Category: Starting Over (page 1 of 5)

Embracing The Big Love Around Us

Are you getting in your own way of happiness?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day frenzy of just being human.  From the moment the alarm sounds, we’re often on a race to hurry up and get to a desk where we can stop for a few minutes and then hurry up and get on the phone, to a meeting, across town to the bank, stop by the post office, pick up the kids, bathe the dog, hurry back home to be sure we’re in the kitchen so we can hurry up and get dinner on the table and sit for a few minutes before hurrying up to binge-watch the new series and finally, hurry to bed so we can start it all over again the next day.

Somewhere, along the way, we pass ourselves.  Some part of us is looking out the window.  Or noticing how the light is bouncing off the leaves as the season changes.  Or remembering how glorious it felt to hike that trail on a cool fall morning or run through leaves giggling.

But we don’t have time to stop.  And oddly, that’s a comforting thing.

We have our duties.  Our roles.  Our safe little worlds with no surprises. Even though sometimes, it feels like the walls are about 3 inches away, and getting closer.

And closer.

So that soon, our world is very, very small.  And that candle inside us that used to shine so brightly and lead our way when we were first dreaming of what our lives can be…that candle is struggling to stay lit.  It’s an inertia that slowly creeps through your bloodstream like a silent snake…robbing you of your curiosity.  Your desire to know more, to explore unknown places and have adventures.  Little by little, it seeps your energy.  Like the death eaters in the Harry Potter stories it seems to hover overhead and suck the very life out of you.

A beautiful essay on the OnBeing Studios blog, “Beyond The Myths We Tell Ourselves, Big Love is Waiting” offers some wonderful insight.  (OnBeing is an amazing multimedia project featuring a nationally broadcast public radio show, a portfolio of podcasts, and a digital publishing platform reaching millions of people each week.)  Author Ali Schultz reminds us we are “not Atlas supporting the world; the world is supporting us.”

Schultz goes on to say:

When I step out from the house of cards I’ve built for myself, I feel love. Big love.The clear path to such love requires excavation. We must, as Rumi notes, remove all of the blocks we’ve placed in our way to keep us from it. Somehow, somewhere, in all of our evolutionary neurological wiring, our wires have crossed so that we fearing being loved more than being safe, small, sure, busy, and turning away from the big open arms of life. We think we’ve got it all figured out. While our gifts for self-preservation and survival are strong, all we’ve figured out, really, is how to make sense of the world into which we were thrust, or find ourselves. Great skills, no doubt. But if we rely on them solely, we guard ourselves from another way of being with the world.”

“The big open arms of life.”  What a wonderful image. So why are we so afraid to let go….to give up the control we mistakenly believe we have, and just let the energy and inspiration around us fill us?

Is that we don’t think we’re worthy?  Or that we can’t remember how to find that energy?  Are we giving into society’s obsession with youth and forgetting that we, baby boomers, anyone over 50, are the ones best equipped to recognize just what the universe can do for us…and know we have had it inside us all along?

More words from Ali Schultz:

“Perhaps the biggest form of self-denial is turning away from the grace that’s always there for us, right now here in the present, and has been with us throughout the arc of our history. Without a story to perpetuate or mental mazes to get lost in, you stop perpetuating the story, the delusion, that you’re alone holding it all together yourself. And, then, you can feel life rush in and join you in conversation. When you open to the world, big love is waiting for you.”

Taking a risk is scary.  Changing your life is scary.  Even just deciding you are going to realign your daily priorities can be scary, because others are going to react to what you are doing.

But you know what?

What’s scary can also be liberating.  Exhilarating.  It can lift you up like a cool autumn breeze invites an eagle to soar to newer heights.

Maybe we can each stop carrying our world, give our backs a rest, and wait for the world to rush in.  What a delightful thought that is.

 

“That is the mystery of grace:  it never comes too late.

    Francois Mauriac  

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A new affair with life.

“Man may turn which way he please, and undertake any thing whatsoever,” wrote Goethe, “he will always return to the path which nature has prescribed for him.”

We do our best.  We tell ourselves from a very early age what we’re supposed to do, the school we need to attend, the career that best suits us.  We follow the prescribed path, live the in the apartment or house we find along the way, often have the spouse or children we know is expected of us, and then we are told that now is the time to rest, to sit back, to retire.

And yet, our minds do not retire.  Our passions do not retire.

And very often, we really aren’t ready to retire.

Movies will tell us it all just works out.  Television commercials show alarmingly attractive people with flowing white hair sailing, drinking coffee on the porch of a magnificent A-frame in Montana, or laughing with perfectly behaving children flying a kite.

