Title: Men on Midlife: Straight talk about women, power, money, God, and the myth of the midlife crisis

     Title: Men on Midlife: Straight  talk about women, power, money,  God,
and the myth of the midlife crisis

     By Jerry Howard and Jeff Wagenheim

     From Gail Sheehy's best-selling The Silent Passage to Germaine Greer's
The Change,  from daytime  television talk  shows to  nighttime soaps,  the
dramatic life changes  that women  undergo during menopause  have been  the
subject of much discussion in recent years.  But little is said or  written
about men's experience  of crossing the  threshold into midlife.   Is it  a
crisis?  A rebirth?  A roller-coaster ride?  A day in the life?  The  media
generally steer clear of the subject--except to occasionally dust off  that
caricature of a regressing  fifty-year-old breezing down  the freeway in  a
sports car with his undergrad girlfriend.   Even Sheehy took a swipe  below
the belt in  a recent Vanity  Fair article, fixating  on that most  dreaded
symptom  of  male   decline--flagging  libido--under   the  headline   "The
Unspeakable Passage: Is There a Male Menopause?"

     C'mon, Gail, let's be real.  According to the men we talk to,  midlife
delivers its most devastating blow not to the groin but to the soul.   "Men
enter midlife in a landscape barren of useful landmarks, without traditions
or stories to  guide us over  this unfamiliar terrain,"  says Mark  Gerzon,
author of Coming into Our Own: Understanding the Adult Metamorphosis.   "We
find our well-crafted life scripts suddenly running out.  Money and  titles
and testosterone  just don't  do it  for  us anymore."  For too  many  men,
midlife is dominated by thoughts of  what they've lost.  But others  choose
to honor the questions that their souls are forcing them to face--and as  a
result begin a quest  that redefines their lives.   "Their stories are  the
milk and honey of the  second half of life," says  Gerzon.  "They guide  us
and sustain us."

     We contacted  nine  men well  known  for  their work  in  fields  from
entertainment to business to  medicine to sports, and  asked them to  share
with us their personal perspectives on the midlife passage.


     Grammy Award-winning singer Kenny Loggins, forty-five, was a headliner
at April's  Earth Say  Concert in  Los Angeles  and hosted  the  television
special This Island Earth.  His latest album is Leap of Faith.

     Psychologists don't  seem  to give  midlife  the respect  I  think  it
deserves.  Instead of a crisis, I refer to it as "midlife clarity," because
it can be a  time of spiritual  awakening if the  individual is willing  to
look at and deal with everything that  comes up in his life as honestly  as
possible.  For me, this happened a couple of years ago; it wasn't so much a
conscious decision as just something that came over me as a precursor to  a
reevaluation of  my  business and  eventually  my marriage.    This  wasn't
temporary insanity, with everything  going out the window.   In my  midlife
clarity it became  easier for  me to  see (and  feel) what  was and  wasn't
working, and I simply kept the things that were.

     As a teacher I  was working with  at the time  told me, "Nobody  moves
who's not in  enough pain." But  in our  generation, pain has  not been  an
acceptable state of  mind.  If  you watch TV,  you'll see commercial  after
commercial for pain killers and sleeping pills.  That's a symptom of  where
our society is at--"just don't make me feel my life." Today's music is also
a great example  of this.   I  think our  generation is  starving to  death
musically, because all that  most pop music can  talk about is fucking  and
dancing.  If we focus on that, we don't have to feel anything else.  But  I
find that the songs of mine that most touch the hearts of listeners are the
ones that touch who I am and where my life is.  They can be scary to write,
because they're so honest, but that's my duty to my art.

     Once I had made a commitment to myself to try to see my life for  what
it was, the rest was inevitable: I became committed to changing the  things
that weren't working, no matter what.  It's what Robert Bly and the  others
are referring to when  they say you  have to be willing  to move into  your
shadow.  For me, it  meant more than just  sitting in a therapist's  office
for one hour a week.  That visit  to a therapist is an opportunity to  have
someone help you learn to get in  touch with how you really feel, but  then
you've got to allow that teaching to permeate your daily life.  In my case,
writing music is a  big part of my  life, so I'm lucky  I have the kind  of
relationship with my muse  where she's always showing  me where I  am--even
with things I don't want to look at.

