Let’s jump straight in and examine how Taoism as a practice helps a person smoothly move with Midlife Crisis.
This article will look at Taoism and Midlife Crisis from several different angles. If you have any questions about the nature of Mid Life Crisis then please refer to the Introduction to Midlife Crisis first.
A Taoist Meaning of Life.
Sometimes midlife crisis focuses into a strong desire to embrace a meaningful goal for one’s life.
From a western perspective, the meaning of life ends up as a destination, a set of moral practices to define goals of achievement. Western lifestyle often tends to use goals to shape a person’s life. Taoism has no goals. Instead Taoism stresses living itself shapes a person rather than any goal. The teachings of Taoism embrace the journey of living as the very meaning of life.
- Western perspective: A person shapes life to a goal: To a defining final purpose.
- Taoist perspective: The shape of a life: is the meaning of life: No final defining purpose exists at all! Instead the defining aspect of life is in the living of each moment.This becomes clearer when seeing Taoism define the Tao: The Tao is indefinable!
These are very different viewpoints. This is also one reason westerners can experience confusion in understanding Taoism. Western thought is often approaching life from the opposite perspective!
In living, it’s the path a person travels and not expectation of results that becomes the meaning of Taoist’s life. A Taoist embraces life fully and with gusto. This means within each moment to move with what feels best and right over working to a pre-defined plan on where a person needs to be.
A Taoist perspective is very helpful for a person experiencing midlife crisis.
- As a philosophy Taoism frees a person from restrictive relationship chains and unreasonable personal expectations. Taoism removes the pressures from institutional doctrines trying to force a person to be something they are not.
- Taoism stresses personal acceptance as a practice. Taoism guides a person to understanding and embracing their current life. This leads a person out from living in the past. Taoism helps a person realize they are always free to move forward away from any past sin or problem that might be tying them down. A Taoist practice helps a person experiencing a life crisis to move with life rather than self inflicting pain as a form of repentance from the past or overly worrying about the future.
- If no final goal exists: a Taoist discovers a style of life, based upon grace of one’s actions, to become the important defining aspect to their very life.
- A Taoist discovers good humor in their life. The only thing a person can be perfect at is being themselves. It’s the defining quality of being an individual. In that we will make mistakes, Taoism teaches how to embrace personal mistakes. If a person cannot laugh at their very own life, then they haven’t embraced life with acceptance of their own nature. Grace then becomes a process of learning how to not make the same mistakes (well not too often) as we move forward.
- A surprising truth, in living life completely, a Taoist also embraces a concept of heaven. While the perspective of Taoism and Western attitudes might be opposite, the results of embracing life with acceptance are the same. The difference of perspective means that a Taoist recognizes heaven within life over a westerner’s belief of heaven to be a future goal.
- For many Taoist’s heaven isn’t as much as a religious concept but rather a spiritual part of life. It’s a concept of living fully with a spiritual grace. Where spirit represents the movement of our very life. Western thought removes heaven from life, making heaven only a religious pursuit. So just mentioning heaven in this article will cause some readers to get upset due to religious overtones. Taoism teaches this is an issue of perception. This is an important issue to overcome towards finding personal peace. For some people experiencing midlife crisis, this aspect can actually be the crux to the crisis: trying to reconcile one’s religious background relative to their deeper personal beliefs. Taoism helps, as it helps simplify the understanding of these internal conflicts we accumulate in life.
- Taoism teaches patience of time. In the rush to complete goals people get impatient with not making progress. Time is irrelevant to a Taoist. As a result working through a midlife crisis isn’t overwhelming to a Taoist. It simply just is and it passes quickly as one lives fully.
A person in western culture typically approaches midlife crisis with the idea that only a single final goal exists. For example, many people experiencing midlife crisis will start Yoga, Qigong, or some other practice… expecting an answer will arise from the practice… Mentally they have set a goal for their midlife transformation: a goal of enlightenment, to be in better shape, to enjoy life, to do so many things.
The problem with the western approach: a person quickly becomes upset or disheartened when not making progress. A midlife transformation doesn’t follow any business schedule or personal agenda. The more a person forces their midlife crisis towards being a certain goal: the longer the midlife crisis will spread out over their life.
