Self Knowledge in Your Mid-life Spiritual Journey
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Aristotle
In the “personality equilibrium” encounter we described mid-life renewal to be synonymous to inner-freedom, peace and harmony.
To read or review Personality Equilibrium, click here
“Mid-life is a process with many possibilities and alternatives if we are willing to wait, explore, search, consider, examine and trust…It’s a path to discover…There is only one very important element… We don’t force things to happen… Like the unfolding of the leaves on a plant, or the butterfly from the chrysalis, we only see the progress gradually… At each step of the journey.” states Joyce Rupp, “we slowly learn more about these vital aspects of our life whether relationship, the meaning of life, the meaning of who we are.”
In this time of questioning and soul searching, the most difficult challenge is the patience to wait in the unknown. “Surrender, yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him… Instead of trying harder you trust more…”
Mid-life is the journey for self-rediscovery
St-Thomas the apostle stated:
“The one who knows everything else but does not know himself,
Self knowledge is the glue that links all the elements of our personality together harmoniously. Where do we come from;
where do we stand; where are we going from here? I quote Joyce Rupp, in her book entitled Dear Heart Come Home – The Path of Midlife Spirituality p.16:
Gary Chapman, the author of Love as a Way of Life guides us in his approach of self understanding, approach that will summarize in these next few lines:
How well do you know the unique person that lives in your body?
We fear to discover things about ourselves with which we are not pleased. Important transformations can be made with acknowledgement and effort...but to do so, we must be aware
of it. Our emotions, desires, behaviors interpretations and experiences are sources that teaches us a great deal about
who we are and about how we can improve in personal growth and enhance self revelation in our intepersonal relationships communication. I will elaborate about this further in our encounter about communication.
To enhance self understanding:
Explore what enters through your senses:
We experience life through our 5 senses. We take this for granted. Becoming much more aware of whatever comes into your senses helps you to appreciate your abilities. Life is filled with such experiences. (Ex.:The sound and beauty of nature. The more we are in touch with our senses and what comes in, the more you experience life.
Your belief system:
They are your guidelines of experiences. Interpretation of your behavior are influenced by codes of conducts, ideologies and experiences.
What are the meanings you give to experiences whether past or present? What is the vision of your future?
Emotions are unique in each individual as no two people will react the same way about a given situation or experience. Emotions are not good or bad. They are strong, positive or negative according to our code of values but they are not bad. They just simply exist because we are human beings. We will elaborate more fully about this as we develop the theme of communication. One important note however:
Don't let them rule your life!
Re-examine your interpretations of situations instigating those feelings - seek information. Question those feelings
and how they impact your behavior.
We all desire things...we are creatures of desire...but remember that not all desires are of equal value:some are good, some are selfish and some are evil. What are the motives behind your desires? Refrain from feeding or encouraging evil desires...You need to analyse those desires.
Wholesome desires motivates us to action.
Behavior: the reality of choices we make
We are creatures of desires but also creatures of action.
"In response to our sensory experience with our feelings and desires," says Pastor Gary Chapman, "we decide to behave in certain ways." Is your behavior positive, appropriate?
Is your behavior negative and hurtful?
You need to understand why you do the things you do.
Be aware of the: sensory experience
interpretation of that experience
your feelings your desires
We call this self awareness for the purpose of constructive and positive behavior.
Remember the following message:
Desires and feelings doesn't make the real you. They must be integrated with intellect and will. Our mind judges the wisdom of acting upon certain emotions and our will carries out or decsions.
The way we think impacts, greatly influences the way we feel.
You think the best or the worst of a person or a
"Mid-life is more than a crisis. It's a summons to grow and a challenge to change. It's a move to interiority, a passage
into deeper places where we discover our authenticity, where we realize both our limitations and our grandeur. It's here that we come home to our true self."
John Mombourquette, psychologist, in his book: “How to Befriend Your Shadow- Welcoming your Unloved Side” p.21 mentions, and I quote:
“A solid start in the spiritual life requires learning to overcome your fears, examine your weaknesses, revulsions and antipathies. Without deep and honest self acceptance, the spiritual life rests on dangerous psychological foundation.”
Ouch! This is getting serious! Why is self knowledge and acceptation so important?
In the spirituality awakening encounter, I introduced egocentrism interfering into our journey into spirituality. Jean Mombourquette, psychologist states how:
“Our ego clings us to people, to things, to our time, to special places, not to mention our reputation and opinions.” As a result, we become possessive and independent. Our ego wants nothing less, than to control and as a result of all this clinging we develop this insatiable possessiveness.”
To review or read Spirituality and Egocentrism, click here
Albert Nolan takes us one step further in our understanding stating, and I quote:
“The ego is not my true self…All the divisions, conflicts and rivalries between human beings, between human and the rest of nature rise out the ego’s illusion of separateness and independence from the rest of the world. We become self-centered.”