     One song on Leap of Faith that  has gotten a lot of attention is  "The
Real Thing," in which a father explains his divorce to his child.  I didn't
sit down and say, "Now I'm going to  write a song about divorce and how  it
affects the children." That song  wrote me.  And  for someone who's in  the
same position  and is  ready to  hear it,  the song  is a  gift that  says,
"You're not alone; what  you're feeling is valid,  and there is a  positive
way to hold those  feelings; and you  have an obligation  to save your  own
life, because in saving your life you  save the lives of your children  and
even the life  of your partner.   It serves  no one to  stay in a  loveless

     Until recently, like so  many people in our  society, I believed  that
divorce was a failure, a death.  We've conditioned ourselves to think  that
a successful marriage  is a long  one and that  a short one  is a  failure.
Saving a bad marriage  is sort of  like saving the  ship while letting  the
passengers drown.   Well,  that whole  belief  system is  off base.    I've
finally come to understand that there is no success or failure; it's  about
feeling your relationship--and primarily your relationship to yourself.

     My relationship to the  planet works the  same way.   The more I  have
allowed myself to feel  my life, the stronger  my connection to the  Earth.
As you  begin  to  feel  your  own  pain,  then  what's  happening  to  the
environment becomes less  bearable.   When I  can't breathe  the air,  that
hurts.  When  I can't swim  in the water,  that's painful.   And since  the
purpose of pain  is to move  us into action,  the message on  Earth Day  is
simple: Feel your life.  As you feel your life, you'll have to do something
about the pain of the Earth--it'll be your pain.  We've all got to look  at
the scary places and commit ourselves to our own truths.  That's the  power
of midlife.  That's what makes it  life's greatest window of clarity.   You
can either act on it or go back to sleep.


     For a  decade poet  Robert  Bly, now  sixty-six, has  led  mythopoetic
workshops for men.  In addition to numerous volumes of poetry, he is author
of Iron John: A Book About Men.

     A few years ago I taught a  poetry workshop at a school in the  South,
talking mostly to young people.  As it went on, I noticed toward the back a
man whose hair was turning gray, perhaps fifty years old, looking confused.
Toward the  end of  the afternoon,  when the  poets had  left, he  remained
standing at the back, so I went  over to him and said, "What's  happening?"
He said, "Never  in my life  have I  been to a  meeting like this.   I'm  a
historian.  A few months ago the university  gave me a year off to write  a
book on some historical research I've done.   A month or so ago I moved  to
the sea, in a  small house, to get  my notes together.   But all I've  been
doing is writing poems  and watching the  sea birds.   I don't know  what's
happening to me."

     I told  him I  thought  what was  happening to  him  was fine,  and  I
described Jung's ideas  about the two  halves of life--namely,  that a  man
usually spends the first half of his life triumphing over nature, competing
with other men, dominating women, controlling life.  Compassion and  wonder
are not in  his field.   But somewhere around  age fifty the  poles of  the
battery begin to  switch.   His ascent  is over.   He begins  to enter  the
second arc and feels  sympathy with living  things instead of  competition.
He becomes open to the  beauty of creatures, and to  the beauty of art  and
grief.   I said  to the  man, "This  doesn't mean  you're becoming  old  or
eccentric--it means you are becoming a  human being." He understood what  I
meant, and he was so  touched that tears came to  his eyes.  I gather  that
some similar switching of poles happens to women.  They may find themselves
more competitive  after midlife.   Here's  a scene.   Suppose  you visit  a
couple who are about twenty-eight or so.   You sit down and the wife  asks,
"Would you like some coffee?" She's calm and thoughtful and asks you  about
the children.  The husband, meanwhile, rushes about the room; he has a  lot
of projects going--he's constantly checking his answering machine.  Suppose
you visit the same couple when they're  sixty-two.  This time the man,  who
is now sitting in a rocking chair,  says, "Would you like some coffee?"  He
is calm and thoughtful and  asks about the kids.   The woman crackles  with
energy; she is clearly  involved with a number  of projects: She's  working
with  Guatemalan  refugees  and  with  a  new  Head  Start  school  and  an
environmental committee.   This scenario  is not  true of  all couples,  of
course, but some men and  some women are developing  in the second half  of
their life what they didn't develop in the first half.  So the second  half
is a great blessing.

