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
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
“I want more”–this is the universal principle of a society built around consumer spending. And it is, by extension, the cry of all those who want more youth, through all the consumer products and services that we think can make us look, feel or be younger. The Buddhist world view responds, “Relax. It’s all right. You have enough.” But we don’t believe it.
I am thinking of three moments in literature, cinema, and television that all have a character saying, essentially, “I want more.” The first is from the Humphrey Bogart movie Key Largo, where Bogie is up against … Read More
The “thought of enlightenment,” or bodhicitta, is a key doctrine of Great Vehicle Buddhism.
Basically it refers that moment in your life when your perspective widens to embrace the big picture, and to ask the big questions. Why am I here? Why is anything here? What is life all about? Why is there evil in the world? Why do people suffer? Is it possible to change the world? And then follows the earthshaking realization that it might be possible to find answers. And we begin our spiritual search, which in Buddhism is called bodhicitta in the Zen tradition is … 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