“Throughout our lives, transitions require that we ask for help and allow ourselves to yield to forces stronger than our wills or our egos’ desires. As transitions take place during our later years, a fundamental and primal shift from ambition to meaning occurs.”
Angeles Arrien, The Second Half of Life
|That simple phase, those four words, “from ambition to meaning,” would sum up the four days’ interior journey of those who travelled with me at Soul Spark in mid February. As the starting point for our first circle conversation, where each of us, having crossed paths before, now sat comfortably together on sofas and rocking chairs, with the fieldstone hearth and fire taking its place of honour, offering warmth and solace, this excerpt from Angeles Arrien’s The Second Half of Life became our touchstone. Regardless of age or stage of life, occupation or endeavor, each of us, host and participant alike, found ourselves delivered to this threshold, whether by ready intention or “no-choice” choice.
I’ve been writing about this threshold for the past few months, initially catalyzed by my experiences at the Self as Source writers’ retreat in early December. From the dark depths of winter solstice, I recognized the need to listen and tend to what David Whyte calls “the great inside shout of joy,” that new life that we must call our own, helped into being by our preparation, practice, discipline and allies. Then, almost a month later, inspired by that master of naming and blessing thresholds, John O’Donohue, I gave deeper consideration to my allies, those beings – human and non-human, animate and inanimate, living or passed – whose shoulders we stand on, whose backs shore up ours, whose energy, image and guidance we call upon, who walk beside us to remind and help us call forth our resiliency, talents, and wisdom.
In between: a straight forward dental procedure reactivated some Bells Palsy symptoms that emerged almost three years ago, and still has me in irritating distress with a “not yet quite right” bite. An irregular EKG for which cardiac consultation and testing has occurred. Hearing that several younger colleagues have suffered strokes, heart attacks and brain injuries. The passing in January of those iconic musician-artists, each in what is now my decade.
What had been ready intention, has now become my no-choice choice of letting go, paring back, or as I said quite spontaneously yesterday to a friend, a necessary “winnowing to essence.”
Angeles Arrien instructs us that when we stand upon a threshold, we must do the inner work of transformation and integration – the treading, turning, twisting and flailing of noticing, releasing and discarding what is no longer necessary or aligned with our essential nature. Noticing its signposts:
On the eve of our inaugural Soul Spark (now to be an annual mid-winter gathering) during meditation, I suddenly asked myself, “Who is this person I am becoming?” this person who:
“Who is this person?” for she does not yet seem to be me.
This is threshing. This is the process of becoming, wherein I am unable to answer, “Who am I now?” because I’m releasing myself from the story and illusion of who I think I am, who I have been.
Yet what I can say is there is a bittersweet sister found in the threshold, and her name is grief-relief. The grief-relief of noticing, releasing and discarding that which had served but does no longer.
To give myself permission to notice, name, and feel this most peculiar grief heals, makes space for, and helps me recognize the edges of to eventually claim this person I am becoming. It helps me make choices better aligned with and in support of who is emerging. It helps me become my own ally in service of living out loud that inside shout of joy.