Aging as a spiritual journey – part 2

I spent yesterday finishing my art journal on aging as a spiritual journey.  I realized I could have done more blog posts on this but they would just be compilations of other people’s ideas.  Instead I copied ideas that resonated with me into the journal.   If you want to follow up on any let me know and I’ll send you a link to the source material.

Here’s the completed journal page by page.   As you can see some pages have been altered but the journal never did get any neater.   If you missed the post about how I constructed it you can find it here

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You can find my other posts in this series  here and here

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Aging as a Spiritual Journey

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.”   Carl Jung

Coming to terms with physical decline and with the loss of old roles that occurs during the aging process takes conscious effort.  Carol Osborn, author and founder of Fierce with Age says “Mourn your lost youth, illnesses or other losses.  Acknowledge that it’s happening as a passage you have to go through.”

The journey through this passage can be the thing that propels us to shift our awareness into a more spiritualized view of the aging process.

The University of Maryland Medical Center defines spirituality as “a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself; a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures; and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values. Even the non-religious may describe themselves as spiritual.”  aging as a spiritual process

The clinical psychologist, Dr. John Robinson writes:-
“While we can hang onto past identities and achievements, these memories grow stale for they no longer represent who we really are. But this procession of losses, as the mystics tell us, constitutes the quintessential pre-requisite for enlightenment. What’s left when the ego’s filters of identity, time and story dissolve is consciousness itself, which the mystics also tell us is the consciousness of the divine.”  http://www.johnrobinson.org/

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Robinson describes the process of coming to terms with the losses of age as a descent – either a descent into distress or, if we move to the spiritual side of the matrix, a descent into ‘the arms of the divine mother.’

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I like the idea that the descent is a mystic journey back to the divine mother for that is where my own meditations take me.

Through some alchemical process I don’t know the words for, this journey into the mystical depths can lead to an intuitive awareness of the interconnection of all life.  The sense of purpose that grows from this awareness is greater than purely personal concerns yet it infuses the personal life with meaning and a sense of joy.  It is here where the path into aging opens up into a greater awareness of the wonder of life.

It is here too where the interior landscape becomes archetypal and the spiritual journey is shown to be a journey that anyone can take at any time.   Age is not a pre-requisite.

I will leave my quest across the landscape of aging here.   My quest to find new stories continues.  I might blog about that in 2019 but I’m not sure.

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 HAPPY NEW YEAR

This is the 3rd post in my series ‘Aging as a spiritual journey’
Part 1 of this journey can be found here
Part 2 of this journey can be found  here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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).