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Elan Vitae

magazine

  • Ann Wilkie Arens

RIDING THE WAVES OF CHANGE




Water, especially how it flows in nature, is an awe-inspiring metaphor for how we can deal with transition in our lives. There are characteristics of water that highlight how being flexible in life’s challenging situations can help us to find what we need to ultimately have resilience to go forward.


As a small mountain stream meanders along, it will connect with tributaries and grow in strength. Eventually, it may come together with a large river moving vigorously onward to its next conversion. Our lives will also bend, turn, and evolve as we move forth on our journey. This natural growth is pushed forward through life’s currents, and it is our ability to be flexible with this change that will give us the capacity and strength to unfold our lives in a positive way.

Liminal space is a time in transition when staying agile and aware will help with navigating the path ahead. This term encompasses the period of life when you are stepping from one stage of life to another stage. It is the unknown space between life left behind and the new. The in-between when you can’t see what the next step will bring. This can cultivate feelings of anxiety and stress and our ability to be flexible with our mindset at this time is critical.


A quote from Father Richard Rohr brings a positive reframing to the unknown of liminal space, …”Where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind. While we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…this is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.” (1)


Looking at liminal space through the lens of water, when there is an obstacle blocking water, it will maneuver its path around or through a crack, not knowing where it is heading, but flowing to the place where it is guided to flow. This shows us that we can be adaptable and adjust to the shifts in our lives, even if we can’t see where we are headed. We can move forward knowing there is a new path we are ready to explore.


Futurist Amy Webb, founder and CEO of Future Today Institute, sees impending big changes, through her research, in our world very soon. On the Brene Brown podcast Unlocking Us, Webb states, “in the next 50 years, or less, people are going to look back at us, everyone alive today, as the group of people who lived through the great transition.” (2)


Webb sees this transition as effecting everyone from C-suite executives to every individual; it is a transition we will all go through together. It will be a tremendous amount of change; a ‘technology super cycle’ with AI, wearable data pieces (such as face computer glasses, rings, and bracelets) and generative biology all collecting data and all this new technology will be occurring at once.  Webb believes this will be “both exciting and mind-bending.” Her research is showing her that, “we will all together go through an unprecedented amount of change faster than we are probably capable of managing.”


Though this view of the future may sound overwhelming, no one knows exactly how these new technologies will grow and develop. The best way to be prepared is to be aware.


There are ways that each of us can manage changes from transitions, both large and small, and here are some ideas:


Flexibility: the ability to be adaptable both mentally and physically. Webb’s view of the technology super cycle is that this transition will go at a pace that is faster than anything we have seen. This type of uncertainty can ignite our nervous system into high stress. Noticing our stress levels and finding practices that will calm can be helpful. Also, mentally taking small steps forward with new information can make understanding the unknown easier to digest.


Notice the Change: Water can fluidly change its form when needed from vapor, to liquid, to solid and in each state, the properties of water stay the same. When we observe change that is happening in our lives, we can find the way to best cope, and, like water, stay our authentic selves through the experience.


Follow the Tides: Water’s tides energetically go forward and then retreat. This is a natural cycle. The tides can help with cleaning and providing nutrients in the water. As humans, this cycle of intentionally moving forward in transition and then coming back for rest can help in becoming more resilient.


Holding the Tension of Two Truths: As you experience a rushing river and serene lake, they each exhibit a unique side of water. Neither is wrong, they are each different and each a state of water. Webb and Brown both highlight the importance in a state of fast-moving change to have the ability to be flexible in holding two realities that are the true without judgement. An example would be to look at a situation with an analytical mind and creative mind at the same time. It can be difficult, and it is part of discovery.


Nature provides us a road map to understand how flexibility is a key to the ever-changing transitions of life. Looking at the characteristics of water is one way to uncover the gifts that nature provides. As we learn to be open minded and adaptable, resilience will occur. As American author Seth Grodin stated, “Change is not a threat. It’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.”



  1. (1) Adapted from Richard Rohr, Liminal Space (Spring 2020): 19.

  2. (2) Brown B. (Host). (2024 April 24). Futurist Amy Webb on What’s

Coming (and What’s Here) [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us by Brene Brown. Vox Media Podcast Network.



Photo credit: Jennifer Bristol

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