     In my own  life, I felt  some change  of direction when  I was  around
fifty to fifty-five.  For example, I think I could have taught men while  I
was in my thirties, but I don't think  it would have worked.  I don't  feel
that young men trusted me  then.  They sensed  the competitive mode.   I've
never been a great Romeo,  but I noticed that when  I taught men and  women
during my thirties and forties I would  talk primarily to the women.   They
smiled.  I was just  trying to get a response--you  know, we did our  first
talking with our mothers.   But when  a man sees  another man talking  like
that to the  women, what does  he feel?   Does it  look as if  that man  is
flirting with his wife or  his girlfriend?  In my  fifties, I felt for  the
first time that men trusted me.

     I remember when  I first  met Joe  Campbell.   He was  about sixty,  I
guess.  I began to work with him at conferences, and he would be very sweet
to me.  His friends  would say to me, "I'm  amazed, because Joe has  always
been very competitive with other men." I said, "What happened?" One of  his
friends said, "I think it happened when he went to that ceremony in  Hawaii
where they walk on red-hot coals at 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and walked on
them himself." I thought a lot about that.  When you walk on coals that are
5,000 degrees, your  will has nothing  to do  with your safety.   In  fact,
people who remain in ego may get burned up to their ankles.  So to me  this
story of Joe Campbell  is an example  of the blessing  that comes when  the
rational will releases some of its hold.  I'm not saying that midlife is  a
magical time that solves everything for men  or women.  What I'm saying  is
that for a man, if  he becomes aware that the  heroic ego is releasing  its
hold, and  if he  receives that  information joyfully,  then all  sorts  of
competitive behavior and waste of  energy in his life  may come to an  end.
One great joy  for me,  after working  so hard on  Iron John  and being  so
involved with the men's teaching for many years, has been to take the  last
year and a half  off; my wife  and I have been  more quietly by  ourselves.
When I walk around my home in Moose Lake, many old poems, not yet finished,
sit in notebooks up on top  of bookcases in my study.   Some go back to  my
thirties and even my twenties.  They call to me, saying, "Finish me, finish
me?  I want to be in a book." It turns out that sometimes I can finish them
now.  I know now more about what the second half of a poem should be.


     A former Episcopal  parish minister, Bolles,  sixty-six, is author  of
What Color Is  Your Parachute?, the  best-selling career-change book  first
published in 1970.

     One day in 1968, at age forty-three, I was fired.  I had been  serving
as canon pastor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and the budget for  my
salary had run out.  When I told my family, we all felt like it was the end
of the world.  But then I went to an appointment with my dentist, told  him
what has happened, and  he shook his  little mouth mirror  at me and  said,
"You won't believe a word  I'm saying, but someday  you'll say this is  the
best thing that ever happened to you." As it turned out, he was right.

     I took  a church  job  overseeing college  chaplains in  nine  western
states, and a lot of them were losing their jobs for the same reason I had.
So I did  some research and  put together a  manual on how  you can  change
careers.  Later I rewrote it for  the general public, and it became a  very
popular book.    So, ultimately,  I  have  developed a  different  kind  of
ministry serving millions of people all over the world.

     The energy in  my life  comes from  three sources.   First,  I get  an
immense amount from  helping others.   I don't  know any  greater joy  than
reading the letters I  get from people who  tell me how they're  creatively
reshaping their lives with the help of my book.

     Second, I can't overstate the energy I  draw from my marriage.  I  was
divorced,  but  now  I'm  in  a  marriage  in  which  I  feel  tremendously
loved--such energy comes from  having a partner who  sees life the way  you
see it, who takes a joy in your companionship, and you in hers.  When I was
counseling, I  noted a  pattern among  men in  midlife who  were having  an
affair: They had put all their energy into their careers and had encouraged
their partners  to  be  independent  because  they  didn't  have  time  for
them--what my wife calls a low-maintenance marriage.  Suddenly they got  to
an age at which  their career success was  insufficient for them, and  they
wanted to have  a wife  who really  valued them.   But  they'd spent  years
training their wife not  to do that.   Instead of  sitting down with  their
wife and rethinking  their marriage,  they'd go have  an affair--and  often
criticize their wife!

