Graduation is a time of transition as individuals move from one phase of their lives to another, but it is not just about receiving a certificate to say you completed something. Graduation is about change, about evolving from one state of being into another and by this definition we are all graduating all the time! There are a myriad of emotions that can appear during transitions – excitement, joy, fear, anxiety – just to name a few. Our thoughts might be busy with reflections of the past or worrying about the future. When we stress about the past or future it is easy to lose sight of the present moment and enjoy it.
Whether you are graduating from school, taking your kids to college or undergoing some other transition in your life, this month’s compass shows you how to use some mindfulness techniques to guide you though life’s graduations so you can find peace and joy in the midst of it all.
Mindfulness is all about “staying in the now” because according to Thich Nhat Hanh: “Peace can only be found in the present moment. If you say, ‘wait until I finish this and then I will be free to live in peace,’ then peace will never come. There is always another ‘this’ that will follow the present one. If you truly want peace then you must be at peace right now, otherwise there is only the hope of peace some day.” The fastest way to find peace in any given moment is to bring your attention to your breath and treat your body with nice long, slow inhales and exhales. Breathing deeply helps to clear the mind and the soul. Even while breathing, your mind will wander as it always does. Mindfulness teaches us to simply observe our thoughts without judgment or emotion in order to stay in the moment. Check out the empowered transition equation to learn other strategies to stay in the moment.
Some of us cling to the past in times of change and we find it hard to move on. There is safety and familiarity in the past. We know what to expect. Another phenomenon that occurs during nostalgia is the tendency for black and white thinking, for example, “my job was the best job ever, how can I leave?” or “I really hated school. It was awful.” It is important as you find yourself thinking about the past to understand that nothing is all good or all bad. Relationships, experiences, jobs, etc have their challenges as well as triumphs. Reflecting on the past in a balanced way helps to facilitate a healthy transition.
The future is uncertain, which is why so many people have difficulty embracing it. We just don’t know what it holds, but here’s an important piece of information: your mind is powerful and you have the freedom of choice! Imagine how you would like the future to go rather than bogging your mind down with “what ifs.” Having a mental picture of the future working out the way you want helps to increase your positive mood in the present. If your little voice of doubt pops up, then I always love to visualize putting those doubtful/harmful thoughts on a conveyer belt and watch them be carried away.