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Lessons in Listening: Managing change and transition

For as long as I can remember, this particular time of year has been punctuated as a time of transition. It seems as if without warning the store shelves are overflowing with pencils, notebooks and binders. The heat of the midday is still upon us, but the haze and humidity has lifted and given way to clear skies. The light and warmth of the sun feel more distant and I reach for a sweatshirt as I sip my evening tea. 
It is these external signs that initially catch my attention, yet the accompanying internal sensations are what feel most familiar in my bones. Excitement. Hope. Nervousness. Sadness. This plethora of feeling grabs my curiosity; as such emotional stirrings are a bit overwhelming! What is it about transitions that provoke such a complex response and what can be learned?
As has become my de facto learning strategy these days, I asked my wise, young sage about her experience of the return to school and the beginning of 5th grade. “I’m going to miss summer, but I feel excited! And worried, and nervous, and happy. I feel everything because I don’t know what it will be like.” Well said, kiddo.
Although the return to school for our youth triggered the remembrance so vividly for me, transitions are among us at all ages and stages of life. Transitions of birth. Transitions of love. Transitions of friendship. Transitions in the professional realm. Transitions of home. Transitions of death. 
Transitions are rich in the stuff of life, as they poignantly possess the complexities of being human and the opportunity for wisdom and growth. Regardless of the possibilities ahead, transitions are rife with nostalgia, as turning toward the new requires letting go of patterns of habituation and making room for uncertainty. In general, most of us don’t particularly enjoy sitting with uncertainty. We attempt to organize, plan and strategize our way out it. These can certainty quell some of our practical concerns, but there are additional approaches that can be employed when managing change and transition. 
Embrace your emotions – all of them. There is no right way to experience or feel about change and often we can have feelings that appear juxtaposed. Birth can ignite extreme feelings of love and yearning for autonomy and independence. Death can cause intense grief as well as relief from witnessing a loved one in pain or from the burden of caregiving. There is room for all these feelings. Fill up that teakettle and invite them all to the table, welcoming light and shadow for a cup of tea.
Look up and lean in. No matter the change or transition you are experiencing, you are not alone. For me, this takes the form of a layered practice. When a close friend asks me, “How are you?” I answer them honestly. When I see my co-worker in the morning and I ask, “How are you?” I listen for their honest answer. When I am out and about town, I choose to look at the person who serves me coffee. I ask how their day is going and I thank them sincerely. Community and connection are key ingredients for general well-being and essential in times of transition. It helps us remember that regardless of the details of our lives, our wholeness and worthiness are non-negotiable. 
Expand and open. Fear often accompanies uncertainty and can cause one to be constricted with a mindset of scarcity. Here is my invitation: just as you can open to all your feelings of transition, let yourself open to the possibilities as well. Choose abundance. Alternatively, if that feels over the top, then choose enough. You do not have to spin positivity or fate into circumstances outside of your domain, but you can choose to include the possibility of opportunity. For me, this is where self-care comes in — scheduling in time to slow down, listen and experience my feelings and imagine new possibilities.
With that, I’m off for a moonlit hike with a dear friend. We will likely share our experiences regarding our most recent transitions. And then, we’ll just hike in the quiet of the night, savoring the end of summer.

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