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

A gratitude list

I’ve been wondering where this blog was going to next.  This challenge on Tales from the Motherlandgives me a way in.

“Set a timer for 15 minutes. Really; do it (it’s in red, clearly I mean it). This isn’t your usual post. It’s meant to be as spontaneous as you can be. It’s not supposed to be finessed, but from the heart. You’re not explaining every thing you put on your list, you are just listing as many things as you can, in 15 minutes. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write things that make you happy, or things you’re grateful for. Don’t think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. If you use the numbered mode and just type what comes to mind, it’s easy. When the timer’s done, finish whatever sentence you’re on and stop writing. If you’d like to add links or photos, do it after the timer; keep your list short and spontaneous. “

start 10:01

1/ I’m grateful for good food.   These  ancient grains and strange seeds you can get now really seem help with stamina.

2/ I’m grateful for light, sunlight, warmth of summer even when it gets too hot for comfort it brings a lovely sense of ease to my muscles

3/ I’m grateful for the garden in this rental house I moved to last year.   The enormous ash tree had me a bit in awe at first but yesterday something clicked.   I started to think about that ambiguous agender ash fairy.   What a glorious energy to nurture in 2019.

4/ I am grateful I could borrow my daughter’s garden rake and start to tidy up this wild overgrown yard.     I’ve been missing the Medicine Wheel I made in the backyard of my old rental.   (I dismantled it in a ritualized way  before I left ).    The layout of this yard makes creating another one difficult.   I decided (influenced by the agender ash fairy I think)  to use the existing rocks in this yard to create a ring around the ash tree.   I guess it will be more of a fairy ring – if you can have made of lava stone – but I will still mark the Four Directions.   I don’t think it will easy to walk around inside it.   This time I will have walk the circumference when I call in the Four Directions.

5/ I’m grateful that I learnt this stuff about the Four Directions in 2017/18.   It gives a focus to my day to start of by walking the Medicine Wheel first thing.

6/ I’m grateful for coffee.

7/ I’m grateful for family and friends.   Particularly the little guys in my life.   My autistic grandson – watching him so diligently and wholeheartedly ignoring us all on Christmas Day while he coloured in the pictures in a colouring book someone had given him.   His focus was so intense.   Admirable really.    Something to learn from.   Such wholehearted focus on what he was doing.   With my current 15 second ‘I’ve been on the internet too long’ scattered brained attention  span I think I’ll take out a leaf out of his book.

8/ I’m grateful for what I’m learning from my other little grandsons that have verbal apraxia.   One quite badly, the younger one not so much.   From both I am learning to slow down.   To choose my words with care.   To listen more carefully to what others are saying.   Also these two little guys seems to have something that is missing for most of us – they are really attuned to visual stimuli and notice things that barely register with me.  They bring something new to our family.

9/ I’m grateful for my life.   It’s precious.   I realised that when I started to recover from illness last year.   Although it’s hard to keep the feeling going within life’s hurly burly its something I want to consider more and more in 2019.

10/   I’m grateful for my creative abilities – my camera, the things that inspire me etc.

10:16 stop

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

The quest begins

Although I said I would wait till till the new year to post again I have been working away at making blog posts.   I’m starting to feel I need to start posting again to clear the way forward into 2019.     Here’s the first one:-

Thoughts on ways to age positively –

In my post time-for-a-quest I wrote ” Growing older and moving into the third stage of life I find this culture is not providing me with models of aging that sustain me.  The medical model of age as a disease is sickening- literally –  the cultural idea of denying and/or defying age doesn’t work for me either.   Of course bodies age and interests change – that is the way of life.  The idea of retiring to play golf and bingo bores me witless.   There has to be more fulfilling ways to age.”

When I attempted to sort through my thoughts around aging I found I had so many conflicting ideas they overwhelmed me.   I needed some way to organise the chaos within – some way of externalizing my thoughts so that I could sort them out.  I decided the first step would be to make an art journal.

To get started with this I collected together 8 small pieces of watercolour paper that were roughly the same size (15 x 20 cm).    I then painted on these with acrylic paint.   At this stage I just slapped on colour to cover the white paper.

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When the first side was dry I turned the paper over and painted the back.DSCF3008

Once both sides were dry I started embellishing them with words and pictures cut from magazines.   I also used a few of my own photos and digital images I had printed out some time ago.   To select the magazines pictures I flicked through old magazines without much conscious thought.   Whenever I found a picture that made me look twice I tore out that page.  Once I had pile of pages I cut out the bits of the pictures that attracted me.

I struck the words and images onto my painted papers using a glue stick.  At this stage I had stop myself getting caught up in my thoughts.    Whenever I started to manipulate the pages so that they reflected a specific idea the process would bog down.  For example, I stuck the words ‘building blocks’ onto one of the papers in the photo below but soon after taking the photo I pulled them off again as they seemed too definitive.  Luckily the paper was still damp from the painting process so they peeled off easily.DSCF3010.JPG

I then drew and painted on the papers – again without too much pre-meditated thought.

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Once all the paper was dry I folded the pieces in half and collected them into a book format.   To make a cover  I used a piece of leather.  I punched three holes into the pages and the cover and laced them together with thonging.

Although a lot of the pages were incomplete the book began to develop a theme.   On one page  I had glued a photo of a Buddhist woman on a spiritual pilgrimage.  It was only when I had assembled the book that the words “Aging as a Spiritual Journey” popped into my mind.   I wrote them on a scrap of paper and glued them onto the page.

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I now had a journal to work in and a broad theme to work with…

more in the next post