Finding Your Way Forward When the Path Is Not Clear

By Jeremy Hunter


When changes happen, how do you negotiate the transitions that often come with them? How do you move forward to a new stage and how can mindfulness help this process?


After 17 years of living with a life-threatening kidney disease, at the end of 2008 I received a new kidney from a generous former student. The surgery extended and revolutionized my life. My skin turned from a sad yellow to a vibrant pink. After years of a diet restricted to what seemed like filtered water and saltines, I treasured the moment my teeth sunk into a succulent beef tongue taco. For the first time in years, I could meet the day with vitality and dream about a future.
17年 という間、命を脅かす肝臓の病とともに生きたのち、2008年の終わりに、私は心の広い元生徒から、新しい肝臓を手に入れました。手術によって、私の命は伸び、そして(人生に)大革命がもたらされました。私の肌は悲しげな黄色っぽいものから、イキイキとしたピンク色に変わりました。浄化水と塩クラッカーといった数年間の惨めな食事制限の後、私はジューシーな牛タンのタコスを噛みしめる時、それがまるで宝物のように感じました。数年間の中で、バイタリティーを感じ、未来を夢見ることができ日に、ようやく出会えたのです。


Since most organ rejections happen early on, the first few months were tenuous. Once it was clear the procedure was a success, the next six months were exuberant. Were this a Lifetime Channel special, the credits would roll at the happy ending. However, without warning I sank into a deep and anxious depression. It dragged on for the next 18 months and I felt aimless, worthless, and hopeless. Though my health was better than it had been in decades, there were times I lost the urge to continue living. I knew something was up and began to look for answers.


I found my experiences mirrored what many wise people have said about what happens during transitions. I discovered a rich literature and tradition around transitions, containing maps and guides for how to navigate them.


I learned that changes were distinct from transitions. Changes are events. You get married. Your company is taken over and ceases to exist. Your dog dies.


Transitions are the inner shifts of identity, possibility, and belief that occur to help us assimilate and adjust to changes. Some are easy, others are difficult. They don’t occur automatically, and they often require consistent and specific efforts. Like a video game where you slay a demon to move to the next level, transitions throw down a series of monsters that must be overcome before you can move ahead.


As I navigated the transition occasioned by my new circumstances, mindfulness proved an essential ally for me. It created the ability to keep me moving ahead through a bewildering territory and into a renewed sense of purpose, wonder, and joy.


Navigating Transitions and Endings


You can bet good money that you will experience changes. I’ve observed there are five Ds that propel us into reconsidering our lives: Death, Disaster, Disease, Divorce, and Downsizing. They are the harbingers of transition because they signal that something familiar—a role, a way of living, a relationship—has come to an end. In a culture like ours that sees time as a straight line moving from past to future, these changes seem like finalities, the end of the road.
どんな人でも変化を経験します。それは賭けてもいい。私が知る限り、人生において5種類のDが起きます。それはDeath(死)、Disaster (災害)、Disease(病気)、Divorce(離婚)、Downsizing(人員削減/失業)です。これらはトランジションの前触れと言えるでしょう。なぜなら、それらは人生や人間関係における役割や方法が、終わりを告げるというサインになるからです。私たちのような過去と未来が一直線で結ばれているように見える文化においては、こうした変化は道の終点であり、終末のように見えます。


Endings can come with despair, grief, and a sense that a future is impossible. A ten-year old girl from a well-to-do family comes home from school in El Salvador to find her 40-year-old father has died. The family plunges headlong into wrenching change. Her mother leaves her and her siblings behind to work as a maid in America, sending money back home for a decade. Eventually, the family is reunited. The little girl grows to be a successful finance executive, but says her father’s death ended the sense of safety, security, and family she had known.
エンディングは、 絶望や悲しみ、そして未来を考えるのは不可能だという感覚に結論づけがちです。あるエルサルバドルに住む10歳の恵まれた家庭で育った女の子は、家に帰ったら、40歳の父親が亡くなったことを知ります。家族はすぐに苦痛の変化に突入してしまいました。彼女の母親は、彼女と彼女の兄弟たちを残し、アメリカにメイドとして働きにいき、10年にわたりお金を送金し続け、とうとう家族は再会を果たしました。小さかった女の子は、金融業界のエグゼクティクとして成功しましたが、彼女にとって、父の死が、安心、安全、そして家族という感覚を彼女から奪いとってしまいました。


