Beautiful, amazing, messy, miraculous, confusing, ugly, painful.
All of it sacred.
All of it unfolding perfectly, even when we can’t see it in the moment. Even when, in the dark struggle of some phases, we forget how precious all of it is, how the light is still there behind the clouds, how the timing is always perfect.
The timing is always perfect.
A big part of the art of living is choosing to believe this. To make this your narrative – so that whatever happens, no matter how incredibly awful it may seem, you will find the gifts in it.
The light. The hope. The lessons. The opportunity.
Because there is always that. Always two sides – darkness cannot exist without the light; when we look for it with open hearts even in the darkest dark, we will find light.
Wherever you are, whatever is happening, is exactly what is needed.
The timing is always perfect.
The story of our lives
Ever-unfolding, this life. Telling a story through us, through our lives, our struggles, our joys.
We are the heroes of our own stories, living a continuous cycle of hearing the call for a new adventure, severing ourselves from what we were until that point, setting forth and crossing the threshold into the uncertain territory of the unknown, facing challenges and receiving aid, surviving the greatest test of all in the final culmination of our metamorphosis, and returning to our lives irrevocably changed to begin a new phase.
So many parts of that journey that we cycle through again and again are fraught with danger – psychological danger anyway – shaking the foundation of who we thought we were.
And this is the lie we are told – that you become an adult and then you are ‘done’. Finished. Ready to go and face the world and make your life.
But this is not true.
The truth is that life is an ever-emerging process, and we, as expressions of life, are ever-unfolding beings. Our task, individually and collectively, is not to remain static, but to allow life to live us, to flow through us, to morph and shift and grow and change…and to trust that the process will unfold, that we will not get stuck in any one part of the journey, that we will emerge from each cycle of change cleansed, different in some profound way, humbler and stronger, ready for the next phase of our lives.
Transition comes at four major points on the hero’s journey; severance, crossing the threshold, facing the challenge, and returning home.
Severance is the letting go of what has been – the understanding and acceptance of the fact that what was must now end, and you must leave it behind you. In many ways this is the biggest test of our strength, because leaving behind the familiar to step into the unknown, with the uncertainty and the perceived lack of security that comes with that requires fierce courage and determination.
Crossing the threshold happens the moment we exit our habitual reality and enter the world of the unknown. There is always a perceptible shift in us when this happens; a momentary clarity that something important has changed, although we might not know what. From this moment on, our task is to remain as alert and open as possible – to be aware of any signs, coincidences or messages that cross our path. There is a giant increase in the intentionality with which we move forwards.
Successfully meeting the challenge requires the negotiation of the most dangerous part of the journey. This task, trial or challenge will ask of us to draw on strength, wisdom and courage we did not know we had, will push us to the limits of our endurance, past the point at which we thought we could survive. In a way, it will break us. The meeting of the trial is in a way a death; but a death that gives rise to a new iteration of ourselves that includes and transcends the old.
Returning home is the final transition of the journey. A sense of completion exists within you; you feel it in your bones. Time to return to regular life, to settle down again to the everyday. Fundamentally different, even if things look the same on the outside. This can be rocky navigation as well, as the intensity of the journey must be left behind and we must return profoundly changed to a world that may not have changed while we were away.
The cycle of life
Life, nature, our nature, is cyclical – we weave in and out of life phases as we grow and evolve, and are confronted with new experiences. The trick to moving through these transitions with ease and grace is to surrender to them as they arise (rather than resist, which is what often happens until we are forced to acknowledge change).
And knowing what phase of the cycle of change you’re in at any given moment is an immense aid.
It means that instead of feeling lost, terrified, hopeless or despairing, you have a framework you can place your trust in, a map with a path to follow – and while it may be a rocky, uneven and dangerous path; and while you may sometimes lose sight of it for a period of time, or doubt the signposts and fear you have lost your way, if you just keep moving forwards you will emerge from the path on the other side.
And when you bear in mind that every step is sacred – then even the hardest transitions hold beauty and grace.
*Terminology used comes from Joseph Campbell’s work on the monolith (see “The hero with a Thousand Faces”)