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
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
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
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
Nothing happens when you die: Two contemporary Buddhist masters—Suzuki Roshi and the 16th Karmapa—both said this. When the Karmapa was dying—according to people who were there—he opened his eyes and said, “Nothing happens.”
And in Suzuki Roshi’s book Not Always So he says, “Don’t worry about dying. Nothing is going to happen.”
Well. This is the kind of out-there statement that skeptics of Buddhism point to as a way of discrediting it. Of course something happens, they say—you die! That’s something, isn’t it?
Clearly Suzuki Roshi and the Karmapa were talking about dying at a different level. … Read More