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Yueya

The Stages of Life

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Daoists traditionally map our stages of life in terms of how jing (精) is used up as we get older. For women seven year cycles are important and for men eight year cycles. A detailed account of these cycles can be found in various Daoist sources such as Damo Mitchell, White Moon on the Mountain Peak pp40-3. 

 

I personally relate more to how Jung expresses the aging process; in key ways his descriptions parallel the Daoist stages but to my mind are more applicable to our contemporary lives......

 

In his essay The Stages of Life, Jung describes consciousness [as in the conditioned mind / acquired mind] as the source of our “problem,” contrasted with nature and instinct. For modern times, the “problem” disrupts the psychological progression of the life stages but also challenges the function of culture, which is individuation and self-development. The cultivation of self that ought to logically be the provenance of maturity, experience, and wisdom, is undermined and overthrown by the artificiality of consciousness, not only the continued adolescent behaviour of older people as an example but more deeply the modern failure to cultivate value.

 

Thought, like desire and achievement, does not address the problem of consciousness but exacerbates it. The tendency of our thinking is rigidly linear.We only understand that kind of thinking which is a mere equation from which nothing comes out but what we have put in. That is the working of the intellect. 

 

Jung laments how few people are aware of the character of the stages of life, how many enter them successively neglecting their significance and failing to make the necessary and healthy transformations.

 

Jung uses the sun to illustrate the stages of life. Visualize a circle, then place a cross within it to create four quadrants, which, from the lower left clockwise to the lower right, represent the sun’s progress across the sky, and our human stages of life from infancy to old age. The first quadrant is childhood, when our consciousness emerges from nowhere to begin its progress. Youth should not be impeded but allowed to grow, experience, and learn. In the long midday and afternoon span the adult years of career, profession, social obligation, and self-image, conforming to the many responsibilities of the ego and the instincts of the species. Then the sun begins to set, and new lessons by the aging must be observed and taken to heart in order to appropriately derive the lessons of this last stage. Jung draws out these lessons:

 

Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and expanding, but that an inexorable inner process enforces the contraction of life. … For the aging person it is a duty and necessity to devote serious attention to himself. After having lavished its light upon the world, the sun withdraws its rays in order to illuminate itself. Instead of doing likewise, many older people prefer to be hypochondriacs, misers, pedants, applauders of the past or else eternal adolescents — all lamentable substitutes for the illumination of the self, but inevitable consequences of the delusion that the second half must be governed by the principles of the first. … Money-making, social achievement, family and posterity are nothing but plain nature, not culture. Culture lies outside the purpose of nature. Could by any chance culture be the meaning and purpose of the second half of life?

 

(The above is adapted from an article written by Meng-hu http://www.hermitary.com/thatch/?p=1787 )

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I’m 63 years old and hence a good way into my second half of life, and even though my life has fallen well outside what’s considered normal, in retrospect I can see how my progression has still loosely conformed to the stages as delineated by Jung and Daoism.

 

Both Jung and Daoism have been awesome teachers for me. I like to acknowledge that; to honour that gift with posts such as this one. I greatly weakened my health when I was younger through a period of heavy heroin addiction. Daoist Yang Sheng Fa (life-nourishing methods) such as food energetics, qigong and mediation have been absolute life savers. Hence I take discussions here on such subjects very seriously. I don’t post stuff that’s not personally meaningful.  

 

I started this topic because there’s so much pressure in our contemporary society for older people to continue with attitudes and lifestyles that are appropriate for younger people.  

 

 “Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”  

 

Such insights strongly resonate with my own feelings and help reinforce the validity of my path.

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I don't know if I should apologize for appearing to make light of your topic.  I was, in a way, serious.

 

Many people have had more obstacles in their life than I have.  Can't change that.

 

When our work is done - retire.

 

Of course, in my opinion, our work is not done until we have found peace and contentment.

 

Sure, sometimes we need a bit of guidance.  Yours seems to have worked well for you.  In my case it was Nietzsche and Daoism.

 

The US Army had a slogan I really liked:  Be all that you can be. (Or something like that.)

 

Once we have found our "true" nature we have stepped onto the proper path for us.

 

And in my opinion, being honest with one's self and respecting one's self are a very important part of that path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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