Earlier this week the March equinox took place – where day and night were held perfectly in balance, heralding the passing of winter and the arrival of spring, my favourite season. A time of renewal, of awakening, of expansive creative energy.
However the weather has felt far from springlike. Mother Nature’s seasonal transition seems somewhat hesitant, reluctant as though she were unsure of herself. A warm dry sunny February seemed to imply that spring had chosen to arrive early, a welcome but perhaps slightly disturbing sign of things being out of kilter. But the return of squally winds, rain and even snow sent us scuttling back into wintry days to huddle indoors again wondering why the Sun had abandoned us once more. And as I write this piece the day is gloomy, redolent with the threat of rain and the winds have returned to buffet the rooftops and the birds up above. Spring has decided to take a step back for now. Transitions it seems seldom flow smoothly even natural ones.
The Process of Change
Where there is change of any kind there is also a transitional space. Even if the external change occurs in a single point of time, the process of transition wraps itself around this moment, enveloping it into a challenging period that invites us to let go of what is and of what has been and instead move towards a new unchartered territory. A place full of uncertainty, where we allow time for things to settle to organically before stepping into a new beginning.
Take for example the process of moving house. Commonly understood to be one of the most stressful experiences we choose to put ourselves through, before the move has even started, we can feel like we have entered a land of limbo. We begin to mentally distance ourselves from this place we have called home, where we have felt safe and created memories, knowing that we have to let go and leave this behind us. We may feel sadness, even grief at this prospect and so instead we throw ourselves into an imagined future about the new property we are moving into. But even then we can alternate between anticipatory excitement and fearful panic, wondering if we have made the right decision to uproot ourselves.
Upon arriving into the new dwelling, there is unfamiliarity, a falling away of systems, a sense of insecurity. This doesn’t feel like home at all. We don’t feel grounded or rooted. We lose our routine, the systems that we have put into place that provide reassurance and help us carve a sense of order to our lives. Instead, chaos dances through our days potentially wreaking havoc and leaving us feeling unsettled especially if we have also moved town, city or country.
I think that this is why most of us are resistant to change. Not primarily because of the change itself but because of the transition involved in making it. This explains why we may sometimes take years to commit to a decision involving change – leaving a job we no longer enjoy, ending a relationship that has become toxic. These decisions can involve many false starts, moments of hesitancy and fear, moments of excitement and joy. In short, a transitional space requires us to sit with the not knowing. To live in the land of uncertainty where we are asked to relinquish control and have faith. By and large we are not very accomplished at this.
The power of ritual
So what can we do to support ourselves in this transitional space? What can help to ground us when the world around us feels strange and unfamiliar? I think there are two things that can make a difference. Firstly this is where the importance of daily ritual comes into play. Unlike our ancestors, today we tend to only turn to ritual in times of major life events – births, weddings, funerals. But small daily rituals that are personal and meaningful to us help lessen our anxieties, help us remain centred and be at peace with the surrounding chaos. These rituals can even be built into a daily routine. But the difference is that they hold symbolism and meaning for us and are attended to with presence.
Whether it is the detail of making a morning cup of tea, of lighting a candle as dusk approaches, of sitting in daily meditation or cultivating a regular Yoga practice, a ritual allows us to connect with the sacred energy within, helps us to weather the storms of transition, to hold fast and cultivate patience and strength.
The second is a reframing of the ‘limbo land’. Because when everything is uncertain, it is also open to the power of creativity. To new possibilities. Just like spring unfolds to allow for new growth, so we can mirror this. With patience and trust we can allow ourselves the space to review and renew, discarding what no longer serves us and making space for us to grow, flourish and enrich our lives.