Transitions in Consciousness

Transitions in Consciousness

Transitions in Consciousness by Steven Monahan a former fortune 100 executive who experienced a shift in consciousness and perception after surviving a terminal illness. Steven is a Zen Teacher and Transition Coach.

Things are soaring, going great …and then they aren’t. So, what do you do? Do you hope and wish things will change back? Do you get frustrated? Do you blame something, or someone?

I say none of the above. Things will only change when you change them. So, how do you do that?

At 53 life my life and career were soaring. I was a fortune 100 corporate executive. Then at 54 I wasn’t. I went through a monumental life and career transition and became an entrepreneur. It worked out well. Then, thinking I was out of the woods, I went through an even bigger life change. I was told I had a few months to live. But amazingly that worked out as well. Now I am a career & life change coach. I work with people over 50 who are going through a major career or life change.

My transitional coaching style is a mixture of Western Jung and Eastern Zen. I follow the natural wisdom and intelligence of Nature, with its continual beginnings and endings. Always moving forward, always in the present moment, never stuck in the past or the future.

A wise man or woman observing the nature of the ever forward movement of the stream from the fountainhead of life, trusts in the universe, knowing his life is in accord with all of life.  The unwise woman or man in a dramatic change feels disconnected from his or her source. They believe they must struggle through change and swim upstream to force their will on this unwanted situation.

Change is difficult, it is uncomfortable and many times quite upsetting. But change does not need to be a struggle. While people feel that change is taking them backwards, the odd thing is that change is actually moving them forward. Change is the natural way of life. If however you resist change, and swim against the natural forward flow you will struggle, exert energy, and still get nowhere. You become stuck.

“That’s where a Transition Coach steps in. We help you get unstuck”

Steven Monahan

Transitional coaching focuses on the process that people go through as they undergo major life – shifts.  A Transitional Coach provides understanding, clarity, and a clear pathway forward. A Transitional coach provides, supportive two way communication. He or She is a sounding board and a guiding leader, providing encouragement, questioning, goal-development, planning, and compassionate, yet disciplined accountability.

Transitional Coaching deals with the nuts-and-bolts issues involved in major life transitions. Coach and client work together on the motivational, strategic and planning aspects of transitions. We assist the client transition from the ending zone, to the neutral zone, and finally to the new beginning zone.

Releasing the old

This stage is marked by the letting go of old realities. The fact is that throughout our lives, we deal constantly with endings, and we go through the process without much thought at all.

However, some endings trouble us greatly, often because we misunderstand them. We confuse them with finality, with ‘the end’, and we are blinded to the fact that these endings are merely the first phase of transition to a new beginning.

We are frightened by the uncertainty of the change, we fear the unknown, and we desperately yearn for the known, the comfortable.

Letting go of the old embodies four hurdles.

  1. Disenchantment with the old
  2. Disengagement from the previous
  3. Disidentification with what was
  4. Disorientation

Each of these D’s needs to be thought about, addressed, understood, and worked through in order to try to ensure a meaningful and fruitful transition.

Accepting the transition

The neutral zone follows from the disorientation which often results from the Endings and it is a place of limbo – where, ideally, we need to sit with our feelings and experience a moratorium from the conventional activity of our everyday happenings. It would be much easier if a transition, like a simple change could occur within an hour or two. But the inner shift – the transition, does not happen as quickly as the outer shift – the change. We call this transitional phase, the neutral zone.

In the neutral zone, the old reality is gone but the new reality isn’t totally functional yet. This neutral time may be marked by lots of activity. Conversely, this may also be an empty time in which not much seems to be happening. In either case, the neutral zone is a phase during which the future is not clear … but the past is gone. The past may not be gone in a literal sense – the same people may still be around, much of the surroundings and support systems may be in place. Yet the import of all these elements may have radically changed in your mind.

To understand the neutral zone, imagine a move from one career to another. The move can happen so quickly that you may think there was virtually no neutral zone period. Yet, it is likely that you felt weird even before you left your old career and even before the actual physical change occurred. During that time your psyche was undergoing change – you were starting to grieve, and you were confused about the future. Long after the physical change happened, you are still in somewhat of a limbo state of mind.

While that’s an easy process to explain, it’s often a very uncomfortable one to transition through, especially for those who like clarity and definition.

Mentoring or coaching someone who is stuck in the neutral zone entails showing people what can be done, what should be done, and why they feel the way they do.

New Beginnings

Creating a new beginning. At some point, imperceptibly, acceptance of the change and coming new beginning happens however. During this period new realities begin to be absorbed and you start to feel normal.

Transition mentoring and coaching helps people recognise the phases of transition they are stuck in, and teaches them to act in the best ways to make the transition successful. Other forms of coaching do not touch on these issues. Developmental coaching, for example, determines what new behaviours need to be adopted to be more successful. While valuable, development coaching doesn’t address the critical issues necessary for navigating a business or life transition successfully.

There are many and various types of Transitions

Transitions are many and involve changes such as a loss of status, family member, financial security, loss of a support system, losses of friends, loss of self-image and self worth. A loss from divorce, or a relationship break-up, losses which result from children leaving home (the empty nest syndrome). Loss of job, income, downsizing, layoff, retirement, or major career change. Loss of hopes & dreams for the future. Loss of important relationships through death, divorce, break-up, illness or a miscarriage.

My Transitions

As I mentioned at the opening. I have had confusing, unsettling and unexpected changes in my own life. I, too, have had to struggle, through these endings, middles, and then new beginnings in my own life. Leaving a twenty-five year corporate career and transitioning to an entrepreneur was a major transition to my psyche. The struggle, then letting go of material things thru the expected death from a terminal illness was another transition I had to work through. These changes, although difficult awakened a compassion within me for the struggles of others during their transitions. Mine was so powerful a transition that it finally awakened for me the inward reality of life, and our seamless connection with all of life, and one another. Through each life change however I learned to make sense of it, reframe it into terms of meaningful and positive change, and then move forward on my path.

As I said through these transitions I have grown and learned. I studied and I learned the works of acclaimed clinical psychologist Carl Jung, of Alan Watts a renowned British American philosopher, Episcopal priest, and learned scholar, who taught and wrote over twenty-five books, interpreting Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. And I learned from Dr William Bridges who is considered the leader in the field of change and transition work.

Through my major life transitions I learned to move ever forward through each unexpected coming and ending. This awareness of the spontaneous good and loving flow of life is now integrated into my being. It allows me each day to live life to the fullest. To accept change by naturally moving forward in the stream of life, not trying to hold on to shore, no longer resisting and swimming upstream.

My struggles and success navigating difficult career and life changes are the most valuable, honest and hopeful perspective I can offer my clients.

Change can destroy a life or it can enrich a life. It is all in how we approach it. Change most times is really more mental than physical Our personal transitions however are never isolated, or in vain. They represent growth and learning, and after accepted and integrated into our being, our gift to others.

My endings and beginnings have brought me the gift of insight into human nature. It allows me to see with clarity, below surface level situations. Change totally altered my perspective on life. It taught me to look above the societal roles I was taught to play, and the limits I was told existed. My gift of working through difficult changes is the wisdom and skill to awaken others the gifts and the genius within them.

Steven Monahan

Former fortune 100 executive who experienced a change of perception after surviving a terminal illness and is now aa animal welfare philanthropist, author and life coach.