Transition Coaching

Stages in Transitions: Death, The Unknown and Rebirth

This stage is one of the more challenging ones in the transition process. It usually follows the stage of Old Fulfillment, and is all about dealing with change — which many of us resist, avoid or delay. Even writing about it is more challenging , it gets right into the heart of taboo topics. Here goes... Death and Re-Birth, and the space in-between, the Unknown are all part of this one stage.  We often have a foot in each one of these pieces so it can feel incredibly overwhelming. It seems so much easier to stay in the previous stage of Old Fulfillment for as long as we possibly can. We stay because of the financial security, because it pays the bills, because it is comfortable and familiar. We stay even when it is stressful and affecting our mental and physical health. We stay for so many reasons.

I_AM shattered
I_AM shattered

What we might not realize is the tremendous potential for personal transformation that lies hidden within the dark folds of this stage. It requires work and sometimes that kind of personal growth work that feels too daunting and scary to pursue but it will take us into new places of self-awareness, confidence, vulnerability and personal leadership.

In the sub-stage of Death, the work is to recognize what is ending or dying: a dream, a role, a belief, an expectation, a core personal value, and/or a part of ourselves. It is here when we mourn and are tasked to acknowledge what we are letting go, shedding or releasing. Sometimes simply recognizing all the things that are changing can help us understand why we feel as much or as shitty as we do.

When we are faced with death and grief in a transition, what can be really difficult is when our family, culture and society discourage us from being open about it. It is hard to explore our loss and grief when we do not have permission to be in it and process it and instead are supposed to mask what we are thinking and feeling.

Before we can move into Rebirth, we have to go through The Unknown. It’s the part where we don’t know, where we ask ourselves “What’s next?” and “Who am I?” so naturally there is a lot of anxiety and un-rootedness here. It brings up our discomfort with not having answers, feeling lost, and not knowing the outcome. Is it any wonder that many of us stay with what is familiar and do not make a change? Learning to accept the uncertainty while not spinning off into the emptiness and anxiety is an ability, a skill, a kind of knowledge that deepens with each transition we experience and each time we face The Unknown.

she hero
she hero

Rebirth involves being able to see and believe that it is possible to create a new life and a new identity. Birthing — a new aspect of ourselves, a new core value, a new role, or a new identity — takes energy and hard work. It really is labour, we are giving birth to our new self. This requires beginning again, dealing with feeling incompetent sometimes, knowing that we will be asked to take risks, and in so doing, grow our confidence and courage. What can be better than living our life being true to ourselves?

Some things that can help:

It can help to balance out the dark intensity and overwhelm with lightness, comfort and kind self-care. Have a few things or habits that are easy, do-able and familiar: have your morning ritual of drinking coffee, make time for favourite leisure activities, wear your favourite clothes. It can help to create and be creative when we are feeling lost and lossed: write, garden, cook, bake, play an instrument or your favourite music, dance, draw, make a film, take photographs, journal, make a collage, sculpt, make a mandala, etc.

It can help to clear new space for your new self: recycle, donate, give away, toss what you are ready to let go of. This happens in layers of readiness so do what you can, even if it means re-organizing a drawer or closet. It does not matter if you don’t use the empty space for a while, just having it creates space and energy for you to imagine and dream of new possibilities.

It can help to do things that are spiritually grounding and emotionally centering: spend time in nature, spend time with animals or pets (borrow one if necessary), connect with like-minded folks, read books that are spiritually meaningful.

It can help to be grateful for what we have during this stage when the focus can be on what we are losing. Louie Schwartzberg’s video “Gratitude" is a beautiful affirmation on appreciating Life.

It can help to surround yourself with positive, supportive friends and family members and to stay away from negative, energy-draining, judgmental people.

It can help to explore your experience of the Unknown. Go into it, see what is in there that scares you and learn about yourself in there.

And when you feel so stuck in grief that you can’t take steps towards self-care or to move forward, it can help to get support from a qualified professional. Qualified counsellors are available through many workplace Employee Assistance Programs or referrals for counselling can be made by your family physician.

The following is a list of books and resources that might be helpful as you transition through this stage of Death, The Unknown and Rebirth. Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges, 2009 When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, 2000 The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell, 1990 Girl to Goddess: The Heroine's Journey through Myth and Legend, by Valerie Estelle Frankel, 2010

The "Lost and Found" of Transitions

The end of something is often the beginning of a transition, the transition from what we know and is familiar to us, The Known, through to The New. Lost our job. Lost our relationship. Lost our health. Lost our home. Lost our community. Lost our way.

