In order to grow, a snake must shed its skin. In order to expand, a birch tree splits its bark. What do you need to shed in order to grow?
The birch tree outside my window looks like an unkempt pony shedding its winter coat, filled with clumps and bare spots. What does it look like for me to make room to change and grow? What do I have to do? What do I have to release? How do I let go of my confining skin?
Identify the skin you need to shed
I recently shed the skin of primarily defining myself as a job I no longer choose to perform. I hung on tightly to that identity for a long time. I was comfortable in that skin. It was who I thought I was. However, I’m no longer a worker. I’m “retired” – whatever that means to me. And I am looking for a new definition of who I think I am. What skin are you ready to shed?
When the skin is shed, what is underneath?
Part of the process of shedding your skin is to begin to identify and accept what is underneath. As you begin to shed your “present” skin, you will find yourself resisting change. You will be unwilling to move out of your old, comfortable skin. You will be fearful of trying on your new shape. However, there is really nothing you can do to change the process. We all change. We all grow. We all let go and move on. It simply takes time and it is a process. Look at what is emerging and find the good in it. As I began to shed my skin of a profession, I found myself with more free time. I became more introspective. I now take time to think and read. I take time to allow a gradual unfolding of my life. The shiny new me that is emerging is mindful. She is attuned to nature. She is contemplative and serene. She is writing poems and articles like this. She is thinking before she speaks and acting with greater compassion. I like what I am uncovering that is under the skin I shed.
Let go of what no longer works
Letting go takes time. I let go of some belongings when I moved cross-country. I let go of more possessions when I moved from a two bedroom to a one bedroom space. Now I want to let go of things in order to simplify my life. I don’t need so much stuff. It has been difficult to let go of the physical things I have gathered over the years. But I know that even when I let them go, I will always have the memories. Letting go makes what remains more evident. Each season, as I change my wardrobe, I allow myself to let go of what cages me in. What do I no longer need? What used to be important that has lessened or been replaced? What can I let go of that is no longer relevant to my life today? Letting go, is an important part of shedding your skin.
Let go of who you think you are
It is even more difficult to let go of who I think I am, how I have defined myself throughout the years. Self-defining words like “writer,” “coach,” and “educator” have been my identifiers for a long time. At this moment in time “writer” is all that remains and that is enough, although I’m certain “educator” is tucked in somewhere with writer. Bring your idea of who you are into a simple statement. Mine is “I encourage awareness.”
Bring your passion into the present
What is your passion? What stirs you to action? That is the essence that you want to bring into the present. Writing is a core passion with me. Writing and learning nourish me. If I keep on learning and writing life will feel meaningful. What core qualities will you take with you into the next stage? What is the essence of what you love to do? The form will change. The time you spend on it may change. Let your passion drive you.
Something has to go
The lighter the pack on your back, the easier will be your journey. If you hang on to everything, you will soon have no room to move. Start with the physical plane. When I finally released my business books to the half price store, I felt lighter and freer. It was a major letting go for me, but those books no longer represented who I am becoming. I found a way to make an inner work business plan rather than an outer work business plan. That was a huge step.The primary reason for shedding your skin is to allow yourself to expand. It is a relief to let go of what no longer represents who you are becoming. Look around your home. Look at your current friends. Look at how you now spend your life. What are you willing to let go? What do you need to let go in order to grow?
Choose what you need to expand
As I shed my skin, I began to examine my personal philosophy. It is key to identifying my new direction. It may even be my new direction. I chose a new course of study that deepened my spiritual understanding. I began reading the books and learning the lessons I needed in order to move to a deeper awareness of who I am and how I can contribute. I set up new rituals. I take time to contemplate, to read, to write, to think. I meditate and practice Falun Gong and Yoga. I let circumstances guide me. I take life one day at a time and embrace what appears.
Give yourself time
The skin I have almost shed has taken three years. I have resisted growing older. I have resisted moving into retirement. I’m still searching for how to feel relevant. However, I am listening. I am thinking. I am letting go. It takes time to grow out of your skin. It takes time to finally shed it. Be patient. When you do shed your outgrown skin, you are free. You can joyously expand – until it’s time again to shed your confining skin.