The Seasons of Life: Recycling is Important in All Things.
We’re told of two ways to determine our human life span. The most commonly known is that we generally have threescore years and ten; or 70 years. Well that was some time ago. Today fourscore years and ten, or 90, is not uncommon.
But for the moment, let’s just stay with the threescore years and ten.
This 70 year life span is meant to be when we “live by bread alone”. And living by bread alone is a metaphor for living purely a materialistic-based life. If we live a purely materialistic life, chances are we’ll reach retirement age around 65, and then stop!
If we’ve lived a purely materialistic life—by bread alone—our life has been our work and so when we no longer have any work—then we no longer have anything to live for. And it’s for this reason that so many people who just “stop” when they retire, die soon after. Probably around the predicted age of 70; or threescore years and ten.
However, living by bread alone is but one choice available to us.
King Solomon told us that for everything there’s a season. Nature itself is our greatest example and teacher here. But how can these seasons relate to our human life-span?
The Seasons of Life can also be a metaphor for the traditional life we lead, especially in the Western world.
First we have Spring, which takes us from birth to the age of 21, at which time we get the “keys to the door” and enter a brand new phase of life. Well that’s how it was in by-gone days before 30 became the new 20; and 50 became the new 40 and so on. Even so, no matter when we actually got the keys to the proverbial door, after the age of 21 most people are moving on to the next stage of their life.
Then comes the Summer of our years from the age of 21 through to about 42. And if you think about it, even today for most people, this is our time of major growth and flourishing.
Next are our Autumn/Fall years—from 42 to 63. And interestingly, it’s around the end of our Summer years and the beginning of our Autumn—around our early 40s—that we might experience our so called mid-life crises that take us to another new phase of life as we enter these Autumn/Fall years.
The final quarter in this metaphor is related to our Winter years. Using the same 21 year span for this last quarter, our Winter years would go from 63 to 84 years. And all things being equal, clearly a life span to 84 years is significantly better than the original three score years and ten.
Sadly though, our Western culture primarily says that we are due to die at some stage during that fourth 21 year period of our life—so by the age of 84+/-. As a result, all too many people see the end of those Winter years as the time when their life will indeed end. And for most people it does.
However seasons are cyclical and by definition all cycles continually repeat themselves. In nature following each Winter we’re able to enjoy yet another Spring, followed by Summer, Autumn, and Winter and then the seasons cycle around yet again, and again, and again.
As humans we are a part of nature, not apart from nature. So from that perspective, as with nature, is it possible for us to also cycle our lives through the seasons over again, and again, and again?
The answer is definitely yes!
But only if we consciously choose to do so.
So what are the choices that we must make to ensure that these cycles of the Seasons of Life continue to repeat themselves in our own lives?
Just like the tree that is dependent on food and water to grow; the only thing we need to do to repeat our Seasons of Life is, in essence, choose to continually grow. However the strength of our growth and the health of our seasons as we re-cycle through them again will depend on how we choose to grow.
The tree will survive, albeit not well, even if there’s a drought and the soil is not continually enriched either by supplemental fertilization or by Mother Nature herself. But after a while of living like that it will wither and die. By contrast, it will thrive and live a long and productive life if it continually receives a plentiful supply of water and rich highly nutritious food.
So too our continual growth, as we re-cycle through the Seasons of Life, will also depend on our choice of personal enrichment. As the old saying goes; “If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always had”. In other words, even if we choose not to “stop” at retirement age, but choose to continue to plod on doing what we’ve always done in the past, our growth will not be enriched with new growth and so new horizons. And then like the tree with the dry depleted soil, we too will eventually wither and die—probably by the end of our Winter years around the age of 84.
Yet if we choose to enrich our growth by moving to higher and higher levels of spiritual consciousness, then we’re continually enriching our body, mind, and spirit, and like the healthy tree our Seasons of Life will continue to re-cycle for us in a vibrant and healthy manner.
And this elevated spiritual consciousness is all about taking spirituality to a practical level.
Practical Spirituality is, in part, about taking some practical action-oriented steps to fulfil our two universal spiritual human needs—contribution and growth. Those two spiritual needs are the nutritious food and plentiful supply of water we need to live a long and productive life.
And for many people, during their working years when they’re progressing through the first of their four seasons-of-life cycle, they choose to start a second parallel life that is equally as, or even more important to them as is their material working life. This parallel life might be a focus on a much loved hobby, or it could be what’s referred to as engaging in a spiritual life of some kind.
Now a spiritual life can be to do with a religious affiliation, but not necessarily. I’m sure you like me know of people who live a very so called “religious life” and yet are not the least bit spiritual. Just as an ever increasing number of people throughout the world are extremely spiritual but not the least bit religious.
And so leading a spiritual life might well include a focus on your favourite hobby, but it will also extend well beyond just doing something for your own personal satisfaction.
For example gardening might be a totally consuming hobby of yours. Your garden is a show garden and means the world to you. Having this focus throughout your life, and especially in your retirement years, is better than just stopping and doing nothing but it’s not necessarily a spiritual activity. It’s just about your personal enjoyment—yours and yours alone.
