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Mindful : October 2014
After 17 years of living with a life-threatening kidney disease, at the end of 2008 I received a new kidney from a generous former student. The surgery extended and revolutionized my life. My skin turned from a sad yellow to a vibrant pink. After years of a diet restricted to what seemed like filtered water and saltines, I treasured the moment my teeth sunk into a succulent beef tongue taco. For the first time in years, I could meet the day with vitality and dream about a future. Since most organ rejections happen ea rly on, the first few months were tenuous. Once it was clea r the procedure was a success, the next six months were exubera nt. Were this a Lifetime Channel special, the credits would roll at the happy ending. However, without warning I sank into a deep and anxious depression. It dragged on for the next 18 months and I felt aimless, worthless, and hopeless. Though my health was better than it had been in decades, there were times I lost the urge to continue living. I knew something was up and began to look for answers. I found my experiences mirrored what many wise people have said about what happens during transi- tions. I discovered a rich literature and tradition around transitions, containing maps a nd guides for how to navigate them. I lea rned that changes were distinct from transi- tions. Cha nges are events. You get married. Your com- pany is taken over and ceases to exist. Your dog dies. Transitions are the inner shifts of identity, possi- bility, and belief that occur to help us assimilate a nd adjust to changes. Some a re easy, others are difficult. They don’t occur automatically, and they often require consistent a nd specific efforts. Like a video ga me where you slay a demon to move to the next level, transitions throw down a series of monsters that must be overcome before you can move ahead. As I navigated the transition occasioned by my new circumstances, mindfulness proved an essen- tial ally for me. It created the ability to keep me moving ahead through a bewildering territory a nd into a renewed sense of purpose, wonder, a nd joy. CONTEMPLATION Pick a significant change in your life. What transition took place as a result? Like a video game where you slay a demon to move to the next level, transitions throw down a series of monsters that must be overcome before you can move ahead. 72 mindful October 2014 in practice insight