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
My previous book on aging, AGING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE, was published 6 years ago and approached aging as the spiritual culmination of our whole life’s journey. The book addressed aging from a Buddhist point of view, and each of its chapters concluded with a “contemplative exercise” drawn from my experience as a Buddhist meditation teacher. Some of these exercises are available on MY WEBSITE as audio or video teachings, and in these blogs I will sometimes refer to them.
EVERY BREATH, NEW CHANCES, my new book on aging, is focused on men’s aging issues. Its approach is … Read More
I am most pleased to announce that my new book on Men and Aging, tentatively titled Every Breath, New Chances: A Guide to Aging for Men will be published in 2020 by North Atlantic Books. This book follows on my award-winning title Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser, published six years ago. That book was a first-of-genre approach to aging from a spiritual perspective, drawing on my many years as a Buddhist meditation teacher. In researching Aging as a Spiritual Practice, I discovered that men and women tend to experience aging differently, and … 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
The last post on aging parents garnered more comments than any other in the history of this blog, so clearly this is a topic that touches many people. The experiences people have range from the touching and poignant (“Do you know who I am, Mom?” “Yes, you’re my baby”) to the heartbreaking (the father whose dying words were obscenities). As I said in my last comment to the previous post, “These posts explore the pain that is at the very center of what love is, and what life is.”
The cultural context for our Western way of dealing (or not … Read More
“There is nothing so relaxed as the shoulders of a very wealthy person when the talk turns to money.” Jon Carroll, columnist for the San Francisco chronicle, once said this, and he is probably mostly right. For the rest of us—and even for the wealthy, actually–money is an issue and cause for anxiety. For those of us who are older, and whose future ability to make money is declining, it may be even more so. “Fear of loss of livelihood” is one of the Five Great Fears… 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
In my experience as a Buddhist teacher and spiritual guide, for many people the first time the deep truth of aging hits is when our parents become ill and die. This tends to happen when people are in their 40s, when they themselves still feel young, still remember college and their first jobs, still are energetic, active, and fully productive. I remember one woman in her early forties whose parent died suddenly. I could see her face change as she grieved and processed her loss; it was as though she was aging before my eyes. … Read More