselves, each other, and the world. But before getting to that new story, we have to let ourselves be lost for awhile.

In The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, Charles Eisenstein talks about The Story of Separation that the world has been living in. That’s a story that keeps us locked in a financial economy that demands growth and the pillaging of the earth for the resources that feed that growth. It’s a story that has us living as separate, self-sufficient individuals instead of in community. It’s a story that requires a greater and greater investment in military actions that help us protect our resources and our self-sufficiency.

The new story that the world is longing for is a Story of Connection.

It’s a story that brings us back to a healthy relationship with each other and the earth. It’s a story of trust and compassion, community and spirituality.

As the diagram above shows, we won’t get to the Story of Connection until we are ready to release the Story of Separation, step into the centre of the labyrinth, and receive the new thing that wants to be born in each of us.

If you find yourself in that empty place between stories, know this – you are not alone. You are living a story that is playing itself out all over the world.

We are all trying to find our way into the new story. Some of us are desperately hanging onto the old story, some of us are ready to hospice the old story into its death, and some of us are ready to midwife the new story into its birth.

In the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, there are a few cells, called imaginal cells, that hold the dream of the butterfly alive while all of the other cells see only the end of the world that was once their caterpillar life. Those imaginal cells lead the transformation into the new, more beautiful thing that is meant to emerge.

In my work, I am blessed to be in connection with many imaginal cells – people who sense the end of Story A has come and who believe that there is something new and better emerging. Perhaps you are one such cell.

Perhaps you have been invited into the difficult stage of transformation so that you can serve as a model for others coming after you.

I invite you to consider that whatever you are going through right now, you are going through something that is helping you emerge into the more beautiful world. And your transformation is part of the transformation of the world around you.

Step into the labyrinth. Let yourself be changed.

Need some support on this journey through transformation? Registration is now open for The Spiral Path: A Woman’s Journey to Herself. In this 21 lesson course, you’ll be guided through the three stages of the labyrinth journey.

 

Daring to stand in the trembling

dare to stand in the tremblingA dozen years ago, I taught my first class on creativity and spirituality. A small circle of women gathered each week to give themselves permission to play, to explore creativity as a spiritual practice, and to exhale deeply.

Each week, with our hands in clay or paint, we cracked open the vulnerable places in our hearts that held the shame of our unworthiness, the fear of our failure, and the resistance to allowing ourselves to do that which brought delight.

Almost every week, I found myself in the middle of “the trembling”. I’d spent most of my life ignoring my body, so I didn’t recognize at the time that it was sending me powerful messages. As I’d host the women’s stories of heartbreak, fear, shame, and triumph, my whole body would begin to tremble, like it was shivering from cold. I’d have to clench my jaw sometimes, or hold my hands under the table, afraid my shaking might be seen.

At first, I chalked it up to nervousness. This was brand new work – work I’d been longing to do for years – and I didn’t know if I would succeed.

But it wasn’t nervousness (or at least it wasn’t only nervousness). I’d done much scarier things in my career (like hosting press conferences for Prime Ministers) and none of those scary things had caused the shakes like that.

In the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the trembling came in those moments when I was in flow… “completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

This was so much more than nervousness. This was the message my body was sending me that I was in my right work.

That class led to other classes, to other circles, to other soulful conversations, to other art-making, and to other work that made my body vibrate. It was the beginning that eventually lead to everything I do now.

The trembling showed up again and again, while working with coaching clients who dare to crack their hearts open, while hosting women’s retreats where tears reveal the most honest truths of the heart, while inviting corporate clients to risk exposing themselves in meaningful conversations, and while writing blog posts that come from a deeper place of knowing than anything I’ve tapped into before. The trembling tells me I am on the right path, doing the right work, talking to the right people.

When I hosted the first call for the Idea Incubator, I invited people to share where in their lives they are feeling the trembling. As they shared what was cracking their hearts open, I felt my own trembling begin again. This is my work. These people with open hearts and brave dreams are my people. I stand here, trembling with them.

What if, the first time it showed up, I’d simply interpreted the trembling as fear and learned to shy away from it in the future? What if I’d never taught another class because I was too embarrassed to be seen with shaking hands? What if I’d been careful to stay in work that never made me tremble?

What if YOU ignore the trembling? What if you take the safe road? What if you never dare to let yourself be scared? What will you miss?

The trembling is our messenger. It’s trying to get our attention. It’s trying to wake us up and point us in the direction of our hearts’ longing.

Don’t ignore the trembling.

How to live in the in-between place

on cracked groundNote: 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.

transformation diagramSeveral 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.

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