How to make life in transition easier with 14 journal prompts.
Hey, it’s spring again. Winter fades and spring brings buds and blooms and the promise of new beginnings, both internally and in the real world.
Spring, as you probably know, mirrors the psychological process of life in transition. It’s the essential call of self-renewal: emptying out and letting go in order to make space for what’s new.
Often there’s an urgency to clear out and get ready for the renewal that’s about to take place.
But this year life in transition is a little different isn’t it?
Because we’re also a year into the pandemic and the future still seems somewhat murky and unknown.
We’re offered strings of hope and new beginnings that we’re not quite sure we can pull on just yet. And tragedies still happen around every corner.
So this life in transition we’ve been living? It’s like no other that I can recall.
It arrived with such urgency, so much drama, so many unknowns. And then, the confusion, grief and trauma that followed.
Moving through a life in transition is always complicated. But this one. Wow.
So I just want to say you’re not alone if it all feels a bit surreal right now.
In sessions with clients and conversations with friends there’s something emerging. It goes a little like this: Am I even ready for the new beginning that spring and vaccinations and the cycle of life transition promises?
Part of it is about real anxiety and the questions you might be asking: how safe is it to return to daily life? What are my personal boundaries around going out into the world?
Many words have been written about this. And it’s helpful to know the anxiety is normal and we’re not alone in it.
But there’s something else about this particular life transition that’s harder to pin down.
It’s kind of like we’re looking for an opening into the next stage of life.
A lot of people don’t want to go back to their pre-pandemic ways of living.
Maybe they want more meaning, less going through the motions. Or they want to transition to giving more energy to the different parts of themselves that have emerged during the last year. Or they desperately need relief from the sheer exhaustion and overwhelm of it all.
And you might feel fuzzy about this yourself, as if there’s something you need right now. Something you need to pay attention to before you move forward and step into the next stage of pandemic/life transition. Something that’s mysterious and elusive but still, you’re pretty sure it’s there.
I’ve been sitting with this myself. And I’ve come to suspect I’m experiencing a calling of sorts, different from the calls of my past.
This one seems to be about needing to make meaning of and make sense of the long collective in-between space of life transition we’ve been held in this last year.
Just as I started feeling this I remembered a quote from Greg Levoy’s book, Callings…
The lack of a kind of fruitful emptiness can make it hard for our new beginnings to reach us, since they have a hard time getting through when they get nothing but busy signals. We may need to just float in the slack tide for a spell, in the state of what Sufis call sacred drift, trusting that however rich we allow the cocoon phase to be, that’s how rich the emergence phase will be.
Levoy’s phrases about the in-between space of transition stuck to me like glue…
- fruitful emptiness
- float in the slack tide
- sacred drift
- a rich cocoon phase
I’m in love with the paradox of each phrase and how they point to the inherent wisdom of transitions in life. And I’ve been using them as journal prompts to ferret out what they actually mean for me.
So first, I offer you Levoy’s quote and its compelling phrases as healing journaling prompts.
They’re helping me remember that the last year has been more than a one way ticket to the betwixt and between stage of transition. In fact, the words I’m writing actually feel like tiny little maps directing me to tiny little actions I need to take right now.
Maybe they’ll help you too if you sense there’s something you need right now, some wisdom or insight that you can’t quite put your finger on.
And second, I offer you the Puzzle Process, one of my favorite activities to make the next stage of life in transition a little clearer.
The idea came to me many years ago during a seminar with Gregg Levoy in Oakland, CA. He took us through a series of questions to help us ease the process of life in transition and uncover the mysteries of callings.
Later I offered the questions to my clients as journal prompts but for some reason they seemed to fall flat. My clients weren’t having the insights and ahas that I’d had during the live seminar.
Then one day I decided to try exploring the questions with a client in real time, during a session. On a whim I pulled out a pad of post-it notes and began writing down her answers, one post-it at a time.
The rest, as they say, is history.
So grab a pen, a pack of post-it notes and a file folder (if you have one).
When I completed it last week I found some unexpected clarity about my own experiences of life in transition during the past year.
I hope that’s true for you too.
Scroll down to view my own recent Puzzle Process in progress, and then the finished version.
And go here to read more about searching for your calling and the backstory of this process.
The Puzzle Process: 14 journal prompts that make life in transition easier
Instructions: As you answer each question, write your answer on a separate post-it note. Work fairly quickly, stopping to reflect if you need to. Just make sure you don’t reject your initial thoughts, feelings or answers, because this is an Inner Critic free zone.
- Many people have some prominent affirmation, quote or saying tacked up somewhere in their home. Or they have one that particularly resonates with them, whether or not it’s in plain view. It might even be a line or phrase from a poem. Or something that has stayed with you during the pandemic. If you have one (or two), write each one down on a separate post-it.
- Imagine you’re in a bookstore or a library right now. What section do you want to go to first? Where do you go next? And finally, what’s the third section you go to? Write each different subject on its own post-it.
- What subject(s) can you speak about with genuine authority, because you’ve lived it/them yourself (note: you do not need to be considered an expert or have any particular training for this). Again, write each different subject on its own post-it.
- If you were granted the opportunity to have two mentors, who would you choose and why? (They can be real or fictional, living or dead.) Write each name and reason on its own post-it.
- Let’s say you’re granted one hour to talk about anything you want to. You’ll be reaching an interested worldwide audience who wants to hear what you have to say. You’re also assured you’ll feel calm and at ease giving your talk. So, what would you talk about? Why? Write it on a post-it.
- Name something positive that people have been telling you about yourself for a long time, by completing this sentence: You’re…
- Name something negative that people have been telling you about yourself for a long time by completing this sentence: You’re…
- Do you have a favorite story, movie, fairytale, or myth? If so, what is it and what’s the theme? If a new one has emerged during the pandemic, go with that first.
- What’s the most important thing missing from your life right now?
- What pattern in your own life are you absolutely sick of?
- What have you rejected/ignored/avoided that follows you around anyway and seems determined to claim you?
- Name someone who’s life you’ve envied and why; what have they got that you don’t?
- Is there something pulling or pushing you in your life that doesn’t make sense?
- If you didn’t have to worry about the consequences, or you knew you could cope with whatever consequences arose…What radical (or potentially risky) action would you take right now to shake up your life, to meet your deeper needs, to help you feel better?
Here’s what it looked like after I finished answering the questions…
How to Put the Puzzle Pieces Together
When you’re finished, start arranging and grouping your answers. Think of each post-it as a piece of a life in transition puzzle that you want to solve.
What fits together? What gravitates naturally towards each other? (Note: It’s really helpful to do this with another person, especially if you like to process and talk through your thoughts and feelings.)
When you’re done putting the pieces together, ask yourself…
- What messages seem to be coming through the finished puzzle?
- What insights or intuitive hunches am I getting about my experience of life in transition during this past year?
- What’s the most predominant theme that’s pulling me?
- What would it look like if I put that theme into action in a small way?
- What would be my first step?
Once you’ve completed your puzzle you might find you want to do more writing. (Because journaling is a perfect action step at the end of this activity.) If that’s the case for you, return to the 14 questions and use them as more traditional journal prompts to expand and deepen your experience and insights.
Here’s my finished puzzle…