The Early Years
I was born in London and spent the first years of my life there.
I had a loving mother and father and life was grand ~for the first two years! At two years old my younger brother was born with a serious illness and at the same time my mother began to have epileptic fits, which were very distressing and destabilizing. At five years old my mother drowned while having a fit. Her sudden and unexpected death was my first Rite of Passage in this life, and i had to grow up pretty fast in order to survive.
That early trauma sent me spinning into a wild childhood and a deep dive into the world of sex and drugs and rock and roll. Fortunately my spiritual longing was strong, and I set out for the Far East as soon as I left school. I am not sure if I was trying to lose myself or find myself? Maybe it’s the same thing! After a year of wandering India with the hippies and holy men, I found my spiritual master, Osho.
Rites of Passage
After many years in India doing deep spiritual practice and psychological work, I arrived back in England and my life fell apart. I was in the second big Rite of passage of my life. My emigration to Australia suddenly fell through, my relationship ended and I was at a loss. I did not know what to do with myself, or my life. I had no money, no job and as far as I could see, no future. I was in a deep dark descent, in the depths of depression, feeling lost and hopeless. Out of that descent the powerfully transformative and healing work of Celebration of Being (now http://www.corexperience.com) was birthed, which continues to touch the hearts and the lives of many men and women in Europe and the US. For the next 21 years, I led over 300 programs with over 4000 participants in eight different countries. I was deeply fulfilled and inspired by the transformation I saw in the men and women I worked with.
At forty-one I hit menopause, at the same time as getting a breast cancer diagnosis. This was a second Rite of Passage that threw me into a five-year transformational journey. Facing death, and reviewing my life, I knew things had to change. I know now that this was my initiation into my midlife passage. But I wasn’t yet ready to succumb to the gruelling process of unravelling the core of who I thought I was.
It took another twelve years for me to hit the second entry point into my midlife passage, this time in the form of exhaustion and burn out, and finding myself at the end of the road of my life as I had known it. I found myself one day telling my business partner “I am done, I can’t go on any more.” I felt exhausted and overwhelmed at the thought of leading one more workshop. I had no idea what was ahead of me but I knew something had to change, as I was changing. For awhile I felt lighter and freer, but gradually began to fall into a slump without the fulfilling work and reflection of the people I was serving. I hit a place of emptiness, meaninglessness, hopelessness, and depression. I lacked the energy and inspiration to change my situation. I had suddenly become very tired of working on myself as a self-improvement project, trying to fix myself and reinvent myself. I could not ignore the fact that midlife was really upon me.
Shortly after this there was a major fire in the area where I was living. It burned thousands of homes, although ours was thankfully spared. I was pretty traumatized by this huge natural disaster and the aftermath of it. However it brought home to me the groundlessness or our lives and the impermanence of things. That what we normally take for granted is based on very shaky ground. There is no security “out there” in the material world. I had to find it inside. I am grateful for my many years of meditation and spiritual practice. It helped me get through this very tough time.
The final blow, the full unravelling came the following year when my father died, quite unexpectedly. As he was my only parent who had brought me up, and was also my spiritual companion and my best friend, the loss of him shook me to my core and sent me into a period of grief that I could not have imagined. I curled up in my cocoon and didn’t care if I ever came out.
I recognise now that these harsh life circumstances were actually entry points into the midlife passage. I was being initiated into the journey of a lifetime. I was being called to awaken, out of the dream and the illusions of my false self and into a larger reality that, back then, I could not know. Until mid life I would not have had the strength or courage to withstand the tremors of this earth shattering experience. I guess it is the same for the caterpillar who sees only death as it starts being turned into goop on its journey to becoming a butterfly. It has no way of knowing that what lies at the end of the process of transformation and transfiguration is a butterfly.
The ego is relentless though, and I kept thinking that this would end soon and I would carry on where I left off, and recreate a bigger, better version of “me.” I did not understand then that the “me” that I was trying to reinvent was the problem. I had to get out of the way completely, and for that to happen, I had to be completely wiped out. This is what the midlife meltdown does. There is no quick fix; no drug or self-improvement project that can do it. I just had to surrender everything I had come to know about myself and walk as though blind through a dark, lonely and unknown territory.
Help from Beyond
I was fortunate enough to have good guides and spiritual mentors on this path, and I new that the rest of my life had always been marked by Rites of Passage, from one phase to the next. Surely this must be what was happening now. And yes, I discovered, that there is a way forward at mid life, but it is not through familiar territory. I began to understand that the meltdown that I was experiencing was part of a process, some part of me needed to die so that something else could be reborn. All the ideas I had about myself had to go, the roles and identities I had formed had to go, the willful energy I exerted to be a somebody in this world had to go! All of it!
But then I began to see that what was being stripped away was not “me”. It was some outgrown clothing I had identified with as me, the little me. The one that thinks it has to be in the driver seat of my life, fully in control, otherwise nothing will happen. I had to let that one go, and it was terrifying! I had worked so hard to get to this place and keep it all together.
In the several years since I have been in this Rite of Passage, I have softened and opened and become kinder and more compassionate, most of all to myself. I do not hurt myself by pushing and passing judgement on myself any more, and I am gentle with myself when I forget. I know now that who I am, just as I am, is worthy and valuable, I do not need to do anything to prove that. It is inherent in my Being, not in anything I do or don’t do.
It has taken me much insight to see that those dark times were the precursors to a new dawn in my life, and something else that was being born. It is true for all of us, that we are being constantly birthed into a new way of being if we can just let go and allow the forces of life to carry us and the winds of Grace to open us and transform us. Our Soul knows the way and we are being held and guided every step of the journey. I am grateful for the oftentimes grueling initiation and for the gift of holding space for women going through this very difficult passage, into a new expression of who they truly are. That’s why I call myself the Midlife Midwife!
The second phase of life can be a beautiful time of relaxing into who you TRULY are, with ease and Grace, coming home on an ever deeper level to your own Souls knowing, trusting yourself more and more, to say, be and do whatever you want to be.