To Restore or to Recycle? That is the real question

As a society, we spend billions of dollars every year in attempts to restore our youth. We do it externally through lotions, supplements, gym memberships and even surgery. We do it internally through meditation, psychotherapy, and even church membership ("returning to a state of grace”). Countless people have spent their lives in search of the fountain of youth. The dictionary definition of restoration is "to bring back to a former condition.” The definition of rejuvenation is "to make young again or restore youthful vigor.”

The problem, or "salvation”, is that it does not work. There is nothing you can do that will restore you to a former condition. There is nothing you can do to make yourself five years younger. The reason is simply that you are older and there has been living in between.
I use the word "salvation,” because the true message is one of hope. Although we can’t restore ourselves to an earlier condition, we can recycle ourselves.
I invite you to visualize a giant spiral. It is wide at the base and becomes tighter and tighter as it coils upwards. However, there is no endpoint; that is, the spiral continues upward indefinitely.

The spiral you have just visualized is a metaphor for life. The base of the spiral is the beginning of life, when we begin to acquire information and experience. We go around and around the spiral, climbing higher and higher throughout life. Each go-around produces more information and experience, and a greater, more rounded understanding of life. Each time we recycle ourselves through any aspect of life, we find we have grown since we last visited that place.

At 8 years old, we had a more advanced understanding of arithmetic than we had at 4. When a relationship comes apart at 40, we have a much deeper connection with the hurt, the meaning and our potential futures than we had when our first true love left us at 16. The loss of a loved one at 60 is not the same as the loss of a loved one at 30. It is just as painful, but seasoned with more life experience, and hopefully, with wisdom that has arisen from reflection on that experience.

As human beings, we do "bounce back,” but each time we recycle ourselves through any type of experience, we find we are on a different plane. As we recycle through the great variety of life experiences, we do so at higher and higher loops of the spiral.

As we move up the spiral through life, we gain understanding of and appreciation for the cycle of life. Each go-around has produced more information and experience, allowing deeper understanding and more profound reflection. Over the course of life, the journey may have become more internal than external, thereby allowing increased joy, compassion, acceptance, peace and sense of connection. We have, and always have had, the potential to be bigger, more expanded beings.

Reflection on our experience, knowledge and understanding is, of course, the substance of wisdom. Only the quality of our reflection and the length of our lives limit our growth in wisdom. It is always possible to become wiser; that is why there is no upper limit to the spiral. The longer we live, the more opportunities we have to recycle ourselves. As we befriend and get to know our true selves more intimately, we become increasingly aware of our connection/participation with everyone else and with the universe.

As we get older and older, life gets better and better, until at last "we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”

Dr. Neill Neill is a registered psychologist in Qualicum Beach. He helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.