Surfing the Edge of the Known
by Jennifer Louden
Spending a lot of energy wondering what's next
Oscillating from being sure you're in transition to
worrying that you're being neurotic to declaring
firmly that life is fine and you better not even
think of the proverbial boat?
Find yourself muttering, "I don't know" (and wishing
you did) about your work, creative passion, or
Sense a deep, rumbling change brewing beneath the
surface--a new stage of being trying to be birthed?
Worried that if you don't keep pushing you'll never
know, never move forward, or never get on with your
You just may be surfing the edge of the known,
otherwise known as being in transition, metamorphosis
(the cocoon stage), the I-have-no-idea-who-I-am
or what-I-want stage.Why think of it as surfing
the edge of the known? Because what you have known,
in at least one area of your life,is no longer
sufficient to get you where you want to go next,
even though you may have no idea where that is.
You are being called to mindfully and skillfully
surf your edge and ride the waves into the unknown
for the sake of answering the call of your longing.
Sounds romantic and exciting – and it can be.It can
also be hell on the ego, wildly disorienting,
grindingly long, and stunningly lonely. Why me?
You may find yourself crying.Everybody else seems
satisfied and sure of their life’s direction or
intimate relationship or creative calling. The hard
truth is you are being called and the price of
consciousness is not cheap. Are you willing to pay?
To play? If you say no,and we all do, at least the
first time, be aware: you will be asked again. And
again. And then again.
It can seem like you are always in a transition.
Technology has increased the frequency of
transitions in our lives. Western educated adults
are expected to have three careers in their lifetime.
Few find it odd, at least in the United States,
to go back to school when you're 35 or 52 or 81,
sell a business and start a new one, or take up
an new artistic discipline.The divorce rate hovers
at 50%. People move an average of every 5 years.
It appears transitions are here to stay,and it
would behoove us all to learn how to negotiate
them with dignity, skill, and even a smidgen
Here are the ideas that have worked for me and
my teaching partner Master Coach Molly Gordon,
and hundreds of our clients and retreat participants.
1. Acknowledge the passage
How many of us keep pretending everything is the
same when something in us shouts, "This no longer
works Something is changing!" If we hang on to the
familiar, we are living the definition of insanity:
keep doing the same thing and expect something
different. If your car stops moving and you keep
insisting nothing is the matter, I'll warrant you
aren’t going anywhere until you acknowledge the
breakdown. Nothing can change until you recognize
something more, something new, wants to come into
being and thus something that has been
is no longer sufficient.
2. Forget knowing
The very nature of a transition is YOU DON'T KNOW.
Often, you don't know what you don't know.
Confusion is actually a good sign (keep repeating
that to yourself). Trying to know too soon can be
a spiritual and learning dead-end. Not to mention
paralyzing, misleading, and a great way to feed
perfectionism and procrastination.
Instead, train your mind to be more comfortable
with not knowing. Practicing acknowledging you
don't know -- directions, how to finish a project
at work, what the capital of Uzbekistan is. Say
out loud at least once a day, "I don't know." Even
things you think you do know, try saying, “I
don’t know if I’m successful” or “I don’t know if
Gratefully acknowledge "I don't know" as a mood of
ripe possibility, the mood of learning. Learning
is why transitions exist!
3. Cultivate authentic trust
Ask: What criteria can I use to create authentic
trust in myself during this time of not knowing?
"Authentic trust exists when you are aware that
the possibility for betrayal exists. You choose
to trust knowing that when a promise is broken
or a commitment is unfulfilled, you can take
appropriate and effective action. Authentic
trust is a dynamic and evolving part of a
relationship that needs constant nurturing,"
is how Master Coach Julio Olalla defines trust.
When you are stumbling through a personal fog
bank of confusion, acknowledge that the possibility
for self-betrayal exists. Don't turn away from
this because when you do, you fall into blind
trust -- trust without parameters, without
conditions for satisfaction -- and from here it
is so tempting to spin into faulty assumptions,
ungrounded assessments, magical thinking: the
true crater of gloom (which can last for years).
Create conditions for authentic trust for yourself.
If I ask my daughter to pluck the tent caterpillars
off the blueberry bushes each day but I don't
check in with her, I'm blindly trusting her.
