What do you do when life feels disorienting or uncertain? Maybe a relationship ends, you change jobs, or your children no longer need you in the same way.
Change is disorienting. We don’t always recognize the value in slowing down to process these in between places—when we’ve left something (or someone) behind but aren’t yet sure what the future is going to look like.
This next series is all about navigating transitions. I've invited spiritual director, Rowena Day, on to discuss. . .
1. Normalizing liminal spaces
2. Do we ever "arrive" at stability?
3. Fascinating research on the pain of uncertainty
4. The 3 stages of transitions
5. The value in endings
6. How our bodies can help us
Do you have questions for Dr. Alison? Leave them here.
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Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
Related Podcast Episodes
Episode 49: Personality, the Big Five Traits, and Why Are We So Obsessed With Personality Types?
Other episodes with Rowena Day:
Episode 44: Why Anger is a Surprising Friend, What Happens When You Avoid It, and How to Create Space for Healthy Expression of Anger in Your Family
Episode 63: Spiritual Direction, the Power of Listening, & How to Attune to Yourself and to Others
Episode 31: Peace-Keeping, Anger Avoidance, and How to Start Using Your Voice
TBOY Episode 88
Hey everyone, and welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You Podcast. I am so glad you're here. We are starting a new series today. It's a series about what we call “Liminal Spaces”. These are seasons of transition where we've left something behind, but we're not yet sure exactly what's coming next.
We all go through these seasons and it's really important to understand what they are so that you can equip yourself to cope with them. Because if you don't recognize you're in a liminal space, you're in a season of transition, you might not understand why you're feeling a little bit more anxious or a little bit more emotional or a little bit more fearful than normal.
And when you begin to understand that you're going through something, you're in one of these in-between places, it helps to normalize what you're experiencing, adjust your expectations of yourself and give yourself the care that you need. These transitions, these liminal spaces are not talked about enough. And yet in my work as a therapist, as a friend, and just in my own life, I see how important it is to recognize and notice when you're in one of these spaces
These transitional seasons are marked by an external event, a change. It could be a friend moving away. It could be a child starting school for the first time. It could be a child leaving home for the first time. It could be the end of a relationship. It could also be starting a new relationship.
You're taking a risk, you're opening up to the possibility of getting to know someone, but you're not yet sure where that relationship is going to lead. It could be leaving a job where you've left something behind and you're not yet sure where you're going to end up next. It could also be starting a new job where there's been a change and you have a period of time where you're adjusting to this change.
You're trying to figure out the dynamics of the culture, which people you can trust, what your daily rhythms will be. It can happen when you leave a church or when you move. It's any transition where there's a change, something happens outside of you that ushers in a season of change where you have to sit with uncertainty.
You don't know yet exactly what the lay of the land is going to look like. You're not sure yet who your safe people are. You're not sure yet whether or not you can trust this person that you're slowly letting into your life. You're not sure yet what your day to day routines are going to look like in light of this change. These transitional places are hard.
We don't often give ourselves permission to have an adjustment season to feel a lot of conflicting emotions, and we have to care for ourselves in very specific and unique ways when we're going through these seasons,
It's normal to feel some heightened emotions during these transitional seasons, during these liminal spaces, a little bit more anxiety, a little bit more confusion, a little bit more inner turmoil.
Now in the field of psychology, oftentimes we use the word adjustment to describe these liminal places. There's even a category in the Diagnostic Manual for therapists that is called an Adjustment Disorder. I don't like that they call it a disorder, but the idea behind that diagnosis is that it is this experience of heightened anxiety, or even a little bit of sadness or depression.
Now I don't like that it's called a disorder because I think it's normal for humans to experience heightened anxiety or even some heightened depression when you're going through an adjustment. But what that diagnostic category means is that the heightened emotions that you're experiencing aren't due to an underlying mental health issue.
They're directly related to this change, there's an identifiable external stressor or change that has evoked these feelings of stress or these heightened emotions. And the way that we respond to change or to a stressor is very much impacted by our personality style. As we discussed back in episode 49, they're impacted by our family of origin and our experience learning how to tolerate change, how to tolerate uncertainty.
