There are times in each of our lives when our well-ordered existence seems to crack open and life no longer seem to work as it once did. This may occur slowly over time or with an unexpected suddenness. We may be touched by deep loss, overcome by emotional distress, or may have simply reached the time in life when we can no longer avoid the inner longing that knows that there is something more - something more meaningful and more possible for our life.
When we begin to lose control and life seems to fall apart, we are at the entrance way to a life transition, a very special, sacred and pregnant time that is filled with unseen and well-disguised possibilities. If this opportunity is taken up and fully lived and experienced our lives can expand and be reborn into a larger life and health. But if we refuse or deny this opportunity, are overcome by fear, or simply don't know how to move through it, then we may refuse the forward movement of transition and fall back into the past.
That was the juncture at which I found myself years ago. I looked for assistance everywhere. But psychologists, physicians and even friends saw the challenges of transition as problems to be solved rather than a journey towards authenticity. With no where to turn, I began to read the great stories of the heros and heroines of times past. They braved life's challenges with the sole intention of overcoming limitations, transcending outdated lifestyles, and realizing a more fulfilling life. They wanted more, that something more to life... that something lacking... something missing... something lost. It was from these readings and personal experience that I began to inquire and write about life transitions.
I learned from the journey of Odysseus, the quest of Parsifal, the trials of Job, Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces, and even my next door neighbor. I discovered that these stories of breakdown and breakthrough offered a reliable map that guided me through the dark night, reconnect me to my soul, and brought forth the possibility of a larger and more authentic life. It is a map that offers a clear picture of the 6 stages of transition - The Call to a Larger Life, The Departure, The In-Between Time, Lessons Learned, The Return, and The Gold. It is map that can help us transmute suffering, emotional distress, and disease into the great human treasures of wholeness, peace, love and joy.
The call to a larger life comes in many forms. Will we hear it? Will we understand its meaning for our life? If we hear and accept the call, how do we depart on the journey and navigate the challenges - the groundlessness, the unsettledness, the uncertainty, the fear? What lessons will be learned? What are the gems at the end of the journey?"
All transitions begin with endings that in their essence is a dying off and separation from certain parts of our life and identity that no longer work for us. This may include relationships, lifestyles, work, meanings, values, desires, mental attitudes, or the false sense of our immortality. Endings must precede new beginnings and yet many, immobilized by an understandable fear, will refuse this call, recoil from this adventure and grasp onto the old ways, returning to the stagnation and spiritual decay of what was - losing personal power, creativity and the life force itself to years of quiet desperation.
This critical period, when we hear and are summoned to answer the call to change, is a momentous time of our life when the courage and risks taken will determine for many years ahead the character of our lives. When we choose to answer the larger call and take distress or disease as a signal to move into the dark night of the soul we will not be alone. Unexpectedly we will find the appearance of inner and outer spiritual guides. As an inner guide you will experience a deep personal faith, conviction and confidence that the correct path has been chosen and that the storm will be weathered. As an outer guide an individual will often appear who is experienced with such transitions and can and will become for you an invaluable first mate on your journey of renewal.
The natural unfolding of a life transition is such that in time chaos, turmoil and disorientation are replaced by a deeper understanding of life, a previously unknown inner peace, security, ease and freedom, and a healing that is also a wholing. Returning to day-to-day life, we bring back what we have learned from our spiritual journey to soften and enrich the world around us - our family, friends, relationships, work and community, and we begin to divest our self of trivial activities and meaningless entertainment, choosing rather to surround ourselves with companions and experiences that support our growing inner life.
The reward for the completion of a heroic journey is the return home to who and what we are, the return home to a health and healing of mind, body and spirit, a return home to a renewed life of authenticity, joy and freedom. Stripped of old fears, limitations, illusions and fantasies we can engage life with the freshness and firstness of an early spring morning. And this is the nobility of human life and the essence of a final, comprehensive and complete healing.