If you are past 35 stop congratulating yourself

by Sandra Radja

The new marketing tool is stories. Everywhere you look from advertisements to web pages, the visual medium of video is being used for storytelling.  And the stories and actors feel real because they are not perfect.   Some clever person somewhere (maybe Don Draper coz he is immortal) looked around and saw the disconnect folks were feeling and wondered how they could bring the traditional story telling idea from the earthy village to the internet ether.  How’s that for Ayurvedic thinking. 

As an introduction to the 4 stages of life, Dr Svoboda talked about being very clear on your narrative.   In this world, where we virtualise and reproduce and refashion and reinvent stories over and again, we may lose sight of our own. 

Do your best to refine, for yourself, your own story so you, at least, have a relatively clear idea of what that story is so that when you hear it back from somebody else, even if you happen to be surprised about it, it won’t be that surprising
— Dr Robert Svoboda - 2014 Sydney Conference

This way of approaching the 4 stages was interesting to me because the way he put it made me feel like I could be the CEO of my life rather than stumbling and reacting my way through the stages.  Menarche and menopause feel like very clear stages of a woman’s life.  In the west, it kind of just happens to us and it’s not usual to hear people talking about preparing for those stages.  Most people prepare financially for retirement but not emotionally and spiritually.  It’s more about sustaining a lifestyle they have accumulated rather than preparing, or gliding, to the end. 

Pravritti means to live amidst worldly duties and interests with our senses.  Actions are directed primarily towards the external world.  So imagine the idea of conception, multiplication of cells continuing, birth, growing bodies, going to school and expanding the knowledge base, meeting new people and trying new things, travelling, exploring sex and ideas about what you want to do in this world, art, first love, broken hearts, giving birth, creating a home, disease and health. 

At some point, and Dr Svoboda tells us it’s 35, you need to begin to turn inward.  He says that’s the pinnacle folks.  After that you can stop congratulating yourself.  All that expansion needs to start to deflate and find its centre within you.  This is the point of whether you choose to plummet to the end or glide. The end is the same but, as he so charmingly put it, “we will appreciate the glide more because it won’t be so alarming.  So thank you. “  :)

This is the second stage called Nivritti, the path of turning within towards spiritual contemplation and placing God at the centre of your existence after fulfilling your familial and professional duties.  This is the switch of acknowledgment that you are not permanent. 

After 40, you can’t keep up with younger men and women. You can still be on the scenic tour, making some money and having fun but you’re not at the top of your game. You can pretend for awhile, other players can come in to keep propping you up but there comes a time when you realize there is nothing left to prop.
— Dr Robert Svoboda - 2014 Sydney Conference

Ayurveda thinks along a similar line.  Kapha stage signifying childhood, Pitta signifying adult years and Vata the elderly years.  We tend to concentrate on our Prakruti/Vikruti and sometimes forget to place it within context, or the stage of life.  I see issues with menopause because women don’t want to stop working ridiculous hours.  I see issues with young women because they have no overview or guidance to show them the way and the pressure to keep up is causing them disease normally affecting older women.  We are not looking at the bigger picture.  They are thinking about increasing the retirement age to 70 in Australia.  So far the meds are “propping” us up and keeping us seemingly able to do what a younger person can do.  You know it, 60 is the new 50, 50 is the new 40 and so on. 

Getting older. Doesn't mean you go live under a rock.  There is that fork in the road, mid-life, where you can continue down the common road of earthly decay, both in body and spirit, or you learn to tame the wild energies of emotions and rise like a phoenix to shed your skin and radiate prana.  Choose wisely.  Photo- Daphne Selfe - the world's oldest supermodel at 83

Getting older. Doesn't mean you go live under a rock.  There is that fork in the road, mid-life, where you can continue down the common road of earthly decay, both in body and spirit, or you learn to tame the wild energies of emotions and rise like a phoenix to shed your skin and radiate prana.  Choose wisely.  Photo- Daphne Selfe - the world's oldest supermodel at 83

But at some point, you’re old.  If you can see the beauty in a spiritual practice, the elderly years is when it becomes most profound because you have a lifetime of stories to pull from.  You also, ideally, have more time and fewer responsibilities.  But, as these things go, it’s easier to glide when you’ve been practicing before you’re “old” but clearly anytime is a good time.

Talking to a woman in her 70’s recently, she complained that it was awful getting older because you are ignored.  If you stand in line for anything, the younger women will be attended to before you and we live in a society that doesn’t respect its’ elders.

I admit it bothered me.  As a woman of 42, her message to me was depressing.  I get it; we all go through it as women.  Admittedly I had a moment at 40 comparing myself to younger women until I realized it wasn’t age, it was my discontent with what I was doing in my life.  These days, I’m perfectly content in my skin since I found a passion and purpose beyond me and it’s helping women with health issues and inadvertently, their sense of self.

Fortunately I have known a few incredibly vibrant elderly women to know it’s what you make it.  They cultivated such strong prana in their being, it detracted from their skin.  I know it’s possible.

Damn it if more women would just realize it.