Five Lessons on Leaving
I just arrived in Maui Hawaii, after packing up my belongings, saying goodbye to friends, students, and clients in California.
It’s a process I’ve been through perhaps more times than most people, as I have moved cities and countries a number of times in my life. While it is an incredibly emotionally and logistically challenging process, there are some aspects of the big move that I find deeply supporting of my personal growth and practice.
Much of my personal practice is influenced by the principles, theory and language of Zero Balancing - the holistic healing system developed by Dr. Fritz Smith. So quite naturally when I began to organize my thoughts around moving home as a spiritual practice, I found Zero Balancing provided the language I needed to contextualise my experience.
What emerged are five steps to ensure the process of moving homes becomes a valuable act of personal growth, and mirrors 5 important aspects of the healing journey. From my own experience, following these five steps will not keep you from experiencing challenges in the process, but it will provide a framework to keep you feeling steady enough that you may allow yourself true growth in the experience. You see, big changes are an amazing opportunity for growth, for healing, and expansion. However, if our nervous systems don’t feel safe, we tend to cling to the past for stability and resist change!
1. Framing the move. What is it you are moving towards?
It’s easy to focus on what you don’t like about a place, and use that as propulsion to help leave. I was blessed, in this last move from California, that when it came time to leave, most things in my life were going well. While important to notice the aspects of Bay Area living that were not right for me (as a country girl raised on 800 acres of New Zealand farmland, I get anxiety driving on a road with more than 2 lanes, my feet feel inhumanely trapped in shoes for city walking, and I never quite attuned myself the fast pace of the city life) even more important is focusing on what I am moving TOWARDS. Smaller community, close to family, a nurturing place for hosting transformative retreats, my feet on the grass. In framing my move in this positive way, I’m more likely to make decisions that help create the reality I want to move into! The differences can be quite subtle, but are really important.
2.Letting go of what no longer serves, attachment - perspective on “things”
Things. So many things. When I arrived in California several years ago, I decided to really create a home. Knowing that I might not be there that long, I still wanted to ‘settle in’. My intention (which I didn’t always follow) was to only allow objects into the house that felt like quality, and added to the overall feel of sanctuary that I was creating. So what to do with all these possessions when it came time to move? I have learned from moving so many times, that things come and go. That the more stuff I move around with me, the more burdened I feel. So often, what I think I can’t possibly live without isn’t all that useful in my next place of living. I’ve learned that the accumulation of ‘stuff’ - at least in the mostly 1st-world places that I have lived, has happened far more easily than I’d ever imagined possible. There is no shortage of things. So the passing on of prized possessions has become an opportunity for sifting through my choices and memories. Making the choice can be so hard! This thing I loved, I spent money on, or found on the street corner and fixed up, or was gifted by a dear friend… how can I let it go? But when the decision is made, I always feel a sense of release. A letting go that allows me a freedom and space for something new to enter. I have a refrain that runs through my mind during packing time which goes like this. “I honour the value this item has had in my life. I’m grateful to have had so many precious things. I let it go in the hope that it will be cherished by someone else. I trust there will be enough for me in my new home”.
3.Clean Clear Disconnect - ending with clarity allows for future reconnection no strings attached.
There is nothing like saying goodbye to remind me of the sweet connections I have made and the value that individuals hold in my life. In the past, I used to avoid the goodbyes. I used to sneak out, I didn’t want to feel my own sense of loss, or the sadness of being missed. I used to feel like I was letting people down by leaving so I avoided it all. But what I learned over time is that this ends up creating a fuzziness in the relationship that often spells the end. Instead, when I share my leaving and give plenty of time for connection and goodbyes, when I’m clear about my reasons for departing, when I take time for valuing and sharing gratitude for the connections I’ve made, it’s a whole different experience. Yes there is sadness often, and a sometimes joy in realising that friendships have become deeper than I’d realised! Yes I cry a lot. And there is an opportunity for the relationships to continue, in a new form. Instead of being my stop-in-for-impromptu-dinner friend, they become my come-visit-me-for-a-special-occasion friend, or lets-talk-on-the-phone-when-times-get-rough friend. Instead of yoga student in my weekly classes, they become participants in Maui or New Zealand immersion retreats, or sweet familiar faces when I come visit to teach a workshop. By ending this phase with clarity and presence we build trust and pave the way for a new phase of continued connection and adding value to each others lives.
4.Pause - Integration between chapters
This one is really hard for me, but really really important. Let yourself have a big fat pause between exiting your current chapter, and entering your new one. I know. Work, money and all that. But to the extent possible, give yourself a break in between. And this isn’t just because you are exhausted from lifting all those boxes. It’s because you need the pause to let the last chapter of your life integrate. We’ve all heard of the phenomena of a rebound relationship when someone goes from the ending of one relationship straight into another without pause. We understand on some level that this doesn’t give a person the space to reconnect with themselves and fully digest the last experience before engaging in a new one. It’s the same with moving. Our complex human systems need the opportunity to evaluate, to sift through the lessons and integrate a whole experience. Then when you begin the next chapter you move from a place of so much more insight, so much more personal strength and integrity.
This one is really less of an action to take, and more of the outcome of this whole process. You framed the move, you let go of things that no longer served you, you disconnected from community with clarity, and you allowed yourself a pause to integrate all that took place. And what happens is, you’ve changed. You aren’t quite the same person anymore. Your favourite clothes don’t feel like they suite you quite right. You feel a surprising and passionate pull towards