The grace in aging
The book The grace in aging by Kathleen Downling Singh finds its way into my hands in a period of my life when I feel extremely vibrant, motivated and full of visions for my future. With curiosity and excitement I start to read the first chapter of Kathleen Singh’s perspective of aging gracefully. She talks right away about sickness, suffering and death and doesn´t waste any opportunity to show all the different losses that one has to face when getting older.
After the first chapter I feel totally shocked and frustrated about all the negativity that would be waiting for me these upcoming year and I almost decide to put the book aside. Yet, somehow my eyes catch the following sentence:
“It is wise to know our own depths, to plumb and explore them, to allow our hearts to break open, to allow our minds to investigate that which they would rather deny, to allow ourselves to contemplate impermanence, to take death in – our own and the deaths of all of those we love.”
These words crack my heart open; I realize that I am denying the only truth of this human experience: that everything is impermanent, that I and my body, all my hopes & fear, my experiences & principles, my emotions & thoughts will all change inevitably and eventually fade away. And even if I feel healthy, strong and energetic at the moment, I will not be spared from my own decline.
I begin to soften and to really open up to Kathleen’s words – and to my surprise I find a lot of comfort and peace in her wise approach to aging and ….. dying. With deep gratitude I realize that this is a great chance for me in my last year in the forties to pause and have a serious check up with my own values so that I can spend the next decades with more awareness, commitment & joy: how and with whom do I spend my time with; what do I focus my mind and energy into; where am I caught up and where can I free myself from unnecessary suffering.
- Befriending Solitude
Although I have been enjoying solitude for the last decade I still feel too often weird or anti-social when I choose to be on my own instead joining a group or social events. Knowing that these moments with myself prepare me to the inevitable solitude that we will experience with more frequency when getting older, gives me a sensation of inner peace and comfort ….. I will not feel guilty or akward anymore when enjoying my own company, yet enjoy the stillness and connect to something that lies beyond our human eyes.
- Forgiveness – an act of healing
Forgiveness is the only way to soften our hearts. It is the only way to free us from self-chosen limitations in form of anger, judgements and defensive habit patterns. My own life story made me experience how much these destructive emotions can give us an identity and how hard it is to let them go. And yet, what a liberation when we decide to let go and open our hearts to the suffering of another being. This doesn´t mean that we have to continue old relationships – private, job, society – but it allows us to approach the situation from a place of compassion and connection and make choices that are based on love – for ourselves and others – rather than on fear and separation.
- Cultivating Presence
Especially now, in a moment of full motivation and lots of creativity I feel how much I need this reminder: pause, breath, become aware of what is here and now. When I concentrate on my breath, the constant dance between refreshing inhalation and liberating exhalation, all worries, doubts, excitement and planning dissolve into a vast pool of calmness, trust and surrender to the divine rhythm of life. It brings me back to the ultimate truth that this life is a gift, that the only certitude I have is this very moment, that all my plans and dreams ultimately have to bow to a bigger plan. And still, it is important that I have them and do my best to put them into reality.
As Gandhi says:
“Everything we do is insignificant – and yet it is important that we do it”
Now, when I am reading Kathleen’s wonderful unmasked perspective of age, loss and death great serenity and peace unfold and I feel a different relationship to life: I feel the preciousness of every moment; I can appreciate laughter and joy as well as tears and sorrow; I can let go of my fear and worries of the future as well as the resistance of aging; instead I feel a sweet tenderness for my life, my body, my ability to think and feel. I recognize the grace of aging and the gift of being able to spend the time left with more consciousness, humility and the willingness to awaken my heart and mind.