On the other hand, if you’re using your show garden to teach disadvantage youth how to garden, or you’re out planting trees restoring a degraded river bank, this then becomes a life-expanding practical spiritual activity. So you’re both contributing, and in so doing growing (your two spiritual human needs), by sharing your beloved activity with the community in some way.
It’s that sort of practical spiritual activity that also adds meaning to your life. And an abundance of scientific research confirms that adding meaning to our life gives us added longevity.
So with contribution and growth (your nutritious soil and water) leading to a meaningful life (increased longevity) you won’t just wither and die but will keep re-cycling through those Seasons of Life over, and over, and over again.
And if during our initial four seasons-of-life cycle we’ve lived this parallel spiritual life, when we reach our Winter years and are able to retire from our material work, we might already be up to the Summer or even Autumn years of these parallel practical spiritual activities where we’ve been making-a-difference to the lives of others.
Not Too Late
On the other hand, perhaps you’ve lived by bread alone, and you’ve now reached retirement age, or beyond, and yet up until now you’ve not been aware of the possibility of continuing to re-cycle through your Seasons of Life. If this is you, it’s still definitely not too late to embrace your next four-season cycle. All you have to do is to choose to take action now and move to that next level of spiritual consciousness and your life will begin all over again.
Just imagine for a moment what it feels like to begin the Spring of your second cycle when you have the newly found time and freedom that comes with “retirement”. You’re now able to grow by learning new ways of living, loving, and laughing as you evolve to that next level of spiritual heart-centred consciousness contributing to your world in whatever form makes your heart sing.
However perhaps you’re a bit of a grouch and are mumbling away saying something like: “I’ve been working hard all my life. I’m now retiring and so I’m not going to do anything for anyone other than myself.” And you’d certainly not be Robinson Crusoe in feeling that way.
And if that’s your choice, that’s fine. But just keep in mind the consequences of that choice of remaining a grouch for the rest of your life, which of course might not be as long as it could be. As you’ll recall, there’s an abundance of research showing that contributing to others helps us to live longer lives. It’s also a key source of happiness and well-being.
So, a short life as a grouch? Or a long and happy life? The choice is yours.
Your Second and Subsequent Cycles
Let’s now look at how your second and subsequent cycles might work.
The first time through our seasons-of-life cycle with its 21 years per season enables us to gain a good grounding and understanding of life in general. And a purely material life always has an end, such as retirement at 65, or changes in technology, or boredom, any of which can put an end to your material work.
By contrast, living a life of practical spirituality is a never-ending concept. Spirituality has no boundaries. And so the exciting thing is that when we repeat the seasons-of-life cycles we do so at a much faster rate so we can re-cycle around a second, third, fourth, and who knows how many more times with our added longevity.
So whereas the first four seasons-of-life cycle took 84 years, the second and subsequent cycles might only be a few years each.
Not only that, but when we integrate practical spirituality into our lives, the second and subsequent cycles of our seasons-of-life begin when we choose to start and specialise in the areas that make our heart sing. Unlike nature, we have the free-will to choose when we’ll start and re-cycle through the seasons again. Nature has to wait until the end of Winter before the Spring arrives. However we can choose to start a new seasons-of-life cycle at any time. And ideally we’ll not wait until the end of our Winter years to start going around again or we might have left our run a little too late.
Indeed we need to give some thought to what we’ll do in our next seasons-of-life cycle while going through our current Autumn. Then during Winter as things slow down we’ll have time to start and actively prepare ourselves for our new cycle.
Think about it this way.
During the Spring years (or months) of our new cycle we’ll learn all about the new topic, or the new perspective of an old topic that we want to work on.
During the Summer years (or months) of our new specialization we develop a deep understanding of the topic, master the skill, and fully integrate it into our everyday lives.
With the skills, mastery, and experience gained during the Summer months/years we’re now able to teach the activity to others during the Autumn years/months of this new level of consciousness. This is also when new ideas for the next four seasons-of-life cycle should be considered and investigated. It’s when we’re teaching others that all sorts of new and creative ideas are triggered.
Finally, during the Winter years/months things will slow down a bit as we just supervise the activities of our Autumn-students. And so we have plenty of time to do all the necessary exciting preparations for our next four seasons-of-life cycle. Again, never wait until the end of a Winter to begin moving onto your next four seasons-of-life cycle. If you do, you’ll have already started to wane.
And around we go again. Now with the start of our next new Seasons of Life cycle we’re once again learning new things and continuing to grow.
By following this time-frame your Winters will be so busy preparing for the next cycle they’ll never be cold or lonely.
And what about the occasional R & R, you might well ask? That should be continually integrated throughout each season of each of your four seasons-of-life cycle to ensure you’re always refreshed and full of creative energy.
PS: If you’d like a deeper look at how making-a-difference by contributing to others adds meaning to your life and so can be life changing, I invite you to read my Essential Guide to Living a Meaningful Life: Making-a-Difference. You’ll find it under Essential Guides on The Conscious Revolution Network Blog.
PPS: I’d love you to contribute to this article by making a comment below. And also tell your friends and mailing lists about The Conscious Revolution Network and invite them to join our TCRN community by clicking this button.
© 2012 ~ Kashonia Carnegie PhD