Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shifting from Doing to Being

Photo by ElDave.
Because I am a young Boomer, I have long been focused on the life stage of people 10 to 15 years older than I.

Watching people who are ahead of me on life's path has helped me anticipate many new life events and many new psychological spaces.

Currently, I am interested in learning how people make the transition from being to doing. There isn't a specific chronological age for this shift. Depending on the person's physical health, it could happen at 60, 70, 80, 90--or beyond.

I have long focused on achievement and external validation. I'm an oldest child, a Type A personality, and an extrovert.

I recognize the pitfalls of such a personality, so I try to seek balance by making time for introspection--prayer, devotional reading, meditation, yoga. These activities help me find validation through a Divine Force that is far less fickle than praise from others.

Looking further down the path, I know that one day my body will force me to slow down. When this happens, I might lament the loss of my action-oriented life, or I might embrace the opportunity to focus instead on character or the act of being. 

Bill Plotkin has an excellent book Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World.  In this book, Plotkin describes 8 life stages by using the points of the compass and by using Jungian archetype theory.  Currently, I'm reading the chapter on the 7th stage, early elderhood, which he has labeled "Master in the Grove of Elders."

This is the stage where adults have just completed their life's work and finished offering a unique contribution to their broader community.  When midlife adults come into their full power, this is called Crowning--as in a crowning achievement. The work of is a good example of this kind of work done by midlife adults.

After Crowning (which is also related to Jung's concept of the crone), it's time for late life adults to focus more on their role in the universal forces that unite all generations and all cultures -- past, present and future. It's a time to become better companions to the Divine Force that unites us all.  It's time for them to start their elder work. The concept of gerotranscendence as described by Lars Tornstam provides one view on the work performed in late life.

Plotkin writes:
But what does change at Crowning -- and this is a huge shift -- corresponds to the movement from the West hemisphere of the Wheel to its East. You are transitioning from the half of life focused on doing (striving, aspiring, convincing, insisting, strugling, competing, contending) and manifesting your uniqueness (West, soul) to the half devoted to being (accepting, enjoying, celebrating, receiving, submitting, enduring) and reflecting the universal (East, spirit). (Plotkin p. 388). 
Photo by reNET
I see a lot of people resisting such a transition. I am one of them.

On the one hand, I want to run as hard and as fast as I can while I still have the energy and resources to do so.

On the other hand, I see great value in working on character now, embracing the gifts that being has to offer.

Maybe if I start practicing the art of stillness, I will be less traumatized when my body suddenly ejects me from a life defined primarily by doing.  

In an effort to do this, I want to read more memoirs and poems penned by late life adults. I also want to spend more time with people decades older than I--while there are still a lot of people around who fit that description. And I want to cut out more frivolous activities and spend more time reflecting--and writing about what the path ahead looks like from here.


Plotkin Describes Life Stages
Robert G. Peck's Tasks for Older Adults

No comments:

Post a Comment