A number of incidents in my life recently converged, causing me to examine stages of life, quality of each transition, and my preoccupation with aging. This awareness began after listening to Craig Marshall, a magnetic life coach, deliver a talk entitled ‘Don’t Retire, Just Rewire.’
At 23 years of age, Craig became a yoga monk with the Self-Realization Fellowship. For the next 35 years, he took vows of loyalty, obedience, chastity and simplicity and lived a life of meditation and service. His life has now transitioned beyond the ashram into a role assisting others with self-discovery. Craig’s message is simple: the exploration and personal discovery process does not end at what we define as retirement. Even though one is slowing down and relinquishing some responsibilities of raising a family and advancing a career, one should still continue active introspection similar to the questions asked earlier in life. Some of these purposeful questions are:
- What is your personal life purpose?
- What is your deepest belief?
- What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
- What is your worst habit?
After I asked myself these questions, the answers aligned in perfect synchronicity with a 10-day hiking trip to Portugal I had planned. Hiking through medieval villages in a remote area, I connected with native residents. Their eyes uncovered for me the soul of their land and the openness in their hearts. I decided to learn the Portuguese for ‘You are beautiful’, which is ‘Voce é bonita.’ When I connected with local villagers who called out to me with their eyes, I decided to express my appreciation for them using this phrase. On more than one occasion, after expressing my sentiment, the response from the villager, according to my Portuguese guide, was that they were ‘old.’ At this point, I insisted my guide tell them that being old is precisely the reason they hold so much beauty. I took countless pictures of each of these individuals, and their faces are just as beautiful as the pictures I have of Portugal’s majestic countryside.
We often hold onto a stigma related to ageing and retirement, attributing decreased amounts of beauty and quality of life to this life transition. Just the word retirement can have the connotation of retreating and withdrawing, which is far from what this stage of life should offer. After my experience in Portugal, I realized that I must take time to honor age and see the beauty in myself and others.
It is never too late to initiate self-discovery. The first step is to explore our deepest beliefs about ageing, retirement and the projections we place on ourselves and others related to growing old. As soon as we can shed light and positivity on the aging process, we can look at the process as an ever expanding, evolving experience.
Michelangelo wrote in the margin of a drawing when he was 87 the words “Ancora imparo” translated, “I am still learning.”