Not all changes are gloomy. Graduations, births, and promotions are also moments when the old and familiar dissolve into something new and unknown. These are the changes that can take us by surprise because even though they are ostensibly “positive,” it means that some sort of reformatting is taking place and with that an old way of life passes into history.


Maybe you miss the quiet days before children or the frivolity of student life or the flow-like pleasure of contributing to an organization without the heavy responsibilities of being a manager. It may come as a mystery as to why you’re feeling sullen or longing for some previous way of being despite moving into a new and wider world.


Endings need to be acknowledged. We need to give them attention, accept that they are taking place, and appreciate the experiences that led to them. They ask us to bring things to closure. Instead of seeing time as a straight line, if we see life as a series of cycles of growth, maturation, and death followed by rebirth, we better understand why endings are necessary for new beginnings.

Navigating the Zombie Zone


After the end of the familiar, it can seem like you’re stepping into a void. In this foggy maze, there are no signposts with arrows assuring you “This way out.” You can feel lost and zombielike or at least unmoored and disoriented as you wander the earth. The old rules don’t seem to apply anymore. What used to work well no longer does. You feel strange and not like your old self but not yet something fully formed. Does the caterpillar in its pupae stage on the way to butterfly-hood ever think to itself, “What the hell is going on with me?!”


A common feeling here is anxiety that takes the form of a desire for answers and a rush to a settled future. A student of mine who had worked for the same organization for decades found herself unemployed. As we sat together at lunch with two half-eaten cobb salads separating us, she implored “How can I get through this as fast as possible?”
このような状態の時に共通した感情は、答えへの欲求と解決した未来へ早く進みたいことからくる不安です。 同じ組織で何十年も働いていたある私の生徒は、失業してしまいました。 ある時一緒にランチをして、コブサラダをシェアしながら彼女は言いました。「(今のこの状態を)できるだけ早くやり過ごすにはどうすればよいですか?」


What distinguishes this middle period is doubt, discomfort, and disorientation. Learning to return to the present and accept uncomfortable sensations is one of the monsters to be faced at this stage.
疑いや不快感、認識力を失った状態は、こうした(トランジションの)過渡期における特徴です。 今自分が置かれている状態に立ち戻り、不快な感覚を受け入れることを学ぶことが、この段階で直面する最初のモンスターです。


We sometimes think it would be preferable to give up on life because the story of who we are doesn’t fit anymore. When we believe our story too much, we feel like not only has the story come to an end but maybe we’ve come to an end. Why not just get out of the misery? In my case, mindfulness allowed me to recognize and be with depression and uneasiness without getting swallowed by it.
時に私たちは、自分の物語が、自分の希望通でないために、人生をあきらめたいと思うことがあります。 自分が思い描く物語を信じすぎてしまうと、物語がただ終わったのではなく、自分自身が終わったような気になってしまうからです。 なぜ悲惨さ物語から抜け出せないのか? 私の場合マインドフルネスのおかげで、その悲惨な感情に飲み込まれることなく、憂鬱な感情と不安に気づき、耐えることができました。


The depression and the desire to isolate oneself might be our system’s way of asking us to slow down and take stock. What rules apply now? What do I need to let go of?
鬱と自分を孤立させたいという願望は、私たちの頭の中のシステムが、スローダウンして、少しゆっくりしろと求めているのかもしれません。 今(人生の)どのようなルールがぴったりですか? 何を手放す必要がありますか?


