It’s taken me a long time to make friends with transitions. I used to think of them as some sort of necessary evil. I didn’t think they required any time, nor deserved any attention. I’d book one appointment after another with just enough time for travel. I’d work one job right up until the final hour and then drive directly to the next job without any time to hit the reset button. I did this not because I really didn’t understand that these things take time, but because part of me was committed to the belief that these transitions weren’t the meat, weren’t the juicy part of life and therefore didn’t deserve my attention or my energy.
Gratefully, I now have an appreciation for transitions. I better understand the richness in the in-between, I have begun to feel the necessity to create space for the shift. I’ve been aware this week, as I’ve returned to school in Albuquerque, of the stages of the transition. It was fairly easy to transition physically. My apartment was already set up. I had a few bins to unpack, I had closets to organize, and a study space to arrange, but it was mostly done in a day. But even as I look around my organized apartment I can feel that I haven’t energetically settled in yet. I haven’t fully arrived mentally and emotionally. And that’s ok. It doesn’t need to happen immediately. I can take time to be mindful of the transition. I can be compassionate to the parts of my self that feel overwhelmed, or not fully present. I can use my tools to create routine, ground myself in with practice and food, I can gently invite, instead of force, the shift.
Ayurveda has a name for these shifts, sandhi. Sandhi can be literally translated as a juncture or a joint. These are the gaps, the transitions between what was, and what is. Ayurveda calls out these sandhis as times that are challenging for us to find equilibrium in, because your micro-environment is seeking balance with the macro-environment.
Take my move for example. My internal environment was aligned with a humid Michigan summer, at sea level, with the Eastern time-zone, living in my Michigan house, eating my Michigan food, working and teaching, and doing my Michigan things. Now I’m in Albuquerque. It’s the dry, high desert. It’s Mountain Time. I’m at a mile-high, preparing to head back into school full-time, on a different schedule, and it’s discombobulating. My internal environment is a little confused. I’ve only partially arrived.
The thing is, it doesn’t take a cross-country move to feel the stutter of the sandhi. It happens to all of us: at time-of-day transitions, seasonal shifts, and time-of-life changes. So, what to do?
First, we can be aware that these transitions can be speed bumps. Don’t set yourself up with the expectation that the things that worked for you before the gap are going to be the same things that work for you after. I know I need to give special attention to hydration here in Albuquerque, that I’m going to up my relationship to oil (internally and externally), and that I need to increase the brain foods.
In assessing your transitions, look back, look forward, note the differences, and adjust according.
Second, give yourself permission to take time for the transition. Know you might need support in the transition. I mindfully booked an Ayurvedic (oily) bodywork appointment for a day after my arrival to help me ground and arrive. Thank you, Kara of the past!
In everyday life, this permission to take time looks a lot like scheduled transition time, or pauses for breath. I schedule myself a transition time now before I teach a class, so that I can fully make the shift from one role to another. If I can’t schedule a transition time, then I use what I have mindfully. I am aware of the breath as I drive from one appointment to another. I stop before I enter a door to just ‘be here’ for a moment before I go in, even if I’m running late.
These small, mindful gestures will allow your micro-environment to more easily and gracefully align with the macro-environment. Whatever that environment may happen to look like today. And that balance is one of the ways Ayurveda defines health.
I’d love to hear your favorite ways to ‘mind the gap’. Let me know if the comments below.