Tomorrow is my birthday! I’ve already a jump on the celebration with the two sweet boys on the right. We went to our favorite restaurant and they kept me wonderfully entertained with “groaner” stories, jokes and riddles.
Birthdays offer a wonderful opportunity to appreciate all of your awakenings and accomplishments from the previous year and set your intentions for the next.
To make the most of your life ANY time of the year, try the steps below and let me know what you think!
In The Wisdom of Menopause, author Christiane Northrup writes, “At midlife more than any other time we have a renewed opportunity to reinvent ourselves and fuel our lives from spirit.”
Like her, I believe that midlife can inspire some huge spiritual awakenings. For that reason, I’ve drawn on Northrup’s book—and from another instant classic, Stephen Cope’s Yoga and the Quest for the True Self—to put together the following list of ways to foster a spiritual awakening in middle age.
Six Steps for Giving Birth to a Mid-Life You Love:
1. Begin a Daily Physical Practice.
Over centuries, yogis discovered this truth: we begin to know reality through the body. We cannot transcend it. We can learn to listen to its messages, but we cannot ignore them.
Heart-thumping workouts are a great form of cardiovascular exercise and stress release, but the daily physical practice I’m asking you to adopt would be quieter and more meditative. You could begin a yoga practice, learn tai chi or simply get outside for a 15-minute walk every day.
2. Honor Your Body’s Messages.
Our culture does a pretty good job of teaching us to ignore our body’s cues about everything from hunger to using the bathroom. We learn very early to control our bodies as a strategy for getting along in life. We learn to deny the body’s needs instead of learning how to respond to them in a caring way.
However, one sure sign of wisdom is an ability to pay attention to things that others ignore. In mid-life, developing this ability with respect to our bodies allows us to appreciate that they are capable of sending us profound and meaningful messages—messages that when acted upon will improve our quality of life. So I’m asking you to pay more attention to the signals your body sends.
3. Practice Exquisite Self-Care.
As we begin to hear our bodies’ messages, another amazing change takes place: we begin to have more appreciation for them. We experience a new level of respect for our bodies and we find ourselves more committed to keeping them strong and healthy.
For example, when we compare the symptoms of fatigue with what we know our bodies can do when they’re well-rested, we may find ourselves more interested in getting adequate sleep. The same is true of eating well, getting exercise and making time to connect with loved ones—as well as for quiet contemplation. We experience pleasure in caring for ourselves in this manner, and so I’m asking you to commit to caring for yourself.
4. Appreciate More.
The key to a happy life—at any age—is simply to be happy. Having a satisfying daily life is way more important to most people’s sense of personal fulfillment than achieving some lofty goals like winning the Pulitzer.
How do you have a satisfying daily life? Look for things to appreciate. They can be small things like the way the light plays on the leaves, or the way your cat purrs when you rub that special spot, but when you get in the habit of looking for things that please you, you will find them.
If in a day you find more things to appreciate than to find fault with, you will feel happy and satisfied by the end of it. String together many similar days and you will have had a happy and satisfying life.
5. Decline Opportunities to Undermine Yourself.
There is always a way to meet someone else’s needs without sacrificing your own.
I often get questions from my coaching clients about how to achieve this. It can be challenging, but it is possible to be true to yourself and your priorities and at the same time stay connected and be kind to those around you.
When you speak from a place of alignment with your priorities you will most likely meet with acceptance and support from the people in your life (try it and you’ll see).
And if you don’t find that acceptance, it will be easier for you to let those relationships go—or you may be surprised to see them simply fall away. This has been my experience and the experience of many of my clients.
So be clear about your priorities. Embrace mid-life as a time to be comfortable with asking for what you need to live your best life.
6. Follow Your Bliss.
There really has never been any better advice than Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss.”
My clients are often stymied when I ask them what they really want. They have deferred their true desires for so long that they are almost unaware that they have any. But given proper encouragement, they can usually come up with a long list pretty quickly.
The benefits to exploring your true desires are profound. As Stephen Cope says, “True mastery can only be built upon the energy of real interest [emphasis mine]. This satisfying new connection with real interests may be accompanied by a sense of enhanced personal power—an experience of acting in alignment with the deepest self.”
So I’m asking two questions: Do you know what brings you joy? And is there something you’d truly love to do, but you’re afraid to commit yourself to it because of fear of failure?
If you know what you want, I’d like you to start carving out more time to do it, even while you keep your “day” job. Connecting with your bliss for even small amounts of time will yield huge benefits.
And if you don’t know what brings you joy, start asking yourself every day, preferably first thing in the morning “What do I really, really, really want?” The answer will reveal itself to you in time.