     Finally, I get a tremendous energy coming through me from what I  call
the grace of God.  I love it when I'm speaking and get that sense of  "Just
get out of the way, and let God get through!" Again and again, I see people
in midlife who are worried that their  well is drying up.  If you  perceive
energy and  inspiration as  coming from  yourself, then  as you  get  older
there's always the issue of, "Is my psychic and mental energy running  down
the same way my physical  energy is?" One of the  real secrets of living  a
victorious life is knowing that this  energy is not just your energy;  then
you don't worry as you get older.  My goal is to stay as translucent to God
as possible, to learn how to get myself out of the way.


     Onetime Merry Prankster and Woodstock MC (and now a Ben & Jerry's  ice
cream flavor), clown Wavy  Gravy, fifty-eight, is  founder and director  of
Camp Winnarainbow (a  performing arts camp  in California) and  FUN-draiser
for the Seva Foundation.

     I like to refer to myself as a temple of Accumulated Error.  Ken Kesey
used to say that if you stick  with something long enough, it'll occur  for
you.  What I've stuck  with all through my life  is that same feeling  [LSD
discoverer] Albert Hofmann probably had when he fell off his Schwinn [after
first ingesting the  drug].   It's been  a journey  of one  thing leads  to
another.  I'm still on that journey, and would have it no other way.

     I remember one time in the '70's after I had just undergone one of  my
four major back operations,  and I was  lying in terrible  agony in a  body
cast when Ram Dass came  to visit.  He stood  there looking down at me  and
said, "I  wish  I  could be  where  you  are; with  all  this  pain  you're
experiencing, you're gaining  so much  wisdom." At the  time, hearing  this
made me wish that he'd bend toward me  just a little so I could give him  a
good pop on the chin.  But today,  in extreme hindsight, I see that he  was
absolutely right on.   I think  suffering sucks, but  as it's sucking  it's
making a wiser  being of you.   For  one thing, my  spiritual practice  has
become more succinct.   I now allow  myself to say,  "OK, I've done  enough
now, let's take a break," which is a  great learning for me.  I never  used
to know when to stop.  And to create any kind of art--especially  life--you
have to know when to stop and when to go.

     This directly relates to my activism  around all the shit going on  in
the world.  The phone rings, someone  tells me what the situation is,  what
they're doing about it, and what they want  from me, and I look down at  my
arm to see if the hairs have leaped to attention.  That's one of my  little
clues that I'm traveling on  the right path at the  right time.  I mean,  I
don't know from one  breath to the next  where it will carry  me, but I  do
know that  it's the  only trail  in town  that makes  any  sense--although,
really, it makes no sense at all!  Joe Campbell gave us a great road  sign:
Follow you bliss.  This idea of timing and balance is what I try to pass on
to the kids I work with at my camp.

     When I'm with the kids, I also  think about something I read in  Rene'
Dumal's Mount Analogue about how whenever you mess up you've got to go back
and erase that trail because  somebody else is going to  follow it.  So  at
camp I  try  not to  mask  my faults--quite  the  opposite, in  fact.    At
orientation, I'll explain to the kids that as a teen-aged beatnik I used to
brush my teeth with a  Snickers bar, and as  they're laughing at that  I'll
take the bridge  out of my  mouth and show  them the five  stumps that  are
left.  They all cry out "Ewwww!" and I simply say, "Brush 'em if you've got
'em." And weeks later I get letters from parents, saying, "What did you  do
to my child?  I've never been able  to get him to brush." As we get  older,
it's important that we not try to  conceal our scars, because this is  what
we learned in Hard Knocks University.   Let's share these lessons with  the
youth.  There are two things we can give to kids: roots and wings.

