The first time I noticed I wasn’t immortal (because I thought I was), was when I looked in the mirror at 30 years old and saw my first wrinkle. I remember a sinking feeling in my stomach. That feeling was my ego saying, “you’re not going to live forever – shit!” And each stage of wrinkles has brought on a new layer of resistance and acceptance. Oh, not crows feet! Really – wrinkles between my eyes? No, not around my lips – are you kidding me?
While taking the two year spiritual program with Matthew Flickstein, we spent four weeks on aging, four weeks on illness, and 12 weeks on death and dying. I HAD NO IDEA how much these fears were lurking behind daily decisions and actions I was making and having. And how much these fears were holding me back. He helped me look at what I feared most, and I can honestly say it totally changed how I see aging and death.
Here is a universal truth of every person on this planet: we age and we die. Maybe all of us don’t reach “senior” status, but aging starts from the moment we are born. And there is no getting around this or avoiding it, even though our culture pretends there is, and we may believe, with botox, anti-aging pills, “keep your hair” pills, wrinkle reduction creams, “take out the sags” surgery, “color the grey” and more we can defy aging.
What are your beliefs around aging? Do you resent it? Do you fear it? Do you embrace it? Do you not want it to happen? How do you talk about aging with your friends or family? Do you use aging as an excuse to not do things? Do you put yourself down through aging comments? Please do not judge yourself for how you answer these. It’s simply an awareness in order to change the beliefs that you have.
To age gracefully means to open and accept the aging process. To open to aging of the body and aging of the mind (I’m starting to forget events of the past in detail, or someones name) brings wisdom and freedom. Freedom from personal constraints, freedom from wishing life to be different than it is, and freedom from beliefs that are causing fear and unhappiness.
One of my favorite quotes I have on my wall at home to remind me everyday to open and accept aging with grace is by Maya Angelou:
“The wisdom of years affords us the talent to smile at shortened memories and accept surprising wrinkles, to say Hallelujah! We are alive!”
I want to leave you with week one of the four-week teaching on aging I received. Answer these five questions in your journal:
- When was the first time you realized that you too were aging?
- What are the cultural messages about aging that you have been hearing throughout your life?
- What were your family messages about aging?
- What are your honest feelings, thoughts, concerns, and anticipations about the aging process? (Dig deep for this one)
- Ask three people this week who are 70 or beyond what is the best thing about growing older. It will open your eyes.
Here are the answers I got when I asked three people (all three saying these in some way): Learning acceptance, growing through hard times, and learning to incorporate their hearts with their heads in decision making and outlook on life.
Words to live by.
Categories: Health & Happiness