New podcast: Life in My 60s – Silence and the True Self

New podcast: Life in My 60s – Silence and the True Self

As I begin Life in My 60s, I wanted to spend some time talking about the journey and the joy that comes with it. Join me for conversation about aging and the path to real transformation, wisdom, and freedom. Spoiler alert: It requires silence. Give it a listen at the link below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast so you don’t miss any future episodes. It’s available on Apple, Spotify, Google and other platforms.

Life in My 60s: Exactly where I’m supposed to be

Life in My 60s: Exactly where I’m supposed to be

So I’m standing at the start of a new decade today and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude, peace, and contentment. I know how blessed I am, and I can honestly say that today — maybe for the first time in my many years — I am completely at home in my own skin, happy with where I am in my life, and very much aware that it could all change in an instant and so I should take every moment as a gift and simply Be. Here. Now. (As Ram Dass taught.)

Earlier this year, I did a heart-centered program by Danielle LaPorte that required me to dig deep into my core desires, after an arduous process of looking at the stories I’ve been telling myself for far too long, stories that come not only from my history and my experiences but, often, from other people’s histories and experiences and views of who I should be. Little by little I could feel the masks dropping away, and I could feel deep love and compassion for the parts of me I’ve always held at a distance or hid or hated. Fascinating and fulfilling.

In the end, my core desires weren’t about money or success or anything you can achieve or buy in a worldly way. They were contentment, connection, creativity, and love. Tall order, and yet most mornings when I wake up and assess where I am I, I smile to myself as I realize I am there at the moment, and I am grateful. And sometimes, when I’m especially aware, I say a little prayer that when things are not so rosy and a particularly rough challenge surfaces, I can somehow find the courage to stay in the moment and find the lessons and the gifts and the divinity — or Spirit, if you prefer — that is always swirling in and around me, and you and everything and everyone else.

When I peer into the coming decade, there are some fears, to be sure, because it’s undeniable that I’m on the downward slide of life, not in a bad way, just in the circle-of-life way. And that’s okay, even if it’s tinged with a little trepidation. Because if I can learn to be present — really present — and grateful, even when things are not going exactly as I want them to go, I can hold onto contentment and inner joy no matter what. I have no illusions that this will be easy, nothing good in life is, but I do believe that I am finally willing to do the work required. Daily work. Hour-by-hour work.

I grabbed a Mary Oliver book, Devotions, off my bookshelf before I taught yoga class yesterday, and it fell open to her poem “Snow Geese.” I knew as soon as I read it that it was the heart of the dharma talk I would give that day and completely fitting for this time of year and time of life.

“Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.” — Mary Oliver

I hope you’ll join me on this journey through the next decade. Who knows where it will take us? Let’s keep each other company because, after all, to quote Ram Dass yet again: “We are all just walking each other home.”

P.S. If you’d like to read my final Life in My 50s post, you can find that HERE.

From here to eternity

From here to eternity

When my youngest was in elementary school, she asked about heaven and “eternity.” As I explained our belief that we would one day be with God forever, I was surprised that her reaction was less than enthusiastic. Forever seemed a little too long as far as she was concerned. Although I chalked it up to a “kids-say-the-darndest-things” moment, I don’t think she was completely off base. Neither, it seems, does Scripture.

As Ecclesiastes tells us, God “has put the timeless into [our] hearts, without [our] ever discovering” it. In other words, we have eternity within us, but like my young daughter, we can’t really grasp it. Viewed from our human vantage point, it’s too overwhelming. In fact, we often use the term “like an eternity” when referring to long—and unpleasant—waits, at the doctor or bank or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Let’s all pray that eternity is not like the DMV!

While we may not be able to fully grasp eternity this side of heaven, can we glimpse it? Like the apostles in today’s Gospel, the answer is clearly yes. God does give us small glimpses of the glory that awaits us—in the mundane miracles of our daily lives, in the things that make us pause, smile, breathe deep with gratitude. Eternity may be hard to fathom, no matter our age, but God promises us that it will be ours . . . when the time is right and the timelessness that lives hidden within us becomes our eternal home.

