In the second half of life, we move from student to teacher. If we can allow ourselves to lean into our wisdom and find ways to express it, we become happier. We find meaning and purpose by sharing our wisdom and being of service to those coming behind us.
Neuroscience shows that the structure of the brain
changes as we age. As we get older our fluid intelligence (the ability to think abstractly, reason quickly and problem solve) declines, but crystallised intelligence (the ability to use skills and knowledge that we have acquired to instruct mentor and teach) increases with age. Professor Arthur Brookes, from Harvard University, in his new book “From Strength of Strength – Finding success, happiness and deep purpose in the second half of life”, says that intelligence research proves that fluid intelligence peaks in early adulthood and rapidly declines in one’s thirties and forties. However, crystallised intelligence increases with age through our forties, fifties and sixties and doesn’t diminish until quite late in life. This all means that as we age, we gain a different type of intelligence …wisdom.
Wisdom comes from living and aging. Our job as we age is to collect wisdom and tap into what we know and share it in our own unique way. However, far too many of us focus on what we lose as we age rather than considering what we gain. Aging offers us the potential to journey inwards. The journey from the head to the heart can be the work of a lifetime. When we resist this journey, maintaining our focus on attaching to our youth and clinging to how we once were, an internal struggle ensues and the world loses the benefit of a wise woman sharing her lived experience.
Our modern culture emphasises physical appearance and encourages our inner critic to believe we are never enough. When our exterior becomes our obsession, we overlook our inner landscape. We each have a profound inner potential but we inhibit ourselves because of self-criticism, shame, guilt, lack of self-worth, embarrassment, fear and worry about what others will think.
An amazing thing happens during midlife when we are no longer objectified for our youthful looks, we can start to remember that we are more than our physical bodies and we can go deeper and discover our inner power, a pool of infinite wisdom. It is on this journey inwards that we become wise women.
When we start to trust ourselves, connecting with our intuition, there is a shift in consciousness and we become wiser. Our energy is no longer consumed on doubt, self-loathing and feeling that we are not enough. There comes a time when we all have to look back reflexively and ask what have we learned from how we have lived, loved, lost, healed, hurt and served. There is wisdom and knowledge in each of our lived experiences. Sharing our wisdom and what we have learned gives our lives meaning. It gives purpose to our pain, our grief and to our joy. When we find the courage and vulnerability to share our story it gives our life beauty.
As women, we block ourselves in making a peaceful transition from wisdom seeker to wisdom keeper. We fear that our truth is not enough and will not be of any value to anyone. Before we can step into our new role we must find self-love and acceptance. If we can’t accept and value ourselves as we age, how can we expect these qualities from others.
This is a path that requires deep self-nurturing and healing so that we can be the most whole version of ourselves. When we recognise and accept our wounds then we can prepare to share them. Therein the sharing lies our greatest strength and the most beautiful gift we can give to help inspire and heal others. There is an innate beauty in our vulnerability. By cracking ourselves open, we give others permission to crack themselves open too.
As a wisdom keeper, it is our intention that through sharing our stories, our insight can be of a higher service to someone else. If one person takes inspiration or support from our story then our job is done. Sharing our lived experiences has a ripple effect on the world.
To transition to wisdom keeper, requires space and stillness to ask ourselves what do we know? Through self-reflection, self-study, meditation and contemplation we become aware of the inner power we have accumulated over the life span. Once we have a sense of belief in our power then we can find the bravery to explore sharing it in a way that is authentic to us.
We cannot be afraid to use our voice. We must allow our knowledge to be expressed. This can take many forms of creative expression. When we lean into our wisdom we can embrace change and the loss of youth because we have found something more… wisdom, strength and courage.
The leaves which fall from the trees nourish the earth and we too nourish those ones coming behind us with our wisdom. It is up to us to allow our leaves to fall leaving a trail of nourishing wisdom for the benefit of others.
There is great freedom and liberation when we trust the truth that is within us. It might take us to the middle stage of our life to have the courage to express ourselves fully because we are no longer tied by the youthful bounds of caring what other people think. There is a flowering of true independence and it is liberating to now share our voice without worry of what others may say.
The decades from midlife and beyond offer us an abundance of freedom to use our crystallised intelligence in ways we may never have thought possible. By being bold, purposeful and brave we can use our wisdom to share in a way that is authentic and truthful for us that expresses our authentic self. We can be of service to humanity when we use our wisdom for the good of the collective by offering guidance, support and protection to our younger counterparts.
It’s a cultural shift to see a woman in midlife as a worthy member of society with something powerful to contribute. It is a radical idea to value the woman who dares to age. If we play small and don’t share our strengths out of fear of being vulnerable or doubting that we have any wisdom or knowledge then our story does not get told and we deny the truth that is within us that could be of service to others and the planet.