Monday, April 08, 2013

Listening to Inner Calling at Mid-Life

Life's journey brings each of us face to face at some point with a search for meaning and purpose - perhaps we begin with one predefined for us by our parents/teachers or mentors. We either accept or reject this. We swim out into the deep waters of young adulthood armed with degrees and book knowledge, then sink or swim with our own hard-learned experiences, failed romances, achievements and ideals fulfilled or unfulfilled. Parenthood and career/work absorb us for twenty or thirty years and then Wham! we hit midlife. The satisfaction meter either glows Hot or Cold - Red or Green. Saying, keep on going this way, straight ahead or STOP. Pause. Rethink. Revise Strategy.

We ask ourselves, where am I on my map? Where am I on my journey towards those inner goals? A longing for a sense of purpose calls us once again, because the outer 'stuff' is now taken care of (or thrown into flux by job changes, health challenges, spousal betrayal). We are creatures of meaning. Not only doing, but being is important to us. We wonder, how am I doing? It's not only about my bank account, my RRSP, savings, success, but also, Where am I on the Authenticity and Satisfaction scale, the happiness and contentment with my life scale? 

Have I begun to pay attention to the inner calling of my heart? Have I begun to give back? Is there a passion that needs exploring, a reminder of my good ole days love for theater, singing, skiing or sailing? Or am I just too pooped to coop and need a bit of rest, some down time to recoup?

This journey to the Self and greater meaning involves not only caring for others, my family, mother, children, aunts, friends, coworkers, but also checking in with me. Have  I grown, developed my gifts and talents? Have I only worked and not played? (that sure makes me a dull girl!) Is my life balanced on the Wellness Wheel of Life (physical, mental, spiritual, body mind and soul). Is it time to take stock and realign with my Core Values, or find out what they heck they are?

Welcome to your mid-life transition! all those questions come up, as you face your own mortality (around age 50 usually). You look back at where you started - you try to gauge how much you might have left to do, or perhaps you simply release all expectations and collapse into complacency, or if you're lucky, deep satisfaction, in perfect flow. Optimal experiences abound - you've sorted out your inner conflicts, and you're feeling good about yourself, you're loving the grandchildren, and your leisure time. Quality of life is finally yours.

If this is not the case, ask yourself - have I listened to my heart's calling lately? What do I really love to do,what takes me into a 'flow' experience, out of time, forgetting about my self and problems? Then ask yourself, how can I make more room for that kind of experience in my life?

It might mean taking a new class, exploring a new hobby, or volunteering part-time to work with young kids, but it always involves lining ourselves up with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.

If you feel drained, your psychic energy all sucked into doing stuff you hate - then midlife is a great time to stop, reflect, make changes, and bring more attention to doing what you love. Maybe it's time to build a creative life!

The book Flow outlines how a combination of facing challenges and growing skills is required at all levels of our life - at work, play, in family, with friends - to develop and grow happiness. It takes a certain amount of discipline to harness our psychic energy away from self-defeating negative thoughts and investing energy into creative pursuits that fulfill us. TV watching for instance feeds apathy, while gardening may bring harmony. 

We can better cope with stressful events, and create order out of chaos when we learn how to control our inner environment - our minds. 

So that's where listening to the Inner calling of the heart comes in. Discovering myself, from the inside, realigning myself with what I love to do, with my real internal goals (to be needed, to be loved, to give back, to be creatively fulfilled...) and getting closer to my gifts and talents brings harmony and unity back to my soul.

It gives meaning to my life and helps resolve inner conflicts, once I know what I want, and then take concrete steps to learn the skills or use my talents to achieve it. Following someone else's agenda for happiness will never bring me back to my own center, my own peace.  I need to discover what only I love.

What would you do, if you didn't care what anyone else thought of you? if it wasn't too selfish? if it was just for your own enjoyment? What did you used to love doing that you no longer do? Journaling about these questions will help you uncover the Inner Calling of your heart and help you find meaning and purpose at mid-life.


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