Saturday, May 5, 2012
The unofficial stages: puberty, party, marriage, have dinner parties, express creativity, try to figure out who you are and often just before the end, philanthropy.
Before philanthropy, often around midlife, there is the unspoken stage, the ever day stage, it’s just a little too routine. Somewhere between the first gray hair and the baseline mammogram, we wake up in a cold sweat or we are applying silicone primer into the creases of our first crow’s feet as we stare in the mirror, and we ask, “How the hell did I get here?” We can look around and see that we have all that we thought we wanted and/or blame circumstances for not being where we wanted; to only then realize that we know exactly how we got here but all of a sudden realize that it has nothing to do with who we are now, who we wanted to be. Our whole life has been inauthentic and shadowed by our beliefs and desires instilled through our earlier experiences and inhaled through societal osmosis. And we have no idea how to get out.
As we approach mid-life things like our “biological” clock are labeled as a sign of a woman’s desperation. But male or female, the biological clock is only one manifestation of many that hits us all in what could be more simply described as our desperation to check off the boxes of a life well lived.
It appears that ultimately, when we all review that list, and see how many boxes are left to check off, we feel we have failed. It seems universal that no matter what we have done or not done, we still hear a phantom voice that asks us all, “Is this it?”
Logically, I know that I am more than my experiences. My inner self though, as many of us on this earth, has been defined by them and I haven’t been able to let all of my stories go. Some are so old I cannot even remember them but they have left behind a thought, belief or pattern to which I have come so accustomed it is painful to not allow them to continue.
I have found that as we go through life, our conditioning often inhibits us from having experiences from which we could gain great lengths in our personal growth and well-being. We put up barriers to potentially painful experiences, which really could be any of them, as expectations often do not match outcomes. I remember when I was about twelve, reading a plaque in my father’s kitchen that said something along the lines of gaining wisdom at a time when you were too old to use it. It was meant to be funny but I took it rather seriously ( the unfortunate start of a lifelong trait) and I determined then, that I was going to get wise when it was still of use. It’s a good thing I thought about it then because I am now much older than twelve and the wisdom thing is still coming rather slowly.
I have learned to move forward by staying present, becoming aware that the present would not only be my past, but would make up my future. Over a few years and some meditation practice I began to feel and understand the concept and importance of awareness. I realized that I had missed out on much, as without awareness, I allowed my conditioning to run my life and my choices without any questioning. As I was just starting to feel a little more relaxed, a little more connected, I saw that for me, awareness was important as I had to catch old patterns and thoughts and make a conscious decision to set forth in certain endeavors. There were many things that had I not made a conscious effort to let go, into the experience, I would have never noticed that I even missed the opportunity. My life would contain a void even larger than the one that still exists as I grow, had I not come to this realization.
I remember one spring day, close to this time of year but years earlier. I stepped onto the unstained deck and I leaned into the post and gazed peacefully through the orchard. I didn’t look at it but rather through it, at nothing but the beauty and spaciousness of the universe before me. I labeled nothing and I felt intensely present, I was full of awe and was acutely and intensely aware that memories are made up of mere moments and that my current endeavour, just as that very moment, would not last forever.
The sun was warm but I was not aware of the sun, only of the sense of warmth, both inside and out. My acute awareness, I thought later, would have normally brought about a flash of shearing pain as I came to the realization that things, not only bad but wonderful , must eventually change and things would never be the same as they were right then. However, this time, the pain never came and my mind was free. I had made a choice, consciously, that I was in control of very little and that it was incredibly liberating to give yourself up to the experience and not the outcome.
The wind whispered, “Don’t tell me you hear the birds singing, listen again, tell me the song that they sing.”
Ordinary is extraordinary. Each small step in awareness leads to many small steps that offer experiences that allow us to reach these bigger moments and to do so in a way that doesn’t require any longing at all, for what was or might be. What a gift there is in both pleasure and suffering. The pleasure is often in the intensity of the experience and the gift in the suffering. And it is only suffering as long as you deny the gift of the lesson of the experience. When the lesson is realized it will generally transmute into pleasure also.
A life well lived can only be defined by the one living it. Accept the possibility, the probability of failure, since once you do this, you are free to move in the direction in which your real self, your aware self is called, pulled, cajoled. Growth is experienced by trial and error the ebb and flow of life. Without failure or error there can be no success as it will have no foundation on which to compare. A better barometer for a life well lived is that which feels and flows freely from somewhere deep inside. It requires no analysis or approval it will show naturally on the outside that which radiates from the inside.
I thought for a long time that I knew exactly what I wanted, to only find myself in the everyday stage, knowing nothing but the anxiety of wanting out. How did I start to get out? I used my awareness and just keep putting on foot in front of the other, even when I am not sure about where I am going and there is no end in sight. Sometimes it will hurt, the fire that had burned in my belly and propelled my life passionately forward no longer burns the way it once did. I know now, that to stop moving will only extinguish that flame completely. I am looking for the stage that is mine, my platform to perform. I am my own manager, agent and critic. I believe that when you regain that connection to your true nature, it is the reward, your Oscar. Only this one goes with you wherever you go, it influences everything you touch and does not only stay on the shelf for superficial adulation.
Somewhere along my path, awareness has slipped in and out and I have presented with many moments that lacked awareness and moments when my sense of attachment won over. I made mistakes with those moments, that eventually led to some BIG moments in which I forced the universe to make me swallow a very big lesson and to become present again. And so is life. Sometimes we learn the lesson, long after the experience is over.
Each day I awake, I take time to look out my window at the world and day that awaits and make a choice to walk my path in pain and pleasure in much the same way I chose to walk the forest whether I may encounter birds or bears.