By Dr. Toni LaMotta
Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but I seem to notice a great deal of advertisement today relating to aging. At the heart of it all, I believe there are major misconceptions. The most subtle; but I believe insidious one, one is the entire “anti-aging” movement. How many of us are actually ANTI-aging? I’ve never met anyone who is.
There are products to make us look younger and there is even a medical specialty concerned with longevity, which is commonly called “an anti-aging practice.”
I went to such a doctor and on my first visit he suggested he could help me live longer. Is that really the goal here? I’m not sure I want to live until 150 – maybe because I believe that life is ongoing and eternal and that this form is only temporary (more on that later… ). But I couldn’t help wondering if part of the reason is that I have bought into the message that says you cannot be fully alive and healthy at that age. It caused me to ponder a lot about what I am learning as I grow older and especially about what I have come to call the Spirituality of Aging.
It would be impossible for me to talk about all older people as if they were a homogenous group. In fact, as people age they become more unique, more different, more heterogeneous and I believe, more of who they really are. One of the reasons I use a Dragonfly as my logo is because it doesn’t get its true colors until it reaches maturity. I believe that’s true for most of us.
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” Carl Jung
I love this quote. It so aptly describes what I and so many of my friends are going through as we age. We are all re-assessing our lives. I have found that what was once important – in some cases – is no longer so. And, in other cases, it has become important again. What I notice most is that I am becoming more of myself and more of who I always knew I was to be. In a nutshell, that is what I believe the spiritual journey of awakening is all about.
MAINTAINING AN ACTIVE SPIRITUALITY
There are studies that show that those people who, in whatever way they do it, maintain an active spiritual life, do, in fact, have a more successful aging experience.
For our purposes here, I want to define spirituality to be anything that helps us get in touch with a world beyond the senses and helps us to answer the fundamental questions: What does my life mean? What am I going to do about it?
As people age, confronting mortality is part of it. As we mature, we begin to recognize who we are and who we aren’t, the strengths we have and haven’t. We begin to think about the value and meaning of life. The tendency to look more interior than exterior often happens when we’re 45 to 50, but there’s a screaming need for it when we reach 85 or 90.
We are first and foremost spiritual beings. Our human task is to fully discover what that means and the later years of life are the perfect time to devote energy to a process of spiritual awakening and authentic self-discovery.
So, I invite you to reflect today on – What has brought you the greatest sense of meaning and purpose in life?
The Spirituality of Aging, as I see it, includes some reflections on aging, some on spirituality and hopefully includes both humor and insight that can reach minds and hearts.
Studies have shown that as many people age their spirituality deepens. Hopefully, we SAGE as we AGE and have learned greater inner stillness, mental clarity, insight, compassion, connection with the ground of being, wonder, mystery, paradox, personal transformation, and motivation to continue life as a spiritual journey.