My childhood was punctuated by a series of transitions as regular as a drumbeat.  They were not easy, thought they were an integral part of the rich and complex terroir in which I grew up.  I learned, early on, about the deep bittersweetness of goodbyes.  My family’s moves, back and forth across the ocean with a metronomic every-four-years cadence, engraved into me a deep fear of change.  Transitions, farewells, and endings all cause me deep discomfort and often tears.  This truth is an essential part of who I am (and I know I’m not alone in this).

A couple of weeks ago in a yoga class, I realized something new about myself and transitions.  As I moved through a sun salutation, the poses as familiar as a long-known language, my breath carrying me like a stream, it occurred to me:

The transition between poses is as important as the stillness within them.

I’ve been practicing yoga, with varying degrees of regularity and commitment, for over 13 years.  And for every one of the thousands of practices those years have held I’ve thought that what I was learning was a lesson about stillness, about holding, about enduring, about breath.

And of course I was learning that.  I’ve learned so much about those things – mostly, about abiding, with myself and others – both in class and in my life.  But suddenly that day I saw, with a flash of insight that almost embarrassed me because it was so obvious, that the moving between those poses that I held was equally as important.  I’ve always liked the vinyasa part of yoga, probably because the being still is so hard for me.  But if I’m honest, “liking it” has manifested mostly as moving quickly through the poses, and I realize that is not the point of the vinyasa.  Instead I need to pay equally close attention as I move my body, my breath, and my mind, up and down and around and through.

I need to honor the transitions just as I do the holding.

I’m sure it’s not an accident that this realization comes right as I feel I stand on the threshold of another transition with my children.  They are so incredibly lovely right now, so full of the golden life that is, to me, childhood incarnate.  And yet I see the end of these days like the storm clouds we watched on the horizon as we drove to Storyland (I hope not for the last time).  I know something else wonderful exists on the other side of that horizon, I promise I do – my own childhood of goodbyes taught me that – but I still dread the change.

And yet.  And so.  The lessons keep coming.  Breathing, breathing, into another transition.


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  1. Posted July 16, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Years ago, before I ever knew what, exactly, I wanted to do with my life, I bought a URL for a website called “Graceful Transitions.” I wasn’t sure what it would be, but there was something in that name that called me to. I let the URL go years ago, but I’ve often thought about the words. I think that’s what you’re talking about above. Change doesn’t have to be a kicking-and-screaming affair. And sometimes it’s good for change to be messy. But if we can invite transition into our life with and open heart, I think more ease and grace flows out of it (as hard as that is).

  2. Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I had my first real “transition” at the age of 14, when my family moved from the city where I had grown up (and where both of my parents and their parents had grown up), and settled in a brand new city and state many, many miles away. It was a traumatic time, and also the time period that has most defined my life to this day, probably because the trauma of the five years I spent in that city before heading to college has never quite faded. I feel like, in some ways, I have barely even begun to explore the ways in which that transition affected me, though I know it did, and deeply. I think because of it, I am less likely to invite transition into my life, and far more likely to resist even minor change if at all possible. Like you, I know that something wonderful exists on the other side of all of this familiar, but the road there sometimes seems fraught with bumps, twists, and turns.

  3. Posted July 16, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Some of my most powerful “a-ha” moments come when I’m doing yoga (in fact, I’m working on a post right now about that very thing), and I love your take on the importance of the spaces in between the poses.

    And the word “abide” – again! This word has been surfacing and shimmering for me lately and it seems I’m not the only one. Have you seen this post from Cheryl Smith?

  4. Posted July 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I like this insight. Is it something particularly Western that celebrates the goal, the finish line, the acheivement, instead of the process, the journey, the beginning, the learning?

  5. Posted July 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    My childhood was stable, but punctuated with regular goodbyes every summer. I always came home, I trusted home to be there. Not just the place, but the friends and life. Of course things changed, but the sense of abiding bedrock is deep in my soul. Now transitions often feel like shifts between those known comfortable poses. Even the scary ones. Like moving to a new town. I expect to find home at the end. (I don’t always find it but we’re working on it.)

    But my kids growing and changing is more complex. It’s hard to feel the push away, but I know they need space to grow. Oh. Parenting is hard.

  6. Posted July 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Funny how I turn here for the first time in so long, as I myself ease into a transition of my own. I’ve never been good with them. Fought them to my core, truth be told. So I’m happy to have a kindred spirit out there, finding her way, and remembering to breathe through all the bits and pieces of life.

    I have missed coming here. I hope now to have more time to visit.

  7. Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. Simple. Wise.