Other times change occurs slowly—so slowly that we don’t notice the changes until what was just isn’t anymore. We notice our body doesn’t do the things it used to. The mirror tells us our looks are not so young anymore.
The future looks hopeless. What mattered most is now gone. vanished.
Terrible anguish and fear may flow through us. How can we live with this?
We usually come to the place that this is now what was is gone. We can no longer deceive ourselves.
One example is the seeming losses that we face as we age. Or as has been famously said, “Aging is not for wimps.”
Along these lines I recently read an article by Arthur Brooks taken from the Atlantic magazine where he discusses losing professional skills as we age. Our skills have peaked and are going downhill. He asserts that this happens even earlier than we had imagined.
I believe this is because we have denied it and have clung to youth, vitality and the personal power to move mountains, effectively accomplishing our work.
Western culture values youth, beauty, winning and achievement.
But how do we handle the losses that inevitably happens?
Nothing can be changed or transcended that isn’t paid attention.
For instance I spent many years continuing to set goals and stay positive. I believed that investing all my energy into focusing on these goals would cause them to appear. I did my best to ignor evidence to the contrary.
However my experience these last fifteen years or so have brought new insights. I am now aware of the following:
- Goal setting didn’t work as often as I thought it should.
- And it took tremendous effort to push down this road.
My mindfulness practice and study have since revealed ways to engage live in contentment by meeting the challenging situations as they arise. Disappointment and feelings of loss lessen as they are met face to face. Eventually one finds a new and satisfying path to walk.
As I paid attention to the unpleasant thoughts I began asking, “What am I seeing? What is my interpretation? Where did this opinion come from? What story is underneath it?”
I noticed a pattern. I want what I want—and try to avoid what I don’t want. As I looked deeply into what I was seeing I suddenly felt the futility of it all. No matter my desires, this is how it is for now, and it will change.
The old life is no more. This is what is now and I can examine my stories of how things should be. For I don’t know—no matter how something in me screams that I do.
Do I know how to run the world? And the universe? Something does, and it is way beyond my skill level.
So how will I work with what has happened? Will I kick and scream like a child who isn’t getting what she wants?
Or will I choose now to watch my own mind and make new choices. What am I telling myself now? Will I choose to pay attention?
Choice is the one thing I have that won’t disappear as long as I’m breathing. I can choose what to focus on. Do I want to admit that I don’t really control the aging and dying process?
The only control I have is in the choice I make each moment. And that is all I need.
Amazingly losses have a way to eventually turn into gain! It only takes a new perspective to see this. Perspective is always our choice—conscious or unconscious.
We can choose to invite the unconscious into our awareness. For we have the power to meet it, to curiously engage with our core beliefs and see what we really tell ourselves about life.
We can really pay attention to what we hold in mind and heart, engage with it as a friend, curiously examining it, and thus transcend the pain and suffering. It is a skill that can be learned.