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Listening to Your Life

It's true that many transitions take longer than expected. And the fact that "resolution" isn't easily achieved after a major life transition can bring about an avalanche of feelings - fear, uncertainty, anger, disenchantment, despair, grief, befuddlement, and wonder. Suddenly, according to author Diane Millis, "We find ourselves in a wilderness, that is, a destination not of our own choosing." (Though sometimes, it may be our own choosing! But that doesn't make it any easier.)

Learning to listen to your life during this "in between" or "messy middle" time of a transition can be life saving.

John O'Donohue offers the following wisdom for when we find ourselves in such a place: "Take your time; Feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there; Listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward." Often, this listening process is easier with the presence of another who can encourage us to truly take our time and to listen within - instead of rushing toward an easy answer, or something exciting, but not truly enlivening.

Thankfully, I had good listening companions as we unhooked from our old jobs and lives, travelling for a year in a RV. My spiritual director helped me listen deeply within. Good friends helped me listen deeply within. My wife, Juliana, helped me listen deeply within. Journaling daily helped me listen deeply within.

And here's what happened during that time: a little trail of breadcrumbs emerged from all this listening/discerning/reflecting: little sign posts about what mattered most deeply in my life. I began to catch glimpses of the new life within me that wanted to be lived: I wanted to live a less 'hurried' life; I wanted to live a life that was more connected to my family. I wanted to live a life in which I deeply encountered myself on a regular basis - my habits, wounds, creative center, gifts, and more. My inner voice was calling me toward a life that contained more of these essential elements. And as I continued listening inwardly during this time (and even after the trip ended), I began to sense that perhaps the new expression of my life might be about accompany others as they dove deep into themselves during a time of upheaval and uncertainty.

Listening to my life took time - more time that I would have liked! - but I'm delighted at where it's led me, and where it continues to lead me.

(I picked the photo, above, taken outside Sedona, Arizona, because listening deeply to our inner life is like finding cairns along the path - markers that assure us we're headed in the right direction.)

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