Do we have these skills built into us because we've had to learn them along the way? They're influenced by our trauma history, our attachment wounds, because we feel untethered, especially if you're dealing with a change in a primary relationship.
And it is my belief that in our modern American culture, we do not normalize these seasons of transition. It is normal to feel uncertain or a little bit anxious or a little bit disoriented when you're going through a season of change. And so in this series, we want to talk about these transitional seasons. We want to give you some examples.
We want to talk about some of what is normal to experience and equip you with ways of coping and equip you with a different perspective if you find yourself in one of these seasons. Most of all, I want to heighten your awareness to this reality so that if you're feeling some of these things, you will be gentle with yourself and understand that this season that you're in serves a purpose, and you can surrender to the process of this season instead of fighting against yourself or beating yourself up.
And so for this series, I've asked my friend Rowena Day, who is also a spiritual director, to join me in talking about these transitions. You've heard from Rowena before on the podcast. She joined us for episode 63, all about spiritual direction. And episodes 44 and 31 about peacekeeping and also about anger.
Rowena is a writer, an artist, and a spiritual director. She's also the mom of four young children. And I'm so excited to bring you our conversation today, all about transitions.
Alison Cook: I'm so glad you're here, Rowena. I love these conversations that you and I have. I get so much feedback whenever I have you on the podcast. You're our most frequent guest. We so appreciate your wisdom. We've been talking a lot, you and I, about transitions, these different seasons of life, these different transitions we go through.
You and I are both in pretty intense seasons of transition in different ways in our own lives. We've talked about before, you have really young kids. I have adult kids. We're in different seasons of life, which makes it helpful as conversation partners sometimes.
We each can have a better perspective on the other, but tell me a little bit about why you've been thinking so much about transitions. What brought this topic top of mind for you?
Rowena: I think there was an unspoken expectation that, I don't know if it's just the culture we live in, or just my own development, but I assumed that in my late thirties, surely, that would be a period of stability after having the 20s be just a really significant decade of making lots of major life decisions.
And so there's sort of an expectation once you clear that hurdle, you're headed into several decades of stability, surely. And so to find that yet again you're thrown into another period of transition, it can be very disorienting and can add a lot of layers of inner distress. And I’ve also been diving into this subject and through my work in spiritual direction with my director, and then also with directees, just really getting to explore this topic a lot and being really fascinated with it.
There's just a lot of transitions we go through in our lifetime and they don't disappear just because you've reached adulthood. They become sort of new transitions as you get older and you’re accepting that reality has created a lot more ease in the transition process.
For me, a couple of big transitions are happening. Specifically, I think just coming to the end of a 10 year period of raising four young kids and seeing, oh, wow, this really doesn't last forever. Whereas when you're in the thick of it, it just feels like this is what I'm doing for the rest of my life.
These kids are always going to be young and you watch them grow and change and you grow and change and your spouse grows and changes and then your marriage needs to grow and change. It's ever evolving. And so that is just one element of change. Living in a very transitory city and having that be constantly evolving and changing around me and just the dynamic environment that it is and the joy and excitement, but also the loss of community from time to time as people uproot and move and the loss of really dear friends.
Also, there are vocational decisions that are needing to change and morph as I grow, and realizing the things that I used to do might not be the things that are on the horizon for me, but not quite knowing yet what those are. Seeing parents get older and just wrestling with their mortality, my own mortality, just lots of life to really grapple with.
And so removing the assumption that it's going to be a period of stability at least helps to recognize that this is normal. Just as when you're a kid, you have growing pains in your leg, those growing pains become internalized and you have spiritual, personal developmental growing pains.
And if we bypass that or ignore it or feel shame or self judgment or self contempt for going through it, we are just adding unnecessary pain to the necessary pain of growing as humans.
Alison Cook: Yeah. I love that you named that. My mom used to say when I was a kid growing up, I’d be processing something, and she'd say, oh, you're going through something. And I always, whenever she would name that, it would be calming to me because she was naming essentially what you're saying. You're going through a season, maybe I started high school, it's a transition. And I remember that vividly.
