'Midlife crisis' seems to be a phrase that's made light of (and made fun of, even) in modern times. And the women who experience a mid-life crisis and want to step away for self-reflection are considered weak, flaky or insensitive. They're often trivialized, or categorized as lost, depressed, or disconnected.
Not having a framework to undergo this deeply spiritual experience of disillusionment, many modern women simply try to hide from it, don't talk about it, or run away from it. So instead, what often happens is they turn to harmful habits (shop recklessly, drink more, etc.) or burn bridges to find new sets of friends and relationships.
If you have experienced some form of midlife-crisis, or what I prefer to call a soul crisis, or even an identity crisis, you know that life as you know it is changing right in front of your eyes. You don't know who you are anymore. Everything you've taken for granted is falling apart. Your relationships are dissolving, your job holds no meaning, your pleasures make no sense.
If you're going through this, hopefully the breakdown below of the why, when, what, and how will at least help you better understand those emotions you're feeling.
WHY Do We Have a Midlife Crisis?
All our lives, from the time we're born, we've been set up to follow the norms of society, culture and generational upbringing. Even though externally we might be set up to lead perfect lives, internally, we may start to notice that none of it brings happiness as we had expected.
The things we pursued, like having a house, husband, kids, and career suddenly feel empty of meaning, and can bring no satisfaction any longer. We start experiencing a sense of disenchantment with it all.
The moment of crisis is when we suddenly wake up and look around, when our inner wisdom is prompting us to slow down, or even stop—to stop running around, stop following the same old rut we've been treading, and to question our next steps. Life puts us in this crisis mode in order to bring about an inner awakening.
WHEN Does It Happen?
For many women, this phase happens between the ages of 36 and 45. It's as natural a phase as having their first period or going through menopause. However, it's a deeply spiritual phase that's not recognized as such in modern times.
Not having support during this period of intense emotions, women may not know how to reach deeper within themselves to reflect on their inner needs and urges. They might not recognize their soul's longing and calling. Psychology books might talk about the depression, but they don't address the acute disenchantment that happens during this phase.
WHAT Can We Do About It?
Ancient yoga recognizes these feelings and state of being as a very important phase of spiritual evolution.
Samvega,in Sanskrit, means a sense of agitation or an intense disillusionment with life or the world as it is. It's a state of mind when one feels disenchanted with life, and can no longer find meaning or happiness in the life they're living.
Such a state of suffering carries with it a momentum that's not found when life goes on smoothly. So Patanjali urges us to use this state of disenchantment as a portal to seeking self-realization.
|| Tivra Samvega Asannah || -Patanjali Yoga Sutras, 1.21
Meaning: For those who pursue their practices in the aftermath of the intensity of their disillusionment, self-realization is as near as the intensity with which they practice.
The female midlife crisis (for lack of a better term) is as natural a phase of growth as getting your period, or going through menopause. When we can acknowledge it as such, there's a lot more opportunity to treat it as a sacred rite of passage toward spiritual maturity.
HOW to Step Into the Next Phase of Our Lives
The natural next step, when we can recognize this phase as sacred, is to slow down rather than run away; to invite in silence and stillness. Because only in stillness can we reconnect with our inner selves.
There are several ways to connect with our inner wisdom. Solitude, meditation, journaling, inner inquiry are all wonderful ways to reconnect with the wisdom that's always guiding us from within. When we operate from this place of wisdom, our every thought can be mindful, our every choice is deliberate, our every action is conscious, and our every decision is in service of the soul. THEN, our next steps become clear.
So let's use this sacred phase of falling apart to give us the intensity and the momentum we need to recognize and hear the calling of our soul. To find meaning and purpose. And to finally learn the next steps toward freedom and true fulfillment.
Image credit: Tie Simpson