Posted in Midlife Journey

Midlife and Menopause – Revisioning Work

The purpose of a midlife crisis, perimenopause and menopause (from a spiritual perspective) is to move us beyond childbearing to birthing ourselves…and this is as true for men as it is for women.  During midlife and menopause, we are invited to leave behind the life we have known to make room for the new life that is trying to be born through us.  In birthing our new selves, we are birthing our Soul – the unique way we are creatively gifted to find meaning, purpose, connection and fulfillment in our lives and the way in which we find fulfillment by contributing to the betterment of our world. In birthing our Soul, we are also birthing a new vocation and in birthing our new vocation, we are required to revision work, what it means to us and how we want it to look in the second and third trimesters of our lives. 

Lauri in Santa Cruz, CA
Lauri in Santa Cruz, CA

Midlife and Menopause – Revisioning Work

While this is not true for everyone, the ideal outcome of the midlife process for men is a new relationship with work where work becomes less about being the “provider” and more about doing what they love.  For women, the midlife journey transitions them from being a caretaker of children and partners to tending to themselves – specifically their creative gifts, passions and dreams and finding a new vocation in this.  For women who did not choose, or were not gifted with motherhood, a shift in career from “work” to “passion” is the ideal outcome.  In order to be open to this life-giving transition, however, both men and women have to revision work, what work means to them and what they want it to look like in the second and third trimesters of their lives.

Midlife and Menopause – Letting work define us

For many, in order to revision work, we have to confront old and familiar attitudes about work.  For many, work comes to be how we are defined and how we find our validation.  We come to associate ourselves with what we do.  “Hi, I’m Lauri.  I am a counselor.”  “Hi, I’m John, I’m a financial planner.”  Unfortunately, we live in a society which supports this illusion – that we work, therefore we are.  The truth we learn in midlife, however, is that work is not who we are, it is simply what we do.  The other problem with work is that we also live in a culture which says, “In order to be recognized, validated, loved, you’d better be working and productive.”  Work then becomes a source of validation….if I’m working, I am good…if not, I’m being lazy or bad.  In midlife, we are invited to learn that none of this is true.  In fact, we discover that in order to be happy, healthy, fulfilled and whole, not only do we need meaningful work that engages our uniquely creative gift and in some way gives service to the world, we also need time to DO NOTHING!  The outcome of a healthy midlife transition is a balanced relationship between doing (something meaningful and fulfilling) and Being…..in other words, doing nothing!

 

How are you being invited to revision your relationship with work – finding something that is meaningful and fulfilling and enjoying a healthy balance between working and doing nothing?

 

Lauri Ann Lumby provides guidance and support for those undergoing the midlife transition.  To schedule your own personal, one-on-one mentoring session, call (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.  Sessions are available in person, over the phone and via Skype.

 

P.S. Thank you Bob Russo for catching me in the act of simply BEING!  🙂

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Healing, mental illness, Spiritual Practices

A Surprising Treatment for Depression

Today’s blog explores a surprising and unexpected natural treatment for depression.  Who knew it could be something this simple!

Too Much Time on Our Hands

Today I am taking off my “teacher” hat and putting on my “I too struggle with depression” hat so that I can share with you a surprising treatment that I discovered for one of the common symptoms of depression – obsessive thought patterns and the resulting downward spiral into darkness.  As anyone who struggles with depression would attest, one of the worst possible things we could face is TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR HANDS.  I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, when I am too much alone, especially too much alone with my thoughts, things can get ugly.  One of the rarely mentioned side-effects or companions to depression is obsessive thought patterns.  Obsessive thought patterns might manifest as worry or anticipatory planning.  For others, the obsessive thought patterns have to do with grabbing on to the slightest perceived injury  that might signal rejection.  For those who struggle with depression, these tiniest little slights become fodder for an inactive mind.  We grab them, draw them near, then think, re-think, ponder, obsess, create stories, imagine scenarios, and prepare for our own apocalyptic demise or hope for the apocalyptic demise of the one who “harmed” us.  Then, we internalize, nurture, cultivate thoughts of self-loathing and self-rejection to match the loathing and rejection we are sure we have received from the other person.  I have come to not so affectionately call these thought patterns, “The dark thoughts in my mind.”   Sounds like fun, right?!  WRONG!  The funny thing is that for those of us who struggle with depression, until we learn otherwise, we think that this is the way everyone’s brains work and we consider it to be normal.    I was shocked to learn that this is NOT how other people’s brains work. While Lexapro provided temporary relief of these symptoms, the side-effects eventually became too much and at the same time, the medication lost its effectiveness.  So, I have been working drug-free to manage these symptoms.  Practicing yoga, engaging in my spiritual practice, nurturing my creativity and sharing my creative gifts in the world have all been supportive measures for managing my depression.  Even with all of this, however, the depression still haunted me, in some form or another, pretty much on a daily basis.  Then I found a surprising treatment method that has not only kept the depression at bay, but seems to have quieted the obsessive thought patterns if not altogether, at least by 85%.  What a relief.  And who knew it would be so easy.

Getting a “real” Job.

Spiritual Direction, Teaching, Writing all amount to a “real job?”  Right?  From the perspective of value, worth, purpose….Absolutely.  But….not if they don’t pay the bills.  And it was the “paying the bills” part that I finally had to face.  So…..five weeks ago, I started a “real job,” cashiering for minimum wage at a local garden center.  I go in.  I do my job.  I go home.  No personal responsibility.  Nothing to have to  fix or reform.  No one to manage, supervise, guide or direct.  And the surprising fringe benefit to this job:  NO MORE OBSESSIVE THOUGHTS.  Getting a real job has provided for me a surprising treatment for my depression…..and I sense it might provide the same benefit for others.  I can’t be depressed when I’m in the public eye.  I have no option but to be in the present moment…because there is nothing else to do there.  I get to engage with mostly friendly and kind people.  I am surrounded by beautiful things.  And, I’m too dang busy to think about anything other than what I am doing.  Then, when I go home to my other “real job”  I’m uber efficient and am accomplishing more in a very little amount of time than I would have ever accomplished before getting this job.  Yes, it is a challenge to juggle the job with clients, classes, writing, the kids, the house, paperwork, friends, etc.  But….somehow what NEEDS to get done is getting done.  The rest, I’ve decided, can wait.

