AGING AND DEATH AS SPIRITUAL CRUCIBLES
To be young and vital is nothing.
To be old and vital is sorcery.
Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant
compared to the whole person
I have become this past year.
Dying, dying, some one told me just recently is easy.
Living is the hard thing.
AGING AND DEATH
AS SPIRITUAL CRUCIBLES
In this posting I want to share some initial impressions about aging as I experience them in my own life and learn about it from my clients. For the first time a significant percentage of my clients are over seventy and some are approaching eighty. I didn’t do anything to make this shift happen. The Universe has simply supplied them to me so I could learn about aging. It has been clear to me that my life shows up in my office and as I age (now at 71), I’m seeing more older people.
I see three over arching issues which are intertwined.
- Confronting Mortality. There is a time limit to this incarnation. Though we don’t know when the alarm will go off signaling the imminent ending, we know it will eventually go off. Illness was the crucible of this for me. I went through several life-threatening issues and surgeries and was in constant intense pain for over three years. Death and I stared eyeball to eyeball and fortunately it blinked. I am blessed to still be here today. Not only has my youth ended but so has middle age. It was a shock to know to really, really know, in my soul that not only are all things impermanent, but I am impermanent. Yes, even I am temporary. I knew this of course, at least theoretically, but the time of illness tasered me into deeper, experiential awareness of this. The alarm was sounding but luckily the delay button was pushed by excellent medical professionals and the Cosmos which was not yet finished with me in this incarnation. In many pages of journaling and meditation I discovered that the end of my life was not as scary as I expected. My end seemed acceptable. What created pain was leaving my loved ones. That I could die was acceptable that I would leave them was deeply painful. I am also aware that when the final alarm actually goes off I may be considerably less sanguine than I am now.
- Physical decline. While I accept the inevitable reality of my death, I hate, detest, and protest my declining capabilities. At times I howl at Spirit complaining bitterly that I can no longer do the things I once took for granted. The limits are frustrating. My clients too face this. I used to hike vigorously for significant distances but now I can only stroll or mosey on safe, flat surfaces. I can no longer wade down the middle of a river getting close to the photos I want. I do take better care of my body now and exercise appropriately, but the decline is real. This is another setting for new learning and most of all acceptance.
- The big question. What do I want to do with the time I have left? In many ways this is the central question that aging raises. Depression is often the result of a refusal to face this. This is our last best chance to live the life we want, to live more soulfully into the sacredness of our Being. Released from many of the stresses and obligations of younger decades we can be freer to boldly move into new ways of living. In this sense the issue is in facing life not death, or perhaps, facing life knowing we live in the close proximity to death. Facing life is at least as difficult as facing death. Life calls us out to live intensely NOW in whatever time is left. The shackles of our past can be thrown off. We no longer need to impress, please or placate those around us. While there may not be many days left in our lives there are more free hours than before on any given day. The question isn’t will we die. That is settled, we will. The question isn’t when will we die. We don’t know. The question isn’t is there life after death. Again, we don’t know. The real question is will we find life before death finds us?
These are three initial impressions which I am sure will change and evolve. After all this is new to me. I’ve never been old before.