One tradition of Chinese Taoism upon getting older is to walk away from mainstream society: to go back into the woods, into nature, to discover the Tao. In Hindu culture a person can become “sanyasis”, handing off previous responsibilities, cast off their caste, return into nature to discover spiritual connections with an inner self and the larger universe. This casting off process is a common pattern across many cultures. The western world often labels this time of life as a “midlife crisis”. I find it interesting that western culture subverts this time of change into a consumer event. Instead of being a time of self-discovery, mass culture labels it as the time to buy a red sports car or to have a fling. However, by the time the car gets paid off, or the fling ends the chance to discover real change within oneself has often passed on by. Instead of being a “crisis”, it should be understood as a transformative time when a person is seeking personal growth and enlightenment into something new. This is the path to becoming a sage. The process is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, complete with changes on all levels of a person’s makeup.
Human conversation is an over-powering activity. Humans spend an extraordinary amount of energy making and listening to our expressions of life. We live amidst a cacophony of humanity. One aspect within the transformation into the sage typically includes walking away from that cacophony. This permits a person to hear the more subtle conversations between the inner self and the natural world.
Twenty years ago I worked with Boris the engineer. Boris was in his early forties, and one day he stopped working. Instead, Boris spent the entire day at his desk drawing abstract art. He would shuffle colors around for hours until at the end of the day he proclaimed it a masterpiece. It was nice art, but I didn’t understand then why he stopped all work to make the drawing. It was clear that Boris was connecting to somewhere that I didn’t have the same perspective to view.
Two years ago, at age 39, I found myself drawing. I talked to other people going thru similar bursts of expression upon reaching midlife. The common thread: the art is probing into deeper levels of oneself. At age twenty my exploration was about reality and how it related to my direct experiences. At age forty this flipped around to the aspects of my life which are indirectly assessable. The drawings now made sense, as tools of expression at an emotional level. The whole goal is to stir into feelings the things that the five primary senses cannot directly discern. This emotional response acts as a lens to get a closer view of our hidden nature. For myself, this artistic process was the starting point of a mid-life transformation.
Having gone thru a midlife transformation, I am surprised by how little our culture understands the process or supports this inner revolution. Western culture is more concerned with maintaining status quo. A mid-life transformation is a time of breaking one’s personal status quo. This process of transformation takes time and is about a person changing & growing into themselves.
My other observation is it’s very painful to be within the state of dramatic change too long. Typically it seems as if the change isn’t completed within several years’ time social pressures and personal pain force people to revert to old patterns. Most people I have met never complete the transformation process for this reason.
I recommend growing into new aspects of life. To anyone going thru this process, I encourage you to stay true to change. It’s hard, risky and unpredictable. However, once completed the change opens up whole new aspects of living and whole new worlds to explore.
Being a Sage Today
We have a saying in Taoism
The Sage does not bring Order to Chaos
This simple saying has many deep lessons to teach, but let’s start here:
A simple truth is we are living in a time of chaos. In times of chaos, people try to bring more order, more laws to reign in the chaos.
However, chaos dissolves order, and such actions lead to more despair and broken dreams..
A dear friend of mine and I were talking about being in greater flux now. I wanted to share my answer I wrote since it applies to so many others I have been talking to.
Right now I hear more about the challenge to handle massive flux, having to deal with more things in life breaking.
Know this is a reflection of the chaos of our times. Chaos is increasing; Ironically the more order society tries to impose upon chaos, the more chaos that will get created (order feeds chaos). So rather than despair against what is breaking, what is changing: Use awareness to be more in touch with what matters most, living gracefully, so it’s possible to shape results of the chaos more to your true potential.
In other words, Chaos will cause things to break, will cause problems to appear that you have to deal with that wouldn’t normally occur.
Instead of trying to solve these problems in the same old orderly way (Which will simply break again, since the chaos has shown it to be a weak solution for your life)
Take the time to change and remold the broken part into something new.
Life is how we shape it to be; most people let outside forces shape them. A very painful tact to take in times of chaos, since then you let chaos define you, and that means to let chaos unravel your life.
