It seems I find myself in the time of life the Tarot refers to as ‘the return journey’. Basically, the first forty or so years of life are ‘the outward journey’, and then you take all you’ve learned on that outward journey and try to work it out on the return journey.
But as I head home I’m finding what many before me have also found; that the irony is that it’s the things that happened to you and formed who you’ve become up until that point which you have to shed, like a skin you’ve outgrown. It’s a time for letting go of old patterns and ways of being, stepping into the unknown and trusting. And it’s not comfortable at all! There are fortunate people who haven’t had childhood trauma to overcome, but most of us have, and fallout from this looms large on the return journey.
I watch people. I see them get to this point and one of two things happens. They either reach some kind of crisis involving health, relationships or both, do a lot of soul-searching, do some healthy, but quite confronting change and emerge better for it, or they hide from the unknown and stay in the familiar, settle for less because it’s ‘safe’ and wither. These are the ones who become ‘old’ in their thinking. They think themselves into ‘old’- way before their time.
To complete the return journey effectively means affecting change in our lives, and that requires a great deal of courage. It’s not a trip for the faint-hearted! It’s our very ways of being in the world that we are called upon to examine and change, and that means that we often have to discover who we really are. And that is probably the most scary thing anyone has to deal with! Maya Angelou referred to courage as the most important of all the virtues, because she said that ‘without it you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage’. The truth of this is never more evident than on the return journey.
Will it involve pain? Most definitely! Will it be fun? No! Will it be beneficial? In the long run, incredibly so if you are brutally honest with yourself and are willing to do some soul-searching. You have to be willing to look at your shadow as well as your light, and to be really honest about that which you’ve tried to keep hidden all these years…even from yourself. And you have to be willing to do what Julia Cameron refers to in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’ as ‘paying attention’. She writes:
‘In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now’.
We all speak of ‘growing pains’ when children are maturing, but it’s the same thing…only this time it’s emotional growing pains!
Meditation gurus and spiritual teachers encourage us to live ‘in the moment’, which is what Julia is talking about, but I think it’s also an aspect of what Jesus spoke of when he stated that we need to receive ‘the kingdom’ like a child. But that’s the same ‘kingdom’ that he also said ‘is within you’. (Julia also says a LOT about nurturing the inner child…no coincidence. It’s also no coincidence that creativity plays a huge part in coming home to the heart.) And there’s a certain element of allowing. This means getting out of the mentality of doing, and just being. There are times when I actually have to force myself to stop, sit with my feelings, breathe deeply and not do anything! My egoic mind protests. It keeps coming up with innumerable small errands to keep me busy, but I’m learning to resist!
All this time on the outward journey many of us build up an elaborate facade that’s a projection of our egoic/rational minds. It makes sense to me that the return journey is about dropping facades, being here and now and becoming childlike in doing away with the guile with which we’ve learned to survive, so that, with all the wisdom we’ve gained from living, we can really live as we were designed to….accessing the divine (kingdom) within. It also means learning to get out of our heads and into our hearts…to attempt to live from the true self instead of the egoic self…that intuitive part that Einstein called ‘the sacred gift’. At any given moment, in any situation I have to change the ‘programme’ I’ve been running from ‘What do I think about this?’ to ‘How am I feeling about this, and what is that telling me about how I should move forward?’
This takes practice! I was so good at living from my mind! I had feelings I never acknowledged, because I thought I just had to ‘soldier on’ and ignore those pesky feelings and they’d go away! I used many methods to avoid them…retail therapy, phoning friends to talk instead of just being with my feelings, watching movies to distract myself, especially if I found myself alone. These are very female ones, but men have their own. (And you know the ones you use). Now all of a sudden I’m having to feel. Scary! And act on those feelings…even scarier! Not in my comfort zone at all! The good bit is that to be child-like you have to be able to play, but if you’ve become a serious adult it sometimes takes a lot of encouragement to coax your inner child out to play again. (The Artist’s Way is an excellent course to do to honour the inner child).
The Heartmath Institute has done some rather wonderful research about living in ‘heart-brain coherence’, and how beneficial it is for us in every way. Basically it means having your heart and brain aligned with each other. I think this is actually what Einstein meant when he said the rational mind is the faithful servant and the intuitive mind is the sacred gift. If we live with the balance this way around our heart and brain are coherent…working together, whereas if we live from the ego the heart doesn’t get a look-in! The intuition (heart) is the part that’s designed to be in charge…not the brain. Aren’t little children more like this? And don’t they just trust that everything will be ok? They don’t try to control!
George Bernard Shaw said:
‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’.
If you think you need some help, the work of Dr Joe Dispenza is invaluable. I encourage you to read his books and attend his workshops.
So have courage and tune into your heart. You are not, as your greatest fear asserts ‘unutterably alone’, as Rilke puts it. When you tune into your heart, ‘pay attention’ and become as a child, you open a world of connection to something so wonderful it defies description…the divine within.
Rumi puts it beautifully:
Weary and consumed by longing I was caressed by my beloved last night.
My wounded soul was set free when I tasted the sweetness of love.
My spirit was lifted at once.
I surrendered my life while overflowing with joy, and my vision was filled with light.
Love said ‘Don’t feel so hopeless my weary and gloomy one for my generosity is beyond forgetting those devoted to me.
See how boundless divine justice can be.
Behold my immeasurable kindness’!
Love embraced my spirit, and all my doubts vanished at once.
A new and glorious robe of honour was placed upon my shoulders.
Love offered me the power of new vision
and the transforming touch of divine generosity
and placed the chalice of eternal wine in my hand.