Letting go of what doesn’t work anymore is the next monster. Maybe what needs to be released is a belief, a resentment, or an identity. The process is deconstructive.
機能しなくなったものを手放すのが、次のモンスターです。 おそらく信念や恨み、アイデンティティを手放さなくてはいけないでしょう。そのプロセスは破壊的です。


A utilities executive who was a war refugee as a child came to terms with letting go of her view of herself as an underdog who always has to fight to get what she wants. She realizes by not seeing life through the lens of a constant battle, she can live easier. Just as a hot air balloon must drop the weight of sandbags to soar, letting go of the old and unworkable is the only way to keep from sinking. It makes space for something new.
子どもの頃、戦争難民だったある公益事業の幹部は、自分が欲しいものを手に入れるために常に戦わなければならない弱者としての自分の見方を手放すことにしました。 絶え間ない戦いというレンズ越しで人生を見ないことで、彼女はより簡単に生きることができることに気がつきます。 熱気球が、重い土嚢を落として急上昇しなければならないのと同じように、古くて機能しないものを手放すことが、沈みを防ぐ唯一の方法です。 それのより新しいもののための余裕を作るからです。


Though you may be sloughing off the old, at some point you realize you’ve hit bottom. Choices become very simple. No matter how much you want, you cannot return to the familiar old world. If you choose not to founder on the rocks, the only way is forward. The growth aspect of this middle period is intentional exploration. So the task here is to balance letting go with the search for something new: new relationships, new places, new ways of thinking, seeing, and living. Like trying on new clothes, looking in the mirror and asking “Can I pull this off?” This process can feel wasteful and indulgent. There can be many false starts further compounding the sense of hopelessness.
あなたは古いものを脱落させているだけかもしれませんが、ある時底に到達したことに気づきくでしょう。すると選択は非常に簡単になります。 いくら望んでも、馴染みの古い世界に戻ることはできません。 岩の上で根を張らないことを選択した場合、前進あるのみです。 このトランジション中の成長の側面は、意図的に捜すことです。 そのため、ここでのタスクは、手放すことと、何か新しいものを探すことのバランスを取ることです。それは、新しい人間関係、新しい場所、新しい考え方や見ること、そして生き方といったものです。 それはまるで新しい服を着て、鏡を見て「これを脱いでもいいですか?」と繰り返すようなものです。 このプロセスは無駄で贅沢に感じることがあります。また多くの誤ったスタートがあり、絶望感をさらに悪化させる可能性もあります。


This is only part of the monster’s bag of tricks. Perseverance is essential. Put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing, even if you’re unsure what the next thing after that is. Enlist the support of others—we don’t walk the path alone and rarely is the path straightforward. It’s a journey of discovery.


An architect at mid-career feels his game is up. He’s tired of clients asking him to churn out variations of his “greatest hits.” So he takes a pilgrimage to the offices of avant-garde architects. Through his conversations he glimpses possibilities. He realizes he must let go of his old habit of focusing only on himself and advancing his vision. He embraces collaboration and dialogue with the communities he builds for—an orchestra conductor instead of a visionary auteur. From these interactions come dramatic designs unlike anything he’s ever done. He revitalizes himself and his work.
それなりのキャリアを積んできたある建築家は、自分のゲーム(人生)がうまくいっていないと感じていました。彼は自分のクライアントが、彼の生み出した「最大のヒット」のバリエーションを量産するよう頼んでくることにうんざりしていたのです。そこで、彼は前衛的な建築家のオフィスの門を叩きました。そして、会話を通じて可能性を垣間見たのです。 それは、自分だけに焦点を合わせてビジョンを進めるという、慣れ親しんだ古い習慣を手放す必要があることでした。そして、先見の明のある製作者の代わりに、オーケストラの指揮者となって、自らが作り上げたコミュニティとのコラボレーションや対話を受け入れることにしたのです。 こうしたインタラクションによって、彼はこれまでにやったことのない劇的なデザインを生み出しています。 そして自分自身も仕事を活性化させているのです。


Finding Your New Groove


Eventually something sticks. The despair is replaced by a tentative sense of aliveness. Not sure of this sensation, we are suspicious that something could feel fulfilling or enjoyable. We question it. Could this be real? Am I being duped and betrayed? However, a new equilibrium can begin to emerge. There are often confirming events that dampen doubts and signal a new way forward with a sense of resolution, commitment, and possibility.