In my life, we're going through almost empty nests. We've had about four huge transitions all simultaneously as the result of the pandemic, moving, and empty nest all colliding at once. And again, just naming that as a big transition helps to calm the nervous system and recognize, okay, we're going to feel a little disoriented for a while, that's okay. That's normal.
It names this space, this season so that you adjust the expectations that you have of yourself, of your spouse, of your partner, maybe even your friends. Like you alluded to, you do have seasons of relative stability, and sometimes, I'll say in my own case, we didn't realize how stable those years from when our kids were in junior high all the way through high school, how relatively stable things were until they weren't anymore. Suddenly we're in a season of transition and we're like, oh, the ship was just cruising along.
Not that we weren't dealing with things and didn't have challenges, but for the most part, there was a season of stability, which we almost didn't realize until it wasn't there. Tell me a little bit for you, how do you recognize, especially when you're in the thick of raising little kids, how do you recognize, oh, I'm going through a transition? I'm going through something.
Rowena: I think often it's from that felt sense of discomfort in our bodies. Like, why do I feel a little bit off? What is this feeling and trying to name it. And just wrestling with that internal disorientation. I think that's the biggest cue, is that our bodies show are going through a passage and to move through it, it's going to require different sensations in your body and it requires a tuning to those sensations, and naming it with yourself, through journaling, with God, or through prayer, and with other people, and just getting it out in front of you, and being able to see it and hold it and look at it and say, oh this makes a lot of sense.
It facilitates such greater self understanding and compassion and just starts to unlock a whole journey of paradoxes and holding a lot of things in tension. There’s discomfort with growth and a stripping away of old identities or false selves or old patterns and ways of being that are not serving you well, that you need to grow and mature into something different.
And so it's just a really confusing and scary terrain a lot of times and I don't think it's very normalized in our society. There's an external change and then you should adapt pretty quickly. And if you don't adapt then what's wrong with you? And it really requires a whole lot of space and time to have that internal adjustment process to the external change.
Alison Cook: What are some examples of those very concrete external changes that can trigger these periods of transition?
Rowena: I think there's a lot of hardship and difficulties that externally can happen. And then there's also lots of positive change that can also create disorientation. And that can sometimes be even more distressing because you're thinking, I just got a new job. I just had a baby. I just moved to a new city and they are good things, and also it does require a significant shift to adapt to that new reality.
And so I think it's important to name that there can be good things that happen in life that cause a lot of disorientation. And then it's a little more obvious that hardship is going to cause disorientation and distress. So that could be the loss of a job or the loss of a family member, friends moving away, turning a new decade in life, having a health challenge or crisis, a financial hardship, getting divorced or loss of a friendship, children leaving to go to school or leaving the nest, retirement, there's a lot that we have to navigate.
The expectation that we should be okay can be a detriment because it is necessary that we have times of feeling like we're not quite okay and being able to accept that as normal. It's to reduce the fear around the distress.
Alison Cook: The wrestling that occurs during these transitions, I'm tempted to use this word, from psychology, these liminal places, these in between places. I write about this in my new book coming out, I Shouldn’t Feel This Way, these spaces. There's one illustration from the Bible of a major transition: when the Israelites leave Egypt, they come out of slavery, and they're headed to the promised land.
And a lot of us speak of that metaphorically, that place of stability, that place of promise we all want to be. But there's this prolonged season in between where they're roaming around the wilderness. And one of the ways some psychologists look at those liminal places is that they're adjusting to what it's like to be a people who are no longer in slavery and are preparing to be in this new place.
And so these passageways, these transitions, these liminal places are really normal. That's a big example. But I love how you describe positive examples. I think sometimes things like an engagement period, or even a pregnancy, are built in adjustment periods that are normalized in the sense of you're leaving a single life to get married.
So we've named this liminal space, this transitional season where you adjust or a gestation period, you found out you're pregnant and now you've got nine months that's named, where in those particular instances, they are more normalized. People tend to be a little bit more like, oh, wow, this is a big change.
