by Shannon Sullivan
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on
building the new.” Socrates
A Time of Chaos
I have made many changes throughout my career but never so big as during these last two years. The good thing is that because of my previous experiences with change and not handling it so gracefully, I had lots of practice.
When Buddha decided to leave the comfort of his home, his family, his wealth, he did so in order to be part of the larger world. He wanted to sit inside of the suffering of others and
invite the chaos in. He made this decision no because he wanted to suffer but to heal and grow. He didn’t want to hide the truth of the world from himself. Through his journey, he learned how to invite chaos into his circle for a cup of tea, listen and then let go.
My journey through the pandemic has created an opportunity for me to take chaos and find success. Just as Socrates says above, focusing on the new and not the energy of the old, allows us this chance. It took three steps to navigate my shift through these challenging times. First, I honored my feelings. Second, I learned how to accept what was. Third, I learned how to pivot.
Step One: Honoring my feelings
As wellness practitioner, I have worked with individuals and groups for over twenty years. At the time that the pandemic became too big to ignore in 2020, my practice was located inside a health clinic where I saw clients daily. I had already begun to create audio recordings of my meditations online a couple of years before the pandemic. I remember the day the owner of the clinic let us know we needed to close for “a little bit.”
As days turned into weeks with no word from the owner and seeing the effects of the pandemic, my first feeling was that of panic. The panic and anxiety became larger each day until I reached out to my family and friends letting them know that I could use their support. I also practiced my daily mantras. During that time, I felt anger, fear, uncertainty, loss and grief. During my mantra practice one morning, I felt a shift. I needed to focus on what I could do to be present for others during this time. If I shifted my energy into being helpful to others, it would help me let go of some of the anxiety I held onto.
Each day I would reach out to the community and helped provide services to others who were in need for food and shelter. By honoring my feelings, I found a way to listen to my fears and allow them to be present without overwhelming me. Like Buddha, this listening moved me into my next step – acceptance.
Step Two: Accepting What Was
After three weeks of not hearing for the owner of the clinic, I knew that I needed to make a shift on my own. I could not wait to see what would happen. The pandemic wasn’t going away any time soon. If I stayed stuck in the energy of the chaos, I would be circling in a darkness that wouldn’t go away. I accepted the situation as it was not as I wanted it to be. No one wanted to live in a world where we had to close down because of a virus, but there it was. It wasn’t going away.
As I moved into this place of accepting the reality of what was happening, I realized I needed to sit down and take inventory of who I was, what skills I had and how I could make the most out of these things in order to support myself.
As much as I wanted to explore why this was happening, there was no time dwell in this larger question of the unknown. At this time, I also heard back from the clinic owner where I was employed. She wasn’t going to be re-opening the clinic anytime soon for in-person sessions.
I focused on the gifts I already had and how I could make use of them in a new way. The question then became “what are my choices?” It turned out that there were many, and I didn’t just have to choose one.
Step Three: The Pivot
In the shamanic tradition of animal medicine, the Roadrunner is seen as an animal who is able to make quick shifts and changes. They use their tail as a rudder to steer themselves and navigate the land to survive. Two months into the pandemic, I had honored all my feelings about the chaos I was swimming in. I accepted that I was in it for the long haul. Then, like a Roadrunner, I pivoted through the changing landscape.
My first pivot was to take my Spiritual Coaching and Reiki sessions to online sessions using the Zoom platform to connect with my clients. Both of these can be done at a distance and online. My next pivot was to take my client-based hands-on practice on the road. I shifted gradually when it was safe to do so to doing home visits. Then six months later Insight Timer began to offer the opportunity for teachers to host Live events online. I jumped in with both feet. This allowed me to share to a larger audience what I do individually with clients. I was able to make use of skills I already had and begin using them in new ways.
For eighteen months it has been a whirlwind of constant changes, shifts and pivots. I won’t tell you that I was overjoyed with having to do it; however, I will share with you that the change has been rewarding and successful. I continue to navigate the wave of changes. Because I chose to turn my focus to the new way of doing things in my life, not looking back to what was, it has helped me make the transition more gracefully.
Enjoying the Future
For all the old that has fallen away, it has opened the door to new opportunities. I can celebrate the chaos because I chose to stay in the present moment and accept what was happening. The peace ultimately comes from inside of ourselves. Amidst the chaos, like Buddha, as I invited it in for tea, I better understood myself and how to adapt and pivot during this challenging moment. During all the transitions I could remain true to myself by taking time to honor what I was feeling, while still choosing to step forward in a new direction.