Who are these people, and what did they do for a living?

But it’s more than that.  It’s hitting the 60’s and not feeling that much different inside than you did in your 50’s.  Or 40’s.  You are even more curious.  More interested in absorbing great poetry, great wisdom, great wine and great silence.  The kind of silence you find on a walk in the woods.

A silence that beckons you to really listen to the voice inside of you…the voice that might be speaking even louder than ever.

“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun struck hills every day.  Where there is no risk the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.  It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”

Diane Ackerman

I don’t want to let go of that mystery.  Yet sometimes, I can feel the forces of aging (or is it what I perceive as aging?) pulling me into a kind of lull, as though a soothing being with a harp was telling me to pull out of the race,  retire my dreams, and put aside still-deep desires to see new things and learn new ideas.

It’s as though I’m about to summit Mt Everest, but the storm is too strong, the winds too mighty, the cold, too much for me.  “Just close your eyes and sleep”, the voice wants to say.  “You’ve had a good climb.”

HEY!  WAIT A MINUTE!

I’m not ready for that.  Note even close.

For one thing, hitting the 60s and beyond is not the end of the road.  Life expectancy is far beyond that for most of us.  So in practical terms, we still have to pay our bills, try to somehow afford health care, and have a productive life.  Some are blessed with pensions and ample nest eggs. But many of us must still earn our living.

Maybe we can’t run the marathon, but we better lace up and get on the track.

Recently I had a bit of an epiphany.  No blinding lights or trumpets sounding, just some shifting in my thinking.  I was letting my world get too small.  I was receding from a bit too many things.  I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to give up the things that bring me the greatest joy:  living in a beautiful natural setting, hiking and walking along mountain trails, and simply breathing in the beauty of the universe.

I went back for a visit to the place I had moved to almost a decade ago…the same place I left about a year ago…and the flame was re-ignited.

I’m just not ready to “act my age”.   (What does that mean, anyway?)

I’m challenging myself with rebooting my brain and my achy joints and my forgetful memory and my wrinkles and coming up with a new plan for the next chapter.

It might mean I get back to where I was…in more ways than one.

It might mean I go somewhere entirely new…physically, but maybe just mentally.

For sure, it means I’m not standing still.  Not now.  Not ever.

Because moss is beautiful.  But I don’t want any growing on me.

 

 “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 

             John Muir

 

 

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Getting unstuck.

A friend of mine writes that she just can’t seem to get off square one. She’s very frustrated with her job. More to the point, she loathes it. She feels trapped in a situation that she helped to create. Though a longtime outdoors person and environmentalist before it was chic, she made a decision years ago to pursue a career in an entirely different field because jobs were scarce and she finally gave into the pressure to choose something “safe”.

The result: she has a steady paycheck, for which she is very grateful.  But she can’t deny  she’s miserable.

She feels completely stuck.

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How well I understand. You sit at your desk, or your breakfast table, or whatever location it may be, and you feel invisible chains around you.   It’s a living anyway. It’s a marriage anyway. It’s the town you grew up in anyway. You can’t really change anything. Oh, you could, but think how much effort that would take. And what if you fail? What if you go broke? What if no one ever calls you again?

Faced with thoughts this huge, it’s no wonder you can do no more than stir your coffee or check your messages on FaceBook. It’s your reality. It’s where you are, and everyone else is doing what he or she really wants.

Right?

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I remind my friend that it took me 20 years to finally make a major change in my life—and I didn’t do it before my 50s. And that truly, wherever you go, there you are. You must beware of comparing your insides to other people’s outsides.  I  have brought with me my bouts of inertia, insecurities, my moments of doubt and fear, etc., etc.

Yet, because I broke free of my own self-imposed paralysis, I also stirred up the forces of Nature that remain dormant until you make a major life change: new energy, new spirit, new enthusiasm. I believe there is some part of you that flips a switch when you’re faced with that fear of learning a new job, meeting new people, memorizing new pin numbers, figuring out streets and routes to grocery stores, doctors and the really important destinations like ice cream parlors and bookstores. The power is there for us if we choose to plug in. Goethe told us the universe would move as soon we do.

But it still can be so hard.

Just getting quiet enough to hear that tiny little voice inside us that tells us we can do it—that’s a challenge in itself. Why? I wish I knew. I wish I had trusted myself much, much earlier. I wish now that I could let go of some of the old fears that stalk the forest of my mind, waiting for me to trip and fall, scared and out of breath, so they can come out of the dark and encircle me.