     Working with kids keeps me going.  So does being a part of an extended
family called the Hog  Farm.  We've been  together for twenty-eight  years,
and I've been married to the same woman for all that time--a record for the
Aquarian Age,  I think!   I  mean, my  coffers do  not exactly  swell  with
wealth, but I think  I have as many  friends as anyone on  the planet.   My
most recent back surgery really slowed  me down, but so many people  beamed
healing energy toward me that I really  think they overdid it.  Now I  have
all this  extra "juice"  dripping off  me that  enables me  to survive  and
continue to look forward to the land  of one breath after another.   Lately
I've been  using this  wonderful teaching  from Stephen  Mitchell's Tao  in
which a  Zen  woman says,  "Thanks  for  everything; I  have  no  complaint
whatsoever." I  try  to include  this  in my  practices  every day.    It's
especially fun to try  in difficult situations, like  when you have a  flat
tire or you've locked  your keys in your  car or worse.   Just shou!  t  it
out.  You'll get a good laugh out of  it.  It lightens your load.  It's  so
heavy it's light.


     The National Basketball Association's  all-time leader in scoring  and
numerous other categories, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, forty-six, now heads a film
production company  and is  a  commentator for  ESPN and  spokesperson  for
Athletes and Entertainers for Children.

     Someone once asked Jackie Robinson what it felt like when his baseball
career was ending, and he said something that has stuck with me:  "Athletes
die twice." When the sports career is over, and the body doesn't do what it
used to, and  the fans  stop cheering, it's  like a  death.  So  as I  went
through my basketball career--from  high school to  college to the  pros--I
always kept in the back  of my mind that I  could get injured and, if  that
happened, where would I be?   If you can't  make a transition into  another
way of life, you're doomed.  A lot of athletes don't prepare for the  lives
they'll be left with after their careers are over.  When they leave sports,
they find themselves  facing things that  they should have  learned how  to
deal with when  they were  fifteen or  sixteen years  old--things that  you
don't have to do for yourself if you're a star athlete, because people  are
exploiting you at the  same time they're  pampering you.  If  you go on  to
make millions and millions of dollars playing pro sports, they'll be  there
hanging on to you.  But when your career comes to an end, the favors end as
well.  And if you've gotten too used to special treatment, you're lost.

     I'm lucky in that I built a solid foundation early in life.  I had  no
choice.  I went to a Catholic high school, and the teachers made me do  the
school work--and if they disciplined me, my dad would back them up.  I knew
that if I got too  big for myself, my  dad would kick my  butt.  As I  grew
older, having that work ethic  really helped me--in the college  classroom,
in managing money, even in my basketball game.

     I attribute a lot  of the success  and longevity of  my career to  the
discipline and hard work of staying in shape.  One thing that I always paid
special  attention  to  was  flexibility.    I've  been  doing  yoga  since
1978--seriously since "84--and during my  playing career it helped keep  my
body flexible so I didn't  pull muscles and injure  joints the way so  many
athletes do.   I'm always amazed  that more guys  in sports don't  approach
things this way.  I always looked at conditioning as something I needed  to
maintain in order to do my job well.  When I got into my thirties,  friends
started asking me if I had make  a deal with the devil--I still looked  and
moved like I was  in my twenties.   And now, with  my playing career  over,
it's been important to  maintain a physical regimen;  I do mostly yoga  and
some cardiovascular exercise.   I  look at it  as preventive  medicine--and
something that enabled me to quit basketball when I wanted to quit.

     I don't think of life after basketball as a whole new life; everything
I do  now and  everything  I'll be  doing  in years  to  come is  at  least
partially a result of the things I  did in the past--it's just a matter  of
building on that foundation.  I don't think any kind of preparation can get
you totally ready for a sudden career transition, but if you have something
of depth to fall back on, you'll  start to see your athletic career in  the
context of you life.  You see that there's something beyond basketball.   I
don't really think too  much about what  I'll be doing for  the rest of  my
life.  Thinking about something is  a lot more frightening than just  doing
it.  I've always been a doer, so I just go ahead and do it.


     Former senior editor of Look magazine, George Leonard, now sixty-nine,
was a leading  chronicler of  the human  potential movement  of the  '60's.
Author of  The Ultimate  Athlete and  Mastery, among  other books,  he  now
teaches aikido and Leonard Energy training.

     When  I  was  growing  up,  I  thought  someone  who  was  forty   was
unbelievably old.  My father was a very strong man, and one day when I  was
thirteen and he was  thirty-eight, we had a  race, about a forty-yard  run.
We went full speed and finished about even.  But afterward I noticed he was
still panting and puffing and turning green, so I concluded then that  once
a person is thirty-five, they're through.

