Transitions Great & Small

I so enjoyed being in Arivaca this winter, the place I consider to be by home community. As I transition into what we in the desert would consider a second winter, I am able to see that this is spring in Vermont. Snow is melting one day, falling the next, and then melting again. The maple sap is running, and here on the homestead where I live, it becomes syrup. We use the transformative power of the fire element to turn this lightly sweet, watery substance into something more intensely sweet, heavy, and sticky. The smell is comforting as it wafts around the property, emanating from the sugar kitchen. It is warm in there, despite the chilled air outside.

We experience transitions, great and small, always and throughout our entire lives. Some of them are by choice, some of them seem to happen without discussion, most are nature moving as she moves. Āyurveda suggests that we adjust diet and lifestyle to help balance the qualities during these times of change. From one season to another, from sleeping to wake, loss of a loved one, meeting a new friend, from one worldly epoch to the next, change is constant. It is something we can count on, and if we try to escape it, we find ourselves in a losing battle with reality. When we embrace the changes and transitions as they come, move with the flow, rather than against it, we thrive and grow.

The natural world knows this, and can be our guide if we let it. Deciduous trees loose their leaves when the colder seasons near, moving energy inward to preserve life until the temperature warms. As spring arrives, the buds form, the leaves reveal themselves, and the tree takes in all that it can from the glorious sun. Though strong and stable, the tree sways and flexes with the breeze. Ideally bending, but not breaking.

As humans we seem to want to fight against the very reality in which we exist. We try to control and take power over, rather than surrendering into. My practice of surrender has served me well, and it is less often these days that I find myself in resistance to what is. It happens, of course, and probably even mildly at least once a day. The practice however, allows me to see it happening, and adjust when I do. The veil of delusion has grown thinner, and continues to drop its’ barrier as I continue to become more stable in self. When we are able to accept that more will be revealed, and everything is temporary, it becomes easier not to force solutions. It takes practice to see the truth and to be able to feel resistance as it arises in the body-mind-spirit.

One way to recognize resistance in our body-mind-spirit is to scan the body for physical tension. You might find it in the jaw, hands, or shoulders. It could be a stomach ache or head ache. Constipation can be a form of holding emotional stress. When things just don’t seem to be working out the way I expected, or there is a week with constant set-back, I usually know that I am trying to move against the grain instead of flowing with the tides. If “nothing seems to be working out”, perhaps rather than continuing to push, we could try letting go, slow down, and adjust to what is actually happening. Even those of us who love to travel, move around, and try new things, still have difficulty with change. There is a part of us that craves sameness and stability. Others of us get stuck in that sameness, which can become mild or debilitating inertia, and need to put effort into creating change and newness. This is where we use opposite qualities to bring balance.

Any time there is a change or transition, no matter how great or small, the mobile energy of vāta doṣa (ether and air) is present. In order to balance that mobility we need the stable, heavy energy of kapha doṣa (water and earth). During times of change, it is helpful to have some routine, even just one thing that you do at the same time daily. As I was driving for many days across the country, moving at high speeds, and sleeping in a different bed each night, I started and ended each day in the same way in order to bring stability within the transition. As I am settling into my space and summer life in Vermont, the process is slow. With awareness to this facet, I am re-building routine and structure, while giving myself space and time to allow the process to unfold. The practice of effort and non-effort is quite curious, and I am continually amazed by its duality and cohesion.

In times of transition, great or small, we can bring in stability by taking slow, full breaths, walking slowly, being still and connecting with the earth. Cultivate sameness by incorporating a morning, evening, or mid-day routine. Use silence and lessen screen time to sooth the senses and rest the nervous system. During times of greater life transitions, honoring the need for rest is vital medicine.

When we can be with the reality of what is, and stop clinging to what we would like it be, everything becomes more ease-ful. If we try to hold water with clenched fists, there will be no water to quench our thirst. When we relax the hands, keep them open, life giving water flows in, and provide us with what we need.