This year has been a powerful one for me so far. I’ve been learning to live more deeply what it means to be 70 years old from the inside out. I’ve been exploring being an Elder and a Crone by feeling how my body is showing me what to do and feeling deeply into that. When people ask me if I’ve retired, I say “Not exactly.” It’s a difficult question to answer for me because retirement doesn’t fit my life paradigm.
Basically, I’ve been focused this year on learning how to slow down to a pace that feels right for me now. I just got back from spending five weeks in Spain and two of those were spent hiking the Camino de Santiago, over 200ks in two weeks averaging 9 miles per day over trails and villages, farms and mountainsides with a pack on my back and staying in nearby hostels and hotels with my partner, John. I’m noticing that this pilgrimage of daily walking was a Rite of Passage for me into my Elderhood, feeling into my place in time in connection with my ancestors and my descendants which I write about in my next blogpost. This historic Catholic pilgrimage in Spain has been going on since the 8th century. Walking these paths helped me settle into and accept this slower pace of life. I’m not fighting it anymore—it’s a part of me now. But this acceptance has taken several years of deep listening practice, a few long walks like this one, and some divine messengers.
The Buddha’s teaching of devaduta, “the divine messengers”—old age, sickness and death– is making sense to me now. Basically the Buddha became enlightened because of his discovery of these divine messengers. They’re not called divine because they come from a god, or a heavenly realm, and nor are they literally angelic beings. They’re called divine because they can help us to understand the nature of our lives, inspiring us to develop a wisdom that can free us from their grasp.
For example, I’ve been reflecting on the major shoulder injury I have been working with this year along with other physical issues going on in my body. After observing my way of struggling with this reality by pushing my body more when it’s in pain, my typical pattern most of my life, I am now working on accepting, allowing and ultimately learning to rest. Isn’t this the very lesson of growing old—how do we work with the pain and discomfort of our body and brain no longer being the way we are attached to it being? It’s all about learning to work with our “attachments,” what we are used to doing but can’t always do anymore, learning to live more in the flow of constant change, and then learning to accept this reality? It’s all about (in a word) “letting go”. Letting go leads you to your deep wisdom. What what is “letting go” really like?
See my blog here on Learning about Letting go: The Value of Spiritual Practice in our lives and in our Grieving.
As I have been pondering and practicing “letting go,” I have also been pondering this concept of “Retirement.” How do the concepts of “Retirement” and Elderhood intersect? “Retirement” is a transition that has typically applied to men in the workplace and patriarchial system’s values. It seems in our culture, retirement has traditionally functioned as a rite of passage (as an opportunity to “let go”) by formally stopping our careers. But if we create our total identity around our work and our outer world, leaving this role is scary and difficult.
I feel women have learned how to be in constant change in their roles throughout their lives more than men, and able to shift careers and work hours more easily than men. Not always financially rewarding, women have developed more ways to create opportunities, become entrepreneurs, job shares, etc. Yet, somehow, we still feel we have to buy into this patriarchal system of ending our careers with retirement, stepping out of active life, which somehow means being useless rather than creating what is best for us. In this process we’re not working with our intentions or gifts, we’re working with a financial paradigm or “keeping score” as my Dad would say.
It’s time to re-define what it is to be an Elder or Crone rather than limiting our palette with “what we are going to do for retirement.” As we see more clearly our choices, post-menopausal women are defining a different way of “letting go” that is defined by deep innerwork rather than so much emphasis on outerwork–achievement and external gains. It requires different tools and a different perspective about what is important at this stage in our lives.
Grandmothering as a crone is a powerful role in our culture. But what allows us to drop into the wise woman in other parts of our lives? What if we don’t have any grandchildren? Besides “letting go” of the old paradigm, we must change our pace and our purpose. Innerwork or personal transformational work requires that we go away from the brightness and glare of the fast-paced doing culture we have created in our country (not all of the world is like this) and retreat to a slower, place of reflection, restoration and rest, and deep listening to what’s inside of you.
This inner spiritual pilgrimage or voyage can happen when you intentionally choose to slow down and reflect. You can create your own Rite of Passage. When you allow yourself to turn towards your own darkness and learn to listen deeply to it. When you face your pain and be curious about it. On the other side of this kind of personal inquiry comes a calm acceptance of who you really are and how you really want to continue your life. This takes you into Elderhood/Cronehood where you are shown what you are to do — it is revealed in the continuous process of deep listening and being present to what is here right now. Letting go takes you into this new way of being.
What are you experiencing in your life right now? I’d love to hear from you about your Rites of Passage into your Cronehood or your Midlife, and this concept of “letting go.” Write me back in an email or send me your thoughts on my FB Women-in-Transformation page or IG.
If you are in your fifties or sixties and feeling some of these feelings, I’d like to invite you to sign up for my Woman’s Retreat this October at the Rocky Mt. Ecodharma Retreat Center above Jamestown, CO. Here you will learn this “deep listening” and find the escape from our life’s intense programming to explore your pace, your purpose, and your divine feminine.