     When I was a kid I loved to run  and catch a ball, but I was a  skinny
kid, and in those days skinny was considered worse than fat.  I thought the
whole world  of athletics  was closed  to me.   It  wasn't until  my  early
forties, when an old Air Force buddy introduced me to a very strenuous form
of Frisbee, that all that great desire for physical movement I'd had  since
I was a kid came bursting  out--running full speed, diving heedlessly  into
the air, crashing into the ground.  When I was forty-seven I became totally
hooked on  aikido,  and when  I  turned fifty  I  became a  master's  class

     There's value  in starting  vigorous activity  later in  life: If  you
start in  your  teens,  you see  a  decline  later; but  I've  seen  mostly
progress.  My eyesight's not as good  as it was, I have wrinkles and  white
hair, I can't run quite as fast as  I used to, but today I play jazz  piano
demonstrably better than I  played ten years  ago, and I  can say the  same
thing about my aikido, my  teaching, my writing, my muscular  strength--not
to say I'm  all that strong,  but I'm stronger  than I've ever  been in  my
life.  Why?  because I practice.  Practice is of the essence.  People  have
to be willing to go slowly, to learn to love the plateau--those times  when
you don't feel you're progressing.  The juiciest, most delicious moment  in
my entire aikido career was when I realized that the plateau is where  life

     I remember a  young friend who  invited me to  his thirtieth  birthday
party, which  he decorated  with black  crepe and  coffins and  symbols  of
death.   I said  to  him, "You've  got  it all  backwards.   It's  time  to
celebrate: Your twenties are over!"  I'm sixty-nine, and I'm still  waiting
for my midlife crisis.

     I'm not denying  that people  have midlife  crises, but  I think  that
tends to  happen to  people who  struggle for  that $100,000  salary,  that
corner office.   When they  get it,  they find it's  empty.   Instead of  a
vision, they have a material goal, they  want the quick fix.  That's  going
to lead inevitably to  disillusionment, depression, crisis.   And I  wonder
about this male menopause thing--I can  just see people around the  country
plotting their workshops on it.  It's like a field of bad dreams: Build  it
and they will come.  You miss one erection and say, "Uh-oh, it's all behind
me." I've seen studies  that show testosterone doesn't  go down that  much,
but I think there's psychological  testosterone.  George Burns said  people
think themselves into growing old.  It seems to me this problem of  midlife
and aging is vastly overstated.  Don't believe all that stuff that you read
about the  decline of  men.   It's  based on  expectations of  the  present
population--it's culture  and  demographics,  not  biology.    The  average
sedentary sixty-five-year-old has 38% body fat, and there isn't any  excuse
for that.

     I don't mean to sound like some  puer aeternus.  I'm very aware of  my
mortality.  Part of being a martial  artist is to live your life so  you're
ready to  die any  day.   By being  constantly aware  of death,  your  life
becomes much more vivid.   That awareness  is an incredible  gift.  If  you
take it, you won't worry about male menopause.


     Endocrinologist Deepak  Chopra, M.D.,  forty-six,  is founder  of  the
Maharishi Ayurveda  Health  Center  in Lancaster,  Massachusetts,  and  the
American Association of  Ayurvedic Medicine.   His latest  book is  Ageless
Body, Timeless Mind.

     I cannot speak  personally about  midlife because I'm  not there  yet.
Chronologically, I am  forty-six years old,  but psychologically I'm  about
forty and biologically probably twenty-five.   We have to break out of  the
mindset that chronological  age is real  age--that's just what  it says  on
your birth certificate.  More important is biological age, which relates to
how a physician  or scientist would  assess you if  he measured your  blood
pressure and checked your eyesight and hearing threshold, and psychological
age, which relates to how you feel.  We all know people who are twenty-five
and behave like they're  sixty, and people who  are sixty and perform  like
they're twenty-five.

