Defining the Journey

More on the quest to age well –

Although I wrote the words “Aging as a Spiritual Journey” into my journal I had only the vaguest idea of what I meant by them.  Googling them I discovered many people have written books and articles on the subject.

Most of these articles begin with acknowledging the fact that aging is inevitable. Although western culture tends to deny the aging process and to glorify youth we are completely unable to stop the process altogether.   It’s a fact of life – we all grow older and we all eventually die.

The psychologist Robert Peck defined three psychological phases of aging.

1. The first phase happens around retirement.    This is when we begin to wonder “Who am I now?”   The more our identity has been tied up in our career, the more difficult this stage can be.  Around this time we are also beginning to show the physical signs of aging.  Many people feel they have become invisible.

The spiritual teacher Ram Dass sums this phase up well:-

“I can remember when I became irrelevant.  I mean, you can walk down certain streets in any city and you’re either a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant. I became a walking lamp post after awhile. It was incredible because people look right through you, they don’t even see you. At first I got all uptight about it and I’d wear my hair spread all over my head and do all these things. Get tighter suits and diet and everything so I’d be somebody, but then it’s a new moment, and you realize that’s the way it is.”  https://www.ramdass.org/important-come-terms-aging/

At some point we come to terms with this invisibility and discover freedom within it.  It doesn’t matter so much what others think of us for, chances are they are probably barely noticing us.

DSCF3076.JPG

Peck’s second phase of aging begins when we realise the body is changing with age.            We are slowing down and don’t have the agility we once had.   It can take longer to recover from illness.  This stage is particularly difficult if you have identified with being physically fit.

The third psychological phase of aging is about the preparation for death.   This phase is often foreshadowed many years beforehand as we consider just what we are leaving behind for future generations.

For me this third phase is like a tune playing in the background.    I think about it from time to time but my main pre-occupations are more immediate. What do I do in the interim between having a busy, active life in the world and my eventual demise? Keeping busy and distracting myself with hobbies, shopping excursions and reading the novels I never got around to reading when I was younger gets boring.   Traveling isn’t always an option – the finances don’t always stretch that far and beside, my physical stamina is sometimes just not enough.

As the old roles and identities I have inhabited fall away I am left wondering ‘what next?’  It seems to me that I now face a choice.   I can either despair or I can figure out ways to age with integrity.

Somewhere in all my reading about the aging process I came across the idea that although the physical body declines the potential for spiritual development increases.

DSCF3069.JPG

In her book, “The Measure of My Days”  the Jungian analyst, Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote of this approach to aging –

“The purpose of life may be to clarify our essence, and everything else is the rich, dull, hard, absorbing chaos that allows the central transmutation.”

DSCF3094.JPG

I will develop these ideas in my next post.  You can find my first post in this series here

(as you can see the journal is continuing to develop as I read more about aging well.    It’s become a place to work out what I’m thinking and feeling about everything I’m reading.  I’ve had to leave my inclination to tidy it up and make it neat for the spontaneity gets lost when I try to do that).

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “Defining the Journey

  1. Well written, Suzanne!
    Aging is to me part of the ongoing process of life. Perhaps I’d ‘met it’ earlier than some because my body had to face and adjust to some limitations on agility, stamina, and so on, in an earlier age than some – not unique to me by any measure, but I do think that realizing that change is inevitable, can be a part of facing the gradual reality of change. It is not a good or bad for me. Not something to fear or ignore or avoid or pretend isn’t happening. Granted, there are some thoughts that bubble to the surface sometimes: What does one leave as one’s legacy? Am I doing ‘enough’ to be all I can be? Can I do more? Why do I worry about it? I often wonder, when worry rises to the surface, what it REALLY is about in the present … because it often is in response to some current, rather than, future thing. Will there be enough for what I need when I need it? I don’t know, but I try to trust it, and to live – to the extent that I can – in the now and with the knowledge that we none of us know how long we have on this earth anyhow.
    Hugs, Na’ama

    Like

    1. Ten years I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that flares up from time to time. I began to age quite rapidly then but it wasn’t till I got sick in 2018 that the reality really hit home. Suddenly I realised that time is not necessarily a given. Since then I’ve come to a calmer acceptance of that idea but I do find I am working harder and smarter now as there are some ideas I really want to express in this lifetime and some creative projects I really want to do. I agree – there has to be trust in that.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment and for sharing something of your story with me. I hope you get something out of my continued writing on this subject. All the best and Happy New Year – Suzanne

