Spirituality Reading – Cliff Notes on Ageless Soul

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?

21 thoughts on “Spirituality Reading – Cliff Notes on Ageless Soul

  1. Hi Pat! What a great synopsis of this book. I know that Thomas Moore is a treasure but I personally never cared for his writing. I vastly prefer his wisdom in sound bites and you’ve given us that. I think of all that you’ve written I best like:

    “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.”

    Such great reminders. I have no interest in simply “growing older.’ While that will surely happen, I want to make the most of it and become the me I am meant to be! Thanks for this Pat. ~Kathy

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    1. Kathy, it has been quite interesting to see which points different people spark to! Of course, I pulled out things that spoke to me…so someone else might have a different Cliff Notes summary. I’m really working on balancing being active and contemplative. Exploring things and not worrying about having a singular big passion. That’s the sound bites of his I pulled!

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  2. You had me with this: “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.” I love the idea that purpose doesn’t have to be all about getting things done. It can be about beauty, contemplation, relaxation even. I don’t want to just lie around in retirement, but neither do I want to feel guilty if I’m traveling for fun, relaxing while I appreciate the beauties of nature, or just reading a good book. I was also inspired by this point: “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.” Thank you for sharing your cliff notes. Now I’m going to have to read the book.

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    1. Christie, Do let me know your reaction to the book after you’ve read it. I found it a challenging read. Of course, I pulled out points that meant the most to me and I am all about balancing active and contemplative right now!

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    1. Janis, When I worked, I had folks who took my Cliff Notes of work-related books and never bothered reading them. I always enjoyed doing it … it helps me think through the key learning points in what I read. And yeah… actively aging was a really appealing concept to me, too.

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  3. Thought provoking. I like the idea of reflecting as being rather than planning. I also like the concept of being a seeker. I think those years when you’re pushing career success and have to be who you have to be you’re unable to really follow your curiosity – retirement gives you that freedom. And yes to aging rather than growing old. #MTSTL

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    1. Jo, Retirement has really given me the time to be both contemplative and active! When you no longer have mind-numbing meetings to sit through, reports to read and write, plans to make, politics to worry about or data to analyze….you can think about who you are and follow your curiosity. I’m just recently realizing how much I love this.

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  4. Pat this sounds like my kind of book- sage advice from a wise expert. I’ve been reading a lot of spirituality books with the Enneagram study too. I love and believe that this stage of life is about becoming more of who you were meant to be. Some of us have to figure out who that is! We’ve had clues along the way, but the road is not always clear. That is where so many of us struggle. Who are we meant to be?

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    1. Michele, I agree that many of us struggle. I met a woman last week who didn’t seem to be struggling and she was very disparaging of me for saying I was working on things. One of the things I love about blogging is meeting others who are sharing the journey to learn. That said, this book was a challenge to get through…so be prepared if you do decide to read it.

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  5. An interesting overview Pat and I think what he says is pretty spot on (and similar in a lot of ways to what you advocate here and in your book). I think I’m still adjusting to the “being” phase of not working and finding myself using different assessment criteria. I don’t want to go into overdrive looking for ways to fulfil myself but I also don’t want to stagnate – it all comes back to balance doesn’t it?
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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    1. Leanne, I have to wonder…. did I just pull out the concepts from the book that matched my own thinking? Hmm?

      The balance between doing and being is a continual struggle for me. I find I can get out of balance either way – committed and doing too much one week, and feeling frazzled. Nothing planned with too much quiet time another week, and feeling disconnected. Doing is easier for me, so I “work” on the being more…. feeling contentment in the quiet.

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  6. The theme of this book really speaks to me. It’s suggesting a truth that I’ve never expressed in words but felt intuitively. Like Deb, the quote about aging actively connected dots for me. There is a huge gap between those who age well and those who don’t. Attitude seems to play a huge part.

    However the idea of exploring my life’s inventory doesn’t appeal to me. Perhaps it’s a good exercise for those who think they don’t have a lot of self-awareness, but I feel like I’ve spent so much energy in my life living in my own head, I want to break those shackles – not analyze them more.

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    1. Joanne, I’ve struggled with the life inventory thing as well…but it’s come up in so many of the readings I’m doing, I might try it again. I am hoping it will help me be aware of some of the unconscious shackles I still have (I’ve used that same term before – how to break the shackles). One I recently came across was the expectation that I “live up to my full potential”. It’s one that keeps me doing the Compare & Despair, as obviously others are living up to their full potential and it’s more than mine. As you say, self-awareness is key and if you have it, then a life inventory isn’t really necessary!

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      1. You make a good point about the compare and despair … but I’ve always questioned what exactly is full potential?
        We never really know whether someone is living to their full potential. They may appear very successful with accomplishments coming out of their backend and yet are miserable nasty people who use and abuse relationships with their sense of entitlement.
        Another person may have a modest simple life but is deeply loved and respected within her family and community.
        Which one is living to their “full potential”? Or maybe they both are.
        It’s taken my entire life to come to this simple realization – “full potential” can never be measured.

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      2. Joanne, I like your point about “full potential” being unmeasurable. To me it’s often been a comparative thing. I’m starting to think it’s a personal feeling of life satisfaction.

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  7. “When you age (actively) you become a better person. If you simply grow old, you get worse.”
    Wow – I’ve never connected the dots quite this way before. I immediately could see in my mind those I know who are aging actively compared to those who are just getting worse. I think I would enjoy reading this book. Thanks Pat!

    Deb

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    1. Deb, It was a challenging book to complete. I loved the beginning, but then I felt the author got a bit preachy. I greatly enjoyed many of the concepts he shared though and I will definitely be re-activating my memoir/life review work! Let me know how you find the book, if you do read it!

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  8. I am curious what you would change about how you approached work, people and your priorities given what you know now. What would you tell your work self if you could go back? What would you tell those of us who are mid career?

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    1. Marcella, I actually had the advice I would give, but I ignored it. Make sure you have a life, not just a job. A life that is you, not just family caregiving either. Know who you are outside of the job and/or being a wife/mother. I was told time and again to figure out life…. I ignored it all and focused on work. I had no exercise program, no hobbies, and few friends outside of work. So… get the exercise program that works for you, find the hobbies that bring you joy, and make friends not connected to work. I didn’t listen to the advice (i heard it multiple times), but maybe you can.

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