The process of aging is
not a smooth, continuous trajectory from youth to old age. It happens in several distinct, identifiable
steps or stages. These stages are
actually demarcated by significant life events—the last child leaving home, a promotion,
retirement—but colloquially and emotionally we tend to think of aging’s stages
as decades: our fifties, the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, and
beyond. A birthday with a zero—my God,
I’m fifty!—is a major, often bittersweet, signpost. While everyone’s path of aging is unique,
each decade has characteristics common to most people in them.
In my book-in-process Men Aging Well, I have … Read More
My upcoming book MEN AGING WELL springs from two premises: first, that men and women experience aging differently, and second, that to understand men’s aging we need to ask the question, “What does it mean to be a man?” Men aging today—those fifty and over—were raised at a time when boys were socialized according to traditional gender roles. There were certain catch phrases—taunts even—that boys heard constantly. I certainly did.
“Boys don’t cry.”
“Don’t be a sissy.”
One of the salient dramas in today’s society is a questioning and re-envisioning of gender roles, at the same time that … Read More
In connection with my upcoming book MEN AGING WELL I have created a contemplative inquiry which I call Every Breath, New Chances as a way for men (or women) to move beneath the surface of thinking about aging to the “subterranean river” of emotion and intuition where the deeper changes and transformations of growing older actually happen. The name of the inquiry, “Every Breath, New Chances” points out that while we may imagine that our waking self is a fixed, static entity, in reality we are changing all the time. Every breath is a chance to re-invent ourselves anew. This … Read More
My book Aging as a Spiritual Practice has been out for six years now, and has garnered a wide readership among Buddhists, Christians, leaders and members of aging study groups, and many others. The concept of aging as a spiritual path is still fairly new; my book is one of the few out there that really makes the case that the aging process itself has spiritual dimensions.
So as I resuscitate this blog for a new year and new look at this topic, I thought it might be good to begin by discussing why and how aging and spirituality … Read More
This month is the sixth anniversary of the publication of my book AGING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. The book has been quite successful. It continues to sell steadily and will keep doing so as new people discover it and discover their need for what it has to offer.
So I have decided to resuscitate my Aging Blog to provide a forum for readers of the book as well as the interested public to read about my latest thoughts about aging as a transformational process, as well as hear about the latest aging research.
Come back and visit the … Read More
The aging brain can learn and grow. This new conventional wisdom—based on the latest neurophysiological research—replaces the old conventional wisdom (which was that the brain has only a fixed number a cells set at birth and that older people cannot learn with the flexibility of younger people).
So much for conventional wisdom of any kind. Once, during an illness, one of my doctors gave me a 500 page book on “Psychopharmocology”—a technical text on the effects of drugs on the brain. I read it as best I could—it was quite technical—and returned it to my doctor.
“Interesting!” I said, “what … Read More
We are all so fragile. We are, first of all, so fragile physically. When we are born, we can’t even feed ourselves or survive without continuous attention. And throughout our lives there are so many things that can go wrong, but mostly do not. It is actually amazing that the incredible intricacy of body and mind … Read More
I often say, paraphrasing my own teacher, that the purpose of Buddhist meditation is not to be calm, but to be real. Being real doesn’t exclude being calm, if that is what is happening. But being real is not some particular state of mind; it is the mind in accord with the actuality of things—“real thinking”, as Suzuki Roshi would say.
I think the notion that we are “supposed” to be calm is a common misunderstanding, and a cause for discouragement, among meditators. “I’ve been meditating for X years, and I still can’t calm my mind!” This may be a … Read More
So what do we do with our aging thoughts? How can we transform them from exercises in comparison and regret into more wholesome insights that nourish us? (If you are tuning in to this blog for the first time, read the last post, “Mindfulness of Aging part I”.)
There are three parts to transforming mindfulness: clarity, insight, and re-centering.
Clarity means to know what is actually going on. In practice it means to drill down beneath the superficial thought that our mindfulness has made us aware of (such as the thought, “I guess I’ll never go to Africa…”) to the … Read More
In this post I’d like to explore the practice of “Mindfulness of Aging.” Mindfulness is one of the basic practices in Buddhism, but the precise reasons why it is effective (particularly in chronic pain management) are not yet well understood. Mindfulness is sometimes characterized in Buddhist texts as “bare noting,” and is often coupled with a word or phrase, such as, “Now I have a long breath.”
Mindfulness, in common parlance, is “noticing what is going on,” particularly about an internal mental, emotional or physical state. It is basic awareness, or wakefulness, as opposed to unconscious, or automatic, or (as … Read More