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Making change is often challenging, especially when people we love and respect express intense emotions about our choice to change. Making change in our fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond can attract even more criticism from loved ones and friends because of their strong attachment to who they think we should be and what they think we should be doing. Because we live in an ageist culture, limiting expectations often form unconsciously around us as we age, and while these limiting beliefs may be intended to support our well being and safety, they often act as gatekeepers, ensuring we make minimal changes, even positive ones.
Since most of us tend to define ourselves through our relationships, changes, especially those we make to support our health and personal fulfillment can feel like an attack on friends’ and family members’ choices. Happily, the desire to make change in later life often comes with its own “this-is-absolutely-right-for-me” imperative. This means disapproval from adult children, intimate partners, close friends, and even our wellness team members cannot impugn the inner guidance prompting us to change. If we avoid making changes simply to please or comfort others who may be living from fear rather than love, we threaten our own authenticity. When this happens, the body will complain loudly about this betrayal, through pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, or all three.
Supporting mature clients who want to make changes that may not be approved of by family and friends is one of the most rewarding aspects of my coaching practice. The road newly taken is not always smooth, but it is full to the brim with learning opportunities and positive growth. Those of us called to make big changes in our later years can do so with relative ease when we follow a few simple guidelines.
Calling Upon Guidance
The first step to making positive change, especially when we are older and expected to meet the meant-to-be-loving expectations of others, is to surrender our desire for change to the loving kindness that leads us home to Self. I often tap while saying, “I don’t know how to get from here to there, but I feel called to make this change. I open to the loving kindness that has brought me this far in life to show me the next steps.”
Personally, the request for guidance has become especially rewarding as I transition from college teacher to EFT Trainer. When I initially shared my decision to commit more deeply to my energy work, friends and family expressed their concerns about “making a go of it” in such a cutting edge field “at your age.” Although it was hard to listen to warnings and hear ageist beliefs from people whose opinions I value, my commitment to EFT, meditation, Eden Energy Medicine, journal work, and time in Nature gave me the confidence to hear their criticisms. Eventually, I could see their concerns as possible projections of my own fears and set to work befriending and learning from these fears.
Tuning in to My Body
The first step I took after hearing a forceful expression of concern regarding my choice to leave teaching and expand my relationship with energy work was to sit quietly, in candlelight and with my journal. This intentional sacred space became the container I needed to tune into my heart and my gut. The way I did this was to first place my hands on my heart and ask, “Are we okay with this decision to embrace EFT Training rigours and the uncertainty it brings?”
The conscious relationship I have with my heart began long, long ago, as a toddler in my grandmother’s garden. The peace I experienced when playing there became my main safety cue. If I had that same peace when I tapped on my decision to shift careers as I tuned into my heart, I could be confident in my choice. After a few minutes of this inner attunement work, I felt flooded with a sense of rightness regarding leaving valued college work for the more overtly spiritual and far-reaching work of EFT coaching and training.
As I shifted my hands to my gut, my long-time vigilant protector in ambiguous situations, it too provided the same go-ahead peace. An expert early warning system, this intelligent voice in the community of my being said with wonderful clarity, “Jane, others’ anxiety may reflect your fear of change, but it also reflects theirs. Trust others to do their work as you move forward attending to yours.” I happily followed this guidance with deeply peaceful results.
My body, always my first source of divine guidance and wisdom, then prompted me to move to any thoughts I might have about making radical change. Almost immediately I thought of Blaise Pascal’s phrase, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” In this moment of intense self care, I was glad to be reminded of the heart’s ascendant position in my decision making process. This faith in my heart’s guidance helped me to remember how bleak my life could be when my choices were driven by my intellect.
In my young adulthood, after abysmal failure in high school, I entered a phase of proving my intelligence to myself. I had chosen to study English Literature at university, and more broadly, Story, a human form of connection that became for me the Holy Grail of meaning for life on Planet Earth. While stories went into my heart and my viscera, my mind, shocked when I awakened from years of dissociation, did its best to become at least as important as the deep feelings of connection I felt when I studied, among others, the works of Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, the Bronte sisters and many modern writers whose voices sprang from experience in the US, England, and all the Commonwealth countries colonized to speak and write in English for at least a century.
