Many people live their lives struggling against the current, while others use the flow like a mighty wind.
~ Madyson Taylor, The Daily Om
Midlife. It brings the inevitability of change as well as the quest for wholeness. When you enter wholeheartedly into both you will slip into the current and flow like a mighty wind.
Change is a fact of life, regardless of age. We have no control over it. But the quest for wholeness is something I have found to be more pressing as I move into midlife and beyond. If I resist the former and ignore the latter, life becomes a struggle. It can actually be physically painful as I tense my muscles, eat poorly, bind myself to my work and ignore the multidimensional life that is calling me.
The quest for wholeness
Reaching for wholeness is a normal part of this time of life. It’s gathering together all of the disparate pieces that have been strewn across the first half. It is combining your creativity and dreams with the resources and skills you’ve acquired over the years to shape something greater and truer.
It’s also an exercise in pulling ourselves out of the eddies of the opinions and expectations of the world at large and checking in with the inner world of your essence. Who am I at my most basic self? What do I know now? What’s important to me now? What delights me? What do I do well? How can I transform this knowledge into a current and flow like the mighty wind?
The inevitability of change
As much as we think things stay the same, change is constant. Minute by minute, often invisible, right in front of our eyes.
Here’s another quote. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.)
Clearly, the great mystery of life is that it is lived in an always flowing stream of change. We are one person with one set of ideas at one age, and then, when we look back years later, discover that we became another person at another age. The only certainty about it is the fact that we ourselves decide both what we are now and what we intend to become. And we make that decision one choice at a time.
~ Joan Chittister
What I know to be true for me is that when I cling to what has been, I miss out on the possibilities of what could be and I struggle. If I don’t consciously decide both who I am now and who I intend to become, I struggle. But when I allow myself to flow with change – and I don’t mean the leaf in a babbling brook – with my hand on the rudder, making choices rather than having choices foisted on me, ah, then the struggle drops and I revel in the wind at my back.
These active choices and decisions are unique for each of us and when we flow with it, we are better situated to find that wholeness we seek.
There are ways to step into the slipstream. Here are a few of my best practices:
Ask a Small Question
The work of reconciling to change and returning to your true self can be daunting. A small question can make it so much more manageable.
However, there is an art to it. You want to elicit curiosity and surprise. One element to consider is the scope. What is one thing I know now that I didn’t know before? Limiting the request to just one thing takes away the overwhelm of life’s great questions.
Another element is letting go of the need for an immediate answer. If you ask the question, the brain will begin to work on it. Straining for an answer will often produce an edited version of the truth or an old story. Allow yourself to be curious about what comes up and tune in to what feels right.
And, finally, consider formulating your question as a how or what instead of a why. Why often produces reasons why you can’t; asking how and what will offer ways that you can.
Once the question is asked, open up to possible answers.
One of my favorite things to do with a small question is to take it out for a walk, preferably a solitary walk. (In bad weather I take it for a spin on the treadmill. Not as refreshing but it still works!) You’ve probably had the experience of an aha moment as you walk, drive, do the dishes or take a shower (Consider investing in tub crayons for those moments of brilliance.) You know it works. So put that experiential knowledge to work. Ask the question as you set out and then enjoy the scenery or the bubbles. At the same time, ratchet up your awareness and don’t discount any ideas or thoughts or objects that come into your line of sight. Say hmm… instead of nah.
Capture the Responses
Asking the questions and listening (whether while walking or driving or waking) is part of this adventure. You then need a way to capture what emerges. Doing that lets you go deeper and integrates your findings into your inner conversation. The answers that arise can also lead to more questions and your journey will become clearer.
One of the ways I do this is to use the voice recorder on my phone as I walk or drive (hands-free, of course). I also journal, make notes on a pad or post-it or use the notes app on my phone. I do this so I will remember.
Use whatever action that will help you remember, take you further along in the conversation and give you access to that current and your essential self as you navigate the journey into midlife and beyond.
The more I work with these tools, the more responsive they become. For instance, when preparing for a presentation I ask a small question (What is one thing that will be impactful? What is one way to make it fun?) I go about my day. I listen. The script is then downloaded, quite effortlessly!
It’s almost magic!
As always, if you need a guide or a nudge contact me to find out how I might you help navigate this rich time of life.