Re-thinking your dreams

In the past year or so, in times of pandemic and forced introspection, those are the best times to re-think your dreams. I meet many down here in rural southern Colorado, who ended up here because in their 50s or 60s they spent some time reviewing their life, and decided that they were finished with cities.

I have found this place to be a magical alternative to city life.

My husband Mike had been dreaming about just such an existence for decades when we moved here in 2014. I was a bit further behind him in dreaming big enough. I couldn’t visualize it like he could. I worried about the isolation. I had never lived so far out of town in my past. It was a new experience for me. But it didn’t take me long to appreciate the morning silence, the birds, the plants, the beautiful weather, the snow…

Only certain types of people appreciate these qualities, mostly the quiet types who find it easy to entertain themselves with numerous avocations. I was never a big shopper. I didn’t go to bars or restaurants much. I have always found my own mind fairly entertaining with the assistance of books, movies, etc. And we are total weather watchers.

Watching the ever-changing clouds and weather over the Spanish Peaks is a lovely pastime.

So you see, the kind of people who move here and stay are very self-selected. They have chosen to check out of “normal” American life, where buying the next cool thing is their goal.

Not that we aren’t always re-thinking our dreams, and we know we have the freedom to follow new ones here.

What does “new age” even mean?

I enjoy listening to a music channel on Direct TV named “New Age.” That got me thinking, what does “new age” even mean? The first person to coin the term was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder of the Theosophical Society, in the late 19th century. She announced a coming New Age as a form of Western esotericism, but the term “New Age” has antecedents that stretch back to southern Europe in Late Antiquity. Following the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, new esoteric ideas developed in response to the development of scientific rationality. What is “esotericism”?

Esotericism is the state or quality of being esoteric—obscure and only understood or intended to be understood by a small number of people with special (and perhaps secret) knowledge.

Skipping forward to the Baby Boomers, the “New Age” burst into public consciousness in a buzz of media attention around crystals, chakras, reincarnation, and channeling in the 1980s, but had its immediate roots in the 1960s counterculture. “New age spirituality” is actually a descriptive category in religious studies, appropriated by practitioners of a kind of spirituality that sprang up in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the USA and Britain.

So then, what is spirituality? One definition is that it involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than yourself, something more to being human than pure sensory experience. That greater whole is cosmic or divine in nature. An opening of the heart is an essential aspect of being spirituality.

An open heart is a state of being where you feel open, accepting and expansive. Love flows through you without obstruction. Many long to experience an open heart, but at times we may feel too scared and vulnerable to reveal ourselves in this way, especially to ourselves.

This reminds me of a special meditation taught at Naropa Institute (now University) in Boulder Colorado, where I studied for my masters in Transpersonal Psychology and Counseling. At that time, meditation was an important part of my training, and one meditation was to open your heart to all of the pain in this world at this minute. Quite the challenge. Feeling compassion for the entire world of suffering is life changing, so is feeling complete compassion for your Self in this moment. If you were raised like me, to feel no compassion for your own struggles, but simply demand more from yourself forever, compassion is the medicine you need right now.

To me, New Age means a new way of seeing and experiencing the world in contrast to our parents and grandparents. It is a unique opportunity to see and love the world and your Self wholeheartedly. Your upbringing will determine how difficult that may be for you.

“Here’s what is truly at the heart of WHOLEHEARTEDNESS: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” — Brene Brown

Escaping Anxiety

I have discovered a magazine I really enjoy lately: Travel & Leisure. I like their first-hand accounts of experiencing a new place. First of all, I have been to many of the places described in this journal. I have also always been a bit of a master at taking vacations in my own head. The Internet has made that so much easier. And at a time when so many of us are seeking escape from our predictable daily lives, I look forward to the next issue of this magazine to help me decide where I want to go next.

Yesterday, I started reading an article about escaping anxiety at a Riviera Maya healing resort. The writer spoke of “living with anxiety for many years; my mind wanders constantly.” Luckily, this author found themselves relaxing into “extreme calm” surrounded by nature, chimes, horns, drums, and gongs.

When I spoke to Mike about this, he immediately pointed out that “going on vacation can be quite anxiety-producing.” Mike, always the realist. Yes, first choosing a trip to take, buying tickets, flying, etc. can be quite stressful, especially with my new handicap, being on oxygen full-time. Did you know that most portable oxygen machines aren’t allowed on airplanes? Who knew?

So is a trip the best way to escape anxiety? Well, that depends on where your anxiety comes from. I learned the most about my lifelong case of anxiety (really fear of others) by moving away from society.

