I turned 60 about 3 weeks ago.  Of course it’s simply a number, but numbers sometimes can have poetic power, they are symbols that can inspire us to reflect.  In recent times I’ve been reflecting a great deal on the long strange ride that has been my life, on its elusive meanings, on what my own real nature is, and on the possible directions my life might take from here on.  I’ve heard that in Japan it is commonly thought that when a person turns 60 he or she enters an entirely new phase of life, like a kind of psychological/spiritual rebirth.  Some Japanese people, especially men, will take a new name when they turn 60 and begin their second life.  This recognition of such a personal renewal at age 60 seems entirely appropriate, since the maturation and aging process for most people is accompanied by a gradual wearing out and falling away of the follies, anxieties and illusions of youth.  By the time we reach 60 we’ve finally outgrown, albeit painfully, most of the bullshit we used to accept as “normal” life and as a result we find a greater psychological spaciousness and freedom, a growing sense of the abundance of possibilities in one’s life.

There is a strange melancholy that can come with the greater psychological clarity of maturity, due to the fact that you look back on your earlier life with a greater wisdom and clarity and what you see can be something of a downer.  You see clearly how much time and energy you wasted pursuing illusory goals and promoting false ideas about yourself.  You see how much trauma you’ve been through and much crap you took from other people when you really didn’t have to.  So you gain greater awareness of real life which can bring joy and freedom but that awareness can also be depressing sometimes.  Buddhists who practice meditation refer to this as “sinking mind,” a state of mind that many who practice regular meditation experience.  Teachers of meditation often warn against this and advise people to simply accept this state of mind and persevere with the understanding that it’s a temporary phase that they will eventually pass through.  I try to keep this advice in mind.  I myself have definitely experienced this, especially since in the past two years my life has undergone a tremendous positive change: I met the woman who turned out to be the great love of my life, moved to her town to be with her, married her, and transitioned into a phased-retirement so I can have more time for writing, music, and other creative activities.  And I’ve been doing meditation fairly regularly.  I’ve reached a point in my life in which I feel mostly pretty calm, confident, and happy.  I live in a beautiful place with a wonderful woman and I do interesting things.  I’ve become a much different person now than I was a few years ago, and looking back on my earlier life I’m aware that I’ve been through a great deal of emotional trauma (growing up in a dysfunctional family, emotionally abusive father, then several relationships with neurotic and emotionally abusive women) during the course of my life.  Trauma that I should not have had to go through, but there it is, it’s past and now what can you do about it?  Most of the time I’m happy and quite conscious of the fact that I’ve been granted a rare and precious opportunity, that I’ve been profoundly blessed to have the life that I have now.  But then by contrast all the accumulated sorrow of my earlier life can sometimes seem almost overwhelming if I allow myself to dwell on it.  I try not to become attached to such thoughts.  They are just a distraction from real life and I’m confident that this “sinking mind” is indeed a phase that I will pass through.

This is the best time of my life, right now.  I feel there is unlimited potential, that my life has no boundaries.  I think that I always had unlimited potential and no boundaries but it has taken me this long to realize it.  And I think the same is true for everyone else as well.