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
Recently on the Tricycle “Aging as a Spiritual Practice” forum which I moderate there has a been a lot of discussion about elderly and aging parents. Certainly there are a myriad of practical problems that come up—nursing homes, dementia, medical decisions, and so on—but underlying these there are more basic spiritual issues. How do we feel about the sudden reversal of role… 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 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
I remember a remarkable episode of the old Bill Cosby show, in which Dr. Huxtable and his wife surprise Dr. Huxtable’s father on his birthday with the gift of an all-expenses trip for two to Paris. His father is touched, grateful, and a trifle embarrassed.
“We can’t go,” he says sheepishly to his son. “Why not?” Dr. Huxtable says. “You’ve always wanted to go to Europe.”
“Well,” the father says, “I’m used to getting up in the morning, getting the New York Times from the front porch, and sitting… Read More
I believe there is a Yoga of Aging. The word “yoga” has come to mean the various classes and workshops that people go to for stretches, postures, and the associated benefits to health and energy. Since it was first introduced here early in the 20th century, yoga has grown tremendously and is now an integral part of the cultural landscape. But the word originally included the entirety of spiritual practices developed in ancient India; the physical yogas so popular today are only one of them.
Meditation is another yoga. The word itself is related to the English word “yoke” … Read More
Flexibility is an important key to healthy aging. A recent 77 year old reader recently commented about growing older, “The first thing that comes to mind is that barriers began to weaken and crumble. I am willing to think in new directions, to be open to new ideas, to be less defensive about what I consider to be right or wrong.” In other words, he was flexible.
When I asked a psychiatrist friend recently what he noticed about his clients around issues of aging, he replied that flexibility seemed to be the key to aging well. … Read More