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. Actually, it was not aging as much as maturing. She seemed a couple of inches taller, and her eyes had a different depth. She was, I think, entering the fullness of life. I have had friends who have gone through the difficult and traumatic process of helping their aging or infirm parents leave their own home (my friend’s childhood home) and enter an assisted living or nursing care facility. Suddenly the person we looked up to all our lives to take care of us is looking to us to take care of them. We experience their loss, their grief, their anger, along with our own.
This is the universal, eternal journey of a human life. The wisdom of the Buddha is nothing more than a body of wisdom teaching wrapped around the truth of that journey.
I often am asked by people new to Buddhism, “What is Buddhism about? Can you say what it is?” For years I have been hard put to summarize something that seemed to me so vast and complex. But now I have come up with an answer, which I am using as a kind of theme song for this blog. Here it is: Everything is connected, nothing lasts, and you are not alone.
I think that last point–you are not alone–is really important. We are all together on this journey.