Life transitions are always challenging, thus, in the spirit of helping others who are experiencing changes in their lives, I’d like to share how I’ve been addressing the emotional and physical challenges that can arise when one is in the midst of this process.
In my own case, I began a full time teaching job two months ago. A Waldorf Language teacher’s job is quite demanding, yet my experience is very rich, as every day is fresh and new in some way. The Waldorf curriculum recognizes the natural world as a vital resource contributing balance to children’s lives as their personal development unfolds. Emotional development is cultivated along with academic skills, which are presented according to a developmental stage of growth. Clearly, this educational philosophy resonates with my own healing work.
In the beginning, although I was very excited for having this opportunity, at the same time, I was very concerned my 2 hour-long daily commute to work and full time teaching responsibilities would have a negative impact upon my wellbeing. I’m very sensitive to stress and have a tendency to hold it as a constant tension in my body. As my job’s start date was approached, I began to feel strange pains in my body. The feeling of dread was very hard to contain as I went through the process of training and preparing for my new assignment. Considering all the physical wellbeing I’d achieved through my healing work, it was alarming me to see how my mental state was whipping up an unusual physical reaction to the lifestyle changes inherent to this job. It felt like a runaway train. I struggled to control the great fear and apprehension that seemed to be looming in my daily life. How could taking on a new job create such physical suffering for me?
As I’m always in the process of exploring my mental and emotional outlook, this served as a “laboratory experiment” upon my Self. Although it was a challenge, I put forth a great effort to be aware of whatever I was feeling. As each milestone of the new job took place, my physical symptoms would subside. I continued seeking healing treatments from alternative therapies during this time with a deep-seated determination not to give up on my body-- making an effort to trust in this process; believing my pain and discomfort would go away. Somehow I’d manage to consciously step aside from the pain, allowing it to exist in the background while I was living life and going about daily activities and work.
As I realized that my mental state contributed to this situation, there were times when I was tempted to criticize and judge my “weak” mind, yet I decided to just observe the process in a neutral fashion. I experienced what Buddhist teachings often express: by allowing my “pain” mind to take over, I’d left myself vulnerable to a lot more suffering than I would have experienced otherwise. Despite all of my personal and spiritual work to date, I found myself on this path- even though I was completely aware it had brought me suffering. This is what Buddhists call “Samsara”. It’s the continual cycle of suffering of mankind- as it’s experienced when they are caught up in the grip of ignorance [misery, fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, etc.].
Why would one not wish to avert their suffering? What causes human nature to bring about suffering to oneself? Buddhism, as well as other spiritual philosophies, states that being happy or unhappy in life is a personal choice. When individuals aren’t self-aware, they can get stuck in emotional states limiting their personal growth and ability to choose well. Reference is often made to how worldly life consists of a continuous cycle of birth, death and reincarnation as individuals seek liberation from their karma. Life experience results in bringing about greater awareness, but not without a certain degree of suffering.
In retrospect, my misery was linked to a great discomfort related to change. On the one hand, I welcomed my opportunity to be gainfully employed. On the other hand, I hadn’t released feelings relating to my unpleasant past teaching experiences. As you may or may not be aware, teaching in the USA is far from easy work. But this was a Steiner school, and I’d heard many positive reviews, so I decided to give teaching another try. Yet, although I was beginning a new job in a new work environment, I was unreasonably concerned that I’d find myself repeating a past negative experience. This process had a life cycle of its own.
All I could do was create a support system for myself through alternative healing therapies as I went through the experience. It was hard to accomplish much in terms of maintaining my usual meditation practice, as I was too overwhelmed by the job and commute. Instead, I utilized the elements of the outdoors for my healing as much as I could. I underestimated how much this would affect me on a physical level, so it was hard not knowing if I would eventually feel better or not; all I could do was trust that I would eventually improve. There is still the struggle to establish a new rhythm in my life that permits me to fully reintegrate my spiritual practice along with my job. I know this is part of the process and will also work itself out. Most significantly, after having completed two months on this job, I’m now completely pain free, although at times I can also feel grumpy due to my weariness from my commute ; )
So what can my readers take away from this chapter of my life? In the best-case scenario, I hope this story reminds us all how essential it is to stay focused and aware whenever we’re challenged by life’s transitions. If we do our best during this process to provide ourselves with the healing support of friends, family and alternative healthcare practitioners, we can trust in the benefits we gain from this energetic support. Whenever one suffers from any type of transition, it’s critical to consider the care of others as a positive thing. Getting help demonstrates self-awareness. Yes, there still may be suffering to be experienced during the life-cycle of our experience, but this doesn’t mean that we are weakened by it – we can only emerge stronger and wiser.
Here’s to all of us experiencing transitions—may we always persevere through life with self-awareness!!
With light and love,