"Youare old, Father William," the young man said...

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FromStriving to Savoring

DearFather William:

Thishigher state of "being" of which you’ve written – ah, how sweet the sound! To leave behind the stresses and strains of "doing" - of proving ourworth by accomplishment… what a beautiful concept! 

Butwhat about this bit of physiological reality: 

Thebrain of a seasoned Type A is programmed for its daily dollop of dopamine, the real questof its insatiable striving.  When we stop theactivity of achievement, seeping regrets and guilt quickly condense and coat the skullwalls.  The mental mildew of missed momentsmounts.  Feelings of unworthiness anddepression overwhelm…! 

Sowhat's a rookie Third Ager to do?  Well, turntail and run, of course, right back to the known country of Second Age - or are therereally other possibilities? 



Ithink you're quite right to describe leaving "behind the stresses and strains of‘doing’ (of proving worth by accomplishment”) as a problem of addiction onphysiological as well as psychological levels.  Likeother unhealthy addictions, Type A “striving” has been habituated over time, gives onea quick "high" when indulged in, causes long-term physical and psychologicaldamage and is painful to withdraw from.  “Sowhat's a rookie Third Ager to do?”

Let's begin with a look at First, Second and Third Ages, focusing particularly on whatmakes Second Age so addictive…

FIRST AGE – LOSS OF INNOCENCE:  "Innocence"connotes an openness and vulnerability that lacks the ability to protect itself from theworld.  Like the first phase of the Eden myth, First Age and its Innocence are inevitably destined to belost as self-awareness and disillusionment are experienced. The primal result of this loss is a desperate need to gain control so we canprotect ourselves from such pain in the future.  Thisbegins the separation of the ego from Self (“the loss of innocence”) and our movementinto Second Age.

SECONDAGE – STRIVING FOR CONTROL:  This is the ageof ego maturation (hopefully a healthy one), and our focus shifts to striving for enough"Control" to make us feel safe on a number of levels. Maslow's D-Needs (Survival, Security, Belonging and Status) are as workable adescription of these levels as any.  Thepsychological work of Second Age is to come into a realistic relationship with the world,one that is neither childishly trusting nor neurotically paranoid. The ego is our essential partner in this work and needs both measurable achievementand recognition for that achievement on many dimensions to mature. It's an unusual person who develops a truly mature ego (one that feels securephysically, intellectually and interpersonally) in less than the three decades of SecondAge, and there are many who do.  Sadly, thereare also many who never develop such security. 

Whenthe ego has sufficiently matured, a new possibility can open - itunderstands that it is not the Self and opens to partnering with and serving that Self. As Einstein put it: 

Theintuitive mind is a sacred gift

andthe rational mind is a faithful servant.

Wehave created a culture that honors the servant

andhas forgotten the gift.

Still there is no surety that even a mature ego canrecognize and engage in this new possibility.  Ingeneral, cultural conditioning brainwashes us that Second Age is the "right"age, that aging beyond 40, 50, 60 (you name it) is a negative process that means we are“over the hill” and of little further used to ourselves and others. That same conditioning also tells us success is made only of worldly achievementsand failing to sustain worldly position, power and recognition are signs we are alsofailing as human beings.

But even if we can recognize and change the negative cultural conditioning that keeps usin Second Age, there is another, more personal obstacle to deal with: we've used SecondAge to condition our ego to being in control.  Here’show my friend and mentor, Ed Paul (who at 89speaks with a lot more experience about Third Age than I do at 67) describes the extent ofthis difficulty:

 …the ego wants to assert its right to be incharge – think how we have nurtured that concept all these decades that we have beenhere!  But now we want to deprive it of thatnurture which we have so freely granted it in the past? "Whoa, baby," it's saying to us, "where do you get off with thatnotion that you can abandon me at some way-station?  I'mnot about to relinquish the power you have so generously given me!" And where does that leave us as habituated participants in its arrogance? It's saying to us, "I have given you comfort, status, security, recognition,and now you think you have the strength to serve me with papers of divorce?"

That"other," whom we so dimly perceive, seems a long way off when the egoraises such challenges, so that is when we need to stop our frenetic"search" for the other, and let IT FIND US! (which it will if we trulyare open to it). That is why we need to abandon the notion of control –"control" is the servant of the ego.  Theego is, really, an imaginary construct to which our culture urges us to conform. And when we are in the Second Age it does seem to work magic, doesn't it? Everyone wants structure and order to a certain extent – those whosework depends on their imagination are the lucky ones who can learn early on thatimagination comes from the image (the other) – if they are capable of makingthat extension. But even some of those come to that realization later in their lives.            

 Now,what is it that we have to do?  Only to let itcome to us!

THIRDAGE – SAVORING THE MOMENT:  If our developedego can surrender its control (to our "Self, Intuitive Mind, Spirit or Whatever Nameworks for us), Third Age then becomes a time when we can come into a new and unfamiliarway of being.  This new being transports usbeyond the dualities of paradox and the “EITHER/OR” mentality of our youth into theinfinite realms of the universal, the whole, the unchanging. Now we are both innocent and wise, active and serene, in and beyond the world. Here we fully participate by “Savoring” each moment of our existence, and, whenwe're fully present, it makes no difference which moment it is.

Thisis, of course, the vision poets, mystics and saints have described for centuries, but wenormal folks have thought it was only for them and not us. That changes now with our longer lifespan.  Mostof us will have plenty of time to mature to the point where such “Third Age Savoring”is not only a possibility, but an anticipated reality. We will, that is, if we change our belief systems so we can see what is right infront of us.

Changingbelief systems is not all that hard or rare.  Youmay even have a living relative who still believe that some human beings are inferior bynature of their skin color, gender or religion.  Thosebelief systems are omnipresent a few generations ago. Thank God new generations can believe new things!

Changingthis belief system is not so easy, though, because, if I'm right, the proof for it becomesinvisible during the "Control" mindset of Second Age. This means it's virtually impossible present convincing evidence for its existencebefore the ego has matured enough to see and accept its own limits –to give up“Control“ and become "servant to the intuitive mind"… 

Love, FatherWilliam


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