     Even if  chronological age  were  real age,  I  still wouldn't  be  at
midlife.   According  to  the  scientific data  on  aging,  the  biological
potential of every person in the  United States--given the kind of  medical
services and nutrition available, and given all we know about prevention of
disease--is about 120 years at the least.  In that case, midlife  shouldn't
begin until at  least age sixty.   But  because of the  hypnosis of  social
conditioning, people in Western culture expect certain things to happen  at
certain times--you have a midlife crisis at forty, go through menopause  in
you forties, get osteoporosis when you're sixty, and at age sixty-five  get
Social Security, move to Florida, and eventually end up in a nursing  home.
We program our consciousness to a set  span of aging, and then our  biology
responds to that programming.

     I feel healthier today than I was  in my mid-twenties and just out  of
medical school.  Back then I didn't know how to grapple with the stress  of
my residency and internship--I was smoking cigarettes and drinking  alcohol
and generally  feeling stressed.    Over the  years  I have  developed  the
ability to  have active  mastery over  my life.   I  am replacing  external
goals--salary, material possessions,  climbing the  ladder of  professional
success, and  other things  based on  approval from  others--with  internal
goals such  as  happiness,  self-acceptance,  creativity,  peace,  harmony,
laughter, and spiritual  evolution.   The paradox,  of course,  is that  as
internal goals take precedence, the  external goals begin to  spontaneously
manifest themselves.

     Naturally, this is a much more exciting  way to live.  Since I'm  less
distracted by a  self-image, my  actions are  more focused  on the  present
moment.  I rely more on intuition and leaps of imagination rather than  the
kinds of  precise factual  information that  you need  when you're  outcome
oriented and  have performance  anxiety.   I experience  freedom from  time
pressure, a sense that time is abundant and open-ended.  I've discovered  a
detachment from change and turmoil; I  have no fear of death, because  I've
found a  sense of  spiritual immortality.   I  look forward  to the  coming
years, when I can  perfect the things  that I'm beginning  to learn: I  can
become even more mentally alert and more vigorous physically, and have even
more enjoyment of life.

     I see this whole matter  as a process of growth.   You may have  heard
the expression: People don't grow old; when they stop growing, they  become
old.  And I think as long as you can look forward to growth--on a physical,
emotional, and  spiritual level--then  these  are still  the years  of  our


     When Allen Grossman, now forty-nine, graduated from business school in
1965, he joined his brother in the family business, which the two grew to a
$100 million firm.  At age forty Grossman decided he wanted to work in  the
nonprofit sector, and  seven years later  he became CEO  of Outward  Bound.
The notion of midlife began for me at forty.  You're no longer a kid.   And
if you've been in  a position of authority  in your twenties and  thirties,
you're no longer  a wonder kid.   Seeing younger  people who have  achieved
more is a bit sobering,  and coming up against the  stone wall of your  own
mortality demands  a level  of  responsibility and  honesty that  I  hadn't
wanted or needed  to deal  with in the  past.   But it has  also been  very
positive and liberating.

     One day, after spending hours doing volunteer work, I arrived at  home
smiling.  My son looked  at me and, in the  sagacity of youth, said,  "Dad,
why don't you just do this as a profession?" A light went on in my head and
I thought, Isn't he a smart young man?  I was enjoying this work more  than
my business,  and as  I thought  about it,  I realized  that my  management
skills could be transferred into the not-for-profit world.  And I knew that
I really could make  a difference: that  if enough of  us got involved,  we
could change the direction of society.

     So I set  about organizing  an orderly  exit from  my family  company,
which took about five years.  I wanted to be sure that I was doing this for
the right  reasons--that I  wasn't fleeing  the for-profit  sector with  an
idealized notion about just feeling good and helping people.  I volunteered
to work with the  executive directors of a  couple of small  not-for-profit
organizations, which was a wonderful  opportunity to learn.  It  reinforced
my desire to change career paths and helped me decide that I wanted to  run
a small organization that developed human potential.