Chaos is undefined, and few people can tolerate a form that is undefined and always shifting
To live in chaos is to live with motion and change. One key is not to focus on a single vision, but rather to keep motion alive to step thru various incarnations of what you would like to do. If you focus on a single aspect too much, chaos will easily disrupt critical motion needed in your life to move one into greater potential later.
Eventually, you will find a lifestyle (life pattern) that resonant with you, but its actually about shifting thru patterns that resonant with you. Don’t worry about missing a critical pattern to witness. You will know it when you hit your stride naturally, right now focus energy into shifting so you can dance efficiently in the transformation process afoot in our times. Many patterns can work, but you have to time each pattern to work at the right moment relative to all the other motions in your life and around us.
If you try to out think chaos… you won’t succeed, since that is order!
Instead, flow in reaction to the times and use everything the chaotic times throw at you, including the bad to improve your life with.
Life is asking you to dance, not to stay still
Move and flow to greater potential, or stay still and let chaos erode one down to nothing.
You can let chaos teach you! Learn from the problems and breakages it’s possible to remold life to go beyond all expectations with the extra energy that chaos brings to the mix truly live fully and beautifully.
But you have to actively dance to the tune of life for this to flow and work.
Going Beyond Chaos
I won’t paint a picture of mature solutions for when you feel chaos is winning. Maturity is merely a false boundary blind to hide behind. The Taoist path is always striving ahead into the unknown and unknowable. This is a path few are willing to let go into. So instead most people quit at being mature to leave the unknown alone and without wonder.
I teach the warrior’s path, not because a Taoist fights: but because a Taoist accepts no fear into the heart. Because each step taken is one into the unknown rather than risking comfort of past decay.
I teach the sage’s path because strength alone isn’t enough to confront chaos or the unknown.
When you are facing the challenge of a new start; it’s not easy, rebuilding everything: yet we all rebuild our lives every day. This means I must myself always remain a student in my own path, ever reaching and ever tumbling like star dust, in my cometary travels.
Understand the sage is always a student, always allowing chaos and the unknown to teach them more about life itself.
Working with Your Transition
Having transformed through many transitions and translations of my self. I have some observations.
- Life is change: we are changing. I have said this many times before, so nothing new here. But as a starting point, it’s the place to begin as it’s firmly established ground. Change, as a basic aspect of life, is important to embrace for contentment. Otherwise, a person becomes lost in the past and not to live within life now. We each experience many different times of change, be it birth, a rebel teenager, Midlife crisis/transformation, elder sage, etc. Nature gives us many many opportunities to practice change within our lives. So embrace these changes to become anew. You can even resist your opportunities which can give you insights to become more as you were in life. However, no wrong path exists, as we choose to express and process life as our life.
- Upon acceptance of change. Life is wondrous. Nothing like being newly born to have that fresh appreciation of life. Whether it’s being born again, revisiting childhood, breaking old expectations as a teenager, or freeing oneself with a midlife transformation. It’s all a form of birth and all leaves a person newly open to explore ideas, life and what possibilities exist.
- For some: After a time the wonder leaves and so they begin a new cycle. Repeat change and become anew to refind wonder yet again.
Be warned: A consumer lifestyle actually lends itself to the consumption of change: to always chase new life within the consumption of other life. The danger being consuming other people’s lives, other people’s changes. This generally leads to more consumption and ultimately dissatisfaction. This style of life isn’t a final answer, instead it’s merely a distraction to living as oneself.
- For some: After a time a person can discover patterns. Can discover it’s all the same. Some have labeled this as “God” where we all are god. Others label this as “Place” as seeing and connection into the larger universe. Strangely for some, this can be a point of depression. As being so connected to everything can also lead to the opposite feelings: the destruction of ego or no longer having a purpose for of our life.
An expectation base lifestyle will often lead to a sense of place or falling from place and grace. When eating the fruit of life. The place one falls depends upon their expectations.
- For some: After a time, a person can embrace the patterns. To just be themselves and that is enough.