Listless for the New Year!

The lists were an attempt to squeeze the gallon of things to do into the pint pot of time, and to control what would happen in the future. I don’t do that so much now! What has changed? Why do I get more ‘listless’ as I get older? Three reasons are on my list (!) : - Living more in the moment - Letting go of control - Making a transition in purpose and identity

Just a moment

From childhood, I always looked ahead for something that would be better. And many hours of training at work conditioned me to plan ahead : problem, analysis, options, solution, action. Combine these with forecasting the future and you could rule the world! I remember thinking if only we had time to predict all future scenarios and their solutions, we’d be ‘bombproof’. Or if we didn’t plan…. we’d be Nowhere.

Later a wise man showed me that Nowhere can be spelt NOW HERE.

We have arrived already. Truth is in the moment. Past, present and future are all in this moment. ‘The present is the ONE thing that is everlasting’

Letting go of future planning takes away the trial of expectation and the disappointment of not getting what you hoped for. It takes out the angst of not reaching unattainable goals. It takes out the stress of needing to be first and best.

In a good moment, it replaces angst and stress with calm, centering, balance and mindfulness.  

Yes, there’s less excitement at running across the highs and lows of life’s mountain tops, but a deeper satisfaction in being part of the rocks underneath

In younger days, how often did we say ‘I’m so busy, I don’t know what day of the week it is’ . Old diaries of life with three children, and parents to look after, and jobs to maintain, are exhausting just to read, let alone to live through! 

In those days, we had different things to anchor our week by, to recognise the passing of time. That regular weekly meeting, that school timetable, that weekend trip, that day of sport, the children’s activities.

In older days, the anchors are less apparent (the home delivery in lockdown?) but The Power of Now is very cogent.  We might say ‘I don’t know what day of the week it is’, because it’s NOW and was NOW then and will be NOW later                                                      

Control : manual or auto?

On holiday in Barcelona, my wife and I, as royalty say !, decided to visit the Olympic Village up on the hill above the harbour. We found our way to the metro, and discovered a number of lines were closed, including the one I’d planned to take to the Village. Like most men, I said ‘we’ll find another way, bus or taxi’. Like most women, she said ‘let’s just take one of the lines that are running and see where it goes’. A lively debate ensued – a new plan to reach our destination another way, or let spontaneity rule. Spontaneity ruled OK. We took a line that was running and got off three stops further on at a station that ‘sounded nice’. It wasn’t bad, good views of the city and harbour and, after a pleasant 45 minute walk……hey, we’re at the Olympic Village! Surprise!

The world has its ways of guiding you if you stop trying to control it! Move the gearstick to auto!

As the saying goes : ‘Don’t worry about what you can’t control’…letting go gives less stress and more surprises! Those moments when serendipity opens doors and synchronous events amaze us : ‘what a small world’, ‘how on earth did that happen’

Our ‘manual’ controlling selves think there must be a complex, intellectual answer to our explorations but,    as Wittgenstein put it  ‘All exploration must end sometime’….and be replaced by faith and trust. And if all of time is in this moment NOW ….what can I truly control except what is happening at this moment.

In "The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul" Connie Zweig shows how this letting go of control opens up new horizons and freedoms as we age

" the capacity to age consciously is not about what we do but how we do it. If we learn to be more present with what is, rather than resisting or resenting what we cannot change, we may be able to discover the hidden gifts of continuing work: a community that prevents isolation, a meaning besides money, a contribution that connects us to something larger. By connecting outer work to inner work, we may have a surprisingly new experience: the beginning of the internal shift from role to soul, which is not dependent on outer circumstances."

Changing in transit

A sense of meaning and purpose can be a major transition issue in getting older.

The identifying question moves from ‘and what do you DO?’ to ‘and who ARE you?’

My employed role used to define me. I was conditioned (by natural competitiveness manipulated by corporate values) to measure myself by money, status, and power

After full time working, what defines me? Where is my value and worth now, and how can that be measured? 

The ‘roles’ of partner, parent, friend, grandparent, advisor, thinker, charity worker, community comrade and many more can’t be measured with the old metrics of finance and authority.

Their measures are of the moment, not the aspiring future; their end results are not in our control; the fulfilment is in influencing, nurturing, caring, loving : ‘soft’ metrics within us, not ‘hard’ recognition in the world : role to soul.

Breaking the habit of decades is hard, peeling back the onion skins of conditioning. In our previous egos we might have seen ourselves as leaders, drivers, teachers, energetic agents of direct change. How different to see ourselves as companions on a journey, good listeners, ‘wise elders’. What we call the ‘developing world’ has created respect for elders far greater than our so called ’developed’ culture. While younger people and parents focus on performance, the elders intuit the innate gifts and talents in a child; older heads are sought out for their experience. The role of ‘legacy sharer’ has a soul in life and beyond.

Value and worth are found where you least expected, and measured in ways you may never know. Connie Zweig again :

"For some of us, the call to retire is a divine messenger, a force that awakens in us a yearning for something more, a holy longing to transcend a role, an identity, or a purpose and to connect with something larger. It invites us to cross a threshold and change our lives from the inside out. The end of working for pay may portend new beginnings. It may quicken in us a desire to serve the common good in other ways, to engage for social, political, or moral impact, or to create a greater legacy. It also may stir a desire to turn from doing to being, to slow down and contemplate the lessons learned from the life we have lived—and the life we have not lived, the gifts and dreams that were sacrificed and buried in the shadow. And the end of work may reconnect us to our spiritual ideals, to the dream of aging into awakening."

So here are some new year Resolutions with the benefit of age. Resolutions that will be the same every year as they’re about living in the moment, letting go of control and finding new purpose :

A List for The Listless

  • Be rather than do
  • Observe and be aware of synchronicities
  • Listen and make space for others
  • Be at one with the universe
  • Look after health and family
  • Open up and be vulnerable
  • Help save the planet
  • Recycle this list and become increasingly listless!

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