Navigating the Second Half of Life

Ken Donaldson Loose Leaf Hollow retreat center

Loose Leaf Hollow Retreat Center

I recently spent a weekend in Kentucky at Loose Leaf Hollow attending the Navigating the Second Half of Life retreat. I figured since I turned 60 in February and I’ve also been pondering what exactly I’d like to do with my remaining years, this was an ideal opportunity for me.

This retreat center is nestled among huge old trees and it’s in the middle of nowhere. The perfect place for me!

Ken Donaldson Loose Leaf Hollow

Loose Leaf Hollow Entrance

We arrived a day early and attended an open meditation session that Joe (the founder and owner of Loose Leaf) offers to the public every Thursday evening.

Meditation is something that I’ve gone in and out of practice with most of my last 25 years or so. I’ve probably spent more time out than in. I was reminded, again, that it’s an ongoing practice and that there are no right or wrong ways to meditate.

I knew all this but it seems that my “forgetter” often overrides my “rememberator.” Therefore, just going and being reminded of these basic principles alone was worth the time, energy and money invested for the entire retreat.

A pleasant but assertively rung bell woke us up each morning at 6:30 a.m. This was merely a reminder that the first meditation session was at 7 a.m. I was apprehensive and nervous initially probably in part due to a couple people being there whom I’d never met before (one of whom was Joe).

We gathered together four times each day to meditate and do creative exercises to help connect with our own unique life compass: The values and priorities that are most important for us to live for the remainder of our lives.

Between sessions we had free time to wander the grounds and explore the surrounding areas. I, of course, brought my cameras and lenses with me and got some beautiful bird and butterfly images to add to my photo portfolio.

Ken Donaldson Goldfinch and Swallowtail

Goldfinch and Swallowtail

One of the biggest gifts I received there was the multitude of hummingbirds racing through the air from flower to flower. An old Native American medicine man once told me that the hummingbird was my “Spirit Animal.” He explained that this meant that when I see one or dream about one I’d be best served to pause and ask myself, “What is going on in my life right now? Am I truly happy? Am I living the life I want to live?” These are three very valuable questions that would be good for me (and maybe you too) to ask myself more often (like several times a day).

Ken Donaldson Hummingbird

Hummingbird: The Energy of Love

If you’re not into Native American tradition, then this may seem like a bunch of new age frou-frou. Nonetheless, it does make for an interesting story.

In my research I’ve discovered that in many Native American cultures the hummingbird is symbolic of the energy of love. Hummingbird carefully and precisely drinks the nectar from flowers, while also helping to spread the pollen from the same plant. The metaphor is that hummingbird does the same to our hearts: It pierces our heart with precision and pulls out the nectar of love so we can connect with it and share it with the world.

As the weekend progressed we were all led to connect with our heart “energy.” This is based on the teachings about Chakras, which are found in many different spiritual practices.

The heart chakra connects the body with the mind. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my head gets a few thousand miles away from my body.

When the mind and body are connected spiritually, there is a wholeness that’s experienced. I call this alignment, meaning that I’m in alignment with my true essence and I’m living outside of the influence of ego, past history and social norms.

I like to call this my “true self,” and I’ve heard other people sometimes refer to it as the higher or deeper self. In any case, it’s the place and space where we can really experience our true essence and connect with our heart’s true desire.

We experienced poetry, prose and some very intimate sharing from all the participants.

In one of our writing exercises I found myself spontaneously writing a letter to my deceased dad entitled, Dad You Left Too Soon. Almost instantly tears were coming out of my eyes like Niagara Falls, my nose was uncontrollably running and my whole face felt flushed. This was some profound and intense grief for sure, and this was likely only the tip of the infamous iceberg. My dad passed in 2011 and my life has been both full and chaotic since then. I haven’t had a chance to process the grief of the loss of my dad. I know now I have plenty of more processing to do.

I discovered a number of “internal blocks” that have been getting in the way of me living my life fully and wholly.

My job now is to be aware of and avoid these blocks, which are all ego-driven, and follow my unique compass of values and priorities to live the second half my life with happiness, integrity and wholeness.

What’s your plan for the second half of your life?

If you had a Spirit Animal, what would it be?

How aligned is your heart and head?

Ken Donaldson Will You Find What You're Looking For?

Will You Find What You’re Looking For?

Feel free to share. A burden shared is a burden halved.

 

It’s a good day to Marry YourSelf First!