Friday, February 25, 2011

Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Last week I was en route to Honolulu with a stopover in Maui.  Arriving at the gate about an hour early, I was offered a seat on the earlier flight.  It has probably happened to most of us.  Sometimes there are limiting circumstances which prevent changing and we have to take a pass.  I was ahead of the schedule and I could get to my destination earlier, but they said my bag would arrive on the later flight.  Something inside said, ‘just go keep moving in the direction of the wind.'  I did and fully expected to wait at the Honolulu Airport another hour for my bag.  I arrived and then figured I could make use of my time and get the rental car while waiting for my luggage.  I walked out to the median to pick up the shuttle and then my guidance said, ‘go back inside and check for the bag.’  I went back to baggage claim and there it was.  I was listening and trusting to the unseen.  Sometimes it is called guidance, intuition, insight, god’s word, you name it but it does not come from the analytic thinking brain.

Small thing?  Yes, but it is an example of how to work with our intuition and find the ‘flow.’  A close friend of mine says flow happens after practice and more practice.  In this case, I interpret that to be exercising the trust muscle.  In my mind I knew there was no risk, my plan was set and therefore I had total trust that stuff would work out.  Because of this confidence I could take the intuitive action without risk. 

Another example:  Last night we were walking downtown Honolulu after dinner on the way to a local jazz joint.  The idea popped in to walk down an alternative street and we did and discovered a jazz band at a totally different club.  It was great and we never bothered to go to the first place.  Catching the scent of jazz in the tropical air, with again, relaxed confidence. 

No doubt these kinds of incidents are happening all the time and we don’t pay attention.  What if we strengthen our trust of the unseen, unknown, and unconscious?  Working up from these minor cases of intuition into bigger and bolder moves could benefit our business investments or relationship options.  At the moment, I am getting ready to make plans for an extended foreign trip.  I had done my due diligence by researching the tours and flight options to that area.  This is priming the pump to that possibility.  In the past couple weeks, since that investigation I have had three signs pointing in that direction; 1) An email from a friend in Europe out of nowhere saying he has a contact in that rarely traveled country, 2)  A book based on the spirituality of its indigenous people mention in a sermon by a minister, and 3)  My all time favorite song in their language randomly played on my MP3 player which elicited an outburst of tears. 

Coincidence?  Power of attraction?  Could be.  We give things meaning and perhaps I was paying more attention to these occurrences but so what?  Leaning into those signs I feel am following my deeper, unconscious desires.   To paraphrase Bob Dylan, we know which way to point our lives. 

By the fifth decade of life we have spent many years developing and relying on our thinking, planning, and analytic brain.  And for most of us it has rewarded us with some financial security, skill in our careers, and understanding of the material world.  The need for this kind of thinking is obvious.  At this stage, growing our intuitive brain can yield reward in life vitality.  There is the tendency to do things the way we always have.  If we do, we risk is to getting stuck in habitual patterns and missing refreshing experiences.  Expansion and fulfillment is available when we open to the other messages that don’t compute in the left brain.   Why not take a spin with our hands off the wheel and see where the flow takes us?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unpacking Your Baggage and Restarting Your Engine

Crowds in the central square, placards exhorting the dictator to be gone, and TV news reporters scurrying for theoretical cover, it was deja’ vu all over again.  Another ‘peoples’ revolution expressing frustration with a rapacious autocrat.  Pushed to the edge of starvation and desperate for a voice, they band together to express their frustration and somehow find the courage to hope for positive change.  Politicians wring their hands and affirm their support for democratic, human rights and behind the scenes negotiate with the dictator.  Perhaps they’ll succeed and push out the old regime and a new strong man or party will take over.  But the odds against real change are long.  Successful revolutions are as rare as a winner in Vegas.  Zooming from Egypt to California to Santa Monica to my life, I sense the instability of world culture today.  The old axiom that all politics is local applies to the personal as well.  All change is personal.  Shifting into the last life chapter has shaken my foundations of self, just as Mubarak knows that change is inevitable at last, I know that changes in my life are inevitable and desirable.   Getting off that entrenched system of friends, habits, and routines takes a veritable uprising of the soul, a comfort zone that provides cover and limited growth.  Three years on into my ‘reinvention,’ I find myself in a dark place.

Waking with a sense of futility, I was barraged with questions:  What is the point of reinvention?  Where does it lead anyway?  Do I still have the will to follow through to completion?  Doubt, fear, doubt and more irrational fear.  Is this a condition of aging?  How do I manage this feeling in order to continue on my adventure of refirement?

Reinventors of any age probably face these questions and how do we find our way through those likely moments of aridity and self doubt?  The challenge of age adds another layer that is not present when we are young and fresher on the scene.  Over the years we accumulate experiences and lessons often called baggage.  Unpacking that baggage may reveal a strategy for continuing on our journey.  Baggage can be grouped into four types; ‘been there, done that,’ ‘Too old/ tired/ stupid to (start over, learn something new, move),’ ‘My life is comfortable so why bother,’ and finally ‘what if I fail?’ 

Where do these ideas and feelings come from?  Our interpretation of experiences.  We are constantly framing moments in our lives for ease of understanding and with that framing we add an emotion that stays with us.  Today I awoke with that ennui of ‘been there, done that.’  I choose to dive down into that life sabotaging feeling and find out where it comes from.  Essentially, it is an attitude springing from bits and pieces of frustration from my former job, hobbies, and relationships.  Even though I may hold a generally favorable view of those experiences, discomfort was also there and this disquiet pops up to infect my stated intention to reinvent, renew, and refire my life.  My tonic is to write about those disappointments and release them from my inner closets that periodically can spill out and mess up my day.  When I don’t know what is bugging me, it is even more important to write or talk it out.  After writing or painting or running or working in the garden, then I can get clear.  I can then perceive in that flat attitude the fear and doubt that covered the passion and joy of the experience.  

