Transition Times and Spaces

One day it snows. The next day it’s 50 degrees and people are filling the park down the street. Of course, we say, it’s March, one of those transition times of the year when it’s not quite winter and not quite spring. March always gets us thinking about other transition times and spaces.

Our days are punctuated by transitions. For example, we go through three entrances and use three sets of keys to get into our home. First, we open the entrance to our building from the street and walk into a lobby. Before the elevator will go up, we have to unlock the call button for our floor. Upstairs, we pass through a hallway and use another key to open our apartment door. When we go out, we transit the same doors but use fewer keys — the elevator and the street door lock behind us.

We move from place to place by going through a series of betweens: between the outside and the inside, between the lobby and the apartment, between a room and the exit. Rarely can we go anywhere without going through a transition space — or time. In the Christian monastic tradition, the practice of statio acknowledges the importance of times between times.

In her book about Benedictine spirituality, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, Joan Chittister explains that members of the community stop outside the chapel for a few minutes before entering for prayer. “The practice of statio is meant to center us and make us conscious of what we’re about to do and make us present to God who is present to us. Statio is the desire to do consciously what I might otherwise do mechanically. Statio is the virtue of presence.”

Using this Christian practice, we can reframe the many transition times and places we experience during the day. Instead of regarding them as wasted periods, unavoidable delays, or inconveniences, we can see them as divine invitations to stop, to recenter ourselves, and to become more aware of God’s presence in the world around us. We can use transitions as opportunities to contemplate the things that matter to us, to give thanks for all the gifts from the Creator, and to prepare to connect with our loved ones.

This kind of refreshing pause or mini-Sabbath does not have to be complicated or long. Just consciously choose to stop, close your eyes, and relax your body. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, let go of any anxieties. Shrug your shoulders or shake out your hands. Rest in the moment and know that this special moment which will never come again. Savor it and give thanks to God.

You can weave a sacred pause or statio into your daily life. Here are some suggestions.

• Pause outside your door as you leave for work or school. Say quietly to yourself: “This is a day the Lord has made. I will watch for God’s presence in my life today. I will stay open to the grace of God.”

• Just before you leave your car, train, or bus, say a silent prayer for all those you have passed on your journey, that they may know health, happiness, peace, and well-being. This statio practice may be repeated as you leave a restaurant at lunch or a store after shopping.

• On the elevator to your office, focus on the beginning of your workday. Say a prayer asking that your work be blessed and of service to your employer and the world at large. Think about the people you will meet during the day and give thanks for their support and creativity. If you are in conflict with a co-worker, ask that you may be forgiving and forgiven.

• Before entering a doctor or dentist’s office for an appointment, or the gym for your workout, thank your body for being such a faithful trooper. Know and accept that God cherishes every hair on your head.

• Returning home, pause before entering your house or apartment. Be conscious of the moment’s importance, that you are moving from your involvement with the outside world into the space of your home. Leave any stresses and problems of the day, any unfinished business, on your doorstep. (You can always pick them up again the next morning.) If you share your home with others, remember what you are bringing to them — the fruits of your labor, perhaps, but most important, your loving presence. Use this refreshing pause to prepare for a blessed reunion with them.


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