Mary DeTurris Poust, from the September 2022 issue of Give Us This Day, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2022). Used with permission.

Life in My 50s: That’s a wrap!

Life in My 50s: That’s a wrap!

Just about one decade ago, I began a series of blog posts I labeled “Life in My 50s.” When I hit the half-century mark on September 26, 2012, it felt momentous in a really good way, a turning points of sorts with lots of room for more. You can read my first post in that series, “Life in My 50s: The Adventure Begins,” HERE. At the time, I talked about how I didn’t need a special gift or event to mark the day because it seemed much bigger than anything so superficial. “It seems as though 50 years presents a nice, self-contained package of sorts, something to be archived in the basement. And today I’m unwrapping a new, empty box just waiting to be filled, but with what?”

Ah, what I didn’t know at 50. I had no idea at that time that I’d end up leaving my full-time office in the basement of my house to take on a full-time job at the Diocese of Albany as Director of Communications for more than six years. I had no idea I would train to become a yoga teacher at 58, fulfilling a 30-year dream that I’d started and put off multiple times, and that I’d end up teaching at an amazing studio multiple times per week every week. I had no idea I would end up leading large retreats that draw 40+ people in various places and that I would develop a growing community of people who now make up my NSS Tribe. I had no idea I would sign up for Holy Ground, a spiritual director training program, from which I will graduate in the spring. I had no idea I’d walk away from my full-time office job at 59 to pursue my true professional love again: writing spiritual columns and books, leading retreats, teaching yoga. I had no idea how my body would begin to age in obvious ways that would, at many times, hamper my ability to do things I always took for granted, like bending down to unload the dishwasher or carry a laundry basket or do the work in the yard I love so much. I had no idea that the hair I stopped coloring almost ten years ago would not just go gray immediately, and now I wait — no, I anxiously anticipate — finally going fully gray, although my stylist tells me that it’s a long way off since I was a natural-born red head and apparently we gray slower/differently. Check back with me in another ten years.

At the time I wrote: “I don’t want the rest of my life — however long I get — to be only a time of fading, even though part of me welcomes that idea…I think whatever comes next should be a time of growing in the important areas of my life, as a spiritual seeker, as a wife and mother, as a human being, and maybe in some of the less serious and more fun areas as well, things I haven’t yet had a chance to try but have always wanted to tackle.”

I smile as I read that now, because it was all true. Was it true because I just got lucky, or was it true because I worked to make it happen? Both, I would say, without question. Last night, when I couldn’t fall asleep, I lay there with my hands on my heart, my trusty rosary beads there for comfort (as they are every night — my version of a favorite stuffed animal), and I smiled and felt so incredibly grateful and content, peaceful and in harmony with everything around me and with God. And I thanked God for all of it — for the blessings I am so grateful for today and for a full life that has had its share of sorrows and challenges and hardships but that remains a complete gift. Everything has led me to this place, and I have no doubt that whatever is coming next will lead me where I still need to go, to what I still need to learn — however much I might want to avoid some of it.

Life in my 50s has been a ride and a half, and I can tell you that as I stand on the cusp of life in my 60s, I’m excited by and grateful for the freedom, wisdom and growth that is still waiting for me, if I dare (and I do). When I turned 50, I remember thinking that if I lived as long as my grandmother, I would get to do my entire life over again. Now, at almost-60, I am past that possibility, making it very clear that I am on the downward slope of a beautiful life, a slope that I hope will be long and gradual. And I could still get 40 years if I duplicate my E-ma’s arc!

So I’m going to live this last week in my 50s full of gratitude and joy, reflecting on this life of abundance that has been mine for six full decades. That is no small thing, and I am grateful to the point of bursting — either into laughter or tears or both. I’ll be back next week as I herald in my 60s with more thoughts on all of this, and maybe some fun goals and hopes and dreams. Because dreaming is free, and it is definitely not just for the young.

