resources and supporters

When the Way Comes to an End
by Patricia Spadaro • Bozeman, MT

We all know that change is good for us. At least that’s what sages, psychologists, and management gurus tell us. Why, then, do we tend to dig in our heels and so fiercely resist the changes that inevitably make their way to our doorsteps?

For one, we cling to the false belief that endings are not natural—that if an ending comes into our lives, something must be terribly wrong. The wisest take their cue instead from nature. Each day, each season, each full moon comes to an end to allow a new cycle of regeneration to begin again. Endings are not exceptions to the rule; they are the rule. Our inner and outer worlds are governed by that same universal cycle. Every one of us takes part in the universal dance of transformation as our outworn habits, relationships, possessions, and ways of seeing and being give way to new ones.

While modern society may place less emphasis on the milestones of our inner journeys, the imagery of endings reaching out to new beginnings can still be found today. Take, for instance, rites of passage like the Bar Mitzvah, which celebrates a coming of age, or our graduation ceremonies, which mark far more than the end of a level of schooling. Graduations not only signal the end of an era but also celebrate the beginning of a new one. That’s why they’re called “commencement” exercises.

When you experience an ending of any sort, you can think of it in the same way. Life is a schoolroom, and in many cases, though we may not realize it at the time, our endings are actually graduations or promotions. Endings often come because we are ready for a new lesson to begin or have exhausted the opportunities that our current situation has to offer. We need a change of scene to bring new people and possibilities into our lives.

How do we know when it’s time to celebrate an ending and move on? Think about how it works when a plant no longer has enough room to grow and becomes root-bound. Its roots scramble for nourishment, literally climbing the walls of the pot. The plant begins to grow more slowly and doesn’t yield all the flowers it could. To survive and thrive, it needs a bigger container filled with rich, new soil.

The same is true for us. When we don’t have enough room to grow, we also start “climbing the walls.” We may slow down, get depressed, or become grumpy or irritable. If we don’t take action to remedy this malaise, life will often do the honors for us. We’ll suddenly find ourselves uprooted and transplanted without realizing why. If we’re observant, though, we will come to see that the change is exactly what we needed. In fact, it saved us—it gave us new life.

That is exactly what happened to a friend of mine when her partner of six years began to treat her badly. After their breakup, she still had gnawing doubts that saying goodbye had been the right thing to do. It took her months to let go of regrets and see that she had, in fact, become root-bound. She had run out of room to grow in the relationship, and her partner’s immature behavior was simply life’s way of moving her to higher and more fertile ground. In reality, she had been promoted—and he had been fired. Once she finally accepted her “promotion,” she could experience the gifts it brought with it. She had more energy, made wonderful new friends, and even mustered up the courage to find a new job where her talents were appreciated and she could grow.

That story is all too typical of what we tend to do when faced with an ending, whether it’s a deteriorating relationship or a pending layoff. When an ending is in the wings getting ready to walk on stage, we may develop a desperate urge to hold on to what we are comfortable with. We frantically want to fix the situation, when our inner self is asking us to transcend it altogether. But we only prolong our pain by refusing to accept that the ending is really choreographed by our own soul for our own good.

If you catch yourself reacting to an impending ending with bitterness or anger, take a moment to compassionately remind yourself that endings are not only natural but necessary. Look forward with wonder and expectation, knowing that you needed to turn off the road you were traveling on, even if you don’t yet know why. Take a page from the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, which advises, “When the way comes to an end, then change—having changed, you pass through.” By embracing the change, you free yourself to move on more quickly.

You honor the ending, and you honor yourself.


Patricia Spadaro is the author of the new book Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving. She is an expert on practical spirituality and a publishing coach and has also co-authored several other books on personal growth, spirituality, and world traditions. To learn more about her work, visit www.PracticalSpirituality.info.