How do you handle transitions? Are they easy for you? Do you move from one job or activity or phase of life with grace, or are you like me and get pulled so hard in two directions, clinging to the past and desiring the future, that you feel you might break?
When my son was little, I read parenting books that told me to ease into transitions to make life easier for both child and parent. When it was time to leave the park, give the child plenty of warning, start packing up slowly, say good-bye to everyone, so that the pang of leaving would be minimized. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Some days it was better to pull up stakes and leave right away, like ripping the bandage off quickly. Over, done, move on.
When I dance or do Aikido, I love those transitional moments. I look forward to them, and I allow myself to savor that moment of falling when I take ukemi, or when I break my partner’s balance, or the moment in the choreography when one dance move follows another. Some transitions in dance are so, so sweet, like biting into a ripe juicy peach. One move falls seamlessly into the next, like slipping into a pool of water. It’s a supremely joyful moment.
In Aikido, when I let go and allow myself to feel the transition, the moment my partner takes my balance and I can no longer hang on to it, it feels like touching a piece of the infinite. To let go and feel that space where you are neither hanging on nor crashing to the ground is incredibly liberating, freeing, and life-affirming.
I wish I could do that in my mundane life. In life, transitions are painful, wracking contractions. It is unfortunate, too, because that’s what life is! Life is a constant series of transitions. Most are small and relatively easy to maneuver, but the others, the big ones, those are not so easy. At least, not for me. I wish I could allow them to happen, to feel when it’s time to let go of one part of my life, to feel it until it’s done, and then drop into the next part without hesitation and struggle.
In Aikido I’ve learned when it’s time to take the fall, that in order to protect myself I have to hit the mat. Sometimes my partner is rough and I have to bail out early, but sometimes my partner is strong, but firm, and I can relax into the technique, waiting until the last moment to fall because I feel protected. If only I could see life in such straightforward terms. If it is rough and hurting me, leave. Protect myself. Take the fall. Roll away. If it is going well, follow for as long as it takes me where I want to go. Then leave. The difference is that in one, I come up frustrated and the other I come up smiling, ready to try again.
In dance I’ve learned to absorb the rhythms of the drums to hear when it’s time to transition from one move to another. Transitions in dance have taught me to not stop my momentum in preparation to change, but to continue on with the flow of the movement. That is, until it is time to stop. Then I stop, full out. Perhaps I need to discover some universal rhythm, something I can tap into so I know when it is time to change to the next experience. If I do, then perhaps I can also learn how to handle life’s transitions with more ease and grace.