Which is not to say I don't trust her intentions,
it's just she may need help executing her
intentions. Same for you. If you decide you
are going to spend a half an hour every morning
asking for guidance about your future, how will
you support yourself? Where have you been fuzzy
or blind in your commitments to listen before?
What or who will waylay you? Where do you need
to stretch or strengthen yourself to follow through?
Or if you declare you will take a graphic design
course and in the past, you have signed up but
then became scared and quit, what will help you
to trust the process this time? What needs to be
different? Who can support you? Be very specific!
Name in writing what action you can take to
reestablish trust if you betray yourself. How
will you regroup? How will you deal honestly
and compassionately with yourself?
Look the monster squarely in the face.
4. Design generative stories
We all live in stories -- it is how our brains
make sense of our world by constructing linear
narratives. We all love stories. The only problem
is when we believe our stories are THE TRUTH or
when our stories make our world smaller,
dingier, and stingier.
You have the right to play with your interpretation
that fear, uncertainty or confusion is a sign
that you are on the wrong track or that you are
completely screwed. Instead, you can design a
story that you are moving to a new level of
development, discovering another layer of
aliveness, engaging in creating a more complex
consciousness and a more satisfying life. You
could ask yourself, "How am I developing new
capacities to express my gifts in the world?"
and "What practices would support me in finding
and taking my next step?" Or you can keep
believing the ungrounded story that you are
an idiot who better put her head in the sand
and keep doing the same old thing or the sky
will fall. Your choice.
Surely Christopher Columbus was nervous when
he set out to perhaps fall off the edge of the
known world. Why shouldn't we be scared when
we set out to do something new, especially when
we don't know what this new thing is or if we
can do it? Being afraid and ready to jump out of
your skin is a normal reaction to change.
Acknowledge it as such. Be curious about your
stories, interpretations, and assessments about
why being uncomfortable is bad or wrong. Why?
What’s the difference between fear and excitement?
The sensations in our bodies are very similar.
5. Consider what you need to learn
Several years ago, Toni posted this on
www.comfortqueen.com message boards: "I think
I've finally figured out why I've been so
horribly blocked about photography. I've
been processing my classic money excuses for
not taking photographs: they don't hold water.
The reason I'm hesitant to take out my camera
is plain, old-fashioned lack of technical
proficiency! I'm never certain whether the
way I'm setting the camera is correct. I know
this sounds really fundamental and like a big ol'
DUH, but it honestly hadn't occurred to me
“I progressed from having a "good eye" right
into the darkroom, produced some good prints,
and I just assumed I knew all I needed to.
In fact, I had skipped over a very fundamental
part of the learning process. So what happens
now is when I pick up my camera, I'm totally
paralyzed.My lack of training is what's been
holding me back!"
Notice how many new possibilities open for Toni
when she asks, "What do I need to learn to move
forward?" versus the story "I should already
know how to do this. Look how l ong I've been
doing it." Notice too how something that was
closed or frustrating to Toni became a ripe
new path. How often do we prolong our transitions
by refusing to learn, by shoulding on ourselves?
6. Stop Pushing the River
Lest this article give you the idea you must
immediately rush out and make your transition
happen, please remember that these changes do
have a rhythm of their own. Listen for that
rhythm. If everything in you is screaming for
time to slow down, then slow down. You may
think this will slow down knowing what is next
but you are wrong. The fastest way through the
foggy lost time is always to slow down and
feel, to listen, to be with whatever arises,
moment by moment. Only then can you discern
what is being asked of you and how best to
surf off the edge of the world.
7 Be Kind to Yourself
Please. You are not bad or broken or thick.
You are human and wondrous and being called
to evolve to something more satisfying and
complex. Find others you can talk to about
this. Join us for a retreat or tele-class.
Find a friend or an on-line community to
help you feel less alone. Trust your inner
knowing – it is there, truly reliable and
loving. All you have to do is quiet down
enough to listen.
About the writer:
Jennifer Louden is the best-selling author of the classic
The Woman’s Comfort Book and her newest Comfort
Secrets for Busy Women.She has appeared on numerous
TV and radio programs,including Oprah.She is a creativity
and life coach,creator of learning events and unique life
balance products.She leads retreats and tele-retreats with
Master Coach Molly Gordon on how to “do” change with
grace and confidence.
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