We've got a name for it. We're honoring that you're going to feel some anxiety, you're going to be going through changes, But for so many of these other things, just as you said, they're not named. We're just expected to hit the ground running. I remember in my thirties, when I moved to Boston for the first time and I was so disoriented, I had no idea.
I was single, I didn't know how to engage community, how to find friends. And so I enlisted the support of a therapist, which is a really normal thing to do during these transitional seasons. And she told me, and it was so helpful to me, she just named it. She said, oh, it'll take you about three years. It'll take you about three years to adjust to being in a new city.
And it just anchored me. You might think that might be discouraging. It was not discouraging. It felt true. I was like, that feels about right. This is a big change. And that naming gave me that courage and that settling of, okay, I've got some work to do. It's going to take a while. It's normal. And I love that you're naming that this is not just in response to that hardship, although that's certainly a big part of it.
These are just seasons of life where it's really normal. And I want the listener to hear that it is so normal to experience some heightened anxiety, sadness, a lot of emotions, a feeling of isolation, and there's nothing wrong with you. If you're feeling those things, it's actually normal.
It's healthy to experience some of this internal conflict, some of this uncertainty because you're adjusting your whole body, your mind, your heart, your soul, your body has to adjust to new realities.
Rowena: Yeah. And I just want to add one more that I think is really an important one for lots of folks. If you're single and you're desiring to be with someone and you're finding yourself in a new decade and still single, that In itself is a transition. Because you're desiring and wanting for change, but continuing the phase that you're in that you don't want to be in and that brings its own transition and difficulty.
So I just wanted to name that also because it can feel like marriage and babies are significant transitions and single people go through significant transitions too.
Alison Cook: Same with wanting children or not having children. I love that you named that entering into new decades can be a really big transition, especially for women. The forties can be a big transition, hitting the fifties can be a transition, and beyond. We talk about the biological clock.
I know even for me hitting big decades, and I don't have biological children, can bring about some of this anxiety, this, oh, I've got to adjust to the reality that I'm a different age. And what does that mean for me at this particular period of time?
I've had some big ones with birthdays. So yeah, I appreciate that you're naming that. So Rowena, are we always in transition?
Rowena: Yes and no, I think. I think we are in alternating periods of change and stability and so when we're in the midst of stability, it's probably slow, like when leaves change color. You try to watch it, but you can't quite see it. Even with changes in times of stability, they’re slow. Things are slowly changing, but you feel stable.
There's growth happening deep down that is going to propel you into a period of transition later on. We really do face a lifetime of transition and it's not just from becoming a child to an adult. Adult life is full of transitions all the way until we die.
Coming to terms with that and accepting that reality is really the first step in understanding that, yes, I desire to be in stable periods and also the reality of life is that it has cycles. The earth rotates around the sun every year and things come and they go and then they come back in different forms and in different ways.
There's going to be periods in life where there's a lot of upheaval. And I found it really fascinating that the word develop means unfolding, much like a flower. Watching flowers unfold and seeing even on the same bush, different flowers at different states has been oddly captivating for me in times of transition, just going for a walk and those are times that I feel much more attuned with nature.
And looking at the moon and phases of the moon and watching the clouds slowly drift by, suddenly these things become very interesting outer representations of things that are happening internally. The alternating rhythms of expansion and contraction, change and stability, which William Bridges names in his book Transitions: Making Sense Of Life's Changes, which is a phenomenal read and really helpful in normalizing these periods of significant change after being in a period of stability.
Alison Cook: I love how you're bringing in nature. If you think about the seasons, we're in winter right now. And so there is a relative stability to that, and simultaneously, things are happening that are preparing the earth for spring.
We might experience that stability for a period of time, and we're always moving toward growth. And that's a good thing because the reality is we're either moving toward growth or we're moving toward decay. We are moving and we want to be moving toward growth.
And so transitions, those phases, those seasons are actually a part of growth. When we learn how to have that psychological agility, that flexibility that I hear you describing as we're honoring the seasons of stability, where there's some structure, and also simultaneously not getting rigid. We're prepared for when things are going to change.
