noun: milestone; plural noun: milestones
1. a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance in miles to a particular place.
2. an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.
I’m turning 40 this month. It’s a milestone. According to this definition I may be on a road to a particular place or I may be experiencing a significant change or stage in development. I happen to think both are true.
“If you not change direction, you may end up where you are are heading.” – Lao Tzu
Our inner compasses (linked with our karma and our hearts) point us in a direction from birth. Life presents opportunities for us to make choices on our path– doing things in our own way and time, making mistakes and taking risks. Our actions and habits make up the daily steps that move us forward within those chosen paths and, in the bigger picture, within the whole of our evolution.
When all of these are in alignment– heart-centered goals, authentic choices, and mindful habits– the idea of ending up where we are heading feels good. We are more easily able to recognize potential pitfalls, to see our mistakes as learning opportunities, and to find the courage to take risks. Guided by our sense of purpose and direction, we can feel that we are walking a path of truth.
When these are not in alignment, which can happen for a number of reasons, life doesn’t feel so clear or so promising. When our choices and habits keep taking us away from a heart-centered path, we may experience fear, judgement, guilt, blame, and a sense of disconnection and purposelessness.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Victor Frankl
But it’s not always so black and white. Often we find ourselves somewhere in between these two places. Life throws us curve balls, emotions and thoughts take us for a ride, and desires and dreams naturally change with the currents of our lives. We may not always know where we are heading or even where we want to be heading, but we can know how to locate, connect with, and re-center ourselves in any given moment. Mindfulness and yoga practices help us learn to stay present, and to know our own “true north”, even if we’re not quite sure about the rest of our unfolding path.
As for me, as I celebrate the experience of four decades on the planet, I am also beginning my fourth year of running a small business– something I never imagined I’d be doing. Treetrunkwise is a growing, changing, evolving space, and I’m constantly reevaluating how I can guide its evolution more mindfully and authentically, while remaining curious enough to swim in whatever direction the currents take me.
Along the way there are milestones– and along the way I face roadblocks and uncertainty. Age gives perspective. I am now able to see more of my path now and to recognize that my life experience is a valuable and important asset to how I choose to move forward.
I still have other dreams I want to pursue, but now I’m learning to be more open to finding different, more creative ways of pursuing them. I still have a complex landscape of shifting thoughts and emotions, but now I am more practiced at recognizing my true nature within those shifting and passing currents. And life, of course, still throws me curve balls– just as my yoga teacher did whenever I nervously stood up to teach my fellow group of trainees five years ago. I was lucky he did that. It helped me to practice maintaining my center and my authentic voice when certainty and confidence momentarily eluded me. It helped me to turn those moments into lessons and opportunities.
“Turn all mishaps into the path.” – a Zen lojong teaching
And it was a great metaphor for life. Everything is an opportunity, which– when taken mindfully and with openness– can allow us to come closer to our own truth, purpose, and unique light. The more we can practice seeing life through this lens, the easier, richer, and more fulfilling life becomes. To me, this is one of the real keys to aging gracefully… at least from my relatively young, 40-year perspective. 🙂
Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts and replies in the comments below. – xo