Archive for March, 2011

A Skillful Reflection on Transition

From the Taoist viewpoint, the polar opposites of light and dark, giving and taking, night and day, man and women, and yin and yang are not seen as separate or in conflict, but as interdependent and complementary. In fact, one creates the other. “Is there a difference between yes and no,” asked Lao Tzu, Taoism’s first sage. “Is there a difference between good and evil?” He replied, “Under heaven all can see beauty only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil.” What are we to make of this polarity then? How do we deal with the tug of war between these seeming opposites? Indeed, the answer lies in the understanding that they are interdependent, two sides of the same coin.

It has been said that in the 2 weeks preceding a significant event – even an inherently positive one – we experience the greatest turmoil. During this time, the energy from up ahead blows down on us like the wind before a storm. At this time, we have a tendency to jump ahead into the throws of the transition. As a result, we are at greatest risk for becoming imbalanced, even sick.. While all our lives we are taught to equate moving forward with positivity, we often forget that this movement is far bigger than we are; and rather than acting on our impulses, we would be best served delaying our own action while observing the initial stages and changes that are beginning to amass in front of us.

Right at this moment, these changes are happening…and just like you would in advance of a storm, it is advisable to stay grounded. From the unearthed worm, emerging intently from the dirt that protected him all winter to faithfully attract the robins, to the subtle change in our daily pace from one season to the next, it is critical at this juncture to be aware of what is occurring around us. At this pivotal time and setting, it is best to operate at a high level of discretion and discernment, and exercise the necessary judgment to remain grounded throughout the transition. Indeed, the changes that we first associate with spring; the worms, the robins, the snow drops and crocuses all happen on the ground, well before the trees bloom or the skies clear.

Nature is a curious thing, in that it is indifferent to the processes it sustains. The great wall of water that refills a river after the long dry season also floods crops, drowns unsuspecting animals, and destroys nearly everything in its path. Nature’s moral relativism can be hard for us to comprehend. Since so many of the processes that sustain life also take it away, it is impossible to determine whether something is good or bad. Many of us do not do well with this level of ambiguity at first, but life’s opposites are merely expressions of a deeper underlying unity; a cycle that connects and defines life in all its forms and processes. Instead of choosing sides, we should see how opposites merge into one another. Suspending our judgment is one way of doing this. No matter how eager we are for the future, change does not all happen at once, and sometimes the bigger picture or a meditative retrospective is the missing link between haste and triumph.
The ground is also a place where we can get our footing when tempted to lurch forward. On this day of the seasonal cycle, there is something very comforting about finding the utmost stability in the very place where the most movement is occurring. As porous pieces of land give way, flowers break through and chutes of grass begin to sprout again, and with it our impulses. But, don’t put your jacket away just yet. Evade the hustle by moving forward steadily, leaving winter behind for sure, but not so fast…never forgetting to observe the beauty of each step of the process – both sides of the coin.

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Advice from the Skillful Doctor

Question: My partner asked me to move in with him a few months ago. I happily obliged and all is going well. I am serious about spending the rest of my life with him, and he has told me on many occasions that I am the woman he sees himself being with forever, but any time I want to talk about taking the next step and securing our future as husband and wife, he tells me he thinks the conversation is premature. If we’ve already discussed an eternal partnership, I am not sure what he is waiting for. How can I get him to solidify his commitment?

Answer: First off, allow me to commend you for your admirable ability to commit to such a change. Co-habiting with a partner requires a laundry list of hefty compromise—perhaps even more than marriage does—and your devotion to upholding this commitment is commendable. Clearly, you are confident that the benefits of sharing your living quarters with someone you care about so deeply leads to benefits that far outweigh that compromise.

That being said, I am wondering why you are rushing to secure your next milestone, when you should still be reaping the benefits of your most recent one. You seem to love and trust your partner, and yet there is something not quite within your grasp that you are focusing on which is preventing you from enjoying the way things are now.

Do you have a favorite movie? If so, I would imagine you’d be satisfied with the way it ends. However, when you watch it, do you skip ahead to the final scene, or do you get as much enjoyment out of the story that unfolds as you arrive there than the ending itself?

I want you to try to treat your relationship this way as well. It seems as though marriage is where you and your partner are eventually headed, so why do you feel the need to skip ahead? While decisiveness is a sound trait, transition is not designed to be rushed. Even when things are moving, there is still a pace and rhythm that must be respected in order for your transition to occur skillfully. Forward is a wonderful place to go, but moving too fast or doing so recklessly will sabotage the enjoyment of where you are now. Instead of trying to evade your current set of boundaries, value them, and view them as a protective layer against letting the beauty of your current moment pass you by.

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