When we venture out into the world on a journey of any kind, we expect to find twists and turns in the road, hills and valleys to navigate, and crossroads where we need to make decisions about directions. Sometimes a road may seem to end or an unexpected landscape appears. This imagery is so rich that it is frequently used as metaphor for the journey of life; the journey of our circumstances and our inner world. We find ourselves on a threshold where something is ending and something else is beginning. We find ourselves at a crossroads where significant decisions will shape the future pathway. We may feel we are sometimes at a cliff edge, a rickety bridge, an unclear corner or a stretch of misty track.
Though sometimes unsettling – or downright terrifying! – these times of transition, of stepping across thresholds, are highly significant for us; not only because they shape our circumstances but because they often open us up in new ways and provide opportunities for self-growth and understanding. This is often more apparent when we look back and remember the significance of such experiences and how they changed us, gave us opportunities, taught us new perspectives, shaped our lives in lasting ways…
We are coming to the end of a year. The end of one year and the start of new year is a regular threshold of sorts for all of us. It is commonly a time when things stop and start and change and we reflect back and look forward. For many people, the end of a year is also a time of significant transitions – school years or courses of study end, new jobs begin, living arrangements may change, summer travel plans evolve. Many of us are on the threshold of new experiences that are about to unfold. Many of us may be grappling with how to shape the life we long for in the coming year…
Reflecting in Three Steps
Firstly, we shared our personal summary of the circumstances of this year, the basic facts that described what we had been doing and where this had got us at this moment in time.
Secondly, we selected a picture from the stimulus cards ‘STONES’ that captured something of how we felt about the year’s circumstances, the feeling quality we are left with, how we ‘are’ with how our year has been.
Thirdly, we considered what was next for us – it could be an obvious what’s next in terms of a significant transition or it could be a more subtle shift that reflects a desire to generate some changes or aspire to new goals… We each selected another stone picture that captured what we saw ahead for us and perhaps gave us a word or image about what we hoped the future held for us, what it might offer us and feel like.
STONES… have feelings too! (St Luke’s Innovative Resources)
The Self We Are
Thresholds and transitions offer us many opportunities, including scope to reflect on the self we are and the self we are becoming. Who are we in the world and how do we offer ourselves?
When we are at points of change or possibility, there is the opportunity to become aware of the self we want to be in the new place, the identity we have or anticipate having. In new places we become particularly aware of the regard others have for us and how we are seen. Sometimes this can make us nervous or unsure.
In any new circumstance, we are strengthened by having a sense of our own integrity and the capacity to stand for what we stand for, rather than being tossed by the whims and wishes of others. We are strengthened and made confident by having a sense of ourselves beneath the surface. Then, as we form new relationships, navigate authority figures, allocate time and sift priorities, we are able to do so from a more centered, self-knowing place.
Poem – ‘For the Traveller’ by John O’Donohue (click link to read this poem)
For the Traveller
To facilitate our conversation about these ideas, we read and discussed O’Donohue’s poem, keeping in mind that ‘travel’ here meant ‘going forth’ in any sense.
When we are at a threshold in life, it helps to take time to pause and listen to what is deepest within us, to get in touch with ourselves and our deepest realities. Pausing and listening enable a steadier going forth. When we take time to bless our going forth and free our hearts of ballast, then we enter new phases of life more lightly and openly.
This activity enabled us to look at how we have been, how people have seen us and related to us up to now, and then to reflect on what is important about that, what might we have kept hidden that we may like to show a little more and then if there are ways we hope to grow and change into our future. As we used words to describe ourselves, we were careful not to categorise adjectives as positive or negative but to see that all words have layers of meaning.
Participants collected a selection of coloured hexagons and pens.
1. Write a word or phrase on a hexagon that summarises how others would describe you.
eg If you were being farewelled from a place (home, work, school, uni) what might be said about you in a farewell speech? What might be named? What is your sense of what others see in you?
2. What is your sense of how true these are? What would you add? What of these things might encourage you to aspire to something more or different? What suggests that there is something they are missing or don’t know? What else would you say about yourself? Are there things you would like people to know about you? Write down some other words that you would like to include.
3. Now consider your personal aspirations. What of these might be qualities you want to take with you, hold on to, nourish in yourself? Are there other words that capture something new or fresh that you would like to bring to new contexts? Are there qualities you would like to foster a little more in yourself? Note all of these.
4. Look at the hexagons are see what you notice. Place them onto a sheet of paper in a way that is meaningful for you. How do they connect to each other? how do they show shifts? Do they create a pattern or a pathway? What do they help you recognise and how do they help you see forward?
5. Share your reflections with others or comment on how the exercise felt for you…
As we reflect…
It is important, when considering our ways of being, to thank the things that have got us here. Even attributes or patterns that we may wish to change have potentially been important in helping us in some way. Part of moving forward is to thank that which has got us to here, to be thankful for the ways of being that have helped us in our lives til now.
From this place, we can be open to allowing change. We can remind ourselves to be open to new ways of being that free us. We can embrace fresh ways of being that enable us to cross thresholds with confidence and hope.
When we look for inspiration in our faith tradition, we can see that rather than being about a moral code, Jesus was all about integrity and wholeness. Rather than providing us with life rules, Jesus invites us to seek what is deeply life-giving. Our lives are richly shaped when we seek that which makes us feel alive and free and whole.
Living from within a deeper reality, grounded in the Source of all life, we find ourselves able to walk into our futures with a sense of being held and enabled. We feel anchored in choppy seas, we are less frazzled and undone by confusing experiences, we learn to understand ourselves and our lives from within a deeper context.
The gift of a meditation practice is that it helps us to live contemplatively, daily connecting to our deepest self and the deeper reality of God. We live from a grounded place.
Headspace is a meditation app that offers a simple and encouraging way to foster a daily meditation practice. You can trial it for free and subscribe for a wide variety of themed and guided meditation series. Just search: Headspace.com