One of the questions that Heather asked when she interviewed me for her wonderful Circle of Stones series was “What can we do globally to create a world that honors the transitions that we all go through, and that have to be recognized in order to create a more peaceful world?” I was humbled that she would ask me a question with such far-reaching ramifications, and I sat with it a long time before I answered. I had to ask myself, as I’ve asked many times before, “Does any of this matter? When there’s an oil spill in our oceans that’s killing and injuring hundreds of creatures each day, when innocent people are in detainment camps and opposing tribes are at war, when the planet is suffering from the consequences of our irresponsible choices and actions, does my work on transitions in my tiny corner of the world make a difference?”
It does. Maybe not in the direct way that a political activist’s work makes a difference, but I’ve been called to help raise consciousness about the way we walk through life’s transitions, and I believe that if the intention of one’s work derives from a deep desire to help heal others in any way, then we’re making a difference. Stephen David Hewitt writes in his forward to Deena Metzger’s Entering the Ghost River:
“There can be no doubt that we are at a critical point in our development as a race of beings. More and more, we are being shown the fruits our ways, our thinking, the very paradigms by which we live – and what bitter fruits these are. Whether you consult the elder teachings of the Hopi, the Maya, the Tibetans, or the Essenes, to name but a few, they all refer to this very time in our history as an in-between time, a time in which we are crossing over to another world, another way of existence. The old ways are no longer valid. We cannot expect ourselves to be saved by a Messiah who descends from “on high”; that patriarchal fantasy only makes us separate from the power which resides within us all. Each of us shares a piece of the “Messiah”, and when we come together in community, the pieces interlock. Then what we think of as miracles can take place.” (p. v)
Our planet is in the liminal stage of transitions. We’re being called as a species to let go of our habitually negative thought patterns and actions that are no longer serving us or our planet. We’re teetering on the threshold between the old and new models of consciousness, and the more people who are working on healing themselves and offering their gifts to those who ask, the better chance we have of tipping the balance in the direction of a new vision, a new consciousness, a new planet that can sustain life. It’s a scary time, but also an exciting and powerful time. I’m sure there’s more I can do, but for now I will try to remember that raising my children with compassion, health, and love, committing each day to showing up in all of my relationships, and offering the information and guidance on my small area of expertise to those who seek it is enough.
Here’s how I answered Heather:
“This is a huge but important question! Central to the philosophy of transitions is honoring the feminine principle. I use the word feminine in the archetypal sense, meaning the energies of being, slowness, stillness, emotional as opposed to the masculine principle of efficiency, productivity, action, rational thought. Both men and women carry the feminine and masculine principles. Our culture – and most of the so-called “developed” world – favors the masculine principles. We’re about doing things quickly and efficiently. We’re about productivity and action. We’re about rational thought. There’s nothing wrong with the masculine principle; on the contrary, it’s essential to access these qualities when necessary. But we’re grossly out of balance.
“This is where honoring transitions enters the picture. When we honor a transition, we have to slow down. When we slow down, we drop into our bodies where our emotions live. When we acknowledge and process our emotions, we become kinder, more compassionate, and more spiritually evolved human beings. Anything that increases our capacity for compassion will naturally create a more peaceful world.
“I’ve written several blogs about my commitment to unplug my computer for a twenty-four hour period. This has become my fallow time, my liminal zone where I can replenish away from the virtual world. This simple act slows me down and brings me into alignment with the natural pace of life, nature’s pace which is also the pace of transitions. One of my best friends said to me the other day, “I love your blogs on unplugging. You should start a revolution.” Imagine if everyone unplugged for twenty-four hours! Imagine how the effect that one simple act would have on our energy resources, both literally and spiritually. When we honor the transition of a week, we recognize that there’s an arc to the week where we’re productive and in the world, and then we start to retreat back into ourselves until we slow down in the liminal stage of a self-imposed Sabbath.
“Honoring transitions also brings us into alignment with nature. The framework of transitions follows the four seasons, so when we’re actively working with transitions we’re more attuned with the natural world. Anything that connects us more deeply to nature will have positive global effects.
“Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when we honor transitions we’re able to parent our children with more compassion. Instead of viewing an emotional breakdown as a “temper tantrum”, we might examine her stage of growth and realize that she’s in a transition. Holding the three stages in mind creates a roadmap for every transition our children pass through, from teething to sleeping, growing from a baby to a toddler, a toddler to a little boy or girl, then a big boy or girl, an adolescent, and a young adult.
“Our world would change dramatically if we guided girls through the transition of becoming a young woman, physically instigated by the onset of menstruation. Our world would change dramatically if we had meaningful rituals that guided young boys across the terrifying terrain of becoming a man (what we refer to as adolescence.) Our culture has no framework, rituals, or vocabulary in place that can help us help our children transition through each stage of their development. It’s such a glaring hole in our culture and the ramifications are immense. Most of us arrive at adulthood without a clear sense of who we are and what it means to be an adult. We arrive on the shores of our twenties carrying the unfinished transitions and withheld grief of our childhood inside. Our identities are fractured because the transitions were fractured. At the core of transitions is a framework that helps to create more whole and healthy people.”