Sunday, December 4, 2011
Contemplation Sundown, Wrightsville Beach, NC
There’s actually been quite a lot written about the transition we humans are capable of making during the last period in our game of life. The first period is generally conceded as a time of establishing our identity and achieving some success in life. Then most of us that have navigated those stormy and adventurous waters begin to embark on a period of transition to set a new course and recharge our batteries for a more satisfying journey towards a new fulfilling life of significance. It’s been said that 90% of people live on cruise control or unconsciously 90% of the time. We need to pause more often to ponder our destiny. Bob Buford characterizes this period in his book titled Halftime to amplify the need to call a time out and catch a new vision for living that final act and the best years of our life. Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest with a Catholic priestly resume whose book on Falling Upward teaches that loss of control and necessary suffering as we move into the second period can actually shock us out of our comfort zone and enable us to better understand our destiny and rise up to the challenge. Rohr and Buford have characterized these major periods as the first and second halves of life separated by an introspective halftime, but the transition can occur at any point in our lives, not at the exact halfway point.
We slowly remove our first period stage masks to reveal our true persona. Ultimately the Zen masters call it the face you had before you were born—your true self or your soul. We begin confronting and dealing with the undesirable attributes that have developed and been carried along for years. Rohr makes the point that “The familiar and the habitual are so falsely reassuring, and most of us make our homes there permanently. The new is always by definition unfamiliar and untested, so God, life, destiny, suffering have to give us a push—usually a big one—or we will not go! Someone has to make clear to us that homes are not meant to be lived in—but only to be moved out from.” The final period of life can oust us out of our homey comfort zone simply through the aging process if nothing else.
We start to incorporate humility and love in all things. We move from an ego centric to a soul centric worldview and from human doing to human being. This phase of life can be a very rewarding aspect of spiritual maturity as we now have more time and resources to give back a portion of the blessings that we have received during our success period. The eight Beatitudes become more front and center to us then the Ten Commandments. We no longer have anything to prove, so we try to live more simply so that we can help others to simply live. Life is now not as much about having what we love as it is about loving what we have. We give away things that have actually become an anchor on our life and are no longer considered needed to interest, sustain or validate our lives. The inner light that radiates outward in the process also becomes a gift to the world around us.
It’s a productive time for advancing the soul work that makes our lives meaningful and continues the soul’s maturation into eternity. Our unique soul was installed by our creator along with the gift of life itself and the primary job description for us mortals is to continue to grow our character as we move along life’s passages. We’re a collaborative partner in the eternal flow of this great creation mystery and this is the vessel we need to transition into the next period of spiritual life as we finish well.