Cycles of life
Northern hemisphere plants burst forth with new green shoots while south of the equator we prepare for winter’s dying-off as trees drop leaves and animals hibernate. Both seasons are part of the infinite cycle of birth, growth, and death through which all things on earth pass. Human beings, too, participate in cycles, undergoing a continual process of replacing most cell-types in our bodies.
Yet while most of nature – including our physical body – cooperates with ongoing life cycles, many people say they feel stuck or at an impasse on a psychological level. If that describes you, a sense of feeling stuck may be a clear sign that you are somehow fighting your own process of renewal. So we can ask: what is trying to birth itself into – or perhaps go out of – your life? What is blocking the flow, and how can you do something positive about it?
When it’s time to renew
Renewal means making new again: the sense of seeing things with fresh eyes, with inspiration: a word meaning “breathing in.” Life renewal is the conscious process of examining your life and making changes that bring in excitement and vitality. How you approach your job, how you run your relationships, and even how you view yourself in the mirror are all processes being birthed, growing, or becoming stagnant. In fact everything you participate in is part of a cycle. You can identify new cycles by the sense of aliveness and passion when you consider what will be involved with them. Likewise, you will know that something has finished when what you are seeing or doing feels stagnant or stale, like a room without fresh air.
Let’s take some examples. Are you in a rut with your exercises? Do you do the same old boring things when you work out just so you can say, “I exercised today”? The same goes of your diet: are you conscious of what goes down the gullet, or just eating it because someone some time ago said you should? What about your relationships? Do you respond to relational events in the same old way, generating the same old impasse at solving the problem? When you go to work, do you see the same old road, perhaps with potholes and cracks, or notice the beauty of trees and landmarks along the way?
A four-step process to see anew
Therapists in transpersonal traditions have a process to help people move through a rut and see things freshly. We can work through this process with an exercise. All you will need for this exercise is a large sheet of paper and some coloured pens. Now divide the paper into four quarters.
1. First ask yourself, “Where am I now in my life?” Allow images, sensations, and feelings from your physical, social-emotional, mental, and spiritual realms to arise. Capture your response in one section of the paper, with colours, shapes, symbols, or pictures.
2. Now ask, “What is emerging in my life?” Again, trust whatever arises, and find a way to record this image on your paper’s next quarter. Your symbol may speak to a new purpose or vision for your life, or possibly a new aspect of yourself coming in.
3. Ask, “What is getting in my way? What is holding back what is emerging?” Find a symbol to represent this answer and draw it in the third quarter. Many at this stage must acknowledge fear of change, fear of not being accepted by others if they change, fear of failure, or lack of trust that the new possibility will work out.
4. Finally ask, “What must I do to take the next step and move through my block? What quality do I need to develop in my life in order to cooperate with what is emerging?” Next steps often include the development of spiritual or noble qualities, such as courage, trust, or simplicity. Draw whatever image comes to you in the last quarter. Observe your drawings, noticing whether any insights emerge. You may wish to talk through your images/symbols with someone you trust.
Ways to renew
In addition to the above exercise, there are tried-and-true ways of seeing things from a new perspective. Retreats, holidays (especially to new places), time in nature, and time with different people from your normal social crowd can all help you see afresh. So, too, can simple acts like de-cluttering your space, giving your mind a week of only positive content (you may have to skip the news report), and relaxing, deep-breathing exercises. Some change experts even advocate doing everything (including walking) backwards for a day – just to discover a new way of seeing familiar things! Above all, the process of life renewal calls for patience, trust, and a sense of gratitude to yourself as you work into the cycle.
At any given time in our normal development, some ways of being and behaving are trying to leave our life as we grow and expand. We must let them go. New things are trying to enter; we can live more in the fullness of ourselves if we let these in. The change in nature's seasons is a great time for the renewing act of tuning into our own cycles – and ensuring that we are not blocking our own sublime flow.