Growing older can be an art
AS I near fifty, one of the ‘slowing-down’ changes I notice in myself — besides the fact that just walking and not running up three flights of stairs gets me breathless — is that in a bookstore these days I also slow down in front of books about getting older.
I pause briefly before Biology of Aging: Natural Ageing Revolution, then move on to the funnier titles like Ageing Disgracefully, and Over the Hill, You Pick Up Speed; I wonder if the humour in these helps us face this time more easily.
The onset of ageing is so sneaky and gradual; we are often surprised to find one day it is right here. Then we are faced with three choices — feel resigned to it, get horribly depressed, or welcome it as a chance to re-design our lives. The re-design thing can be as small or as big as we choose — as long as we are the ones doing it.
Growing older, we need reminding, is not a disease, but can be an art, bringing surprising blessings if practiced well. We are delighted that consciously caring for ourselves focuses the mind as well as the body’s energies, leading to new freedoms, expressions of creativity and spiritual intensity.
In indigenous cultures, elders were honoured and cherished for the precious resources they brought to the community. Yet most cultures’ current perspective is that this stage offers only decline, disease, despair.
Conscious aging requires us to find both reflective and practical ways to remind ourselves of our intention to remain awake, alert and aware as we grow older; so it isn’t really quick or easy. But we know it is a spiritual practice that involves finding and living out of that part of ourselves that is essentially timeless.
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