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I turned 52 today. It’s kind of a strange, surreal number.

Like many of you I feel “younger” inside. I’m not sure how much younger in particular, but I recognize familiar perspectives and instincts that have been with me for as long as I can remember.

My ongoing personal growth and healing work is showing me why it’s easy to be surprised at “how quickly the years go by.” One insight concerns how difficult it is to live in the present, versus hurrying through each moment to get to the next one. Suddenly an hour has passed and then a day, a week, a month, a year…and 10 years. One moment you’re 25, and the next you’re 75. Whoa. What just happened here?

Another insight is that a lot of us didn’t transition too smoothly through life’s early stages, including adolescence, as we stumbled to fully feel our emotions and integrate our experiences and knowledge, in order to embrace adulthood with the maturity that was needed. The impact was certain emotions getting “frozen” in our subconscious, wreaking havoc on our egos, relationships, and decision-making, leading us to sometimes feel childish (instead of the much-preferred state of child-like). Therefore, if you still feel like a needy kid inside, numbers like 30 or 45 or 60–or any adult number, really–are a cause for some bewilderment.

Today, what I mostly feel, even in the throes of my healing journey, is what I’ve been predominantly experiencing the last few years: tremendous gratitude. I’m grateful for life, health, love, family, friends, my profession, resources,  traveling, learning, and much more. I’m grateful that the story of each of us can continue to be written and told; and that it’s never too late, as long as you’re breathing on your own, to keep healing old wounds and growing in love, kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, and wisdom.

Truthfully, a birthday number-whether 52, 12, 22, or 92 (this is starting to sound like a Christmas song) matters much less than the person you’re continuing to become. Each of us is a minuscule but unique and valuable part of a boundless universe; a spiritual being having a brief organic experience that’s characterized by impermanence, inter-being, and suffering…along with an inherent capacity to awaken to joyful awareness of that ultimate, deeper nature of pure consciousness. Suffering is real, as the Buddha noted, but so is the always-accessible path out of suffering.

May all beings be happy. May all beings be safe. May all beings be joyful. May all beings be unattached to outcomes, good or bad. Namaste!