Almost seven years ago now, Mike and I built a passive solar home out in rural southern Colorado. On our three acres with very few neighbors, I finally found myself truly relaxing after a few years. I believe living close to nature instead of others was the main ingredient in this process. Yes, we have some serious snowstorms and amazing wind storms down here, but I feel secure and comfortable looking up at the Spanish Peaks each morning. Nature feels so much more safe to me than most other human beings.

What was most interesting to me was my eventual perception of the nearly unconscious vigilance I apparently felt my whole life in cities. That slowly melting away out here. Whenever I’m in cities now, I feel that subtle fear slowly creeping back. I believe it is the simple equation of having too many people per square mile, the constant possibility of someone disturbing us or worse. When I’m at home, that need for keeping a careful watch over my life and my loved ones slowly recedes and I find peace like I have never known before.

So, where does someone like that go on vacation?

How did the concentration of American wealth shift to the very richest since the 1960s?

I know it’s more fun to just binge watch all the shows and movies we’ve missed over the past few years, but how about learning something new every now and then? Yesterday I spent a little over an hour watching:

“Requiem for the American Dream” and learned a lot about why we are where we are today.

Leave it to Noam Chomsky, a man in his 90s (!) to clarify things for me. No really, his mind is so much clearer than mine at this point! As this renowned academic and author goes through his “10 principles of concentration of wealth and power” he explains how they have led to a well-planned and carefully executed shift of wealth and power from most Americans to the 1 percenters, leading to unprecedented inequality in our country. See if it doesn’t make sense to you. The hollowing out of the American middle class has made the richest in this country so much richer and left the rest of us behind to blame ourselves and others for our inability to “get ahead.” And then he explains why at least 60% of us can do absolutely nothing about it.

This story does not even include the ultimate consequence of this gigantic shift of wealth, the election of Donald Trump by those who mostly have very little and have only lost more in this shift. Dr. Chomsky explains that problem well too. He shows how the rich can carefully convince those who have lost the most to support a rich man who is only in it for himself.

See this documentary and please give it some thought. It explains quite a bit about where we are now and where we are probably headed as a nation…

Requiem for the American Dream on You Tube

Have you gotten better through difficult times?

I happened to catch an interview with a Christian religious leader the other day, speaking of resurrection after a fall. Of course he was referring to the resurrection of Christ after his crucifixion, but every spring we experience rebirth, a brilliant rising from the dead of the plants in the northern hemisphere.

Spring always raises my spirits as I am a lover of plants of all kinds!

I was born in the spring and love the idea of rebirth in nature and in our own emotional life as well. In answer to the question posed, “Do we get better through difficult times?” I would answer not automatically. Difficult times can make us think more deeply about our lives, where we are stuck, and what we want or need to happen next. I faced my first truly difficult time at age 24 and found I was not equipped to find my way out of it except by moving somewhere else and starting a new career. There I made great friends and eventually moved on. This has happened a few times in my life. It was only at age 49, when I faced joblessness and possible loss of my home that I truly “woke up.”

“Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.” – Pema

My midlife crisis offered me not only the opportunity to consider my life more deeply, but it also generously offered me time to sit and consider what I wanted and needed more of in my life to choose to go on. At the time I focused on this question:

What do I want to happen before I die? I finally concluded more fun & meaning...

After that very dark time for me, I felt resurrected. I knew what came next and I energetically went out in search of it. I met Mike within a few months and knew almost immediately that I had found a person who would love and value me as wounded as I was. My relationships changed, especially those with my parents.

Mike helped me begin the finally and fully love, value and honor my Self and my own very real needs. For the first time I took my place in the world, but this was a gradual opening. At first I did not trust my own judgment, because it had let me down so many bad roads in my past. It took me many months to know that Mike was trustworthy after so many betrayals. My natural stance had always been “Don’t trust anyone!” Now I confronted my need to trust again and finally found a way after much testing.

It all turned out well for me, but that is not to say I won’t face even more dark nights of the soul in my future. I still have many fears, but I feel better equipped to deal with them now.

Living in gratitude for what I do have everyday puts it all into perspective for me. How many more rebirths will you experience? How will you learn & grow from them?

Do you want to learn more about waking up in midlife? Please take a look at my books

Can you risk a whole afternoon without worry?

Sometimes it seems like I was born with a lot on my mind. Starting with the “terrible twos” I have been perpetually asking why. I think too much, I worry even more, and I can still never figure out what may happen next. I guess I was raised to expect the worst, or else this is simply the human condition – more brains than we know what to do with!

So on this blissfully relaxed snowy day, miles from almost all human beings, I wonder what might happen if I stop thinking and worrying and embrace the peacefulness of this moment in time.

Should I risk this level of non-vigilance? What might happen if I stop thinking for a while? What if I feel as free as the falling snow for just one afternoon? There’s always tomorrow to get back to my worries…