I’m fascinated by transitions and the fact that they all have a before, a during, and an after. Our society is obsessed with them too, and we create elaborate rituals to mark them: weddings, baby showers, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, quinceañeras, graduations, opening ceremonies, retirement parties, and funerals, just to name a few. In some parts of South India and Sri Lanka, girls are gifted their first sari in a ceremony called Ritu Kala Samskaram which welcomes them into womanhood. In many Native American communities, boys go for a vision quest as a rite of passage. These mark big transitions, let's call them macrotransitions, that we have collectively deemed noteworthy, relevant, and momentous.
But, what about the dozens of mini-transitions we engage in every day? Without clear markers, sometimes it feels as though everything just blends together and becomes a blur of auto-pilot tasks. Where's the communal (virtual) gathering to celebrate that I loaded the dishwasher? Where's the public acknowledgment that we got the kids fed, bathed, AND in bed at a reasonable hour? Why don't we post those pictures on Facebook with cute Pinterest-inspired signs?
One thing that has definitely become more apparent to me as a result of the pandemic is how much I miss the ritual of commuting. Not the practice, but the idea of it. It created a cue to my brain and my body that we were all here to sync up and focus on the task at hand until 5pm when the reverse commute began and then it was time to shift gears back into personal/family time. I'm not saying I miss spending an hour in traffic, but I do miss having a clear start and end to bookend my workday; walking the 12 steps downstairs to the guest room/home office just isn't the same.
On days when all of us are home, I find myself ping-ponging between entertaining/feeding/refereeing and emailing/writing/Zooming 101 times a day which makes it harder to really feel any sense of accomplishment, productivity, or flow. I certainly don't miss the stress of having to rush out of the office to pick up my kids by 6pm for fear of being shamed with a tardy slip (it's only happened twice), but I do miss the separation and compartmentalization that was so ingrained in the routine before.
As a result, I’m trying to become more intentional about creating my own rituals around mini-transitions. When I take my first sip of coffee in the morning, I force myself to pause just for a half-beat to smell and savor this delicious gift from the gods. Before opening up my laptop, I now do a quick gratitude ritual (see picture below) and it helps to shift my energy regardless of how crazy the morning has been with the kids. Remember when we used to have lunch with co-workers? Although not exactly the same, I have been enjoying going for walks in the mid-afternoon and listening to a podcast or an audiobook to create a deliberate break in the workday. In coaching sessions, I ask the client if they would like to engage in a centering exercise as we ease into the conversation to support both of us in registering that this time is sacred and different from the rest of the day.
Whether it’s a morning meditation practice that helps to ground you, a physical activity that you do at certain times, a few deep breaths you take before yet another Zoom call, or a personal mantra or prayer that you recite at the end of the day, I encourage you to find ways to mark, acknowledge, and celebrate the mini-transitions.
This is definitely a work in progress for me and a constantly evolving practice, but I've noticed that it has helped me to focus and keep my mind, body, and spirit more in alignment throughout the day. I would love to hear what works for you!
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