photo: Alex Barth on flickr

photo: Alex Barth on flickr

When it comes to making major changes in your life – or even minor ones – how do you know it’s the right time?

Do the clouds part, and a choir of angels sings to you in perfect harmony, “Now! Now is the time!“?

Or does a bolt of lightning shoot out of the sky, followed by the materialization of your favorite wise one – be it Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, or the Bionic Woman – who then proceeds to tell you exactly when to make your move?

jamie to the rescue

No? Never happened like that?

Me neither.

Even in the absence of singing angels and the Bionic Woman, there have nevertheless been prompts along the way, signs that help steer me in the direction of change – or not.

I was reminded of this when I was at a silent retreat for my ministerial studies at Holmes Institute.

During our time in the quiet, everything felt spacious and unrushed.

I particularly noticed this when we were eating. It was easier to eat more slowly, to spend time on each bite.

photo: Britt Selvitelle on flickr

photo: Britt Selvitelle on flickr

As I was engaged in this process, I thought of mealtimes in my daily life. Melissa’s and my regular routine is to watch our favorite TV shows while we eat dinner. Our lives are rich and full, and we don’t spend a lot of time watching shows. But this is a little indulgence of ours. Our little treat.

Before the retreat, Melissa had suggested that we just eat, and not watch TV at the same time, and occasionally we did.

But what I realized, as I ate in silence at the retreat, was that even though it would be good to eat like this all the time, I wasn’t ready to do so yet.

It was so clear. Yes, this is a good and beneficial practice. And No, I’m not ready to commit to it yet.

I have had similar messages with other habits and routines. I knew for a long time that I would eventually stop eating dairy foods, that it would serve me to do so, but I waited until I was ready.

I knew for a long time that I would eventually attend the Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa, that I would find a community there, but I waited until the time was right.

photo: Will Bakx

photo: Will Bakx

Actually, that’s not quite true.

A few years before I started attending regularly, I went to a service at the Center. I went because I wanted to be in a relationship and someone had told me there were lots of groovy lesbians at the Center.

The minute I walked through the door, I knew I was there for the wrong reason. And I didn’t come back.

It wasn’t until I was genuinely hungry for spiritual community, and a friend of mine started going and invited me to join her, that the time was right. I took the next step and it was easy.

My time at the Holmes retreat reminded me of the perfection of change.

It reminded me that when I listen to my inner guidance, I can be guided to right timing in all situations.

Yes, it would be awesome to have a choir of angels serenade me with messages of guidance and support. Or, better yet, the Bionic Woman, with her super-powered ear to listen to all my troubles before she busted out the primo advice.

But alas, I am simply left with myself. That is to say, I am left with the Divine, which speaks to me in various ways – through friends and books and movies and inner promptings.

photo: longtrekhome on flickr

photo: longtrekhome on flickr

No, it’s not usually as dramatic as singing angels or female superheros, but when I choose to listen, the messages are always clear.

And when the messages aren’t clear, I know I’m not ready to act yet. I know I need to pause, awaiting further instructions.

Part of being human is being messy. And taking time. The process of change is no different.

The questions are these: Can we stop pushing ourselves to do things when we’re not ready yet? And can we be brave enough to act when it’s time to do so?

When we answer Yes to both questions, we know we’re finding our way. Allowing our humanness. And listening to the guidance within and without.

I’d take that over the Bionic Woman any day.

why the sad face?

How do you know when it’s time to make a change? And how do you know when you’re not ready yet? Share your comments below!

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