This is where the clouds part and you begin to see light, having journeyed through the grief of loss triggered by change (see Part 1), and then marinating in the Bardo between the end and the beginning (see Part 2). You start to think, see, hear, taste, smell and feel your life in a fresh and unfamiliar way. At first, you may experience moments of clarity, excitement or energy in which you realize that old ways of being and thinking no longer fit and new ways emerge. You might even surprise yourself -”I just said that?” Welcome to Vuja de.
Vuja de is an experience named by the comedian George Carlin and defined in The Urban Dictionary in this way:
Derived from deja vu, the phenomenon where an event happens and you feel that it has happened before or that you dreamed/predicted/instinctually felt it would happen.
Vuja de is the direct opposite. It’s when something or somewhere that should be familiar is suddenly very different.
I believe this phenomena is a gift we can receive when we are willing to be changed by change. An external change may induce a transition – which is the internal process/transformation of letting go of old beliefs, ideas or ways of doing things that no longer fit your present life stage. It is also true that a transition may evoke external changes. More than fours years after divorcing her husband of 20 years, one client shared a dream:
“It was a dark night on a narrow country road. I was walking several feet behind my ex-husband, trying to keep up, at first using my eyes to see his feet moving and then, as the distance became greater, using my hearing to listen to his footsteps. Eventually, both of these failed and I felt a great panic on being alone and on my own in a scary place. I calmed myself down by coordinating my breathing with the cadence of my strides. Eventually, I arrived at a beautiful and foreign place; I knew I would not see my ex here. It was morning and the sun was shining.”
Leaving the dark night of her Bardo, this client not only lets go of an old way of solving a problem, but also begins to think about herself – and her place in the world – in an entirely different way, not one pulled from memory.
This is not to say that once you’ve arrived the sun will always shine. As you exchange the known for the unknown, it is still likely that there will be periods of doubt, anxiety or confusion. This is a natural part of integrating a new identity with facets of the Self you have always been. William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, noted that “a new beginning upsets a long standing arrangement.” One client who had left an unsatisfying career and dormant love life in the Midwest to embark on a new life chapter in California, often oscillated between embracing and resisting his decision in what I refer to as the, “It Wasn’t So Bad Syndrome.” Together we discovered a part of him who feared the unknown – as a result of frequent and stressful family relocations during his childhood — was prone to indulge this type of nostalgic bargaining in times of doubt and disappointment during his transition/acculturation process.
In addition to Vuja de, others have described to me their experience of a new beginning with remarkable similarity:
• a feeling of coming home
• being “dialed in” on my own radio station (free of static)
• thinking and speaking from my own “voice”
• an alignment between my inner and outer world
• living an embodied life
Emerging as we do from the somewhat dis-embodied emptiness of the Bardo, the last description echoes the true spirit of a new beginning in which we move through our life and make conscious choices from the inside out, even when a new beginning arises from some external opportunity or circumstance. Having travelled through the ending of something to the middle of nothing, we arrive at the beginning – “ripe” and ready to receive.
You might be wondering, how do I translate my insights into action once I am ripe?
1) Stop getting ready to take action and act.
2) Imagine what it -and you- will feel like once you’ve done what you intend to do.
3) Take one baby step at a time even if it seems small or mundane.
4) Take time to clap for yourself after each baby step.
5) See the journey as significant, not the outcome.
As we end at the beginning, I’d like to offer you this wisdom:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ~Charles Darwin
Karen Batka, MBA, MA, LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in grief and life transitions.