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One step ahead. Some days, several steps ahead. Other days, many steps backward. But just keep getting yourself up. Keep moving. Whether you’ve already taken a risk, or you’re just beginning to really formulate in your mind what you want your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond to look like, you’re making progress.

As a friend recently said, “change is easy, committing is hard.”

 

 “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

                                  Pema Chodron

 

 

 

 

 

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Power of the Labyrinth

Life can take us in many directions, and often on paths we never thought we’d choose.  Sometimes the way ahead is clear.  Other times, (and for me, more often than not,) the path ahead is a bit hazy…I can’t quite see the images…and when I get to that intersection I am really not sure where I’m supposed to go.

It’s like hiking, which has always been my favorite thing though these days my feet don’t want to cooperate.  I hike a trail. I can tell where it’s going.  Then I come to a point where it seems to split into many options.  Obviously only one is “really” the trail.  But the others look kind of okay…are they options?

If I choose one I’ve never done before, will it bring me back to where I am right now?

 Or will I get lost and never find my way back? 

The movies want you to think that it’s easy to figure out moments like this.  There’s a sudden vision.  Or the music changes and the sun comes out and you just know.  More likely is you are tired, distracted and you’d just like someone to come along and tell you which way is which.

file000143069688That whole fantasy about how things get easier as you get older…hmmm…how’s that working for you?  I agree we have more wisdom as we age.  But I’m not sure it always makes things easier.

When my mind won’t settle enough for me to figure out what’s next, or there’s just no peace because it feels like I’ve backtracked and messed up and soon I’ll even up living under a bridge, I try to find experiences that quiet it all.  Meditation is good.  Tai chi is restorative.  Nature is always a balm.

And then there’s the labyrinth.

According to The Labyrinth Society, a “labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological or spiritual transformation.  Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.”    Labyrinths are considered walking meditations, where your psyche meets your spirit.

Labyrinth enthusiasts believe that as you enter the labyrinth, you release.  When you enter the center, you receive.  Then as you leave, you give back to the world what you have received.

One of the most famous labyrinths is that found at Chartres Cathedral in France.  This labyrinth is 42 feet in diameter and is thought to have been constructed in the early 13th century, though no one is sure.  What is known is that up to 1,000 people have walked the path and the numbers continue to grow.

What is it that pulls so many people to walk this design?  Does it really have a power all its own?

Many years ago I was at a point in my life where I could not figure out what was my inner self giving me direction, or what were the messages I’d absorbed for years from well-meaning but negative people I was around.  I just wanted to clear my mind and get a feel for what my path should be.  I had heard of a large labyrinth laid out at a church near me, and I decided to try it.  A friend had suggested that before I walk the labyrinth, I say a prayer or meditation of what I hoped to find…what answer I was looking for.  And be sure to enter the design with as clear a mind as possible.

Easier said than done, but I followed her advice.  And it was, for me, an amazing feeling.  As I entered the labyrinth, I felt what I can best describe as a force field…an energy that seemed very real and very strong.  I took my time and let thoughts come and go.  What most impressed me was how just as you think you’re about to reach the center, the labyrinth takes you back out to the outer edges, slowing you down, making you revisit where you have come from, not allowing you to just quickly find that golden egg.

In other words, you can’t get where you going without circling back to where you’ve been. 

I find that to be a huge lesson.  We don’t just come out of the rodeo shoot and never look back.  We make progress, we accomplish things, we lead our lives…but we’re always calling upon where we’ve come from.

Some reject this idea, as they have come from places or environments that were abusive or so negative they never want to look back.  I understand that.  But I think even that pain has something to teach us and if we boomers ignore it, it’s just going to keep popping up and block our forward motion.

dioI also noted how once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I felt peace.  I could just breathe and be for a bit.  (How often do we do that??)  Then as I was ready to leave the center, I once again had to follow a path that picked up speed, then slowed, and again, took me literally full circle…to the outer edges and back.

Maybe this all sounds weird.  But lately, I’m in a place again where my inner self is a bit off-balance, where it is easy to give in to the notion that because I’ve returned to an earlier address, I’ve failed or walked backwards.  Yet my conscious mind knows that’s not the case; I’ve just taken one of those spur trails to see where it will take me.

I’ll still get where I was going, but I will take an unexpected route.  And it might be one that for a while doesn’t feel quite right, like putting on shoes that don’t fit or a sweater that itches.  But if I trust a higher force to get me through the dark parts, then surely there’s a vista at the end of this trail that’s far more beautiful than I could have imagined.

I let go.  I receive.  I give back.  And maybe in the process, I return to who I am so I can be even more.

“Methinks the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”     

       Henry David Thoreau

 

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