We start out in life intending to change the world. At 25 we hold ourselves responsible for being different and more successful than our parents and peers.
Thirty years pass — children, houses, husbands, and jobs, at which we perhaps succeed brilliantly but don’t in fact change the world in any significant way. The contract we signed with society — the covenant by which we raise educated, healthy children and support our shared American economy, in return for status and paved highways — is fulfilled. And now, at age 50 or 55, the second journey begins.
Amy Gross left Oprah Magazine, where she was editor in chief, to become a teacher and meditator, she reports in The Daily Beast.
In Hindu philosophy they say that you leave off being a “householder” to become a “forest dweller,” seeking God away from the rapid beat of the city. You become who you are.
The key shift is in turning toward pain, when all your life you’ve turned away from it, Gross writes of meditation. You give it your full attention—you yield to it—and, paradoxically, its hold on you diminishes.
She began studying and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Designed in 1979 by molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, Gross says, “MBSR is an eight-week course that delivers the benefits of mindfulness meditation to people who may have no interest in Buddhism. ” She asked her students how they had changed, and received stories of reduced pain and increased patience and joy in daily lives.
Listening to them go around, I thought: I never teared up like this at a magazine award, Gross writes.
Jesus said something about that, too: Give and it shall be given to you (Luke 6:38).
It’s a funny thing that happens when we turn from the world to the spirit, that it enters into us and we give back to the world. We are no longer fulfilling a contract — the script has run out, with a big #30 marking the last child’s departure for college or marking an anticipated career promotion. We are forced to entertain nothingness. And if, as we enter the void, we are brave enough to listen to our own panic, a sense of who we are, and what God wishes for us, begins to form.
Amy Gross appears to have had the mighty courage to face the void and to let the work of the spirit settle in her.