In a Nutshell

So, in a nutshell….the surprising treatment for depression is work – work that keeps us busy.  Work that keeps us engaging with other people.  Work that may be rewarding in its own way.  Most importantly – work that keeps us out of the dark places in our minds.   So even when my novel becomes a best seller….I just might keep this job….if for no other reason than to maintain my sanity.  🙂  Hi Ho  Hi Ho It’s Off to Work I Go.  🙂

Lauri Lumby

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Herein Lies the Rub – The Spiritual Journey requires WORK!

Today’s blog explores the WORK that is required if we want to have peace, contentment, joy, love and fulfillment in our lives. 

Coffee with a Friend

Yesterday, I had a long overdue coffee with my friend and spiritual brother, Steve.  Steve and I have been friends and fellow sojourners for nearly 20 years.  While our temperments differ greatly, especially in regards to spiritual practice (Steve is a Christian Zen practitioner, my practice tends to be more active.), we are 100% alike in our commitment to our respective spiritual practices and our passion about the value of contemplative living.  As we sipped our mutual beverages of choice, we shared the ways in which our lives have been dramatically altered because of the commitment we have made to our spiritual practice.  As we mused on about the fruits of diligent practice and the many ways our lives have been enriched through contemplative action, we couldn’t help but wonder, “Why don’t more people practice meditation, contemplation and mindfulness?”  We nodded our head in mutual agreement when the answer presented itself:  “Because it requires WORK!”

Herein Lies the Rub

As Steve and I arrived at this conclusion, it answered the question that I have been struggling to answer for at least 15 years.  Since first learning the rich traditions of Christian Contemplation and realizing the benefits of this practice, I have sought to share these practices with others.  Those who have said yes by attending the classes and meditation gatherings that I have offered have experienced enormous benefit.  Many have gone on to embrace a daily, if not at least a weekly practice and have experienced the fruits of their practice – greater peace, increased fulfillment, a deeper experience of compassion and love and the motivation to serve.  The struggle for me has been to get more than just a handful of people to say yes.  And I have never understood why this is such a struggle.  Doesn’t everyone want more peace, joy, fulfillment and love in their lives?  Of course!  But, in order to have these things, we have to work for them.  And it seems that the hard truth is that we want these things, but we don’t want to do the work that is required to obtain them.

Peace, love and joy require WORK!

The common search among human beings is for fulfillment.  We begin that search by looking outside of us to people, money, material possessions, fame, power, etc.  We soon learn that even in the aquisitions of these things, fulfillment is fleeting at best. As all spiritual teachers have come to know and eventually teach is that the only way to achieve fulfillment is through spiritual practice (defined by me as any activity that helps us to connect with peace, love, joy, leads us to the knowledge of our gifts and compels us to nurture, cultivate and share these gifts in service to the world for the good of humanity.).  And just like any other goal, inner fulfillment requires WORK!  If we want to lose weight, gain strength, learn a task, we have to work at it.  Spiritual Practice is the same…..which is why it is called PRACTICE.  If we really want peace, love, joy, fulfillment in our lives, we have to WORK FOR IT!  We have to make a commitment to our practice and we need to STICK WITH IT.  This, in and of itself is probably enough to keep most people from even trying meditation, let alone making a commitment to it.

Our Greatest Fear

If making a commitment to the work isn’t hard enough, an even bigger obstacle to beginning and maintaining a contemplative practice is that which strikes the greatest fear in human beings.  And this is not the fear of death, but something we fear even more.  And that fear is:  CHANGE.  More than death itself, (and maybe public speaking), human beings fear CHANGE.  Being creatures of habit and seekers of pleasure, we enjoy the perceived security in familiarity and predictability.  And if there is one thing for certain about embracing a spiritual practice, you and your life will CHANGE.  Ah yes, the changes that you experience will all be for your highest good and it will all be for the better…..but as we all know, CHANGE is NEVER easy!  It isn’t easy to give up our compulsive behaviors, our control dramas, our attachments, our entanglements, our habitual behaviors and thought patterns.  Let’s face it, our inner critic, martyr, dictator, perfectionist, glutton, sloth, slave, victim, miser, performer, worrier, control freak, etc. etc. etc. serve us in some way.  Giving up who we have thought ourselves to be and the life that we have known is not easy and as we move along the path of spiritual growth, change is 100% guaranteed.

The Few,  The Brave, The Contemplatives

The realization of humanities’ resistance to change and reluctance to work invites a different tool for measuring the work that I do.  Which brings me full circle in yesterday’s conversation with Steve as we pondered the question, “How do you measure success in spiritual endeavors?”  As I have sought to share the gift of contemplative practice, I have been tempted to measure success using the traditional, capitalistic, Western model.  Numbers and money = success.  The answer, it seems is not in the numbers or in the money.  Instead, it seems that the measurement of success (if we can even use the word “success” in regards to spiritual work) is in a single life.  If a single person has grown in peace, released compulsions and fears, found comfort, support, healing, etc. then I have done my job.  The invitation for me then is to remember that it is only the few and the brave that will say yes and that my job is to let go of my attachment to the outcome, numbers, money, etc. etc. etc.   SIGH….And here is where I am invited to do more WORK!  🙂

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com