Feeling Lost and Feeling Loss-ed.

Feeling lost can be overwhelming, a mish-mash of feeling loss and what I call feeling “loss-ed”. Feeling the losses in our life, the losses of who we are, like a part of us is missing. Feeling confused, conflicted. Feeling empty. Feeling grief. Sometimes it can feel - unbearable.

Feeling lost in a foggy swirl of thick overwhelm filled with confusion, numbness, chaos. Wanting to protect ourselves, hiding under the covers with a cup of tea, or vodka, or a bag of chips, maybe a carton of ice cream. Wishing for a moment of clarity to nudge us, to awaken us from our comfortable or not so comfortable stupor.

Landing in the Unknown, in mid-space, unsure of “What’s next?” “Who am I now?” “Who am I without it / him / her?”

Some part of us that wants so badly, is working really hard for things to be normal again, to find the “next”: the next relationship, the next career, a new home, a new lifestyle. Sometimes we force ourselves ahead into the “new” or “next”. It takes Trust, the kind where we trust ourselves and our process.

And, the finding!

Swimming in the ocean, we can see the shoreline, suddenly a wave comes from nowhere, the undertow tugs us, pulls us underneath so that we feel as though we may never come back up, like we cannot find our breath. Until we feel something, something within pulling us up, and we see tiny glimpses of land coming into view.

manswimminginocean
manswimminginocean

Those tiny glimpses of clarity, those moments when they peak through, they are what we wait for, what we hope for, what we wish for — the excitement and relief of finding. When we feel even a little bit ready, there are many ways to starting finding “the next” or “the new”:

Read a book about it — biography, fiction or how-to. Read newspaper, magazine or blog articles about your "next". Watch a related film - documentary, biographical or fictionalized - or simply for joy. Move your body to move your thoughts — swim, walk, dance, whatever works for you. Commune with nature - spend time outdoors for relaxation, well-being and sparks of creative ideas. Create a fort or sandcastles with your kids or some kids. Take a workshop on something that fascinates you. Make art. Make music. Take an improv class. Brainstorm a list of what is important for you in your “next”. Declare your intention, be it tiny or large. Acknowledge what you are learning, your disappointments and wins. Connect with others who are experiencing it too. Discover new resources and share them.

No matter where you find yourself, in the place of lost, in the place of finding, or in the place of found, appreciate being wherever you are in your process. It is the building of your resilience muscle and the magic of being present to what is possible, that is transforming.

Surprises: What are the surprises we have after we leave?

Read the previous posts on this journey: A Dream Is Born and Climbing New Mountains. I have had several surprises since leaving my adventure-filled vacation in Nepal. A few surprises happened immediately upon leaving, others took weeks and months.

Surprise 1. The sun knows best. I was surprised to find out how much I enjoy rising before the sun and setting not long after the sun. i sleep better and more soundly when I follow the sun’s lead (most days).

Surprise 2. How little I need. Shelter, food, water, clothing, heat and electricity — the basics. It makes me wonder about the messages trying to persuade me to buy or do something because I need it. Not really the truth though. Do I need more clothes? More accessories? More decorations, more tech, more pretty shiny things? Nope.

Surprise 3. I enjoy smelling natural and earthy. I liked trekking and not showering, not shaving, not washing my hair and not laundering my clothes. I felt powerful, primitive and rebellious. It was so contrary to the North American ideal of cleanliness using a gazillion hygiene products to not smell, to not smell each other. I like knowing how I actually smell.

Surprise 4.How much stuff I have AND how hard it is for me to part with *my* stuff. The trek leaders offered us the opportunity to donate clothing at the end and it was a struggle for me. I rationalized that I would need the items when I travelled on or would continue to wear them when I returned home. Which I did and do. And I could have given stuff away and been fine. I had an opportunity to let go, to share and be generous. I realize it is not easy to detach from “It’s mine” and “I still need this”.

DSCN0986
DSCN0986

Surprise 5. The power of sticking to a daily plan. The trek leaders kept our group on a firm schedule which kept me focused, striving and challenged. Without it I probably would have stayed an extra day to rest my sick, puking stomach and then got caught in the snowy mess ahead preventing me from climbing higher and reaching base camp. Sticking to a plan made the difference between getting “there” and not.

Surprise 6. The intensity of North American consumerism and consumption. It was a shocking surprise to return to North American culture and values and be met with December holiday commercialism, the superficiality of celebrity culture, retail culture, and fitness culture. I felt bombarded by the amount that was promoted, marketed and sold to me, especially with the focus on “you you you” and “me, me, me” rather than “we we we” or “us us us”.

