A simple truth. Maturing is a never-ending process. People think being an adult is the peak of being mature, and yet, we never stop maturing and changing. However, people sure do try to resist the aging process.
Modern consumer culture is youth-obsessed, and as a result, people tend to look down upon becoming an elder. People get upset when seeing they have a grey hair or feel they are losing their youthful lifestyles. The fear of aging goes against a person.
Fighting maturity is a trap since then you are fighting yourself.
Let’s be honest; few people think they will get old; it’s something that happens to others. Then one day you wake up to discover, aches, a shift in needs or gasp those grey hairs. It’s a hard truth accepting we age. I am in my mid-fifties, and I still think of myself as a young adult. I look in the mirror and ask myself who that person is. It’s interesting how our mind holds one image of us, while in the meantime we age into something different.
The reason so many modern humans fear aging comes out of living in a disposable consumer society. Modern consumer culture throws away old things, including our older citizens. No one wants to get older if you will be tossed into the rubbage pile.
We have to turn this around and accept maturing as an important part of life. As we age, we don’t fall apart, unless you don’t take care of yourself. Of course in many countries fueling consumer expansion, you cannot take care of yourself because there isn’t a reliable social network to help or protect you as an individual. Another trap of the lifestyle in the United States: it sucks as a lifestyle! People burn out, overwork and have terrible health care in working through natural life changes. The result: people fear to get old.
Taoism as a practice does teach how to stay youthful, to play as a child. Taoism also teaches to embrace each age point you cross and use it all to live better. A Taoist lives as Peter Pan with a playful nature and not by trying to resist the aging process and yet still being youthful. Being youthful doesn’t have to mean resisting your maturing process!
If we resist our maturing process, it can end up causing us more problems.
Taoism Embraces Innocence.
Being youthful in our essence and approaching life with a smile.
But accepting life as we age.
We can be mature over time and keep a open innocent heart so we can always see the world fresh, through each point of maturity we cross in life.
Getting older includes expanding our perceptions and tools to help balance us as we evolve in our maturity. A Taoist uses Wu-Wei and Pu to stop forceful actions and to keep ourselves open to potential. We teach compassion/kindness to keep our minds open to seeing others as they are -> not what they *project*. We teach modesty to grow slowly, to not lose heart. We teach nonjudgment, so we don’t limit our spirit and thus maintain our innocence. We teach nutrition and healthy lifestyles to keep the body elegant.
Taoism is a balance of practices to keep us whole.
In my heart every day, this is how I see myself. I never grew up nor will I ever. Yes my body will age, my mind will mature many times over, my spirit may act with deeper awareness and patience -> yet always in the heart, a Taoist holds in the center of their being: acceptance of their essence with innocence.
I might be over 50, yet I only know myself as a child each day. Each day a mystery to explore, each person a friend to play with.
I might feel some aches and pains. At times I look at the ever increasing tidal wave of grey within my hair. Yet I will always feel youth in how to approach life as each day is new.
Being All Grown
Adults typically make the mistake of thinking they are all grown up. We grow every day. To label oneself “adult” just means we limit ourselves to thinking we know what is what.
Being a child has good sides and bad sides.
The good part is being open to explore the world. The bad part is focusing too much on new negative experiences that aren’t real.
What does it mean to be an adult?
Being an adult isn’t about age; it’s about how one interacts with the world. For example, biologically to be an adult is to be able to have children. However, socially to be an adult means being at an age to be capable of making choices that consider social consequences in a balanced manner.
I find it fascinating to watch adults assume they know the boundaries of the world compared to children who play and are always testing the boundaries of the world. Most adults stop growing when no longer playing. So one lesson to learn is being an adult doesn’t mean you should stop growing and expanding your nature. To assume you understand the world’s boundaries is the moment you also start to decay into your grave.
Also, watch people carefully, when it comes down to attachments adults and children don’t act too differently from each other. The only difference is typically the expense of the toys involved. More expensive or dangerous toys doesn’t necessarily mean being more grown-up. So a truly defining characteristic of being an adult should include the capacity to release attachments.
Why am I talking about this? I was asked the other day:
How would I define a true adult?
It was a really good question, and I had to ponder it for a few minutes.
My answer was initially this: A person is spiritually an adult when they truly embrace compassion.
I wonder how many people truly understand what compassion is?
Compassion is considered to be one of the three treasures in Taoism, and I will write a post about that later.
Being an adult can be measured from so many angles. How many angles are required to intersect for a person to get classified as a true adult? It doesn’t matter since we will need all the qualities of life so we can be adult at times and childlike at others.
So don’t worry about truly being an adult, accept we will be a bit of both in any given situation. Use both your childlike nature and adult nature to explore life fully. Otherwise, you see life with only part of your nature.
Different Types of Maturity
We are mind, body, and spirit, which means you have three distinctly different types of maturity. We have the physical, mental, and spiritual maturity to grow through and explore. Also, as social beings, we have to deal with social maturity.
