Importance of Transitions
It feels like fall in the air. After a blazing hot spell last week, the mornings are starting to take on a more crisp edge. The squirrels are busy packing up for the winter and back-to-school traffic has hit the streets. The sap is starting to thicken in the trees and when I look out at my garden, it makes me want to go look up recipes for fried green tomatoes.
I love this time of year. It is a time of movement from one season to the next in the natural world and in the human world. Everything and everyone seems to be going through some sort of transition. Even the quality of sunlight is changing as the days are waning shorter.
Transitions are a part of life. They mark the change from one set of circumstances to another. They can be abrupt or smooth and can come and go without our noticing.
There is one thing that transitions do that I celebrate every day. They take the flatness out of life because, if you pay attention to them, your day becomes a story unfolding in a logical sequence, instead of a hodge-podge of disparate events that go by in a blur.
If I pay attention while going through a transition, I can bring a little bit of my most recent experience into my next activity. This adds a feeling of continuum to my life, and instead of finding myself at the end of my day in a pile of pieces on my living room floor, I can look back on the day and feel some semblance of a whole experience.
Another thing that transitions do is help me to keep you more in the present, which in turn brings more depth into each moment. Without depth, life can feel rather flat and tend to stay that way.
Mornings are a good example. I wake up, and instead of jumping out of bed, I lie there and locate myself. ìHere I am lying on my back, breathing slowly and taking in the first light of morning. Then the chatter starts, "How do I feel? Am I rested? Is there somewhere I need to be this morning?" I'm transitioning from the unconscious to the conscious world and it's important to make the change a smooth one. I try to remember to stay in my body and not let the details of my life sweep me off my feet and into my head. So, I do something like T'ai Chi or running or sitting quietly in meditation, not something that requires a lot of thinking.
Doing these types of activities helps me to move into my day grounded, centered and feeling myself. If I shoot out of bed and hit the deck running, I inevitably make a mistake or two right off the bat and spend the rest of the day cleaning up my messes. When I start my day with a good beginning, everything goes better. I make better choices, I treat people more nicely (myself included) and when I lay back down to sleep at night I have a nice series of events on which to reflect. I can acknowledge to myself that life is fundamentally good and full of lessons and change and food for the soul.
When I spend my day in a thoughtless rush, I end it feeling lost and hungry and wanting. Not only that, but I wake up the next day in a rush to accomplish more because the previous day felt wasted. Then I'm caught in the cycle of a human doing not a human being.
Since running is a metaphor for life, itís a great opportunity to practice transitioning. A run can be nothing more than another hour of keeping your body in shape or it can be a vehicle for learning more about yourself. I prefer to have it both ways. If you can learn how to transition well into and out of your running, you can then transfer that skill into the rest of your life. You can learn how to transition into and out of your various daily activities like beginning and ending your workday, commuting, eating meals anything that is an activity can become a conscious activity.
Here are some tips for making a good transition into your run or into a new activity.
• Before you do anything, feel the earth under you and look around.
• Center yourself by just standing straight and feeling your body supported by your feet.
• Body-sense. What is going on in your body? Are your tired, energetic, relaxed, uptight, rushed, full of angst? Where are you tense? Take a deep breath into that tense place.
• Use the Body-looseners to relax and loosen any area that feels constricted.
• Before you go out for a run, think about what you're about to do, and what youíd like to focus on.
• What is the best thing you could do for yourself on your run? Know which Chi Running focuses you will be working on.
• What do you want from this run? Are there any areas of your technique that you feel need improvement? Use your entire run as a time to work on that specific factor.
• When youíre done, look back over your run to see how successful you were with your attempt. What worked well? What would you do differently?
• Feel your body again. Body-sensing is the number one focus during a transition. If all you do is sense your body when youíre going through a transition, youíre doing a lot.
The idea is to begin your run knowing what you're working on and why, so that you end your run having done something to consciously change your running for the better.
When you're finished running, take a moment to look back on your run and take in what you just did. Then you'll have some material to work with the next time you go out for a run. Feel the energy moving through your body and take that into your next activity.
These steps might sound very simple and rudimentary, but when I practice them regularly they can add a third dimension to what might otherwise feel like very a two-dimensional world.