Transitional stressors are part of every person’s life. A transition can be as simple as shifting activities to more complex as a divorce or loss of a loved one. It can look organized and calm or it can feel chaotic and tense. Navigating stressors can be tricky. Having skills such as self-care and advocacy can help.
To be fair to the potential complexity of transitions, let’s take a systems view and consider the subtle subcultures in our lives. A subculture is a group that share beliefs or interests that may be different from the larger cultural group to which it is associated; it is an environment within our environment. In general, most people experience at least the following subcultures in one day 1. Home 2. Social 3. School or Work. Now add multiple homes, various social scenes, a host of different classrooms or work environments as well as special events such as holidays. We are tasked to assess and assimilate to each specific environment following norms, rules and demands of each setting. It is standard issue that any one of these environments could be in flux and not stable, inviting us to re-evaluate our normal response. No wonder we experience transitional stress!
Individually and collectively, with intention, we have an opportunity to be equipped for when the stress arises. First it is helpful to take inventory: what is our emotional tool set like; what is our community tool set like? What are the attitudes and beliefs that support our healthy responses to change?
Here are a few helpful ideas toward a thoughtful plan for a day of transition.
Navegando las Transiciones
Los estresores de transición son parte de la vida cotidiana de una persona. Una transición puede ser tan sencilla como el cambio de una actividad hacia una más compleja como el divorcio o la perdida de una persona querida. Puede ser una transición organizada y calmada o puede sentirse caótica y tensa. Al navegar estresores puede ser complicado. El poder tener destrezas de cuidado propio y el poder abogar puede ayudar.
Para poder tener un amplio entendimiento de las transiciones complejas, vamos a tomar en cuenta y considerar todas las sub culturas en nuestras vidas. Una subcultura es un grupo que tiene las mismas creencias o intereses que son diferentes a las de la cultural de alrededor; es un ambiente dentro de otro ambiente. En general, la mayoría de las personas pasan por las siguientes subculturas en un día 1. Casa 2. Social 3. Escuela o Trabajo. Ahora añade varias casas, varias escenas sociales, salones diferentes o varios trabajos y eventos especiales como fechas festivas. Tenemos la tarea de evaluar y asimilarnos al ambiente específico siguiendo normas, reglas, y demandas de cada ambiente. En cualquier momento puede suceder que cualquiera de estos ambientes este inestable, lo que significa que tendremos que cambiar nuestra manera de reaccionar. Con razón pasamos por estrés transicional!
Individualmente y colectivamente, con intención, tenemos la oportunidad de ser equipados para lidear con el estrés cuando suceda. Lo primero es importante el tomar un inventario: ¿Qué tipo de destrezas tenemos para lidear con estrés emocional? ¿Cuáles son nuestras actitudes y creencias que apoyan una respuesta saludable hacia el cambio?
Estas son unas ideas para crear un plan de transición saludable.
~Ha sido traducido por Ana Silvia Avendaño-Curiel
Developing a heartfelt connection with our experience increases joy and compassion. It can lead to a reliable sense of contentment and well-being. Skillfully getting to the heart of the matter increases emotional intelligence and confidence. It can also be a painful and challenging process and for that, involving a trained support system such as in mindfulness, neuroscience or both is highly recommended.
Establishing a practice that settles the body and mind is essential. Deep relaxation and breathing, somatic psychology and meditation are a few options. The next step is to connect with a personal and specific intention such as “I wish to understand what is happening for me when I am yelling at my wife”. This is not a psychoanalytic route. Yes, there are important factors that led to how we feel right in this moment, however they are countless in number and not helpful to ponder because: 1. it is not what is actually happening 2. memory recall is subject to significant mental bias. Should you go down memory lane and you don’t have fundamental skills to deal with what is happening right now, how will you be equipped to manage something that is subject to mental bias?
All the material you need is right before you.. and further from fabrication once you settle down. From this perspective, if you pay close attention, you will likely notice a host of core human experiences to learn from and apply to a limitless scope of possible outcomes. Spending precious time on past or future events effectively creates an attractive loop of emotional vomiting or false expectations, producing temporal relief or limited satisfaction. This type of stress cycle such as thought patterns of regret or anticipation is known to be addictive. With practice, we can instead build strength and skill in raising awareness and with guidance apply proven methods toward healthy results.
