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The Alchemy of Transition

Transformation through transition: turning raw material into gold

...When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too. ~ Paulo Coelho

Many people think of change and transition as very similar things. But actually, they're very different. Change is a constant state; it's simply the nature and rhythm of life. Most changes in the world won't affect you, but when change does have a direct impact on your life you can elect to ignore it, or you can choose to do something with it.

Remember the alchemical attempt to turn base metals into gold? Well, that's what transition actually does. (The common prefix trans implies "going through or beyond" while the suffix tion means "the act of"). Transition allows you to take the raw material that's inherent in change and to transmute it into what you need.

Transition is what you do with the changes that happen. Essentially, transition represents dynamic movement through change. It implies taking action as opposed to just letting things happen on their own. Transition means that it's time to move on, to let go of someone or something.

As part of the process through transition, you shed an old identity-the way you've thought about yourself up until the change. Essentially, the energy that has powered an outdated role, status, or persona needs to be released in order for it to be available for what you are to become. This process may leave you wondering, "If I'm not who I once thought I was, then who am I?" A real sense of loss for what once was often accompanies transition.

For transition to do its magic as the process unfolds, you have to begin to question what you once called your reality. For many of us, when we think of real we think of something as fixed and absolute. We're invested in believing in our own point of view, probably because we feel reassured and safe when life continues on in the same way it always has. So what's real, anyway? Well, if you really get down to it, reality is relative, and illusive.

In the transition phase, as you let go of the people and events to which you've been attached, you also let go of a thinking that has imbued these specific people and events with special significance and meaning. This is the process of stripping away the veil of idealism surrounding the world you've created for your own purposes, in order to reveal things as they truly are. If making change is to be effective, the individual must undergo a disintegration, or a taking apart, and a reintegration, a putting together, of the pieces of the new changed self. So in the process of shifting your focus, you begin to shift your consciousness.

Not knowing is an essential part of the process. Before you can find and anchor yourself to something new, you inevitably go through a period of not knowing. You may know you're moving forward but you don't yet know where you're going. It's this "betwixt and between" phase of transition that's the most unpredictable and scary since you're being asked to move forward into the unknown in a simple, yet deeply profound act of faith and trust that you will be led to where you need to go.

Oddly enough, the place of not knowing, where you don't know how to belong because you're between identities, is also the place of your greatest authenticity; basically, who you are at the core. When all is stripped away from the identity that is "you," the realization may hit that what you refer to as my life is just simply the core of who you are, your "real" self, wrapped in the "stuff of life," all of the external things that make up life as we think about it. When these are peeled away layer by layer, what is left is all that really matters-who you are. When people say, "This is just who I am" as if it were written in stone, what needs to be added is, this is who I am given the set of circumstances. Given totally different conditions, who knows who you would be.

Re-view your past experiences with transition. In transition you have the opportunity to turn back, but not to return, to view what once was with a perspective altered by time and distance; you can see all that was for what it is, rather than for what you wished it had been. Each re-view broadens your perspective on your life; the cumulative effect of this is learned wisdom.

For the exercise or just for the fun of it, you may want to create a timeline of significant life events/experiences beginning from your earliest memory. Demarcate your timeline by decades or periods of your life and ponder these questions.

  • What events were pivotal in your life?
  • How did these events impact you?
  • How did positive experiences catapult you forward, supporting your growth and development?
  • How did negative experiences inhibit you, preventing healthy development, keeping you stuck in thinking and/or believing in a certain way?
  • What did you learn from these events/experiences?
  • Did you carry these lessons forward into your life?

The goal of transition is transformation. You want to utilize the change that comes your way and you want the change to move through you, enabling you to go beyond your limiting perspective, expectations, and beliefs. You want to transmute or change the form, the substance, the nature of yourself---not just the circumstances. And that my friends is real alchemy.

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