In the spiritual journey to self-knowledge, there’s an element of letting go, of trust, of self-confiding and openness.”
“We must learn to develop a greater – more universal and more evolved sense of self – not by fighting against anything in us that is natural - but by developing an other greater longing, the nature desire for unity, community, oneness and love.”
In order to reach this objective, we must learn to surrender; we must learn to let go this need of control. This is the secret…
Rick Warren – author of The Purpose Driven Life-What on earth am I here for? elaborates this very well, and I summarize:
What surrendering is not!
It does not mean giving up rational thinking, suppressing your personality”. God created you with an intelligence and a unique personality. Surrending, implies a relationship of loving trust or confidence...
Develop a friendship with God...In a true friendship, there's this element of love, trust and openness doesn't it?
You’re never out of the All Mighty’s sight. He knows you inside out, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. He knows your challenges and struggles; He as loving plans for your life.
“Surrendering is not a passive resignation, fatalism or an excuse for laziness. It may be the exact opposite…accepting the necessary sacrifices in order to change whatever in you
needs to be changed.” This can be a battle at times.
“Surrendering can be a call to welcome the All Mighty’s will
over yours… knowing and trusting that is plan is best for your mid-life spiritual journey.
If you chose not to surrender to God, sure enough you will surrender to other things or persons and ideologies. (ex.: opinion, persons, even your ego, to negative feelings… The
consequences will be yours to encounter...which can sometimes
be chaos. Look and hear...chaotic situations arrive on a daily basis. Look in our families, pay attention to some situations you would give the world to change, if the possibility was given - situations that most likely could have been avoided if we had learned to surrender to the All Mighty's Will rather than yours for the same of pleasure,
pride or need of control. We all have a history of situations to illustrate this.
Surrender everything to the All Mighty gives you peace. Surrender strengthens you; it doesn’t weaken you. You don’t have to worry about anything as you trust that He has the situation into His hands and under control. He sees the big picture.He will surely inspire you and guide you at the right time.
According to Rich Warren:
“surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works.”
Take a pause for meditation:
In your period of soul searching, trying to understand where you come from and where you are going, I invite you to meditate psalm 23 (The Good Shepherd) with this particular thought in mind from Joyce Meyer and if you can try an act of surrendering all your concerns in the hands of our Good Shepherd.
“Hope is the force that keeps us steady in a time of trial. Don’t ever stop hoping. Don’t be afraid. I can’t promise you that things will always turn out exactly the way you want them to. I can’t promise that you’ll never be disappointed. But, even in disappointing times, if they do come, you can hope and be positive. Put yourself in God’s miracle-working realm. Expect a miracle in your life. Expect good things!
Nothing instigates more insecurity than the darkness of the unknown...We become nervous and impatient. Yet, the answers come during this difficult period of stagnancy in our life. In the winter everything seems dead and silent, while in reality, its the time of rest in preparation for new blossoms to flourish.
In these situations, music can be a source of inspiration and encouragement. The lyrics of this song from John Denver entitled Sweet Surrender summarizes the mid-life crisis and the desperate need of surrender. I couldn't find better words to conclude our encounter. It was and still is a support and an inspiration in my struggles of life - understanding and journeying through mid-life; I would like for you to hear it or read it. (which ever you prefer)
Hopefully, it could inspire you.
Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Travelled by many remembered by few
Looking for something that I can believe in
Looking for something that I’d like to do with my life
There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me
To something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems
To be more than enough to just be here today
And I don’t know what the future is holding in store
I don’t know where I’m going, I’m not sure what I think
There’s a spirit that guides me a light that shines for me
My life is worth the living, I don’t need to see the end.
Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air. (sung 2X)
by John Denver
Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world. Miguel de Cervantes
Battlefield of the Mind – Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer,
Copyright © 1995 P.O Box 655 Fenton, Missouri 63026 p.53
The Purpose Driven Life – What on earth am I here for? by Rich Warren , Zondervan. Copyright © 2002
http://jp.dollangere.free.fr/Site/index.html Nana Mouskouri - l’incomparable for the lyrics of the song Sweet Surrender
A Spirituality of Radical Freedom by Albert Nolan, Orbis Books Maryknoll, New York 10545 Copyright 2006
How to Befriend Your Shadow – Welcoming Your Unloved Side – by John Mombourquette, Novalis Darton . Longman+ Todd St Paul University, Ottawa, Canada.
Dear Heart Come Home – The Path of Midlife Spirituality by Joyce Rupp The Crossroad Publishing Company 16 Penn Plaza,481Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10001Copyright © 1996.
Love as a Way of life by Gary Chapman,
New York ; Toronto : Doubleday, c 2008.