Spirituality – the answer to a Man’s midlife crisis?

Spirituality is something that finds you, at least that’s what happened to me, as a forty something male my external world around me was crumbling and the life I identified with no longer existed. I had heard a great explanation of a man’s primal needs or we can refer to them as life goals changing quite dramatically when they reach the age of 40, earlier or later for some. The three top things on the list of what a man believes he wants and what he perceives will make him happy, before he goes through the change are:

  1. Wealth
  2. Success
  3. Power

The order these are written in may change in priority but the areas mentioned are fairly accurate as research shows. After a man goes through a transformational change what he believes is the most important things in his life change significantly. The list now reads:

  1. Spirituality
  2. Love
  3. Service

When I heard this for the first time it connected with me on a deeper level and seemed to make sense in a strange sort of way because this is exactly what I was experiencing first hand in my own life. Growing up I had the belief that a man had to be wealthy, ruthless in business, hugely successful with women in order to be respected by his peers. Society reinforced this message by the image of men with great power over others that the media elevates, rewards and uses as role models for other man to emulate if they want to reach and achieve great success in their lives.

The unfortunate thing for me about carrying this limiting belief around was that I found myself missing out so much on the simple joys of life and buying into the message that when I become wealthy, powerful and successful that I would be happy, the problem with this limiting belief is that I was seeing happiness as a destination sometime in the future rather than being here right now in the present moment.

I didn’t understand about spirituality or about what the word even meant but what I was experiencing was a series of internal questions coming up for me that I felt a strong urge to have answered. The place I chose to start was with a regular meditation practice, I had dabbled with meditation over the years but never developed a regular practice or experienced anything other than reinforcing that my mind was continuously busy with thoughts.  At the time I had a lodger living with me by the name of Sam, I had noticed that he regularly meditated every morning, what I also noticed about him was that he was an extremely calm and methodical in his demeanour, which made him easy to get along with.

We had several in depth chats about meditation and how he attributed his meditation practice as the catalyst to changing his perception towards the stressors and strains of life.  This information really intrigued me and I was keen to learn from him the techniques he used, Sam agreed to teach me, much to my delight. Sam techniques used the principles from yoga nidra an ancient practice of meditation that uses mantras and breath focus to calm and focus the mind. Our first meditation took place at our home, he had asked me to create a comfortable space with a couple of cushions for extra comfort in the hips, crossed legged positions for us guys can be a bit of a challenge flexibility wise for long periods of time.

I was sat comfortably with my eyes closed, as Sam spoke calm instructions for me to follow, focus on the breath coming in and out of the nostrils, bring your gaze with eyes closed to the end of your nose and sense the breath against the top lip as you exhale and relax. Being guided into meditation was really helpful and extremely pleasant, I found myself switching off and relaxing deeply. Focus on your abdomen and imagine inflating and deflating it like a large balloon, now imaging you have a small golden thread from your abdomen running up to your throat. As you inhale and inflate the balloon watch the breath travel up the thread to the throat and as you exhale travel back down and deflate the balloon. Visualise the breath travelling up the golden thread like mercury travels up a thermometer as heat increases.

I was surprised at how focused I was on the instructions he was giving me, thoughts were not coming up like how I remember they did in my earlier experiences of meditation. I continued to watch my breath travelling up and down my imagined thermometer, inflating and deflating my balloon.  In between my focusing on my breaths I sensed the expansiveness of a deep space, an emptiness which gave me a great feeling of inner peace, a real lightness, like floating on air. The experience seemed to go so quickly and what I thought to be only 5 minutes or so Sam informed me was around a 25 minute meditation, from that moment on I was completely hooked.

My daily practice of meditation began from that moment onwards; I set up a space at home and marked in my diary a regular time that would work best for me. Mediation is an individual experience and I believe different for everybody, especially as our moods change from moment to moment and the demands and time pressures of life increase the variables. This is exactly what I experienced with my practice, one day I would get to connect with the emptiness, space and feeling the inner peace but the very next day I would be feeling overwhelmed by the continuous thoughts bringing up a feeling of frustration.

The inexperience of my meditation practice brought up many questions for me about what the benefits would be in sitting with my thoughts when they were so many, scattered and overbearing. As my practice experience increased those questions were answered for me through the understanding that the thoughts that come up would always be there and that was ok because I had the power of my breath to always come back to with the focus of my mind. I was explained an analogy by a teacher of mine of what it was like to try and tame the mind when there is so much focus on a world full of attractive desires. He explained that the mind is like a chariot being pulled by many wild horses, the reigns represent the senses going off in different directions as the mind searches for the next thing to bring it happiness and joy.

The practice of meditation helps us to take control of the mind represented by the reigns, by bringing the focus of the mind back inside of us with the use of the breath, those same desires are still there but with a change of focus and a strengthening of our resolve we are able to develop a powerful practice that allows us to filter our choices by becoming an observer. This is my understanding of what spirituality is, within each of us is an expansive spaciousness between the busyness of our thoughts and actions waiting for us to dig deep into and harvest the abundant supply of sparkling diamonds representing our creative reservoir of amazing ideas. Have you ever experienced that feeling of flow? when you are fully connected to following the idea that gives you a feeling of great joy, a place where we have no idea of time, our energy tank is at full capacity, we feel fully alive as we smile to ourselves at the joy of being this connected to what we are doing, that’s spirit, your spirit.

Becoming an observer of life has the power to change us from a reactive nature into a more responsive nature by creating the capacity to observe first before making a decision to act. The benefits of moving into making spirited choices and acting from a space that is more conducive to whom you are moves you along a path that is meant for you and only for you. The choices you made in life before this transition will have no connection to your perspective of who you are now, what I mean by this is that previous to the transformation your beliefs and values were different to what they are now, before if you were making decisions purely based on obtaining wealth for yourself then the feeling it gives you now will bring up emotions and feelings not congruent with your values around spirituality, it just won’t feel quite right.  I hear this dilemma a lot amongst individuals that go through a spiritual transformation, they mention the struggles that now have with wanting to achieve success and wealth and in some cases these individuals become financially insecure.

I believe this doesn’t have to be the case; it just needs a different perspective and a deeper understanding around the abundance of money. After all money is energy, flowing freely amongst people as they are rewarded for the service that is provided. There are lots of spiritual people in influential positions that understand this concept, they are providing service, and receiving reward for that service with the main big difference being that they are not attached to the reward or outcome because they see money as a free-flowing energy.

Over the last few years’ spirituality has begun to open mind to a lot of new concepts and understandings around connecting to a more authentic version of myself, it has challenged me at the very depths of my core beliefs and turned my old view off the world on its head. I no longer identify solely with the images I previously held of myself, the business owner, father, son, husband as I now believe they are an inadequate description of who I am. Every time I ask that particular question of who am I, the less identification I have with a particular role I play in society. What I do know is that you and I are so much more than our current identity and capable of so much potential to be the very best version of us through living through our purpose.

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