     A  friend  told  me  that  Outward  Bound  was  looking  for  a   CEO.
Fortunately for me, their  requirements didn't include significant  outdoor
skills: What  they  wanted  was  a  manager,  a  leader,  a  consensus  and
organization builder, a strategic thinker--all the things I had done all my

     Since coming  on  board, I've  discovered  that managing  a  nonprofit
organization is  much tougher  than running  a successful  business in  the
for-profit world.  I'm working much longer hours than I ever have and  have
less time for leisure or friends or myself.  Instead of flying first  class
and staying at  luxury hotels, now  I take  the subway and  stay in  budget
hotels or on sofas.  Much as I  used to enjoy the luxuries, I now see  them
as icing on  the cake.   The  real meal is  our work--whether  we love  it,
whether we feel it's fulfilling  our role in life.   Now that I truly  feel
this to my core, I don't  ever miss the luxuries.   I think age gives us  a
sense of what really provides richness and meaning in life.

     Over the years  I have run  into many likeminded  peers who wanted  to
make this transition, but they always put forth the reasons why they  can't
change.  I'm sure I  had the same perception until  my son said, "Dad,  why
don't you change?" The real breakthrough comes when you accept ownership of
your life.


     Son of folksinger Woody Guthrie, Arlo became a counterculture hero  in
1968 after the release  of his mock-epic  ballad "Alice's Restaurant."  Now
forty-six, he performs music,  records on his own  Rising Son Records,  and
publishes a newsletter about his work called "Rolling Blunder Review."

     My first real indication that there was a universe outside myself came
in 1962, after Alice's husband--the one in the song--gave me a copy of  the
Tao Te Ching.  At  the time, I was singing  all those euphoric songs  about
how we're gonna save the world, and Lao-tse made me wonder: Will the  world
be any different because of anything I do?  He struck a chord that made  me
sense that I was a  little discordant with the  cosmic universal tune.   It
wasn't a  major musical  atrocity, but  it forced  me to  pay attention  to
myself--like when you know you have a  cold coming on.  You could say  that
was the start of my midlife crisis.  I was about fifteen.

     For years  I kept  showing  up at  all  the right  demonstrations  and
singing all the right songs,  and one day I  realized that the world  still
sucked and my own life  was out of control.   I'd done all these things  to
save the world, and I couldn't even save myself!  I understood then that my
real work was me, not the world.

     One day  in  the '70s  I  was out  on  my porch--I  wasn't  doing  any
drugs--and Christ appeared.  He took the form of a light that penetrated my
every atom.  I knew who He was, and He knew who I was and everything  about
me and loved me as  I was.  I  felt such a love  as I didn't know  existed.
There was no shadow from that light.  In a few minutes it went away, and  I
was devastated.  Years later, at a time when my marriage was in trouble and
I hit bottom, I said to God, "I  want to go back into that moment and  stay
there, because it hurts too  much to be in  this world." About three  weeks
after that, I met my guru.

     My guru [Jaya Sati Bhagavati Ma] began  to strip away that part of  me
that was frightened, like peeling  away parts of an onion.   I felt like  a
kid again, and God was everywhere I played, asking me to focus only on what
was put in front of me.  If that was a beggar, then I had to concern myself
with the  beggar.   If it  was 70,000  people at  Farm Aid  or an  antinuke
benefit, then I had to concern myself with that.  Instead of paying only 25
percent of my attention to what was going  on so I could keep the other  75
percent for the rest of the world, I had to learn to be 100 percent in each

     One day my guru turned and said  to me, "You're a very simple man."  I
got it.  In my inner eye I could see a mountain as big as any on Earth, and
I saw that mountain crumble into tiny stones that fell around my shoulders.
It was  my  mountain--all that  information,  ideology, duty,  humor,  that
everyone expected me to carry around.  That's been a big mountain to carry;
it's been a  long haul  for me  to stop  worrying about  what other  people
think.  I realized I'm still me without all that useless stuff.

     I've also learned that  I don't have  to collect spiritual  knowledge.
If it fits, it'll find a place in my heart, like music fits into your  ear.
This was a painful thing for me to learn, because I had counted so much  on
gaining wisdom.  But you  know what?  When I  need some of that  knowledge,
it's there: I can pull it out of my heart.  I open my mouth, and it speaks.
People hear me when I speak from my heart.

     I have a two-year old grandson, and  one thing he's taught me is  that
I'm not going to  be here forever.   I think about how  fun it would be  to
teach him all the things I missed doing with my own kids.  And what fun  it
would be to see a kid grow up learning to speak from his heart.
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