Rowena Day: Once we can release the struggle and the fight against transition, we unlock a lot of growth. It doesn't take away the discomfort, but the struggle and the fighting against it is what creates a lot more distress. Once we can come to a place of acceptance that all of life is letting go until the final letting go–and realizing that is profound–we can try to learn to hold things very loosely. Having to release again and again ourselves and the people we love to the process of change. It's hard.
Alison Cook: I love that you just said that. Part of what helps ease the feelings of uncertainty and the feelings of confusion and inner turmoil that can come with a transition is honoring that it's normal to feel that way.
Because when we beat ourselves up that we're not transitioning better, that we're not just figuring it all out more quickly, it actually makes it worse. As opposed to, oh, I'm going through something. Of course I feel this way. Of course I'm disoriented–my friends just moved, or we just switched churches, or my kids aren't home as much. Suddenly I have more hours in the day and I'm not sure how to use those hours.
Or, my kids are home more and suddenly I feel very constricted and like I don't have any time to myself. Whatever the thing is, give yourself that space to go, oh, it's normal to feel disoriented. It's normal to feel a little tension and that's okay. The goal isn't to get yourself to not feel that way. The goal is to name, oh, this is a transition. It's going to take me a minute to find my way through it, but I will find my way through it. And part of the way I will find my way through it is by honoring that it's normal to feel the way I feel.
Rowena: Yeah, it's okay to not feel okay all of the time. And, there's this fascinating study that the University College London did about the pain of uncertainty. They found that humans would rather have a 100 percent chance of an electrical shock versus a small percent chance of having an electrical shock. If they could have certainty that there would be pain, that was preferable to a low percentage.
So the uncertainty of pain was worse than the certainty of pain, which I just find so hilarious, and this is just so true for all humans, and learning to be compassionate with ourselves, that uncertainty is hard, and it's okay for it to be hard, and it's normal.
Alison Cook: What are some of the different phases of a transition?
Rowena: I really found William Bridges book on transitions extremely helpful to name that there's always an ending, and then a neutral zone, or a liminal space, or a wilderness period, depending on which name you prefer. And then there's the new beginning. And those stages cannot really be ignored or bypassed.
They are a part of the process. And coming to terms with endings is the first part of the transition. Acknowledging what has been who you were at that phase of life and honoring that and really letting that go. And trusting that the ending is clearing a path for an unexpected beginning and new growth.
There are going to be lots of endings in life and developmentally, they're expected every 10 years as we reach a new decade, these are times of readjustment and renewed commitments. We've talked about this a bit already, but they can initiate a lot of inner distress and we can normalize it.
I found the word positive disintegration to be very helpful in naming, yes, I feel disintegrated, but this is net positive in the long run. It is leading to good things.
Alison Cook: Can you give me an example, Rowena, of an ending from your own life?
Rowena: I've had a couple of really significant transitions these past couple of years. The one that's on the horizon and happening for me now is being at the tail end of raising four young kids. That part of my life is over and sure, I have lots of parenting ahead of me, and lots of joy ahead and lots of new stages, but it does require a little bit of grieving of what was and the life that I've known, the person that I was back then.
I've been so changed, and just recognizing the both-and of being excited about the new possibilities on the horizon while not being quite sure exactly what they are, what that means in seeing our youngest on the cusp of eventually going to school and being like, wow, I'm not going to have young kids at home anymore.
This is really significant. And it just brings such a level of bittersweetness, in just relishing every day with this knowledge and this feeling in my body, like this is coming to an end. And that means they're growing into new phases, which I will enjoy, but I'm in this really remarkable passage after 10 years of being with babies and toddlers and I don't want to stay there forever.
I loved it and it was hard and it's a lot all at one time to hold all the different parts of me as they feel different things about this really major transition.
Alison Cook: I love that you're naming that. That's a great example of being aware of feeling a little bit disoriented. And having to look at your life and go, what is happening here? I love what you said. Naming that there's an ending allows me to cherish this season while I have it. There's an ending that's going to be really beautiful and also evokes a lot of emotions about the ending and that's, again, normal. The complexity of those emotions are really normal.