In my case, I won a series of teaching awards reaffirming my love of working with people. In addition, I received a promotion that would allow me to focus on teaching. That set in motion a different life from the one I had before my surgery. I emerged into a new role and learned that what I did had value for others. I received invitations to lecture in Europe and Asia. I met a kind and beautiful woman who became my wife. This emerging life bore little resemblance to the one that had ended.
私の場合は、一連の教育に関する賞を受賞したことでした。それにより、多くの人と一緒に働くことがとても好きだということを再確認しました。 さらに昇進したことで、教えることに専念できるようになったのです。私は、手術前の人生とは異なる人生を歩み始めました。 新しい役割を担い、私がやってきたことが他の人にとっても価値あることだということを知りました。 さらにヨーロッパとアジアで講義をする機会を得ました。優しくて美しい妻に出会うことができました。 この新たな人生は、私が終止符を打った人生とは、似ても似つきません。


I’ve found that dreams can sometimes shed an interesting light on transitions, as archetypal ideas bubble up from deep in the mind.


My own new beginning was marked by a dream of encountering a glowing Tokyo Tower standing in hills near where I live. It pulses with otherworldly power. Kids wearing black sneakers I’d just purchased in real life walk by. They tell me it takes 20 years to be a success. I touch the tower and powerful sensations course through my body. I wake up—twenty years older than I was when I was first diagnosed with kidney disease.
私の新しい始まりは、自分が住んでいる近くの丘に立っている光輝く東京タワーに出会う、という夢が記していました。それは別世界の力で脈を打ち始めます。私が買ってあげたばかりの黒のスニーカーを履いて、子どもたちが歩き回っています。その子どもたちは「成功するまでに20年はかかる」と私に語りかけます。 私が塔に触れると、身体に強い感覚が走りました。 そこで目が覚めました。これは最初に腎臓病と診断されたときよりも20年以上前に見た夢の話しです。


It makes me optimistic to see the resilience people have in the face of enormous changes. Through working with people in transition I’ve become a cautious optimist about human possibility. In class, we spend a day listening to each other’s transition stories: what ended? what was let go? what was gained in return? The repeated exposure emphasizes that we’ve all been through this before and we can do it again.
私は、大きな変化に直面した人々の回復力について、楽観的に捉えています。トランジションの真只中にいる人たちと長年ワークをする中で、私は人間の可能性について慎重ではあるものの、楽観的になりました。 私の授業では、1日をかけてお互いのトランジションの話を聞きます。何が終わったのか。何を手放したのか? その見返りに何を得たのか? 繰り返し吐き出す中で、私たち全員が以前にも同じ体験をしていて、それをまたやれるということを、繰り返し強調しています。


Pause For A Mindful Contemplation Practice: Pick a significant change in your life. What transition took place as a result?


Do you have a pattern in how you deal with endings? Do you just keep moving or make space to mourn or acknowledge what was lost? Do you accept that something or someone has passed?

What endings are incomplete?


How can you create a way to bring closure to unfinished business?


How do you handle sensations of discomfort in transitions?


What happens when you lessen your resistance and increase acceptance to not knowing?


Try new things, go to new places, meet new people, learn new skills as if you’re trying on new clothes, asking, “does this feel right?”


Create a system of support.




訳:Yukie Liao Teramachi

Photo by freepik









What’s next?:人生の変化と向き合い、前に進む【Transform Step 3】



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