Monday, May 27, 2019

Midlife tasks : Rite of passage, Crisis or Transition?

So much gold can be found in transition times, but mostly, we feel challenged by the unexpected shifts, changes and challenges - whether it's menopause, divorce, the death of a spouse, parent or child, job loss, empty nest or chronic illness - we are propelled into a process of Change, forced into letting go of the old way, and freaked out perhaps at what has not yet been revealed as the New Normal. 

This wonderful article really helped me reframe the mid-life transition, not as a crisis but as an opportunity for personal growth, a time to take inventory mid-journey and decide what is really important, finding meaning and purpose in the second half of life as a quest for authenticity. I especially like that she says creativity plays a central role in supporting this mid-life review. It also calls on our inner boldness and courage to be inventive and creative in the second half of life.

Here is a short synopsis of the tasks that help us do this: (ps journaling and SoulCollage(R) have helped me get started on these.)

Midlife is a time when our wisdom knocks at the door, sometimes forcefully in form of a crisis or life-changing moment. The following midlife tasks support a life-review and provide helpful signposts along the way:

·         Access Repressed Dreams and Unexpressed Aspects of Self
·        Tell and Revise Life Stories
·        Tend to Regrets and Shame
·         Name and Tame Fears and Inner Barriers
·        Make Peace with the Past
·         Clarify Values and Goals
·         Redefine Body Image and Sexuality
·        Deepen Confidence to Live Wholeheartedly and Authentically
·        Transform Anger into Self-Advocacy and Action
·        Identify Personal Gifts and Passions
·        Offer Gifts and Passions to the World
·        Balance Tending to Others and Tending to Self
·         Reformulate Intimate Relationships Based on Speaking and Honoring Core Needs and Personal Truths
·        Spiritual Quest: Define Meaning and Purpose
·        Nurture Creativity and Creative Self-Expression
·        Cultivate a deeper imaginary with self and others
·        Trust intuition and wisdom
·        Explore and create new possibilities. 
·         Discover more meaning and purpose

Journaling questions to help you gain clarity:

What are my unique gifts?
What dreams, goals and longings have I neglected? (ie what did I used to love, or dream of doing?)
What self-doubts and insecurities block me from being the best version of myself?
What beliefs undermine the expression of my full potential?
What do I need to give myself permission to let go of?
What do I need to give myself permission to embrace?
What are the missing pieces (unmet needs) from my childhood that I can now give to myself?
What feels challenging and leaves me feeling drained?
What brings me peace and satisfaction?
What brings me alive, excites me and gives me joy?
What do I value the most in myself?
What qualities do I admire in others?
What would I like others to have said they learned from me?

Allow any newly emerging ideas and feelings, goals and beliefs to surface. Honour and hold them safe, and if you need to feel held in a safe container, find a counselor who will do so, allowing your rite of passage to continue to unfold.

Adapted from an article Midlife: the Tasks of the Journey, by Elizabeth Strazar, MA, LPC Thimble Island Counseling   

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Here be Dragons: Transition Times, Facing the Unknown

SoulCollage(R) Card: Taming the Dragon 

“The human spirit is capable of an endless number of extraordinary feats. It is a dragon slayer, animating its presence within our being to challenge images and thoughts that arise from the depths of our darkness, intent upon reshaping how we see the landscape of our life.” -  Carolyn Myss

