Saturday, April 16, 2011

Retirement: Jumping off the 100 ft. Pole

I did it! I just gave notice at my job that I will be retiring.  It feels like jumping off a 100 ft pole.  For a long time I have anxiously considered early retirement. “Shall I jump?”

As I entered our little zendo last week, I prayed for clarity.  I bowed, sat down, and heard, “Jump!”

The metaphor of the 100 ft pole is from a Zen koan.  If you think you are enlightened or have attained something, you are stuck at the top of the pole.  So, the idea, I guess, is to jump.  But Suzuki Roshi said, commenting on this koan, “Actually there is no top of the pole.  The pole continues forever.  So you can’t stop there.”

I am aging and feel insecure.  I want to stay at the top of the pole with my nice, secure income.  But the metaphor probably means all the times I am stuck: thinking I should improve myself; thinking that my body shouldn’t really be aging; not realizing that everything is changing every single second.

Of course, one does need to consider income and one’s mortgage and financial responsibilities.  One needs to consider that a Social Security benefit is basically small change.  But I cannot remain stuck at the top of the pole.

When I returned home the day I had given notice, I opened my email, and my friend Jennifer Block wrote – not knowing that I had just announced my retirement – “When you jump, the net will appear.”

Nice, huh?


  1. hi barbara, the talk that i gave at the st. dorothy's retreat last weekend was about this koan(!). and i'm going to mention it again in my talk at the vets fund raiser tomorrow.
    it's one that's been with me for a long time and is feeling quite relevant and alive right now for me too.

    i guess jumping is in the air. it's free and clear and open territory..

  2. We are on he same page - I mean the same koan, dear dharma sister!

  3. Hey, congrats on the retirement adventure AND congrats on your blog. Fun, ei?

  4. Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations! Isn't it amazing what happens when you do what your heart tells you to do? The whole world steps forward. I know you will be utterly and completely fine - actually more utterly and completely fine than you were. I'm so happy for you.