Surprise 7. Feeling spiritually full. I noticed how it felt to shift from feeling spiritually full to empty. I experienced having my spirit feel sumptuously full and fulfilled that my body needed little food to energize itself. I felt energized by what I was experiencing, seeing and doing. In contrast, I noticed the spiritual emptiness to urban life as the days and weeks passed and I settled back into a more sedentary life that was rich with resources and opportunities but lacking in nature, movement, community and connection.

Surprise 8. How the Nepalese listen and Canadians talk. When I arrived in Nepal, I immediately noticed how the Nepalese listen deeply and with full presence. They are able to be in silence, be with silence and allow silence to hang. In contrast, North American culture is all about the talking. Arriving back to Toronto I was surprised by the amount of constant, loud talking. We talk at each each and talk to make our opinions known.

There were surprises where my core personal values came alive in fulfillment and resonance, or when I experienced an inner chafing, a personal struggle of conflicting values.

There were surprising moments where a few of my core personal values declared themselves and wanted me to honour them more.

There were surprising places where I experienced a struggle between my values and those of my culture and society.

Surprising insights and realizations can happen when we leave anywhere or anything: Leaving a vacation place. Leaving a workplace, a job, a career. Leaving a relationship or friendship. Leaving home. Leaving an experience. Leaving a habit. Leaving a lifestyle.

Being aware of the surprises we have after leaving can not only give us important insights into ourselves. It can also help us understand and honour our true self.

What have you left?What things have surprised you since leaving?

Create A Gift Box — For Yourself! Part Two

In November 2013, I wrote a post called "Create a Gift Box — For Yourself!" A month later, I received a gift from a dear friend and colleague, Lynnette Rumble of Aim Coaching, who had read my blog. She told me she was so inspired that she gifted her family, friends, clients and colleagues with a personal gift box filled with blank pieces of brightly-coloured paper. And that included me!

DSCN0787
DSCN0787

Turns out that this really is a great gift! I created a tool to appreciate the present, to take steps, and to inspire personal action.

Oftentimes, taking action can feel like a long list of to-do’s and obligations resulting in, you guessed it, procrastination. No matter whether we are forced into a transition of some type - career, retirement, residential, health, relationship - or whether we are planning to make a change, taking steps forward can awaken and stir our Saboteur’s negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs. Using tools, strategies, and supports are helpful to get us out of our own way. This is where the “gift box” comes in.

So back to my personal gift box — where and how to start?

The first step was to make a decision about how to use my gift box of notes. I played around with options and ideas, and decided to write a daily note, recording something I wanted to celebrate, acknowledge, or appreciate about that day. It might be an insight, an action I took or accomplished, or what I felt grateful for. I wanted to include my core personal values so that I could track the ones I was honouring most (and least) often.

I now had a small box with squares of blank note-paper. I needed to figure out the next steps: where was I going to put my written notes? And what would I do with them once I had handfuls and more?

Tools are important, even necessary, in helping us to take action. When they are really good, the tools themselves can inspire us to explore and learn. Why not also use tools that are fun and lighthearted too? I decided I wanted mine to be colourful and creative too.

Being a huge fan of old-school pen(s) and paper(s), I used a large canister to hold my written notes and a large sheet of bristol board to paste them on. As you can imagine, seeing the colourful notes pile grow and the board fill up is very rewarding.

Creating Your Own Gift Box - Tools
Creating Your Own Gift Box - Tools

In both life and transition coaching, taking action is important as is the reflective process that comes with taking that action step, or in the attempt to do so. This is when we deepen our self-awareness of our Saboteur and our deepest self. And this is where personal growth happens.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” ~ Margaret Wheatley

After six months of writing almost-daily notes, here are some of the things I have experienced so far:

  • reconnecting to what it is that I am committed to,
  • realizing which personal core values are being honoured, and which ones are wanting more attention and focus,
  • noticing when I am and am not in integrity,
  • taking responsibility for my life, my relationships, and my dreams,
  • taking steps to make my dreams come true, for example, planning and booking my dream trip,
  • saying yes to thrilling opportunities,
  • experiencing a new fun tool that helps me coach myself,
  • learning what I need to tweak it so that it works for me, and
  • acknowledging and celebrating the baby steps that I am taking.

Wow! Reflecting on this list of what I have already gained from this process is powerful. It takes me out from the daily details and tasks to the big-picture meaningfulness, importance it has in my life.

I will return again with another update and more reflections. In the meantime, have you created a gift box for yourself yet? I'd love to hear from you if you have or if you want help getting started.