A few years ago, I took a class called Dark Gifts. I was intrigued by the title and ready to face my fear of writing the true stories of my childhood with a dysfunctional (but loving) family. I knew it was going to be scary, even though I had previously written a book of poems called “Little Mother”, and dived deeply in my journal for many years. But I also knew there was treasure to be uncovered in that dark cave.
At each transition point in my life, it seems, the dragons raise their heads and blast me with “thou shalt not pass here” messages. I am a brave and curious soul, usually, not reckless, not Game of Thrones kind of adventurer, but eager to understand my own processes and move onward and upward. Still, after the dizzying mid-life transition at menopause, I felt a bit weak in the knees, a bit less sure of myself, so this course beckoned to me.
Here’s the thing about dragons – what I found out when I asked it why I couldn’t pass (in a guided meditation), is that there was no good reason – and when I imagined my little girl self singing it a lullaby, the dragon actually lowered its hoary head and let me come closer. The tears that flowed from my eyes melted some of my own armour, showing me the true nature of courage; by allowing myself to be vulnerable, as Brene Brown says, more courage began to flow. It felt like a pivotal moment. (I’m still working on those childhood stories).
What I’m discovering with my creative practice of SoulCollage® is that the first step, after creating a safe space to play/work in, is to call in my allies and guides for help in facing the dragons. I have made several Protector cards, Wise Elder and Earth Mother cards, cards that feel nurturing and loving and accepting. I also have a few warrior cards, and a ferocious Mountain Lion who stands guard and protects my boundaries. Now I also know that my innocent girl child has a light and power that can fight the dark.
SoulCollage(R) Card: Mountain Lion Protector 

In the workshop I’m offering this weekend, called Darkness to Light, Navigating Transitions, we are going to name and claim our dragons, the boogeymen who say – Stop! You can’t go forward! There be dragons here!  And we will also find and name our allies. We have all been through many transitions in our lives, but in the face of the current transition or challenge, we sometimes forget the skills and tools we learned the last time around. For instance, most of us have survived a lot of challenges: we made it through adolescence, challenging relationships, illnesses, loss of a loved one, or a job change – but when we are in the middle of it, it feels just as scary every time to face the unknown, to be uncertain of the future. I remember Joan Borysenko describing it in a workshop on Change as being in the hallway, with one door closed and the other one not opened yet.  It’s normal to feel uneasy about what is not seen yet, and unknown.
SoulCollage(R) Card: Goddess Blessing Child with Sun and Water

This is why we need to call in our allies. We also need to name our challengers, pull the dragons out of the dark and ask them to speak to us, ask them: what is the treasure you are guarding? What gift do you have for me? What can I give you in return? There is always a gift in the darkness; hiding in the shadows is our gold.
Writing this article, I came across this powerful piece called Meeting the Dragon, by Robert Holden:  “’On the path of bliss you will meet a dragon. On the dragon there are many scales. Every one of them says ‘Thou Shalt Not’," said [Joseph] Campbell. The dragon may take many forms. For instance, a person who discourages you, who says “You can’t” and “You shan’t.” When I was 20 years old, I worked at a BBC radio station for the summer. I loved it. On my last day, the station manager asked to meet me. It was a short meeting. He told me I shouldn’t pursue my interest in radio as I didn’t have the personality or the talent for it. I burst into tears in front of him. What he said sounded like the truth; not just an opinion. This month marked the start of my ninth year hosting my Shift Happens! radio show for Hay House Radio. Not every “Thou Shalt Not” is true.

The dragon is, essentially, an inner experience. It’s often a self-doubt, a judgment, or a belief that breathes fire at you. One of my dragons is the “inner critic” that would roar at me when I sat before the blank page. Over the years, I learned to tame this dragon. Initially, I did everything I could to avoid it, to outrun it, to heal it, and to slay it. One day, I had a revelation. It struck me that the “inner critic” had never been published! I was released. The inner critic still roars at me from time to time, but it has no fire.”
This piece spoke to me personally, because I studied Radio & TV Arts for one year at university, but gave it up, thinking I was not the competitive type of person it took to make it. These days, I have the chutzpah that I didn't have at age 19.
While some people express and explore through words, others use images or dance, breathwork or yoga or any other expressive art to feel the fear, find their strength and glide around the dragons. No matter which modality you use, one thing I’m sure of, your spirit has more power in it than you know. Reclaim your inner resources, your inner wisdom and find your playful spirit of resilience. Perhaps you won't slay the dragon, but have a conversation with it. Use your intuition, your imagination, and most of all, use imagery and symbolism, the language of the soul, to get to the bottom of your treasure.
And of course, if it feels too overwhelming and difficult, consult a professional who can help you face your fears and move forward.
There may be dragons here, but there also be Transformation and Healing!
Playfully yours in creativity, 

Art Collage: Warrior Monk Flies down the Path with Eagle