After unpacking the old, resolved hurts the next step of leaping into the unknown is not so foreboding. The infectious quality of doubt is put in perspective. 

‘I am just too old’ is probably the most pernicious of these viruses.  It permeates our general culture, it is supported by our observation of the life cycle of all things, and it carries a grain of truth.  A grain of truth is not the whole truth.  Typically, as we age learning new skills is slower but then we usually have a heightened appreciation of the moment.  This mindful quality can then be experienced as its own reward and not just as a requirement to achieve a goal.  Clarity of mission, vision, and goal is crucial.  When those three elements are clear then taking the necessary steps is doable.  Each of these is worthy of in depth discussion but a simplified definition of mission is how one puts his / her unique gifts, skills, and talents in service to others.  Vision is about the form that this gift takes in the material realm.  Finally, goals are the specific projects to be accomplished.  When the excuses of lack are seen in this light then the value of mission overrides the personal limitations.

Failures have been many by the time one reaches AARP age.  This fact is unavoidable and when compassion informs this ‘truth’ then wisdom can arise.  Wisdom tells us that failure is a part of life and can’t be avoided.  Wisdom tells us that we learn something in every failure.  Wisdom can guide us to practical solutions to moments of failure.  Failure is not a place and it is not static.  It is a position on something.  Viewing our circumstances with wisdom we can then take steps that are practical and progressive. 

Today I joined Lazarus and not wallowing in my ennui, I took up my bed and walked.  Walked to the cafĂ© and met a fellow late in life reinventor and his spark plug started my engine.  I remembered Mission, Vision, and Goals and my vehicle is moving again. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Busting Free and into Community

Instant Community; ski/ board  old/ young=mtn high
Racing down the ski hill, wind in my face, and muscle memory kicks in.  I suddenly realized that the ski run is like my life.  Constant corrections, unconscious corrections, skillful corrections that fire like cylinders in a car.  Up down, left right, forward back.  And before I know it, I am at the bottom of the hill. Hardly a conscious thought occurred, the ride was a thrill and I got to where I wanted.  Trust is a slippery thing.  I have a high degree of trust in my skiing ability.  Even at this age I am confident going down this easy hill.  I used to get bored with this kind of mountain, no challenge.  Finding those nooks and crannies of trust embedded in our bodies and souls can point in the direction of a fulfilling day.   

That day on the ski hill started because I was stuck.  Stuck like a cat chasing its tail.  Going around and around in circles with less and less energy.   Getting less and less done.  Finally, I tired of my excuses and jumped in the car and got on the freeway.   Breaking free of the routine place and obligations cracked the egg.  Rolling at 70 mph, the confusion of too many options, too many unfinished projects, and too much ‘been there done that’ evaporated.  One of my favorite songs came on and upon hearing the chorus to One Love sung in Zulu heart and the tears flowed.  Bottled up emotions were released.   I knew I was in that juicy place where soul lives.  Soulful feeling and truth were leaking out in the familiar words. .  Harmonious voices singing in a rainbow of languages speaks to one of my core values: Community. 

On the ski hill I joined the tribe of skiers and boarders.  90% of the crowd was boarders and approximately one third of my age.  But I was in my community of mountain lovers who enjoy the thrill of racing down a snowy mountain.  Leaning into that long entrenched body memory of carving ski turns on the snow was satisfying even though not novel.  It was satisfying to be in the familiar experience with the more relaxed attitude of maturity.  The lesson was to appreciate what you have now and not hold onto an old model that is out of date.  No longer interested in pushing myself to the limits of my ability and even so the knees started to give out in a few hours.  I had to relax and find the groove of easy sliding down the mountain and trusting the body to know what to do.   Hitting that inner place was liberating.  I realized that I don’t have to try to do what I did years ago.  Call it creative aging.   I was part of that community on the ski hill.  

Riding the chair lift with a couple boarders and they offered me a swig of their beer.  I accepted and he asked, “How is your day?”  I said, ”Great but my knees are starting to give out.”  He responded, “Yeah me too.” Then he told me his age, 47, and I told him I was 61, he practically fell out of the chair in shock.  We bonded momentarily as fellow mountain sliders with aching knees.  There is a saying I hear frequently these days; ‘You are only as old as you feel.’   That is often meant to encourage older people to keep a youthful attitude.  OK, and sometimes you can think young the body aches and hurts and feels old.  But that is not bad.   There can be wisdom in aging, if we can see it.  Wisdom comes from knowledge and experience intelligently applied.  Wisdom provides fuel to get through rough patches in the aging Boomer.  Days when your body is stiff in the wrong places, days when your knees ache, those are the days when the wise, older person applies self awareness and experience  and enjoy carving turns on the slope, not jumping fifty feet off the cornice. 

After connecting with the mountain and its denizens, I stopped for a cup of coffee at the local grind in the village.  Spying a book rack that said ‘support your local artists,’ I opened a poetry book written by a retired fire captain and felt an instant kinship.  Community takes many forms from the Zulu chorus to the achy, knee skiers to the village poet.  You have to get out of the narrowing life that often comes with aging.  Next time you break out, breathe in, and then give yourself a pat on the back.  You’re out living a vital, vibrant, and passionate life.  Not a young life, not necessarily a youthful life but a life that is rift with vitality, value, and virtue.