Essays, Opinions

The Pagan Mid-Life Crisis

It occurred to me this weekend why there’s such a clamoring for “more advanced” books. Yes, it’s partly because there are so many books for beginners, or near-beginners, and not a lot beyond that. But I think a bigger problem is that after a few years, we get stuck in this sort of mid-life crisis mode. 

Merriam-Webster (via [1] says a mid-life crisis is “a period of emotional turmoil in middle age caused by the realization that one is no longer young and characterized especially by a strong desire for change.” And that captures a big part of it. We’re not newbies, we want to move forward, and we don’t know what to change or how to change, but something should change, because we’re more experienced now.

I realized that this is the root of the problem while taking a Reiki II class this weekend. While the instructors are competent and knowledgeable, I felt that I got very little new information out of the weekend. Energy work is energy work, guided meditations are guided meditations, and “energy exercises” are just modified (and somewhat non-sensical)  t’ai chi/qigong type exercises, and from my experience, the real thing has a lot more energy, especially when movements are done one after the other as a flow (and that flow teaches more about energy flow than any single exercise could) than the modified versions.

Maybe I would have felt different about this 8 or 10 years ago, before I had the understanding of energy work that I do now; before I’d had experiences that take things well beyond what we were learning in this class.

But the question remains: where do I go from here? I’m not a rank beginner, and haven’t been in a long while. I’m relatively comfortable in my practice, but looking for something deeper.  It’s like you start out on a path of stepping stones across a lake, and in the beginning, they’re close together, and as you learn more, each successive stone is a little farther away, until you get to a point where you’ll have to jump if you want to reach that next one without getting wet.

In modern American society, when you want to learn something, you find a book or a class or a seminar of some sort, and come out of it with some new insight. So, we go looking for those familiar forms.

However, we’re also talking about a mystery religion – a religion of experience. Books on these sorts of experiences are hard to write, since so much is just not explainable. There aren’t even all that many books that say, “this is what I did, I got something out of it, maybe you will too,” books out there, so it’s hard to know where to go first.

Most classes and seminars held at local shops (and even those at the few festivals I’ve been to) tend to either be introductory in nature (e.g., Wicca 101, Intro to Crystals, Basics of Runes) , or skill-based (e.g., make your own ritual clothing, how to make jewelry). So much so, that most of the time, there are few workshops that even sound interesting to me.

Maybe there are other festivals with more experiential workshops – if there are, they’re mostly too far for me to manage attending any time soon.

Reiki at least was a specific skillset that I didn’t have…and yet, much of what we did, I already knew, having figured it out on my own and then moved on a while back.

So, where does that leave us? I suspect it leaves us still trying to figure out how to reach that next stepping stone on the path without falling and hurting ourselves in the process. And maybe the real trick here is to jump off the stepping stones all together, and swim around a bit until we reach a dry spot.

[1] mid-life crisis. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from website: компютри crisis

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