navigating ambiguity with heart

Navigating Ambiguity with Heart

Our lives are full of transitions, which naturally brings periods of ambiguity.  You can learn to navigate the ambiguity with heart and grace. 

Periods of ambiguity and uncertainty can test our ability to stay psychologically present when we might prefer to push away what’s uncomfortable.  You can learn to accept that you do not know how things will work out…. yet,  knowing that clarity will come in time.  As you lean into your heart, you learn to  believe that through the periods of change and uncertainty, something new and wonderful can be created.

What if learning to navigate change not only has real value, what if it is an enabler?

Vivien Thomas was once observed performing surgery on a dog with his eyes closed. A young Johns Hopkins intern asked about this, to which Mr. Thomas replied, it is like “feeling your way through your house when it was dark.  You get to know the terrain.”

The more we allow ourselves to navigate ambiguity and uncertainty with an open heart, the more we build the heart skills to become more comfortable with the discomfort caused by ambiguity, uncertainty, and even loss.   When we stop fighting the change and lean into it, we can begin to recognize the openings and new possibilities that are possible in a way forward.

It is a tremendous skill to know how to navigate change and transition with heart.  Through the process of turning inward we grieve for what has ended or been lost, we notice the connections in our lives between the past and the present which can help us breakthrough unhelpful patterns, and see can find parts of ourselves that have been forgotten that might bring renewed energy into our lives.  It can also be a time of creative endeavors – planting new seeds, gathering the pieces, and of great fertility.

Here are 10 ideas to help you build the muscles to navigate ambiguity with heart:

  1. Take turns leaning on and supporting your close friends and family members. Let each other have moments where you just listen, empathize, and care. And, then alternate.
  2. Begin a restorative yoga practice.  Restorative yoga allows the muscles to decompress.  It is a wondering experience of deep rest.  My favorite studio for restorative yoga, called Svaroopa yoga, has begun online classes Yoga for Living.
  3. When you notice anxiety creeping in, it is the time to pay attention to your breath.  If your breath is also shallow, this is a great practice for calming:  The 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
  4. Take intentional micro-breaks.  Even five minutes each hour, or a 15-minute break every two hours can help you settle back into your heart if you do it with intention. Now that so many people are working from home, Zoom fatigue is setting in.  Those 2-3-minute walks you used to have going between office meetings gave you time for bio breaks, getting something to drink, stretching, briefly changing your surroundings, and having a few minutes to your body.  
  5. Write about your experiences. Let it spill out, unfiltered. If you’re experiencing loss, try working with these questions from my Conscious Endings program:  (a)  What is ending? What are you ready to be done with?  (b)  What does this change or ending represent for you?  (c)  What do you appreciate from having had this experience?  (d)  What are you learning?
  6. If you’re working from home these days, repurpose your commuting time into a time that nurtures you. For many people, the commute to work was a great separation of work and home.  It is often a personal time as well, a time to reflect, orient to the day, or other activities that feeds your heart and mind.  Now that we’re working from home it’s too easy to roll right into work and not have enough separation between work and home life.  What activities can you incorporate into your life that support your heart as you repurpose this time?
  7. Find a picture, or create a metaphor, with a statement for the transition you are in. Maybe it is a river with two banks.  Maybe it is a doorway or a boat during in the ocean during a storm.  It could be a butterfly in the chrysallis or even a mental image of walking around your house in the dark.  Use this mental metaphor as a touchstone for the transition you are in the middle of and, like Vivien Thomas, remember you too are “learning to see in the dark”.  I’m a visual journaler and I’m currently creating a spread of a woman in a dark forest.  Having grown up in the country and knowing my way through the dense woods around our home, this is a comforting and soothing metaphor for me.  What mental picture brings you comfort these days?
  8. Accept that you may need help or support. Call a therapist.  Reach out to me for a free coaching consultation.  Call your spiritual leader or teacher.  Let someone know that you are struggling and need help.  There are those of us here who have learned the terrain and are ready to support you.
  9. Learn about Pathways Thinking. We are so conditioned in organizational life to write linear goals.  Pathways thinking encourages us to look at both willpower and waypower in finding ways forward. Check out a freebie on my site called the Hope Map.  Download here.
  10. Everything will be alright.  Repeat this to yourself when you feel weariness creeping in.  When you’re on the edge of worry and anxiety, quietly tell yourself these words.  Remember all that you’ve been through in your life, the ups and downs, you are stronger than you think.  Everything will be alright.

Learning to navigate transitions with heart and grace are some of the most important skills I have learned in my life’s journey – and, with each transition, I continue to learn anew.  

Stay safe, make art,


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