I love what you're saying. We have to be aware of these endings. In a way, the awareness of the ending forces us into the present moment to face the reality of where we are. So what are these other phases then?
Rowena: So the next phase is heading into the neutral zone or the liminal space where your old life isn't quite what you have, but you also don't really have your new life yet. You're in the passage period, in the middle. And these are the places in life that we most want to skip over.
The two traps that Bridges identifies in his book is the trap of fast forward or reverse. It's like we want to go back to where we were, like the Israelites– send us back to Egypt or send us to the promised land, but don't leave us in this middle zone. There's a lot of discomfort for human beings in this period of emptiness and somewhat nothingness where you feel like, I'm not as productive as I used to be, I should be more productive.
There can be a lot of “shoulds” around it. It can feel very lonely and isolating. We wonder, does anyone else feel this way? What happened to my old self that felt so much more stable? Why have I gotten older and become less sure? It can be profoundly disorienting. And it can feel frightening.
And it's agonizing because you don't know the length of time that you will be in this place, and we're often tempted to skip it, bypass it, avoid it, numb it, but it's a road that insists on being walked. When we don't, we just punt the difficulty to deal with in a later decade. It's important that we have courage and we have people alongside us to offer empathy and wisdom and listening and care in these places so that we don't feel rushed to get through them.
The more we try to fast forward, the more it can actually prolong it. So actually accepting it and easing into it is paradoxically the way to allow it to move at the pace that it needs to go. These are really profound times of renewal. Oftentimes the neutral zone is the only place capable of giving us new ways of seeing a deeper reality within and around us.
Bridges points out that it's the succession of these neutral zones over our lifetime that produces wisdom and that's really encouraging. These feel like they're periods of nothingness and what is happening? You feel like you don't have a lot of motivation to do anything, but you're just existing and being and observing a lot and asking, what am I doing in this place? But that’s really powerful.
Alison Cook: You are doing something even though it feels disorienting and much of what you're doing is allowing the spaciousness for the different parts of you to adjust and align and observe and begin to process and metabolize what's happened. It's so interesting and when you're out the other side of it, and I want to get to that third phase, you're aware of that.
I've been through that a lot myself this last year, where suddenly I'm starting to come out the other side and I'm like, oh, all that time that I felt disoriented or unproductive or pulling back–there's fruit that's starting to come from that.
I'm starting to see it. I'm starting to see what I need to do. I'm starting to see where I need to go. It’s starting to make sense.
Rowena: As a potter I find that imagery really helpful because it's like we have been a very useful pot, and then all of a sudden we find we're a lump of clay again. We can't see what we're going to be turned into next. And so we just are like, why am I regressing to a lump of clay when in reality, God is the potter and he's reforming and reshaping something new.
And I love that verse in Isaiah that says something like, behold, can you not perceive it? I'm doing a new thing. And if we can just hold on to that ability to trust God in the process of these significant periods of upheaval and transition, knowing that he is doing a new thing, he's going to make us into a new pot.
And it'll have perhaps different uses that we didn't have when we had our old pot. And that will produce lots of emotions and agony, but also lots of good. It's enduring and persevering through the necessary, uncomfortable middle zone.
Alison Cook: I love that. And so we finally get to, what's the third, what's the good news? Where do we finally arrive?
Rowena: We eventually find ourselves in a new beginning, a new phase of stability. I love the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, that there's a time for everything, a time to be uprooted, a season to sow, a time for everything.
Eventually we'll find that once we've endured the middle zone, we are slowly like buds growing on a tree, changing into a new phase of our life. That can start to feel like more of an ease in our bodies and our nervous system, more of an acceptance of, okay, this is who I am now at 40 or 50 or 60 or whatever it is.
And it's mysterious. I don't think this is something we can totally control. It's something that we surrender to. And through the surrendering, some mysterious shaping is happening that gets us to a place of a new beginning, but it does require a lot of honesty, a lot of feeling our feelings and naming them and not avoiding them.