Absorbing historical facts about literature and then spouting these facts on far too many occasions became quite a parlour trick for a girl who’d spent much of her childhood in the foliage of trees outside elementary and secondary classroom windows. Grounding myself in the literary theories that university often exalts at the expense of the stories themselves, I’m sure I alienated not a few people. I’m afraid most of them were blood relatives.
In time, I learned this sophomoric response is common among the newly degreed, and I did my best to consciously shake off the hold of my tyrannical intellect and return to my much more rewarding feeling-centred life. I was humbled and surprisingly relieved to do so. In time, I convinced the relatives who mattered that I was not the ass I appeared to be when I lived from my intellect.
Although it was painful to be intellectually driven, I’m grateful for this vivid experience of head-over-heart life, as alienating as it was. The memory of this arid early experience continues to remind me of the difference between heart-centred and head-centred approaches to life. My own head trip opened me to the wisdom of heart-centred teachers.
For example, many years after graduating, when I volunteered for a Native Community Traditional Powwow in Ontario, I frequently heard Elders say, “The longest journey we make in life is the one from head to heart.” I had learned this lesson first hand. Being in the company of people who could articulate the dangers of fear-based intellectualism helped me to root more firmly in my expanding ability to live from my heart.
When I reflect on the criticism I faced after I made my decision to become more firmly rooted in a growing energy community that now encircles the globe, the most vivid criticism came from my own limiting beliefs about my age. On the brink of my seventy-second birthday, I was choosing to leave the familiar and comforting world of college classroom transformations to make my way as a trainer of skills the value of which continues to be debated by some traditional psychologists, psychiatrists, medical personnel, and professional skeptics. Thankfully, my adventurous spirit could see the limitations in my own thoughts, and I went to work using the energy skills I was committed to expanding.
Age, of course, has nothing to do with fearing change. When we leave our parents for the first time, when we first take up a sport or musical instrument, when we experience our first heartache, when we first take on the responsibilities of an unfamiliar job, we are often terrified to make the leap from the known to the unknown. But the flutters of anxiety we feel when stepping out of the familiar into the new are invaluable: these are our prompts to “Pay Attention.”
As all EFT practitioners learn, focused attention on specific events is vital to the success of all change-making efforts. “This is tough,” the body tells us, through anxiety, shortness of breath, or unfamiliar pain. To which EFT responds, “Let’s find ways to lessen the stress of making this desired, positive change.”
The Freeing Power of Attention
When we attend to each physical, emotional, and intellectual fear reaction to imminent change, thank each for its vigilance in attempting to keep us safe, and allow the engaged system (physical, emotional, or intellectual) to diminish its intensity through tapping on its story, something miraculous happens. An unshakable sense of trust in ourselves and the guidance we receive blossoms. This process of growing trust takes time, but it is always rewarding. We feel a fear, unravel its specific genesis, honour its story with tapping, and wait for the energizing release that is one of the many rewards of this deeply spiritual work.
Fear of change is utterly appropriate. After all, the process of change means we are, for a time at least, quite literally, out of our depth. The payoff for our efforts to change comes swiftly, for when we exercise our change muscles to stay afloat in these deep waters, they become more creatively responsive and flexible. In short, they make us more resourceful.
No matter our age, our change muscles are always responsive to the loving kindness of gentle, persistent tapping attention to the issues we face. The more we use these muscles, the more we experience how happy they are to support us in the vitally important work of positive growth and greater authenticity. With this inner support, outer challenges diminish, and we feel free to do what we know is best for us. This is true agency.
Until next time
Jane Buchan, MA Accredited, Certified Trainer NQT
Jane is a life coach, writer, and educational consultant specializing in neutralizing the long-term effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as well as the cultural limitations that interfere with our ability to imagine, create, and live the lives we desire regardless of our age and life experience. To engage her individual or group coaching services, please call (802) 533-9277 or email email@example.com.