When I wrote a birthday post last year at this time, when I was turning 59, I said: “As I round out this decade and prepare for the next — if I’m given that opportunity — I hope to become even more Mary than I’ve ever been. You’ve been warned. More writing, more meditation, more yoga, more retreats, more spiritual direction, more speaking truth to power, more travel, more learning, more cooking, more dancing, more singing, more creating, more exploring, more dreaming, more, more, more. To paraphrase Mary Oliver, I have no intention of “breathing just a little and calling it a life.” Full breaths until my full stop.”

Amen to all of it. I’m going to take that plan and kick it up a notch. I’m hoping life in my 60s will go to 11. (IYKYK, and if you do, you’re probably old like me.) 😉 Peace out, 50s.

We all need Sabbath: Why quiet isn’t “quitting”

We all need Sabbath: Why quiet isn’t “quitting”

As I sat in my beach chair late last month, toes in the sand and eyes fixed on an endless horizon that gave me the slightest inkling of eternity, I found for the first time in a very long time that I was truly experiencing vacation as it is meant to be: a time of complete rest, a chance to step away from our busy work lives and sink into stillness, or whatever our version of vacation might be.

Our world demands, or at least expects, that we work even on vacation. All too often we buy into that notion, convincing ourselves that if we work even when we should be playing, we will be secure, valued, loved. But we all know that the equation doesn’t add up. We work through our time off and return to our desks more depleted and frustrated than we were before we set up our out-of-office email message, and usually no more appreciated.

Not long after my vacation revelry, I came across an article about a new phenomenon called “quiet quitting,” which is actually a misnomer. As someone who was part of the “great resignation,” having quit my full-time job at the end of 2021, I thought “quiet quitting” might be another version of this nationwide trend among workers whose pandemic experience made them re-evaluate their priorities. But this is a new phenomenon. Quiet quitting is when workers — often of the Gen Z generation — refuse to work beyond the hours for which they are paid and refuse to do jobs that were not in their original job description. In other words, these younger workers already have their priorities straight, but the term “quiet quitting” makes it seem as though they are shirking responsibilities. That is the sickness of the American work landscape. If you don’t work beyond what you are paid to do, you are seen as a quitter.

All of this made me think of the field near my house that sits fallow this season. Sometimes there is corn, but often there is not. Why? Because if the farmers push the field to produce every season year after year, the soil will be depleted and eventually nothing will grow. We humans are not so different. If we push ourselves day after day, working before we get to the office and after we get home, working on weekends, working through vacations, eventually we will stop producing. Or we will produce but with a heart heavy with resentment and frustration.

We need Sabbath. It is a commandment, after all. And while we recognize the need to go to church and honor God, we often forget that the original idea of Sabbath was not an hour but a day. And it wasn’t just about setting time aside for God but for family, for rest.

Look at your week, your life. Where is your Sabbath? Do you attend Mass and then race to the grocery store, or do you savor the day and let the spiritual nourishment of prayer bleed into everything else you do, transforming the day into a time of true respite? God is found not only in the pews at our parish on Sunday. God is found in the flowers (or even the weeds) in our backyard, in the clouds floating overhead, in the cup of coffee sipped slowly on the front porch, in the neighbor we stop to chat with as we walk the dog. As St. Ignatius taught, we are called to “find God in all things,” but if we never put down our phones, our laptops, our work emails and work files, we will miss God in our midst and the joy that accompanies that gift.

Being quiet is never about “quitting.” It just might be the most productive thing you can do. Guard your time. Replenish your soul. Disconnect and take a Sabbath day, not a Sabbath hour. Watch how that fallow time changes your perspective and your life.

This column originally appeared in the Sept. 2, 2022, issue of The Evangelist.

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