Just because a person is socially mature doesn’t make them spiritually mature. Our maturity rates vary from type to type and from person to person.
Maturity is a Never-Ending Process
The mistake is to think once you become an adult, your maturity process stops there in life. Maturity never stops expanding and shifting as we grow older. While it’s possible to get stagnant and stuck at a maturity level, the deeper truth is countless levels of maturity exist in life. No one level of maturity is better nor worse than another state of maturity. So while young you might be stronger and quicker, as you get older, you can become wiser, have experience, and see depth in life around yourself.
Western culture promotes a simple maturity map: infant, child, adolescent, adult, and elder. Other cultures add additional levels such as Married, Parent, Grandparent. Having a limited level of maturity blinds a person to act only in those predefined roles. So an adult is looked down upon if they act as an elder too soon or are playful as a child. Social pressure shapes people more than they realize, and the pressure to act your age is a terrible force undercutting people from maturing at their own pace.
The trap of becoming 40, 50, or 60 is that people resist their changes. In resisting change, it undercuts a person. A person’s resistance can cause them to backtrack in their growth process. A strange truth comes from when a person resisting aging can speed their aging with stress and bad life habits. If you relax into your aging process gracefully, your aging process can slow down, and you can still enjoy having a youthful outlook on life.
One aspect of maturing people don’t pay attention to is the fact they are changing in all aspects of their life. Eating habits, exercise habits, playful needs, sexual needs all shift as we mature. Try not to stay the same or keep your baselines to what they were ten years previously in life. Change how you eat to evolve with time. Expand and shift your exercise to better balance your life. Explore and open up sexually, shift your games, and how you play to keep life interesting. As we mature, we can go deeper into all aspects of our life. Sometimes moving ahead does mean letting go of things or habits that no longer serve you.
An example of shifting. Around 40 years old, our perception deepens, but our reflexes slow down. Using a bike is an amazingly freeing experience. However, a bike is a physical amplifier for our body. When we are younger, we can react at a quicker speed, so we are less likely to spill out. Yet around 40, as we mature to being deeper but slightly slower, this shift in perception times is enough to increase your chance of accidents. That same shift into becoming an elder re-energizes a person. Many people try to recapture youth but push themselves too hard. This combination does lead to accidents. So when maturing at this point in life, do play, but also recognize your awareness moves at new pacing. Don’t pace yourself as if you were 20, experiment, and pace yourself as your newer self.
Now, this shift will at first depress a person, thinking, I am losing the joy of riding my bike. The truth is you can still ride a bike, but pace yourself. The point people miss is you are also gaining deeper perception. This means meditation will become a deeper practice; it means seeing things that will amaze you, that you would have flown by and missed when you were younger. Also, this perception change allows you to work with people more accurately and deeply. So your ability to interact socially can become deeper if you allow yourself to open up to your expanded sense of perception. The problem is in losing one thing, people pout, complain, and shut down and then lose everything.
Look Ahead Not Behind
People cannot envision what their next stage of maturity looks like. This means people look behind more than ahead. As a result, people don’t expect nor understand the benefits of what each new maturity level will give to you. As our culture only holds a handful of maturity states, as people are youth-oriented and refuse to look ahead, this means people go blindly into their newer maturity states. Without teachers, without experience, most people only see the bad aspects of the aging process and miss all the advantages you gain along the way as your mature past being an adult.
Once you reach 40, take time to explore yourself and play MORE. In this fashion, you can discover the perks and benefits of maturing most people miss.
Doing nothing means you stumble into old age.
Since people are only looking at their physical ages, they miss their spiritual and mental growth points. As people fear losing memories, they stop being flexible and pushing their minds.
Exercise, play games, meditate, push and eat better, change up your routines. Explore Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong. As you do these simple things, you will mature more gracefully. As you play, you will discover depth and skills from your maturing process.
The maturity level we associate as old age is a lie. It’s corruption from not living. In aging: age gracefully by accepting you are an elder, with a youthful spirit.
The trap is embracing old age as only old age.
As I approach my 60’s, I’m enjoying life more and pushing myself more. Being young can make us lazy; we count on it staying the same forever. Once we mature and become an elder, we discover maturing is about change and pushing oneself always to see what more is around the corner. Once taking this more proactive approach, we often have to slow down a bit to allow those younger souls to catch up to us!
Become an elder that goes beyond and breaks the stereotypes our culture will place upon you.
Modern culture doesn’t have many rituals. Most of the rituals in life are for when we are younger: baptism, completion of school, getting married, and other similar milestones.
One reason people fear getting old, is we don’t have many rituals to celebrate deeper change points as we explore life as an elder.
Be proactive, create new rituals to celebrate life as you mature over and over again into deeper states of mind, spirit, and body! Creating rituals with yourself and friends that will help you demark and explore your maturing process. As you and your friends find new milestones, the rituals will allow you to share your discoveries more deeply.