Transitions are difficult due the unexamined assumptions we have about where we are coming from and going to. At work we build up our stress and allow the tension to seep into our expectations for what will happen tomorrow. We’re under the gun to get things done. We experience stress and expect more in the future. We let our experience define us and our approach to similar situations. It’s part of our wetware having biases in our responses. It helped our species survive the myriad threats through the eons. Many of our biases whether built up in our lives or inherent in our genetics are the basis for our experience and can also lead us into repeating the same problems over and over. The same may be said for many aspects of our lives from dealing with our kids, spouses, friends and the many activities that bring us together. The truth of the matter is that each experience is unique no matter how much we attempt to sculpt it to our expectations. Each day we begin anew as if a blank page. If we take a little time to examine the assumptions built in into our responses, we can free ourselves from repeated insanity. We can also enable ourselves to compartmentalize things a bit more and avoid the bleeding of our work life into our home life and vice versa.
A lesson learned from teaching Tai Chi for almost 15 years is that transitions are creations within our minds attempting to define things as discreet and more readily understandable. In beginning classes there were all kinds of students who asked to work on the transition from one move to another. Some even went so far as showing me their understanding of the transition move. For those who may not be familiar, Tai Chi is a slow moving martial art having named movements transforming seamlessly into one another. There are 108 named movements in the Tai Chi form I instructed. Many of the movements are repeated leaving students to think about “transition moves” between the unique ones. In the Western culture we break things into their component parts in an attempt to understand or perhaps capture the essence of the thing. Tai Chi is an art form having the potential to introduce and even break away from the differentiating mindset of the West. The movements reflect a new way of thinking and experiencing life. In lieu of discreetly defined stances, Tai Chi is a continuum of movement. This is extremely evident to those who stop practicing for a while. What’s lost is the discreetness. What’s retained is the experience of the movement without cessation. The names and discreet nature easily returns when one simply practices the form without thinking about the moves and their illusory transitions.
One of the doctors who taught the form around the world used to say, “life is movement.” This principle of the never ending movement of our lives directly relates to the fact we only have this present experience. Like the movements of Tai Chi, there is only the current move we are ever transitioning from the previous into the next. There is no transition move as every movement is a transition. Similarly when getting up in the morning and readying for work, we only have the present moment. There is no transition. There is only the current experience that moves us into the future. From this perspective, the idea of compartmentalization introduced in the pervious post is a useful illusion to help us keep us emotionally centered in what’s unfolding in our current environment. Just like learning Tai Chi, it is useful to have points of reference. In our daily lives the points of reference used to transition from one experience to another are the thresholds from one world into another. Example thresholds are the drive or walked from work to home or the mental adjustment from an adult conversation into the fun of free association when talking with kids. Thresholds are useful from a mythological perspective as well. Thresholds are the lines in the sand allowing us to change our lives. Threshold provide doorways to adventure and learning. However, when we look back we realize the winds of change have erased our lines and leave us seeing only the sands of time behind us. Thresholds, transitions, compartments and like concepts are useful illusions to keep us moving from one experience to the next. These useful illusions help our brains cope with what is essentially a continuum of experience throughout our days. The key is to know what is an illusion and what is not. It’s up to us to witness the assumptions we start with every day on what otherwise could be a blank page to write the day’s story. Discerning the difference between our innate biases and the expectations we’ve built up out of our experience allows us to understand the assumptions we make as we respond to this or that stimulus. So the next time you are worried about going to work, school, on a date or transitioning out of vacation mode ask yourself some questions about your experience. What are you expecting? What are your assumptions about what’s next? If you think it will suck and suffering is ahead, you will more likely create that very thing as events unfold. Likewise, if you think it will have unexpected opportunities to have fun, you will likely create an enjoyable experience. Use your expectations to your advantage. Don’t let your expectations create difficulty. To be sure, think about all possibilities but plan to take advantage of the enjoyable ones. Even a little reflection can reveal you have a choice. You have a choice on what to expect. You can choose to see opportunity instead of problems. You can choose to accept things as they are instead of how you expect them to be. You have the freedom to make the most out of the current situation by being honest with yourself and the effect you have on your future self and environment.
So what’s your choice going to be?
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