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

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