I’m starting this post on the date of the completion of my 35th year of existence, in human years, as a human this time around. None of my birthdays have felt like milestones. I actually kind of get annoyed by people who put extra effort into celebrating certain birthdays like their 21st or 40th or something. That’s quite literally all in their head. Nothing actually changes because you turn 21. You’re the same as you were at age 20 years-and-364-days. Maybe at certain birth intervals you gain the right to vote, or drink, or have sex without risk of anyone going to jail. But those don’t really have anything to do with you. I also think it’s a little weird, mathematically or something, that we say we’re 35 only after reaching the mark at which we’ve technically surpassed the entire 35th year and have actually entered our 36th year of life. Maybe this makes more sense to most people than it does to me (I’ve always been horrible at math). Maybe most people just don’t really think about this kind of thing. Maybe it’s a symptom of the human tendency to live in the past.
Turning 35 feels like a lot of stuff and a whole lotta nothing. It strikes me as some kind of second adolescence. In our teen years (the first adolescence and pubescence), we’re a little awkward and growing and changing … It’s like the caterpillar being aware that it’s in the middle of the cocoon. It’s kinda not really the caterpillar anymore but definitely isn’t yet the butterfly about to emerge. 35 feels like that. I’m too old to really be considered young or a youth. But definitely not – at all – old. It seems that at this stage in life, it’s expected that I should pretty well be formed as a person and (at least mostly) know who I am, but it’s simultaneously understandable that my retirement isn’t fully funded and that my life has many additional adventures coming. I am at a place with myself where the usual behaviors of 20-somethings and early-30-somethings annoy the piss out of me at every turn, but I often wish I had their vitality and metabolism. And, similarly, I look at many of those who are a couple decades older than me – an age group I’ll be in before I know it – and I’m like, “Hell! That is my future: Weight gain… Wrinkles… Judgement from the younger generations.”
I’ll admit that this second adolescence is … better. The first time around, you’re too young and naive and, frankly, too ignorant to realize how much you don’t know or to know how to navigate times of personal (and physical) change responsibly. Honestly, too many of us aren’t much better by the time this second phase rolls around. Lord. But, for myself, I feel better about it this time. I mean, my voice is done changing and the peen is as big and as hairy as it’s going to get … so that much is outta the way. Ha Ha. The rest is way more challenging, anyway. Have I become a “good” person? Have I invested much effort in knowing who I am as a person? Do I treat others with the same care I want to receive? Do I give at least as much as I take and do I seek opportunities to help those who need it? Have I known contentment? Have I made my love known, in its various forms, to those people to whom my love is directed?
Stuff like that is the focus for my second adolescence. And rightly so, I think. Most of us only think to consider times of change from within the context of what comes next – what am I going to become. In Sahaj Marg, the goal is the reverse. we don’t worry about what we’re becoming. For abhyasis, we “un-become.” There’s no taking what we have and what we are and making it into the next phase or the next step. It’s about taking what we have and are and are carrying and learning to not be those things – or rather not be identified with those things. Personal evolution right?
I’ll share a quote from my first guru in the Sahaj Marg lineage that explains this a bit.
“Evolution means changing into something. Here there is no change. On the contrary, as my Master used to say, it is an un-becoming. It’s not a becoming, but an un-becoming: throwing off all that we have accumulated over aeons of time, through various lives; divesting ourselves of everything that we have accumulated. And that is that which we have to become – That.” Taken from the book “The Fruit of the Tree”, Chapter “Open House”, pg. 178, by Revered Chariji
Think about scientific evolution – and allow me to suggest a twist on what my guru said. A fish crawling out of the waters to walk on land isn’t – really – about the fish becoming more than it was or changing into something else. It’s the result of the process of the fish leaving behind at least some of its “fish-hood.” It was limited by it’s inability to breath oxygen outside of water and its inability to walk. It discarded those limitations – with which it had previously so heavily identified with that its fish-hood was all it could relate to. All it knew. As soon as some of those limitations were let go of, life was able to blossom in a way it hadn’t previously.
As soon as it “un-became” a fish, it was free from that existence. It wasn’t trying to be more. Too often we’re caught up in what and who we think we are that we miss so much growth and growth opportunity. In Sahaj Marg and our Heartfulness practice, we’re not making an effort to change into something else – there’s no effort to be more or better or purer or less sinful or … anything. We’re peeling away the layers of crap that we previously thought we just had to carry. We’re un-becoming. In that process many of us realize and experience first-hand that we don’t actually need gills or fins. At one point they served a fantastic purpose, but ultimately aren’t part of us.
That’s what turning 35 feels like, to me. Thanks to life experience and the gentle, guiding structure of Heartfulness I’m un-becoming. I’m leaving behind so much of the junk that seems inherent to youth. I don’t have an attachment to whether my next step will be on land as an amphibian or reptile, or whether I leap right to being a mammal. I’m just glad to be realizing the experience of leaving my fish years behind.
Does that even make sense?
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti