The Art of Transition

Rituals to mark transitions that enrich your everyday life

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

I have always had a hard time with change. My family moved a lot throughout my childhood, and since then, change has me frightened more than excited. While I love to watch the changing seasons, especially from summer to fall, I am always a little wary of the transition. Whether I’ve had a full-time job, or been a student, as I am now, I’m always excited and nervous. Excited to apple pick, leaf peep, and to curl up with a blanket, a book, and tea. I’m especially nervous because I’m graduating this coming spring and thus am anticipating the pressure of a job search in addition to the usual stress that schoolwork brings. I know that I will find peace as fall settles upon me. In the meantime, I’m staying attentive to how nature is changing everything around me and reflecting on the intentionality with which many people, including me, say goodbye to one season and welcome the next.

There is a balance to the art of transitioning that I see in the way that we deal with the change of seasons. We appreciate and in some ways ritually say goodbye to summer. We each have our own way — whether it is savoring the last of summer’s fruits or visiting a favorite summer spot one last time. I commemorate the end of summer by eating as much watermelon, zucchini and tomato as I can handle and by taking long walks right before sunset. I then let go and welcome the newness of the next season. My favorite way to welcome fall is by apple picking. These rituals help me acknowledge and accept the changes that occur slowly but that without attentiveness might feel abrupt.

Marking change

Intentionality can help us transition more gracefully and with less anxiety during these bigger changes, and can also aid us with our smaller, everyday transitions. It seems that we are always in transition. We are growing, learning and becoming more ourselves every day. If it is important to mark the larger transitions, like seasons, why wouldn’t it be equally, if not more, important to attend to ourselves in these daily changes? I’ve found that attending to my spiritual needs on a daily basis does not just mean that I make sure to say a daily prayer or do yoga; it also means creating rituals to mark these small shifts.

This year I began a new ritual. When I cross the front doorway to my apartment on my way out and when I walk through the same door to come back home, I try to remember to say a short two-line prayer: “God you are my strength and hope, help me to see you today.” I say “try” because more often than not, I forget and say the prayer hours later. Regardless of when I say them, the words remind me that I have transitioned from one part of my life to another and that this day, this life, is so much bigger than me.

There are many ways to insert rituals into your day. Every day after work, my boyfriend takes a shower and drinks a smoothie. A friend of mine washes her feet after a long day to nurture herself and mark the transition to home. This same friend, in her wise way, reminded me of the importance of not just intentionally marking the developments, changes and evolutions in our lives, but also intentionally reflecting upon them just as we reflect on nature’s changes from season to season. She likened it to marking a child’s height every year so that a parent can see how much that child has grown. In the same way, we need to reflect on how our lives, ourselves, our families have transitioned over time. We might take account of the differences each day, noting where we began in the morning and where we are before bed, or where our relationship with God was a year ago and where it is now.

I have to admit that I am much better at considering the shifts I’ve made over a few weeks than I am at looking at my daily transitions, but I think that it is important that I acknowledge the changes at all. In these reflections, I can see how I have evolved and stand in wonder at my growth, unless I’m not happy with the changes I see. In that case, by having marked time and transitions in my life, I can hopefully see how I’ve gotten to where I am and how to move toward where I want to be.

Dealing with change, at least when it is big and obvious, like changing jobs, moving, or shifting from summer life to fall life will never come as easy to me as it might to others. However, through reflection and intentional marking of transitions I am finding it easier and easier to deal with the shifts and changes that I encounter. Acknowledging and honoring the transitions alleviates the stress of dealing with the big changes in life by helping me to stay present to and accept each part of the process, letting go of what was and embracing what is right now. And right now the leaves are changing, the nights are getting cooler, and I’m reading for school and refining my resume. Fall is here.

Originally published October 12, 2012.