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I enjoy your writing very much! 🙂 I like your honesty and the way you convey your journey. It is lovely.
        I understand the need for accepting the constantly-shifting ‘new normal’ and how that cannot be taken for granted anymore. Chronic pain can do that. I think it teaches one about the ebb and flow of life and the reality of consequences–not punitive, as much as just realistic.
        May it be the best year possible!
        Na’ama

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree, illness can be a tremendous teacher.
        Thanks for your kind words on my writing. It’s good to know it comes across as honest. Sometimes I think I sound totally pretentious! 🙂 I hope 2019 brings you much joy.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to what you have written. A cold used to last two days, now I’m lucky if its two weeks. Material possessions aren’t the same. I’m always looking for ways to declutter. The spiritual thing has also changed for me. I was an avid Catholic but that changed, mainly because of the churches coverup of abuse. I don’t believe in any institutional church anymore. A blog certainly helps with the aging process. Keeping the mind active and researching different material to write about. Thanks for making me think Suzanne.

    Like

    1. By spirituality I don’t necessarily mean any kind of organised religion. While that works for some it’s been many, many years since I followed a particular religion. I’ve always been a seeker though – even when I was a young child.
      I agree about the Catholic Church. The abuse scandal is reprehensible. Over here in Australia Cardinal Pell is on trial for his part in the cover up but the whole matter is happening behind closed doors. Somehow the Catholic Church has ensured that the details of the trial are not being reported!
      I agree about blogging. The interaction with others can be so stimulating and, as you say, researching ideas can be very stimulating.
      I’m glad you are enjoying my current series of posts.

      Like

      1. Yeah – maybe I am in the future 🙂 It’s New Year’s Day here. I just tried to get together some photos from 2018 for a blogging challenge and totally lost interest in the idea before I could complete the challenge!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Suzanne. Aging is a journey we all take, and it is deeply spiritual just like all of life. To me “spiritual” is not “religious”. Our journey in life is as an individual born into a physical, cultural and spiritual heritage that takes us on a process of education and reconciliation. I believe we are all linked ultimately in that journey and I look forward to sharing yours. You are encouraging me to get back onto my blog, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jim. I agree, spirituality doesn’t have to be tied to a particular religion. It is many, many years since I’ve been involved in any form of organised religion. I’ve always been a seeker though and for the past few years have been walking a path that leads me to an earth based spirituality. It is a path that unfolds before me rather than one laid out by any particular religious tradition. Like you I believe all life is interconnected. I hope you do get back to your blog. You have a lot of wisdom to share.

      Like

  4. While walking out of a rest stop in Colorado, I noticed two young men wearing tie-dyed t-shirts and thought, “my past!!” And then I realized that they most likely identified me, if at all, as a much older person with no youth…a book absent of narrative. I find that aging has its ups — freedom and its downs — health and physical functioning. It was the sudden retirement that left me in a fog of worthlessness. The lifting of the fog came with the identification of the worth and gratification I found through my career and finding them in other aspects of my life…we continue to write our life stories…to touch life with presence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your insightful comment Brenda. I agree, it is the losses we experience with aging that lead us towards greater treasure. I like the idea of touching life with presence. That sums up the feeling that comes across in your photos very well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Aging as a Spiritual Journey – Being in Nature

  6. I was interested in the idea of becoming invisible. I noticed that happening when I moved out of a small community to a larger city. My age also adds to the invisibility factor. I tend to observe people more. At times, I’m amazed when someone smiles at me. Anyways, a very interesting journey that you’re on. We all come to that fork in the road as we age, either dive into the exploration of what spirituality means to oneself and the true meaning of death or ignore the call and live life in fear and uncertainty. Look forward to reading what you will discover in 2019. May the winds of change bless your journey, Suzanne. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response Olga. Developing some kind of spiritual practice does seem to be the way to make aging less difficult. There is still the uncertainty though I think. Happy New Year

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Change and uncertainty are always part of life, but if you find a belief system that brings you peace that will be invaluable in your journey.

        Like

  7. Pingback: Authenticity and Imperfection – An Introduction – Memories & Thoughts

I love hearing what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s