Midlife transformation is as much about “letting go” as it is about transformation.
Transformation and “letting go” are the same thing.
The Stages of Midlife Transformation
The process Midlife transformation actually occurs in stages. A person typically makes the mistake to think a completion of a stage, to be the final point to their own process of midlife transformation. So after passing through a stage, after a few months or years, a person will feel like they are back to the beginning of their crisis, with seemingly no resolution! This can be extremely frustrating to the point of giving upon the whole effort of transformation.
To simplify understanding midlife crisis think about what we are as a person. Taoism teaches we are the combination of Mind / Body and Soul / Spirit. A midlife transformation touches all four of these aspects in life. As a result a person will work thru each as a separate set of steps.
A person might begin working on their physical shape first, or their peace of mind thru meditation. Yet the actual process is a back and forth experience. So a person will get in better shape but then their mind is in a different place so then they need time to re-adjust their mental concepts. Or a person might take time to relax their mind, only to discover it’s time to get in better physical shape (mediation can be hard on the body and requires a person to be in a good physical shape also) . This creates a process of going back and forth between the various aspects of life.
Taoism teaches this up front. As a result a Taoist is encouraged to do several things at once.
- As a Taoist, you are taught all practices have benefits, yet not all practices will match to your nature. So a Taoist samples many practices “openly’ and keeps the ones that “feel’ right. In this way a Taoist will learn many unexpected truths while also learning the practices that fit within their life. A Taoist doesn’t have an expectation of which practice is right; instead they experiment until discovery matches a practice right for that moment.
- Taoism teaches life is change. As such we each change over time. This means over time, personal practices will also shift to meet your needs. As a result a Taoist over time drifts through many practices.
- Taoism teaches no one practice can be perfect, so Taoists know not to invest their personal meaning into their practice. To do so places false fulfillment into one’s empty space. A practice doesn’t full-fill the empty space of life. Fulfillment of our empty space, (often this is the actual base line driving need of the midlife transformation) is the process of connecting to a larger universe. As a result we seek a bridge to connect to the larger universe. A Taoist doesn’t place a practice within the heart; A Taoist places the connections to the larger world into our heart. This is a very central teaching to all Taoist practice.
I must stress this use of the general term of “practice’ for all of these reasons. Every person will assemble their own blend of practices to support the movement of their life. Taoism teaches not to mistake the practice itself to ever be the actual meaning of your life. Any practice is a merely a guiding form to aid in the movement of your life.
Another important truth Taoism teaches:
Within every writing and teaching exists both Truth and Falsehood.
Due to unique perceptions of each person: the balance of truth and falsehood shifts for each person.
This is a very important baseline for a Taoist. This means from any practice, from any angle of learning, it becomes possible to discover truth and perspective that will support your nature. This philosophy keeps a Taoist open to new ideas and concepts in the exploration of life. This is of tremendous benefit during years of midlife crisis, since it opens up everything for exploration.
During the time of re-defining oneself,
everything is open for consideration.
I watch many people complain about not having a yoga studio, a Qi-Gong master or a spiritual teacher nearby to help in the Navigation through a Midlife crisis. To a Taoist, it’s possible to find Masters and teachers everywhere.
The final stage of midlife transformation is when all four aspects (Mind / Body and Soul / Spirit ) blend together into a single harmonious being again. This is the final stage of a midlife transformation. While many names exist for this final point, I call and teach it as being “acceptance”.
How to Determine when Midlife Crisis is Over.
The simple Taoist answer:
When you can laugh at any and all parts of your life…
Or put in another way:
When feeling an overwhelming but complete acceptance of your own life, and here is the tough part: consistently from moment to moment.
As Taoist Master I show how to find this path. I know from experience this is something most people spend their entire lifetime trying to embrace. So Taoism teaches a person not to focus upon this process but instead simply to let go to one’s life to live it as it happens. Letting go is part of the acceptance. In a goal based society, letting go is the hardest part of the process for most people.
A Reflection of Change
If a person channels all their energy into changing the larger world… it distracts a person from experiencing their own life. How a person directs and focuses their personal energy is a very key part on how a midlife transformation will unfold.
