“This is not a rehearsal. This is your life. ”
I have often worked with people who are navigating their way through what is commonly known as a ‘mid-life crisis’, which I prefer to call a ‘wake-up call to self’! Or, they are on the receiving end of a spouse in crisis. Like an unknown force, they find themselves waking up in a panic to a general place of dissatisfaction, and look to find a greater meaning in the life that they been given that is halfway over if they are lucky. Often, this results in impulsive buying, leaving a marriage, changing careers, or finding themselves on a mountain top…. in a search for meaning and happiness.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes a woman in one of his well-known mindfulness courses “I looked away for a moment and woke up 20 years later wondering how I got here”. Isn’t that the case for many people? I remember sitting in a cafe in a very upper-class part of New York City, watching the well-heeled and beautiful people walking by, all within the vicinity of outstanding, world-class art, food and shopping. Are they any happier I thought? Unequivically, no.
Dissatisfaction is a part of the experience of being human it seems, no matter where or how you live. So, we spend time striving for a feeling of ease, peace, happiness in our daily lives. The feeling is tenuous at best, fleeting… so we strive to keep it: a constant dance of aversion to pain and attachment to good feeling.
I write a lot about looking for the good in life, but what about the difficult moments, the uncomfortable, the painful… if this is a part of life, how do we navigate them? Mindfulness is a portal to the self.. an opening up of what is there already, for better or worse. My guess is that if we cultivate mindfulness in ourselves and are really honest about it, we might notice feelings of dissatisfaction way earlier than mid-life. If we can accept that this is indeed part of every life that lived, and will continue to be even after you purchase the Mazzerati, would that change anything?
When we are able to fully accept without resistance, the moment that is happening NOW, we open up to the truth of who we are in the present. Are we lying to ourselves? Is there something that needs to be said right now? Are we chasing an imaginary future? In other words, am I living in a constant search that will end up in a crisis, or can I relax into what is happening now…… Am I here now?
Harvard researchers found that 47% of people are not living in the moment, but those that are… are happier. (Killingsworth, 2010 )
If you’re like me, you might like a concrete example: My father is in a care facility. I go in to feed him breakfast each morning… after many times of totally resisting the fact that my once extremely intelligent, articulate, kind and giving father now needed to be spoon-fed, I suddenly realized that these were now my moments with him. I had wasted many moments with frustration, anger, impatience and grief. Not that these are not important emotions, but I now go in feeling a sense of gratitude, of honour… that I can sit at the same table and feed the man who fed me so many times in the past. I set aside enough time to sit and enjoy. I can Be Here Now.
When we give up resistance to the present moment, exactly how it is, inside and out, we gain a power and awareness that enables us to act, to respond, to give… or to change.
What if you had a short time to live? What would you do? Who would you talk to? What dreams would you pursue? Don’t let it sneak up on you at mid-life. It may be that you could do it now in some fashion… in honesty and in alignment with who you really are.
On a very last note, an observation from a pastor working in palliative care about what people treasure most at the end of their lives:
“They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.
They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not.
This is how we talk about the meaning of our lives.”
Say no more…..