Once the body and mind are settled and intention is identified, the next step to going deeper is by starting most superficially. What is the story you tell yourself about the experience at hand? Keep it short. With the story-line conjured up, ask yourself if there is a belief or an expectation driving the thoughts, speech or behavior? Maybe it is something like “I should be spoken to with respect.” Now as you focus on this imperative statement, immediately bring the mind and the palm of one hand to the part of the body where you feel sensation the most. Can you describe the emotional experience? “I feel frustrated when I’m not respected by my wife.” Next drop the subject and object in the description and report back, shifting your hand if needed over the body to where the most sensation is detected. Amend the statement, for example: “feeling frustrated when not respected” Take out the context and simplify to the action phrase: “feeling frustrated” and then just note the progressive action "feeling". Excellent, you are beginning to tune in! Stay with it. Shift the hand if needed and breathe long and deep as if into that space of action. Place the hand lovingly over the area of sensation, breathe deep and long knowing you are taking care of yourself and bravely showing up for the experience. Drop all labels. Feel the heart of what is happening free of judgment!
Should you become distracted, plan to return with kindness to the instructions. Practice this daily and as confidence builds until the dialogue and labels are no longer necessary to remove story and relate to what is happening. Establishing a meaningful connection seems easier. This is embodied presence. Grace and wisdom follow freeing us from the blah, blah, blah that keeps us stuck. It gets us to the heart of what matters most, cleaning up perspective and illuminating potential.
Wishing to change a habit? One way to aid in your work is to assess your skill set and make the plan specific and effective by matching gross and subtle skills to the experience. In other words, to be successful , be fair.
Let's imagine your goal is wellness. Since that is a big umbrella, lets first narrow it down to one thing. Let's pick feeling at ease. First picture this goal so it can be recognized. What does that look like for you? What does that feel like? What is the body like when at ease? What is the breath like? What is the quality of the mind like? Try practicing this daily for two months to start. Write down your observations. The degree to which awareness is raised here is the degree to which the following technique will be effective.
Now it is time to size up the toolbox available and prepare for daily practice. What works for you? List all the ways you intentionally apply self-care and circle the most reliable and healthy habits that both match your highest values and that lead to a sense of well-being and ease. Now rate your skills into two categories: gross and subtle. Generally speaking that which requires gross motor movement is a like a hammer and thus, a gross level skill. Examples are: walking away, stretching, cleaning, and keeping up with a toddler. Those that require a settled mind are subtle like a tiny screwdriver. Examples of subtle self-care can be: reading, being still/quiet and reflecting non-judgmentally on one's experience. And there is a bunch in between. For now, just start with the obvious, until you build confidence and find support to refine your methods.
Evaluate your habits when the goal is not present. With the example of ease as a goal, pay attention to how you experience the world when not at ease. Make a list of the patterns of thoughts, speech and action that get in the way of being at ease. Rate this list according to range of difficulty assigning a number between 1-10 (10 being most difficult). Now plan to apply subtle skills to the range of 1-5 and gross level skills to the range of 5-10. Post your list on a wall, share it with a loved one, or do that which can help sustain commitment such as giving yourself a token reward at the end of the day. Practice every day.
Please remember, this life experience is a work in progress and progress is not always linear. Changing habits can be challenging, rather than feel discouraged, seek support and celebrate your efforts. Illicit the help of others. At a school I work at, we call this category "seeking wise people". This is what a larger well-trained meditation community does for me. It helps me stay on track in honest and loving ways.
I dedicate this post to that community, Mindfulness Meditation Centers, and share the definition of mindfulness that was offered from a recent teaching: "There is what is happening and there is your relationship to what is happening". So with that, I conclude with a wish that you are healthy, happy, peaceful and at ease with all your relationships!
It is easy to think that what we think we see happening in our world is what is really going on. It is not so easy to show up and find ourselves facing what is actually happening. Showing up takes courage and skill to sort it out; it takes letting go of a storyline such as an expectation "It should be like this..." or a judgement "I don't like that..."
The first step is setting your intention. Imagine that you know nothing about what you are seeing, that you are seeing it for the very first time (when in fact this is closer to the truth than you may realize). Next commit to keeping this attitude. One way of doing this is in the following example. The Dalai Lama is known to practice saying to himself "I'm wrong, I'm wrong, I'm wrong." when many believe him to be one of the wisest beings on the planet. That simple and humble practice is one way of precisely and concisely letting go of what we bring to our perspective. Can you think of another way?
Letting go opens a door to possibility. Curiosity, one of the Seven Factors of Awakening in the Buddhist tradition, is energizing and is wide open to possibilities. It can help wake us up to what is really going on. Now, once you have set your intent and attitude, plan to ask yourself "What is this?" and do not answer that question. Allow the question to point your attention to what is happening. What do you notice? What is that like?
This practice, like many methods that increase our awareness, increases understanding and confidence in the way things are, just as they are. This understanding can change our relationship to what we see, freeing us from the suffering in clinging to a storyline that keeps us from experiencing the world with an open heart and mind.
Lastly, smile at your efforts to be brave and rejoice in the wonderful effects of showing up.