If anyone were to ask me now, and if I was being truly honest with them, I would describe myself as “retired for health reasons”; I have desisted from the usual, relatable activities of life “for my health”. No longer in hot pursuit of justification for my existence via “what I do”, how much I am “noticed”, “valued” or “seen”, whether my output is considered “enough” or “worthy” or “commercial” out there in the world, whether people look at my life and imagine me to be “a success”, I have taken my foot off those pedals for several months now, not even seeking to plug the gap with other forms of busyness; and more so than ever these last few weeks.
Really, this has been the case for 15 long years but it has taken me this long to admit it, even to myself. That old cultural imperative, to justify ones existence, has pressed upon me, long and hard yet I find there is no shame in the admission. I found it as hard as, perhaps harder than, anyone in a nine-to-five to get off that merry-go-round of plugging the work gap in a miriad home-based ways, while I have been at home dealing with chronic health issues, in order to bolster my lumbering sense of self-identity. Perhaps there is something about reaching one’s mid-fifties that makes it feel more acceptable or appropriate to call on the retirement card but it goes far deeper than that.
You could say, I now do everything for my (physical, emotional, spiritual) health and silently pose the question “is there any other reason?” There is a word that I find myself using much more than ever and it is “allow”; I “allow myself” to just be…to be me…to be quiet and still…to be complete without needing to explain myself…to take time out…to recover…to relax…to flow…to cease believing the world and its problems sit squarely on my shoulders or that I have to save anybody and this has been a whole other layer of “retirement” taking place, as in to pull back from centre stage to my own fringe performance.
As the world spills out of lock-down today, my days continue to be, if anything (or so it seems) “smaller” than they were before it began and yet, from the inside, they are considerably more expansive than they have ever been in this and, likely, many other lifetimes.
Because there is nothing small about choosing the deep, existential journey as a priority, every day; allowing yourself to be led by whatever insinuates into your consciousness rather than by imposed (often externalised, even fear-driven) imperatives such as “I must earn money, I must be seen in a good light, I must justify my existence to others, I must keep the conversation going or everyone will forget about me and I will be left struggling all alone”. On a million zillion occassions, I have told myself “just this one last time…” as I make a choice that does not feel so authentic yet serves one of these old so-called imperatives of survival and that as been one of the big shifts lately; that I notice those old excuses bubbling under the surface and then I interupt them!
So now, days come and go and I feel no need to justify myself to anyone except my highest self; what did I learn today, how did I grow, do I feel more whole as a result?
From the outside it may seem boring or unstructured (though its not that I don’t perform necessary tasks; rather, they have become much clearer to see and thus to execute in good time) but these past months have been a roller-coaster ride on the inside. No two weeks, or even days, are the same as my journals fill up, my epiphanies multiply, my time spent in meditation and inner enquiry seems to grow and so I harvest wisdom that eluded me, or merely tickled around my edges, for years until I finally…finally…allowed myself to stop and just be.
Even when I thought I was doing just that, it turns out I wasn’t even getting close. I remained largely cerebral, self-justifying, needing to be seen to be doing what I was doing or to turn what I gathered into informational artefacts to trade with others, in order to stay safely social (nine-tenths of social behaviour is based on fear of being marginalised) and to justify myself in a worldly sense that only ever inverted the whole process I thought I was excelling at; as though I was removing bricks from the top of my own tower to begin using them all over again at the foundations.
I was caught in the trap that nothing I was experiencing felt “real” unless it was broadcast and seen by others, given that stamp of approval and related to, but I was wrong. It is very real; more real every day, when I allow myself to be in the experience with no need whatsoever to communicate it or find experiential partners, thrilling as those can briefly be. We each take this consciousness journey the way we came into life; alone and yet its the richest experience on offer, in spite of all the bad press.
It took the Gupta Program coming along and “giving permission” (to that conditioned part of me that, in the old days, might have required a doctor’s note to justify taking time off) to stop everything except prioritising my own recovery to make space for this to happen. All the many resources in the program have reinforced this choice to pull back and prioritise my own experience over any other demands that may ever seem to be “coming in at me”, whilst highlighting all the many conditioned parts of myself that have been overly paying attention to such demands, at my own expense. What I find is that we are all in recovery…every single one of us…only, for some of us the process is made so very slow, or stalls altogether, due to this obsession with busyness and self-justification, the belief we always have to operate as a pack, the entrained emotional need to mark out our days with activities ticked-off on a calendar and accolades collected, an impressive-sounding label on that business card and that well-rehearsed line we repeat at parties “this is what I do”.
Its not the I don’t tick things off any more but they are driven by a different imperative; to do with self-improvement and striving for more wholeness, greater purpose beyond the material and feeling MUCH MORE LIKE MYSELF. This part of me has been all-but absent or hiding herself in the shadows for decades but I catch glimpses of her in my childhood and early life, even flashes from the future and, now, I encourage her here to spend time with me, to chew the cud and spend playful hours exploring what really makes us tick.
Part of the process has been to cut ties with old habits, behaviour programs, addictions, compulsions, even ones like this one urging me to share my thoughts with “the world”; what makes me want or even need to do that, why do I crave an audience or feel what I “realise” is worth nothing unless I do?
I’m not sure that I do think those things, at all, any more, so (after running my checks on why I am writing this morning) it feels more like I am putting this out here, perhaps, as a sort of comma or even a full-stop in the long-running conversation of my blog. Yet, as with all things, I leave the door ajar, allowing it to be easy to flow back this way, should the (genuine) urge come back to me to share my thoughts here again; only, it must be from such authenticity now, not a mere itch to scratch. I pause much longer before I publish these days because if the driving force is emotional it passes like a weather-front; and those impulses that stand the test of time may filter through to be shared, but only if my instincts tell me so (here’s a clue to the ratio; far more posts have been left as drafts than published lately). Sometimes the desire to write can be enough…and then let it go to the wind and the same with every creative or executive urge, once all pressure is taken off them. From where I am standing, this consciousness-filtered space seems like a much healthier space; imagine a world where we all, much more mindfully, considered our actions and expressions and took pause before we unleashed them?
I’m easy either way with where my blogging goes from here but, for now, its all part of a sort of cold-turkey from conventional life that I have going on; a studied detachment from whatever feels like it is pressing upon me, to question “Why?” does that thing have any say-so to assert over my days and hours? “Why?” do I give it my attention and my energy to it. “In what self-supporting way?” does it contribute to my existence; because there are no other acceptable excuses for perpetuating behaviours in our lives than that they support us in being who we really, most authentically, are. Anything less than this quickly becomes unhealthy (I have learned the hard way).
In short, I pause long enough to really consider, do I give this thing energy or do I put my energy to better uses? All things being equal (imagine that if you can), do I want more of this thing in my future world?
If the answer is no then I take my foot off that so-called impulse or imperative (which can be so hard to do when a lifetime’s precedent urges every muscle and fibre to keep bearing down on it, in case the vehicle of life should suddenly stall in the road) and, remarkably, the world always keeps on spinning…though in a somewhat different way. Little by little and, conversely, all at once with an immediacy that continues to shock me, this changes everything.
Its how, in ways both slow and instantaneous, I am stepping into another paradigm in spite of whether or not anyone else sees the opportunity or decides to choose it for themselves (not my business); because its all a highly-personal inside job, an exercise of freedom, a self-selected outcome we each get to craft for ourselves in this moment via the sequence of minuscule, ever-more mindful, choices made throughout our days.