In Ireland, we’re just edging past the Spring equinox. For the Celts, this represents a time of self-reflection and rebirth.
For me, the moment of the Spring equinox feels more like a pause than the gathering momentum of transition. I want a self-assured Spring and early Summer to arrive. I’ve wanted it most especially when winter felt long, and the light felt short. Yet, at the same time, I don’t want to tip headlong into summer just yet. I don’t want to forget the preciousness of light stretching.
Poetry that supports a pause in this unsolved space is Martha Postlethwaite’s “Clearing”. There’s a copy of this poem in the 2019 version of Martha’s hopeful companion book for recovery. Martha urges us to make a “clearing in the dense forest” of our lives. There’s nothing easy about making that space today. The days can feel spoken for – allocated to agendas, obligations, and survival contests.
The idea of this clearing has taken on epic proportions in my psyche, and I have come back to the clearing within me several times in my transition journey. Most often this is a quiet space, a clearing in a well treed forest where I sit or kneel alone. At times, it has felt like I am sitting in the middle of the iris of my eye and watching my being struggle with waiting, without knowing, with growing slowly.
While transition seems to imply action or movement, this clearing feels more like the pause between the inhale and exhale. The pause in the swing of the pendulum. Here, time stands still. Time expands. I can drop into my being and check in on my motivations – fears and dreams both. The key to being in the clearing seems to be that to come to the experience with non-judgemental awareness – to bear witness to ourselves and our process. To pause the habits and look for the patterns. To become conscious. To make choice possible.
Some days, moving through a transition feels more like walking in no-man’s land, an awkward in-between. A wasteland, perhaps. An unowned and uncomfortable land. Somewhere unoccupied because of fear or uncertainty. We find ourselves in this version of a transition reluctantly and we discover there a time-warp, an experience to be endured for an unspecified duration, for indefinite reasons.
I crossed the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe on foot one year. I was travelling overland in a safari truck and for whatever reason officials required us to disembark and walk across on foot. I walked through this no man’s land on a searingly hot day. The barrenness of it was underlined by the neglect made evident in uncollected litter. It felt haunted and uncomfortable. Not somewhere one wanted to linger.
To endure the difficulties of transitions requires something special. We are required to sit with the discomfort of our situations, of ourselves. To stay the automatic habits, to not give into being pacified. And also not to fall into inertia and complacency. The enemy of growth.
As a coach specialising in transitions, I ask myself and clients who are resting in the sometimes-difficult clearing of a transition, the powerful questions …
“What beginnings are we in control of?”
“What do we want and need to let go of?”
“What dreams do we want to walk in the direction of?”
For solace in the difficult moments, when we have recognised that change is stirring quietly with us (and then less quietly)… I draw on the work of poet John O’Donohue. John’s ideas about finding our ‘root voice’ resonate with what we might find in our inner clearing. More solace is contained in John’s poem ‘For a New Beginning’ where John describes an existence where we are still unable to leave what we have outgrown. He names so aptly the grey promises and eventually, finding ease in risk. The poem can be found in the poetry collection called To Bless the Space Between Us and his works can be purchased from the John O’Donohue website.
The Eastern Wisdom Traditions calls these experiences liminal states, or bardos. They are transitions between death and rebirth. I feel that many personal growth transitions include these bardo-like experiences. They require a surrender of what was, without knowing what will be. We surrender our illusions of control, knowing and perfection. Grief experiences and disruptions to our world views offer insights into the bardo. They bring into sharp contrast our truths. In such disruptions, something is lost, even if that was not a physical thing but rather our certainty or innocence.
This transition of the equinox seems to represent a blurred edge between what was and what is coming. Like walking in the breaking waves on the turning tide.
Because I was born in the Southern Hemisphere, I’m mindful that they are facing their autumnal equinox instead. They tip towards letting go, turning inward and reflecting.
Either way, it feels a precious thing to consider deeply what these transitions mean to our lives. What they can mean, if we spend time with them and allow curiosity to feed us our necessary and wise inner truths.
#springequinox #transitioncoach #liminalbeing #inner-journey #poetry #save-yourself #johnodonohue