Thursday, March 07, 2013


In Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up, Norman Fisher asks questions around maturity. He works with a group of 4 adolescents. He's been a high school English teacher.

So what is maturity?

Cori's answer is flexibility, rolling punches, taking responsibility, being able to make decisions, and thinking about the consequences and repercussions of decisions. Understanding that life sucks sometimes and not having a temper tantrum and problem solve. You work through problems.

Cori also see maturity also as wanting to give back to the world because you see a bigger picture.

I think of it as taking a larger perspective. If it was up to kids, they wouldn't go to the dentist because of the pain. But adults take them because there's greater health in going to the dentist. We could multiply this example. We could also apply it to current world problems and wonder at how we are going to get our society to grow up.

I also think about patience, perseverance, and continuity of purpose. Mature people are engaged in positive goals, progressing forward in the world.

Cori thinks maturity is realizing you need other people. I would say realizing how important relationships are with others, is a sign of maturity.

Cori also discussed maturity as a kind of taking responsibility for yourself, not blaming others.

Cori asks the question about personalities--is there one marker or markers that transcends personality, or is maturity more person specific?

Is there ever a time when maturity reverses? Is there a kind of ripening of maturity, like fruit, where afterwords it becomes rotten?

I think when you get older, you stop pleasing people, and get a little better at taking care of yourself to make sure you can take care of others, so sometimes people go overboard with that, and can get more selfish with age.

In some crucial way I think maturity is using your experience to help chart your way forward, using your experience in the world to approach it with greater wisdom and care. And to know about your experience, you have to face it. You can't avoid it through drugs, distraction, busyness or addictions that take you away from your experience. I always think of Marsha Linehan's saying the difference between someone who evolves is whether they face their experience. I also like the thing from Milarepa where he says something like a dog chases a stick, but the dharma warrior faces the stick thrower.

One of my friends said maturity was: "Subjugation of one's regressive emotions in the service of appropriate behavior."

Reading around the internet, the sophist think it's knowing one's role. According to a Sikh website, they think being aware, alert and not angry is mature. Dr. Gerald Stein from Chicago thinks maturity is humility, integration of emotion and reason, or head and heart, and finding solutions to problems, plus confidence and having a sense of what is worth fighting for. Also taking responsibility and not just going for thrills. Also articulating your principles and gratitude. 

DJ Chuang says, "Emotional maturity is NOT controlling one’s emotions. It’s controlling one’s behaviors and choosing to act in a way that doesn’t impulsively give in to reactive feelings." He narrows the question to emotional maturity. That's similar to my friend's definition.

Many people note that telling people to grow up doesn't really work, and that often name calling about maturity can be a manipulation and that we need to connect with our experience as a reference point to not being manipulated. You can get fooled by the trappings of adulthood and appearances to think you're mature, in a superficial way.

I would also add it's not the inability to play. I think play is something that mature people can see the benefit. Different personalities have a different relationship to play and seriousness, but that seems to be a separate issue. Being conventional isn't necessarily maturity. The Josh thinks you should just change just because someone is afraid of being labeled immature. Peer pressure can go both ways, I went to college because everyone I knew was going to college. Peer pressure in the spiritual community gives me nudges to sit or go on retreat, to think more about the consequences of my actions to others. Still you have to be connected to yourself, your heart, your stomach, your inner voice, when you take other's advice into consideration. I want to figure out what maturity means to me before I read what Norman Fisher has to say. I learned that as a teaching/learning method calls KWL. What do I Know? What do I Want to learn? and What did I Learn? I think an under utilized method of comprehension in reading is to compare it to what you know. It's essentially the reason I blog (besides my narcissism).

These seem like all good answers, with lots of overlap. You can do your own search, but it seems like there's a lot of room for different answers, and finding out what it means for you, and developing follow up questions can be an important process.

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

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