During midlife transformation, a person is refocusing the intent and purpose of their entire life. Mid life transformation is a time when a person’s psyche is very malleable and new patterns are getting established for how to lead their life.
When a person channels all their energy into fixing the larger world: it leaves little space for personal development. Trying to directly fix the world can for all purposes be considered to be endless. As a result taking a path as a pure social reformer leaves little room for personal development.
Taoism instead focuses a person on a path of self exploration first. In this path a person can spend their energy and time to better understand their own nature and how it connects outward to the larger world.
Taoism doesn’t discourage a person from making a difference or from changing society. Taoism teaches that such change comes from within first. To truly be oneself ripples outward. Others will always be drawn to completeness of self. Because of this, the process of reflection works both ways. Actively working to change the world will delay a process of personal enlightenment, while working to find self completion will help speed up the process of changing a society.
A perfect example of this is the Buddha. The Buddha spent many years trying to find solutions to human suffering. Once the Buddha turned the path inward and discovered his own personal path, it also created a path others could follow, the way of Buddhism. As such then: in finding a personal path the Buddha opened a process of change with the entire world.
Looking to the Future.
Taoism teaches not to worry about the future as: it will happen and is happening. A person still acts towards the future but without fear or concern. This means the future is part of living well and with grace now. Think to the future… not in fear but in hope and grace towards building what you would like to live in tomorrow: in the now.
All cultures, even ours, contain seeds of hope, of life and of renewal. But those seeds are all within the actions of living in the now.
To be a futurist and working towards a better world for our children… simply means living now in the fashion we desire of the future. It doesn’t need to all happen at once, just start and in small steps work your way towards those desires.
I live this way in the now, and it’s easy. The mass media would like to make you think otherwise, since it’s not their system… Big deal, ignore all the hype by just being yourself.
It’s so simple, that if you live as yourself, no one can stop you from making a difference.
This is the Taoist path and it is the way and wave of the future… But it will have a thousand other names, a thousand other faces… and We are the wave. 🙂
What are the steps of doing this?
By Living in the now.
Together, hope and grace are the key. Hope is the vision and grace is the motion of working thru a midlife crisis. The true secret of midlife transformation, is combining the hope of your vision with the grace of movement. Just hoping for change, changes nothing, since to reach a destination it takes a start of just the smallest of actions, the smallest of pauses to make a difference. A difference is what we seek, so a person must plant a seed for a difference to occur.
A Simple Taoist Approach.
Here is a Taoist outline for working through Mid life Transformation:
Stop and when feeling hectic…
Take a moment and simply smile for yourself…
Take a deep breath occasionally and enjoy the breath.
Surprisingly, in simply doing just do that… This becomes enough of an action to form a seed of a new and more complete life for yourself.
We make life and solutions to be complicated: since as a person, we have the ability to see into the future. We see everything that should be happening and so… all the future sight… becomes paralysis. Because it’s impossible to apply all that action we can foresee happening over years to be within a single moment…
Don’t look ahead.
Don’t add up all the work.
Instead take a moment within a breath and smile …
This ends up adding up and up and up…
To become the future you actually desire to live now…
Don’t worry about the details and instead just take a moment to smile 🙂 and examine the possibilities… not in the future you see… but rather within a moment of pause being yourself…
It’s within the pause…
That each step becomes visible for your larger life to improve and follow upon.
Smile, when needing to pick a possible next step. Since to smile is to open possibilities.
Breathe when needing a break. Since to breathe is to be at one with yourself.
Alternate the two and your path will become free and clear for an entire life time of wonder to explore.
A person living through Midlife Transformation will experience new ways of seeing life, make mistakes along the way and almost always will end up in a place they never even suspected exists. Midlife Transformation often leads to experiences of “Enlightenment”. If you are fortunate enough to have had such a feeling of “Enlightenment” once, then be aware this is a new starting point of living life fully.
The process of receiving insight and growing is gained by tumbling through all the edges/boundaries of the transformation providing a person perspective. It’s this perspective and the changes in your perceptions that fuel the “Enlightenment” process. So don’t hesitate to change, don’t hesitate to practice and try new activities.
🙂 mix , match, swirl and live.