My friend Daisy, who worked in hospice for many years, shared with me that most people make the greatest spiritual advancement in the last few weeks of their lives. I find that fascinating! Why wait?
The last time I was sick, I had not been sick for years prior, so the discomfort of it all was pretty annoying. I wasn’t sleeping and my nose was running constantly. I was realizing that that was a good time to practice something akin to meditation, but it’s not.
When I think of meditation, I think of a practice that takes me outside myself. Focus on your breath. Focus on a candle, focus on a mantra. My focus when I was sick was on who was inside this experience of coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing and restlessness.
I don’t know about you, but as I grow my life experience, I’m noticing stuff I didn’t notice before. For instance, my body was experiencing cold symptoms. I see my mind was very busy related to the symptoms. When I see my mind and my body being busy, I know that’s not ME!
So, what was going on for ME, when my body and mind were busy?
In the book Oneness, I recently read…
“Many feel a reluctance to step into uncharted territory, when the reality of what is transpiring becomes obvious. And after all the work has been done and the destination is in view, it is easy to suddenly question all of it! For it is one thing to have intellectually grasped the concepts that have been presented and to have gone through the motions of putting them into practice. It is quite another thing to begin to embody the heightened energies and to experience the quickening that accompanies it.” (Pg. 363)
Though this paragraph is referring to nothing specific, it resonated for me with the process of aging. We are journeying through life on a trajectory of completion. However, as we near the end stages we feel reluctance, resistance and a great desire to avoid that whole arena of living and dying. It’s like dropping out of college just months before graduation.
The Transformational Process Called Aging
One is often unprepared to anticipate the feelings that accompany this stage of the transformational process called aging. As we approach the threshold that appears to separate us from life on this planet – we call this ‘death’ – we are at choice as to how we want to prepare ourselves for this phase of the journey.
Most of us are thoroughly unprepared for the potentiality of what awaits us in the Golden Years of our lives. I remember complaining to my chiropractor years ago – probably when I was in my 50’s – that I wasn’t as excited about long hikes as I had been in earlier years. That I was afraid that I was getting weak and flabby. She responded with, “You aren’t supposed to be as physically strong as you have been. That’s what this next phase of life is about. Stop worrying about it!” I got what she was saying, but I didn’t like it yet!
In this next phase of life, we are on more of an inward journey. It’s less about being of service to the world through productivity, and more about being of service to the world through stillness, contentment, serenity, and peace.
Of course it’s important to maintain health and well-being; and, as our abilities decline, we have greater awareness and access to our human spirit-self. We have an opportunity to experience compassion for who we are, what we’ve gone through, and all the perceptions that brought us into this specific condition of aging. We can witness the journey of becoming. We can review our regrets, our resentments, and accept that perhaps in the physical world, this is as good as it gets. Yes, grief is part of the process – a huge part in fact. And, all of it is essential to the unfolding of You through this process of living.
Cultivating awareness of who we are inside this physical vehicle grows our capacity to be at choice about what we want to focus on in life.
As an analogy, we enter college, or careers, preparing ourselves throughout for the completion – graduation or retirement. We consciously choose the focus of our attention so that in the end we have fulfilled what we’ve come here to learn and do.
Though many of you may consider yourself a spiritual being in a human experience, I would say the majority of you have yet to be clear about what you are actually here to learn in this Earth University. You have yet to declare your major and devote yourself to the tasks of learning what is yours to learn.
Aging, for me, is a spiritual practice. Just like parenting, creativity, mediation and yoga, service, and all forms of partnerships. Here is one area of life where the heat is turned up – the intensity of learning opportunities arise and are inevitable. Mortality must be faced, or not. The acceptance of impermanence stares you squarely in the face. This, like the aforementioned, is the playground for Gurus in the making!
Though not speaking specifically about aging, yet certainly relevant to the process, Ram Dass, an American Spiritual Teachers says:
“One way to handle extraordinary experiences is to be neither horrified nor intrigued by them. The Tibetan Book of the Dead refers to the ten thousand horrible and the ten thousand beautiful visions. In the course of meditation [Aging for example] you may meet them all: powers, great beauty, deaths, grotesqueries, angels, demons, all of it. These are just forms, the stuff of the universe. You confront them on the path just as you meet all manner of people when you walk a busy street. Notice them, acknowledge them – don’t deny them – and then let them go. To cling to these heavens and hells, no matter how beautiful, slows your progress. Not to acknowledge them, or to push them away, is just a more subtle form of clinging. Follow the middle way. As stuff arises in your mind, let it arise, notice it, let it go. No clinging.”
Aging like a guru brings you to yourself and allows you to choose how present you can be with what is.
There is no right, wrong, good or bad. Just embracing the truth of You existing now, is a great leap in faith. A leap that most of us won’t dare to consider. Who thought aging could be such an amazing adventure? Who Me?