How To Navigate Life Transitions With Ease, According To TCM

Photo: Aubrie LeGault

Times of transition are often referred to as "the hallway of life." You’re not exactly where you were in the past, and you’re not yet where you want to be in the future. You're somewhere in the middle. Maybe you know you're ready for a change but you're afraid to make it. Or maybe you're dissatisfied but not really sure why. At our core we all want to live our most authentic lives, but fear tends to get in the way and create energetic blocks. And if we're not careful, we can get stuck in the hallway and buried in our discomfort.

How can we navigate transitional periods in life more gracefully?

Transitional times are built into our life cycles and our culture: nine months of pregnancy, a three-month trial period at work, a year of engagement before marriage, a permit before a driver's license, etc. These periods can be uncomfortable, and it's human nature to want to move through the discomfort right away. However, I believe we should all weigh the pros and cons before endeavoring toward the next thing; have presence and stillness, notice and tune into our current state. Pain can be a powerful teacher, so why rush through it?

While you should slow down in the hallway, you shouldn't come to a complete stop. Getting through a transition can also mean needing to change some of our deeply ingrained habits.

Most of us have experienced how hard it can be to alter our habitual behaviors. Why is this so hard? The answer may lie within our own brains. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered powerful neurological loops that form in our brains as a result of our habits. If we want to undo those patterns, we must do so consciously. In other words, ingrained habits are hard to break, but once you recognize them, there are tangible steps you can take to undo them.

A recent buzzword in the scientific and psychological communities is neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to reorganize itself. Though neuroplasticity is not a new concept, science continues to confirm the brain's ability to change as a result of new environments, behaviors, and emotions.

So, no need to beat yourself up about the fact that it’s hard to change; learning the facts about rewiring your brain can get you on the road to transformation. And after years of practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I have watched the practice move patients through even the most stubborn areas of stagnation.

Here's how TCM in general, and acupuncture specifically, can help us push through stagnation:

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1. It boosts vitality.

When we have the feeling of "stuckness," our vital energy (known as "qi") isn’t moving. Acupuncture can help fortify and supplements our vital energy and helps boost the spirit into action.

2. It enhances intuition.

After being stuck in the hallway for a while, we lose touch with our inner voice and disconnect from our natural intuition. I have seen acupuncture help improve the acuity of clients' intuition. Specific acupuncture points, like one between the eyebrows, help strengthen and refine our relationship to our instincts.

3. It changes our energy.

When emotions are repressed, the body's energy is thought to flow in a less skillful direction, leading to an internal counterflow that can create emotional and physical disharmony. The acupuncture needles can coax the stuck energy and move the stagnant qi, allowing us to manifest our most authentic self, life, and highest purpose.

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4. It can be used in tandem with other healing practices.

Here are a few other tips for moving through a life transition:

  • Tell a trusted friend or family member of your decision to change, and commit to small, doable steps toward your goal. Chart your progress with them so you have accountability to someone else.
  • Journal. Get clear on what is working in your life and what is not.
  • Do research. Find out as much as you can about what your next steps should be in the direction of your desired goals.
  • Make appointments with people who are already doing what you want to do or living where you want to live. Talk to people and learn from their experience.
  • Find a good therapist or support group to help guide you through this time. Having a witness during these journeys is essential. A certified life coach can also help you identify your immediate and long-term goals and create specific action steps in the direction of your intention.

Two of my favorite sayings are "Nothing changes if nothing changes" and "You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking." With acupuncture and these useful tools, there’s no doubt that you will embrace your time in the hallway as a necessary and useful step toward your own evolution. You will flow with grace and ease and you will be able to powerfully embrace the next stage of your life.

That's not all acupuncture can do. Here's how it can help with painful periods, soothe anxiety, and promote healthy digestion.

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