“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
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
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
Gratitude is this moment. Or as my Buddhist teacher Shunyu Suzuki liked to say, “That you are here is the ultimate fact.” But wait. What do we mean, Gratitude is this moment? We might more naturally want to say something like, “Gratitude is to appreciate this moment.” But somehow when I started writing this post, “Gratitude is this moment” is what came out. Just that we are here is something to be grateful for, even before we are grateful for anything else.
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
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
The experience of aging is an exercise in comparison that happens inside of horizontal time. What I mean is that we tell ourselves a story. I am 61 years old. I have sixty-one years of memories. I am older than I was a year ago. Ten years ago I could do X but now I can’t, I’m older. And so on. We picture ourselves somewhere on the timeline of a life, and begin to see more of that timeline in the rear view mirror than out the front windshield. This leads, inevitably, to a sense of loss, and perhaps sorrow … Read More
In connection with my new blog theme, “Aging as a Spiritual Practice,” I have been thinking more about this Buddhist term anicca, which is usually translated as “impermanence.” Many of the English terms that we are accustomed to using regarding these basic Buddhist teachings were first coined by 19th century scholars and translators of the Pali Canon. These scholars were very good, and understood the linguistic meaning of the Pali or Sanskrit terms, but they were not practitioners of Buddhism, and did not have oral instruction or a visible living teacher as a model to help them know … Read More
I have been thinking for some time about the topic of aging, and how that relates to Buddhism and Buddhist practice. The essence and starting point of all Buddhist teaching is the fact of impermanence, or continuous change. Once Suzuki Roshi was asked to say one thing about Buddhism that was simple and understandable, and he replied, “Everything changes.”
I think we could also say, “Everything ages.”
Aging ceases to be an abstraction when it starts to happen to us. It’s like the old Woody Allen joke: “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be there when it … Read More