Imagine a river flowing down from the mountain to the sea. It has a beautiful and happy path, having momentum and speed at its head, jumping over smaller boulders, navigating around bigger boulders. The river just knows. There is an inherent wisdom in the water that it is leading it to the ocean.
What if your life was just this?
A river flowing in its own glorious beauty to the sea, gracefully and playfully going around the boulders that are bound to be on the path, every single time knowing with an inner wisdom how to go around or over obstacles on the way. Sometimes, you need to chart a new course, and create a new path for your journey, sometimes the barriers are too large or too cumbersome and the wisest thing to do is to go elsewhere. Imagine, though, that no matter what path you choose to take, it will always lead you back home. And your wisdom will tell you how to navigate around the obstacles.
That quality is called upaya in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Upaya is the ability to create skillful solutions in every prevailing situation. Although the guidance is aimed for spiritual enlightenment, the quality can be embraced in our daily lives as well.
The boulders or rocks are our fears, insecurities, our beliefs that hold us back from being authentic, accepted, seen, and heard. If we are to live out of fear and doubt, then we only live half a life. A full life is when we have the courage to be vulnerable, to recognize what is holding us back and then deciding to no longer subscribe to a petty existence but open up to countless possibilities life throws at us. Most times, this call to awaken happens in mid-life, which is so crucial in understanding the fragility of our existence. It is when we start to question the trajectory of your lives, it is now that we have to decide whether to succumb to the path with boulders, to find grace in navigating them or to create a completely new path for us.
Brené Brown has this wonderful explanation that she gives on the Tim Ferris podcast:
We all grew up and experienced to varying degrees, trauma, disappointment, hell, you know, hard stuff. We armored up and at some point that armor no longer serves us. And now the weight of the armor is too heavy and it’s not protecting you. It’s keeping you from being seen and known by others.
This is the developmental milestone of midlife. From late thirties to, through probably your sixties, this is the question. This is when the universe comes down and puts her hands on your shoulders and pulls you close and whispers in your ear, “I’m not fucking around. You’re halfway to dead. The armor is keeping you from growing into the gifts I’ve given you. That is not without penalty. Time is up.” So this is what you see happen to people in midlife, and it’s not a crisis. It’s a slow, brutal unraveling. And this is where everything that we thought protected us keeps us from being the partners, the parents, the professionals, the people that we want to be.
And that, in a nutshell is what happens to us in mid-life. There is an invitation, gentle for some, brutal for others, where we must decide to either keep on fighting, resisting, feeling defeated, exhausted or we can choose to embrace upaya, find the grace, acknowledge the fears and beliefs that stand in the way and move past them to have a glorious and joyful life. We will all reach the sea, our home, one day. The question is not, whether we will get there, the decision we have to make is how to get back home.
Photo courtesy: Ellie Burgin, pexels