exploring a full life after fifty

One Woman’s Story: Trudy’s Pilgrimage

I was deeply touched by Lisa’s story – her response to a
crisis being to follow a dream she had held in her heart for
a long time. I feel this is what happened to me when I

Immediately after divorcing, I left Cambridge, Massachusetts,
the community where I had lived and loved for almost 30 years.
Almost all of my adult life, personal, professional, spiritual,
had unfolded in the context of my wonderful community of
friends and colleagues there. Why leave?

With the shattering of the marriage and hope of growing old
together, old buried dreams were suddenly free to surface.
Marrying and becoming a mother immediately after college, I
did not have the chance to travel to Asia or do very long
meditation retreats like many of my friends who also taught
Buddhist meditation. I found in myself a wild courage, born of:
“freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose!” I
decided to leave everything I knew, jump off a cliff and
free-fall through the abyss. I was where I wanted to be.

So I spent the next two and a half years exploring the life of
a “dharma bum,” to use Jack Kerouac’s book title from Beatnik
days. Since I could not afford to maintain a home and also
travel, I put my stuff in storage and rented my house. Because
I needed to work part-time, I acquired a cell phone and
scheduled teaching sessions every couple of months. I hit the
road, first spending a few months stunned by my grief and the
beauty of Taos, New Mexico. I gardened, wrote, painted,
meditated, rode my bike to therapy, wept, and knew both solitude
and loneliness. I let go of past pleasures like going out to
restaurants, buying lots of pretty clothes and gifts, of having
an administrative assistant and a cleaning lady. It was a good
feeling, too, to know I could often enjoy these tasks, having
time to attend to them mindfully. Living more simply, I felt
much younger!

Next I entered a three month silent meditation retreat in rural
Massachusetts, where I lived in one small room with few
possessions. I rode the waves of sorrow and touched the joy of
being alive. Then I rented a little casita in Santa Fe, where
I stared at the mountains and taught a meditation community for
three months. I traveled wherever I was invited to teach, or
offered a place to stay and do retreat. I asked my intuition to
guide me through dreams and visions – for the first time in my
life just listening to my self, trusting myself in new ways.

For nine months I did intensive spiritual practice, preparing
myself for a month-long intensive retreat in the mountain
jungle of Bhutan. To complete the requirements for the Bhutanese
meditation master, I spent a month in solitary retreat in a
teeny tiny cabin in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado,
pumping water outdoors, no shower, no plumbing or electricity,
living even more simply in the breath-taking beauty of mountain
peaks and valleys. I would return to Cambridge every couple of
months to work for several weeks at a time and earn the money
I needed. Traveling simply, like living simply, costs so much
less. It was amazing to discover that my fears about no money
were not coming true, that it was possible instead to find ways
to make my dreams come true!

After a month of wondrous camping in retreat in Bhutan,
surrounded by langhurs, flying squirrels, and barking deer, the
simplest bed and warm running water felt luxurious. In India, I
lived for two months in Bodhgaya, the heart and belly-button
of the Buddhist universe, a very small town in the poorest
province of Bihar. It was a time of physical challenges and
spiritual illumination. I was blessed to be able to do pilgrimage
to some of the powerful places I had read and heard about all my
life. I began to feel that our whole lives are pilgrimage,
whether we realize it or not! This gave my journey tremendous
meaning and inspiration.

During this time, my daughter and her husband became pregnant
with their first child, and my elderly mother began to need more
help. I decided to move to Los Angeles where they now live.
Again the universe (in the form of my niece’s husband, now my
landlord) intervened to help me find a small affordable
apartment. Living simply in Los Angeles was never in my life
plan. It’s been daunting to live here and begin to set up my
teaching. This, too, is unfolding in a simple, small way.
Being so close to lots of family, having time to spend together,
has been a delight and also a challenge for me. Becoming a
grandmother is the greatest joy since becoming a mother – the
simplest of all! I really don’t know what the future will
bring, but I’m grateful to have the chance to live the
present so fully.


Stepping Stones For Beginning Your Own Journey

Just as Trudy was moved by Lisa’s story, we were fascinated by
hers. Trudy’s story is intruiging and her journey has been
daring. Even though you may not want to travel her specific
route to live your life fully, her pilgrimage offers ideas that
can be tailored to your own situation.

** “I found in myself a wild courage.”

What is the meaning of courage? What does wild mean to you?
How does it feel to put them together? Have you experienced
“wild courage” before? What kind of courage feels right for you?

** “I asked my intuition to guide me through dreams and visions –
for the first time in my life just listening to my self, trusting
myself in new ways.”

How would you define intuition? When have you allowed your dreams
to guide you? What helps you trust yourself?

** “I rode the waves of sorrow and touched the joy of being

Have you been open to the emotional highs and lows of your life?
What gets in the way? When are you more receptive to strong
feelings? What makes you feel alive?

** “I don’t really know what the future will bring, but I am
grateful to have the chance to live in the present fully.”

How do you deal with uncertainty in your life? What helps you
to stay in the present? How do you create chances for yourself?


Recommended Resource

*Be your own resource – take a chance – look inside yourself.

*Find a place of serenity and comfort – in a quiet room, by
the water, in the hills.
*Be aware of your breathing as you turn inward.
*Let your mind roam free.

*Explore the richness of your life.
*Celebrate who you are.
*Open up to your own inner strengths.
*Embrace the present.

*Trust yourself – your intuition, your thoughts, your feelings,
your judgment – as you move ahead.


IV. Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

(c) Her Mentor Center, 2002