Alison Cook: That's where I want to end this conversation. We're going to come back. We've got lots more to dive into in some of these specific transitions. I love what you just said. So what do we do when we're in one of these seasons where we're feeling so disoriented, like I don't know who I am anymore?
I love how you said, there's a part of me that wants to go back. I want what I had. I don't know what's ahead. And so in that space, what do we do? What are the ways we cope? If we think about that metaphor of the clay, some of it is that we just have to wait it out, but there are also things we can do that lend itself to that process of being shaped, where we're surrendering ourselves actively to that process with God.
So what are some of the things we do?
Rowena: I think it's really important to structure some alone time where you can notice your thoughts, notice the sensations in your body. Journaling, going for long walks, just observing nature, perhaps going on a retreat for any length of time. Somewhere that you can find some beauty and something that's a little out of your everyday reality to help your mind and your heart and your body process what you're going through.
To really take note of your experience and your feelings and accept your need for being in this place. And to notice when you're feeling those feelings of shame or self judgment or self contempt and name those. We can be gentle with ourselves with that. Like, I'm noticing a lot of “shoulds” and a lot of condemnation and naming that and allowing that to exist can slowly transform it.
I find myself watching my potted plants in my house grow new leaves and just being like, wow, look at those cute little leaves. It gives me such hope to see things growing and to see the parts of a tree that I have pruned back with shears then double into two new branches instead of the one that used to be there. Having these plants in my house gives me such hope and watching nature I think is really profound.
I find myself looking at the moon a lot, and the moon evokes so much change in the ocean with gravity. It's a force of stability and also of change. And so I find myself watching this moon–it has always been there and always will be there. This kind of forgotten-about object in the sky is just so anchoring to me, to observe it move around and to witness its stability at the same time. It helps anchor me on earth.
Alison Cook: I love that. There's a way in which this whole thing you're describing is when we recognize and we name, oh man, I'm going through something. I'm in something that is hard, that I don't quite understand. When we honor that, we give it a name. This is a transition. We begin to slow down enough to become more aware of the beauty around us, the little things around us, which is really a spiritual practice.
It's being more connected to God with us in that sense of what is it today? And I think about the manna in the wilderness, where this is my daily bread. It forces us right into that present moment. We can't get ahead of ourselves. We can't get behind ourselves. We have to be very focused on the one step in front of us, the one thing in front of us, the journey of today.
What do I need today? And there's something so powerful about slowing down and being so present to the feeling in this moment, the task of this moment, the feeding of myself in this moment, whatever it is. It's paradoxical. We want to escape the moment, but it's the slowing down and being fully present that actually moves us through it to a better place.
Rowena: Yes. And there's a real invitation in these seasons to come back home to ourselves in our bodies. Those feelings of discomfort and disorientation are are hard, and they're also a gift because it's something that your body is feeling and it helps reconnect your mind with your body and create integration. These periods are an opportunity to become more whole because there are so many forces at work in the world to fragment our minds from our bodies. God and his wisdom is: I am going to allow these seasonal periods in your life where you can come back home to yourself and back home to your body and find me there. Find yourself there.
And it's not always enjoyable, but I have really come to appreciate the gifts that they are, that I have found there, and feeling like I don't totally know where my home is in the world, but I'm realizing I am at home in my body and my body is my home as long as I'm on earth and that our bodies can't be anywhere but the present.
Our bodies help us come back to the present and that's where we also find God in the present moment. He's always here, but it's often our fragmented parts that are pulling us and wanting us to produce and perform and disintegrate and disconnect our bodies from our minds and our souls.
So these periods are tremendously valuable for reestablishing connection with ourselves and with God.
Alison Cook: I love that. The most important thing you might do today, if you're feeling a lot of what we've been talking about, if you're feeling disoriented, if you're feeling unsure of yourself, is that breath that you take, of honoring that feeling, taking a really good care of your body, being aware of what you need in this moment.
That is the most important thing you can do to honor yourself and honor God and honor this season that you're in. Thank you so much, Rowena. We have so much more to come. We will be back next week. Thank you guys for being here.