In Ageless Soul – The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy by Thomas Moore, he presents the concept of actively aging versus simply growing old. I was intrigued by the subtitle of this book as it brought in my word of the year (journey) as well as the concept of life meaning. From the beginning of my retirement transition, I have struggled with a sense of purpose, a life passion, and whether my life truly has meaning. As I explore my personal spirituality, this book’s title was speaking to me!
This blog captures some of the key points I took from Ageless Soul – I guess you can call this my personal “Cliff Notes” from the book. As I reviewed the elements I found most interesting, there is a lot about identity in retirement! Similar to Julia Cameroon in The Artist Way, Moore highly recommends doing a life inventory to make sense of your real self and identify the basis for your limiting beliefs.
Per Thomas Moore, retirement leads to a time for relaxation, freedom, alternative exploration, and discovery. Your career was all about gaining prestige, making money, feeling successful, and achieving goals. Now there is a different set of values to focus on: beauty, contemplation, meaningful relationships, deeply felt experiences, knowledge, a sense of home, creativity, relaxation, and spiritual peace.
When you age (actively) you become a better person. If you simply grow old, you get worse. Your very purpose in life is to age, to become who you are meant to be. You let your ageless self peek out from behind trying so hard, planning, and doing. You free yourself from the family mythologies (limiting beliefs). You become the real you (a new sense of identity), with a particular outlook of life and your own set of values.
Aging is not simply adding years to your life. It’s a process of becoming more spiritual and complex. It is blending your valuable experiences with youthful hope and allowing your gifts and talents to work into something real and subtle. Aging is a series of transitions where you put aside your former life/former self, give up the familiar and secure, and begin/create a new sense of self.
Over time (life experience) our unchanging self (our real/true self; our soul) becomes more visible. If you were so focused on working (identified with your job) that you did not have time to focus on life, now is the time to figure out what to pay attention to allow your true self to emerge!
What awakens your desire/your true self? Say yes to do the things you like & engage with the world. Allow your activity to generate a deep sense of awareness and connection to the world around you. Be open to learning and experiences.
Appreciate the youthfulness (spirit of youth) you have or allow it to come alive – express a youthful enthusiasm, creativity, and sense of adventure or rebelliousness. How to stay young? Keep abreast of the world as it advances. Resist an old person’s desire for rules and traditions, formality, and authority. Say yes to invitations and trying new things. Have a sense of adventure and a sense of play, do creative experiments to find the spark of creativity, and relish in a freedom from limitations & shackles. Watch-out for the shadow of youthfulness – immaturity, foolishness, and selfishness.
Working through the aging process, not just in retirement but also throughout life, allows us to form an identity that leads to purpose and life satisfaction. Every rite of passage builds an element to grow your identity.
Develop a deeper sense of self by reflecting on your life; you are the choices you have made. Reflecting about your rites of passage and significant life moments allows you to make sense of life, to release yourself from inhibiting habits/beliefs, and become more who you really are.
- Much of our current behavior and beliefs are an expression of childhood experiences – they play out as important themes (patterns) in our identity creation, they become the inner voices of judgment & criticism.
- Everyone has issues from past experiences that need sorting through. What is the unfinished material from your past? Tell your stories to find how they impacted you, what marks they left. What rites of passage might need to be worked through again?
- Reflect on where you have been, what you have done, feelings of satisfaction and remorse, how you reacted to events. Resolve any unfinished business like broken relationships.
- Look for the deep stories, the mythologies, and the archetype themes that lie beneath the surface of ordinary experience.
Reflection is not about planning and taking action. It is about being, not doing. Reflect on the direction your life has taken so far – this is the foundation of the self. This deep life reflection will allow you to trust your own knowledge, intuition, and experience as you take charge of your life moving forward. Feel your own authority instead of letting others decide your life and validate your being.
Develop a deeper sense of self through mind-full living. Simple, ordinary activities can improve your health – physically and emotionally. Walk in the woods, look at the lake/river, spend time with positive people, and see the beauty in the world around us. Do things that relax you – reading, crossword puzzles, listening to music, taking a bath, taking a walk.
Develop a deeper sense of self through trying new things, having new experiences, connecting with people in meaningful conversations, doing more sensual things (garden, paint, nature walk, savoring food), and using travel to discover what you are capable of.
Now (retirement) is the time to make life more meaningful. If you choose to travel, go to places that have deep meaning to you. If you choose to volunteer, make it something that speaks to your soul. If you pick up a new hobby, consider something that will open up a sense of wonder.
Retire from doing too much, from moving too fast, from not giving yourself time to relax and enjoy some beauty, from spending time on things that don’t matter.
Retire to being a seeker. Keep alive your curiosity, spirit of adventure, love of learning, and interest in people. Find inspiration in nature, service, literature, art, meditation, and/or yoga. Read Thoreau, Emily Dickenson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Tao Te Ching, Mark Patrick Hederman, and/or John Moriarity.
Per Thomas Moore, basic spirituality is:
- Live a more contemplative life.
- Explore different ways to meditate.
- Walk in nature.
- Keep track of your dreams. (What is your unconscious mind saying to you?)
- Serve the world.
- Study spiritual ideas.
While many of Moore’s ideas were similar to ones I’ve read before, it was interesting that once again, the idea of doing a life-review emerged! (I really need to move beyond the teen years in that endeavor.) The focus on contemplation, the slowing down (not always doing), and not looking to others for validation are messages I need to be continually reminded about.
What surprised/inspired you most in these Cliff notes of Thomas Moore’s book?