Neti Neti at 50

IMG_3006Today. It’s today that I meet the next half of my century. Today I step into and toward a self I’ve thought of but never fully embodied. Bolder. Wiser. More joyful. Less fearful. Less noise.

I’ll be honest here – I thought fifty would bring more. You know, like a big ol’ dinner party and gifts and a balloon ride. A larger paycheck. More pedigree. I thought fifty would have a certain fatness to it.

Instead, fifty seems to be about molting. I haven’t been eating much lately – it just hasn’t appealed – and I’ve been exercising more so I’m losing weight. And I have a desire to get down into the basement and throw things away. Lots and lots of things.

When I ask myself who I am these days, I’m not entirely sure. There’s a discomfort in this – shouldn’t I know by now? Instead, I seem to know less than ever. As though layers have been peeling away and I’m left like Chauncey the Gardener with an eerie outline. I go through the possibilities of all of the roles and people I thought I was. Neti, neti. Not this, not that.

“If you can tolerate one more day not knowing who you are and what you want to be, that is progress,” my teachers writes. “If you can tolerate one more ‘I am not that’, that is progress.”

It’s odd how this going into some center of stillness, of listening through a shell for whispers of who I am now, of where I’m headed is also tied to a growing fearlessness. When I was in California a few weeks ago, I met a British woman with squinty eyes and a simply amazing physique. She was on retreat – a gift to herself for her 50th birthday. When I told her I was soon turning 50 also, she smiled widely:  “No more bullshit, darling. Right?”

Here’s to winnowing and molting. Here’s to the marrow. Here’s to listening for the purest voice to rise right from the core.


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