Part III: The Bridge of Transformation - Entry or Crossover Points
“The attainment of wholeness requires one to stake one’s whole being. Nothing less will do; there can be no easier conditions, no substitutes, no compromises.”
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology
In the last post, we saw what the first half of life looks like. Now we will look at some entry or crossover points into the second half of life and the process of transformation we need to undertake to get there.
The main prerequisite for entering the second half of life is to pay attention to the deep suffering we encounter throughout the first half of our lives due to failings and failures of our life situations and a willingness to do some real inner work. The suffering comes not only from midlife crises that most of us encounter but from other unsettling experiences. Some of these experiences relate to significant changes in our life situations, such as the death of a loved one, business failures, or relationship breakdowns.
These are all opportunities to awaken to the second half of life. Still, it is difficult for many because we do not want to leave our “comfort zones” even though we are suffering, nor do we have the patience to do the inner work, which involves contemplation, mindfulness, meditation, and becoming emotionally intelligent. Practices like mindfulness and other meditations will increase our attention and focus and take us deeper into ourselves and into awareness of our true self and bring about a radical transformation.
Unless these existential crises change us, what we are today is what we are going to be tomorrow. In essence, we are the same person with the same motivations, same emotional needs, and the same way of doing business, except now we are older. Then it doesn’t matter what “new” things—a new job, a new venture, a new relationship, or even relocating to a new city—we get into; once we touch it, it will become the same old, same old. It will keep us busy and interested for a while, but the novelty, the “newness,” will wear off pretty soon. This is because we bring the same conditioned, survival of the fittest, dualistic, biased, ego-driven, all-about-me mindset to everything we do.
Even though the prerequisite for the second half of life seems to be deep suffering, we do not have to wait until the suffering of a significant life situation hits us. We all encounter everyday experiences where we find joy, clarity, peace, and happiness. These moments can range from watching a sunset, or playing with our children, to “flow” conditions we sometimes experience when we focus intently on what we are doing. These can be any activity where we don’t think of anything other than paying attention to what we are doing at that moment, and the mind becomes completely still and present. We can experience these flow conditions when running (called “runner’s high”), gardening, rock climbing, dancing, or even with work-related projects. When we attend completely to any activity, we break our unconscious, habituated way of doing that activity. It can then become a potential entry point to the second half of life.
These entry points provide a slight shift in our everyday consciousness when we are able to “touch” our true selves, and they leave their mark on us. This present moment awareness (the now) is the jump-off point into an uncharted area—it opens up new horizons of the second half of our lives. They can shift our consciousness to a higher state in an instant and take us into the second half of life. For some of us, even if the touch points were wide-open doors inviting us to enter, we would not want to go through them out of fear of what lies beyond these doors—the unknown.
The transformation when it happens is instantaneous, but we have to lay the groundwork to prepare for this change to unfold. Expanding our consciousness is arduous work. It calls for constant vigilance and breaking of old mental habits. The process is not simple or linear. It does not flow in a sequence of events. It is uncertain, unpredictable, multidimensional, chaotic, and confusing—our whole life, as we know it, will be turned upside down, and that is the price we will have to pay if we want to move beyond our survival mindset.
It is like crossing a rope bridge suspended between two mountain cliffs (between our everyday consciousness and the expanded consciousness of the next phase of life) that is unsteady and moves and swings with our every step. We have to hold tightly onto the sides as we gingerly make our way to the other side buffeted by the daily turbulence of our lives—still doing what we need to do for our family and work. As we are crossing the bridge, the hold of the ego loosens on us, and we begin to leave our patterning behind—everything we have been told about what life should be, what we have to do, and what we should do.
The Bridge of Transformation
Every step is challenging and excruciating, and we want to turn back. Still, with patience and persistence, we can cross the “bridge of transformation,” and we emerge on the other side pattern-free with a complete change in perspective and a new beginning. It is as if we are born again and have a second chance to live our life.
The following post is Part III in a four-part series that touches on The Secret of Aging with Grace and Wisdom. For more information on what you can expect for this series, take a look below.
What does the second half of life feel like and how do you know when you have made the transition? The final entry of the Secret of Aging With Grace and Wisdom series, Part IV: A Paradigm Shift – The Second Half of Life will explain the experiences of the second half of life and will be available next week.