I remember when I was a young girl and teenager, how badly I wanted to be older. I sensed even from a young age that there was something magical about the wisdom and strength in being a grown up…’grown ups have all that knowledge’ I remember thinking-and I wanted to be one! I remind myself of this every time I think about how quickly time is ticking; when I feel concerns about time, growing older, and the rapid passing of the years. As a child, this attitude I had of respect and admiration for age is a key reason that I feel more youthful at 34 than I felt at 21. In cultivating this attitude today, and focusing on clarity, health and honesty in my life, I am finding I feel more like a kid each day.
The experience of getting older really gets a bad rap. We are inundated in our culture (at least in North American culture) to look down on aging, to see it as a weakening of our existence in seemingly every way: strength, mobility, flexibility, mental capacity, memory, and the derogatory list goes on.
It makes me sad to hear people’s resignation with, “It’s just the way it is cuz I am old”;“This is what happens when we get older”;“Nothing to be done but suck it up”; and one I hear the most often I think is, “this getting old business sucks”.
SO, are you ready for this??? I hereby call BULLSHIT on these statements, and I am hear to remind and inform you (kindly and lovingly of course!) that there is another way to age. I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be such a struggle or a downward spiral.
Now I know some of you will say, “But Lindsay you are so young-you have no idea. Just wait until YOU get older, you’ll see.” Well, here is my beef with that. In my life so far, I have experienced my own fair dose of pain, debilitation, reduction in mobility, flexibility and strength-and I have struggled with emotional strife, trauma, anxiety, not to mention my inability to sustain or hold many memories through my life. I am almost 35, and I can say that the growth and wisdom that is coming to me with each passing day is the greatest gift life has to offer me. The opportunity to come into my age every day with the infinite opportunities for learning, knowledge, life experiences and awareness that are presented to me; it just doesn’t seem possible that getting older is at fault for feeling yucky. I felt crappier in many ways at 20 and 30 than I do at 34, and so I just haven’t seen the proof yet to believe aging is the culprit for the misery and suffering.
Perhaps some of you are now thinking you would say to me, “just wait till 40 or 50 Lindsay, then you’ll see”…and to that I say, OKAY I will! You got me there 😀
There is so much cool stuff that happens as we refine ourselves with age, but the key is, we have to SEE it and FEEL it. As I am getting older, I am given the gift of opportunity; to be present-to really see what life is offering me. I am noticing that it really is all in my attitude how this opportunity unfolds, how I recognize my choices in life. It is exactly as I believe it will be: all of it. If I put my energy and thought into a story that my age dictates what I am capable of, I find that my life offers me just what I need to make that the truth. No surprise of course, this manifestation goes both ways-it can help me, or it can harm me.
Now don’t get me wrong, I recognize there are limitations and changes that do occur as we grow older, and there is loss, sadness, grief, mourning, and a myriad of other emotions that come with this process of growing old in life. I notice that with age there seems to be more loss that comes, as people die and our hair turns grey and the world falls apart (The latter really has been happening for generations it seems, and the perpetual “when I was your age” continues!). It’s easy to focus on this stuff and start to think that it’s all going downhill and so what’s the point of it all?
I often wonder about how these hard and challenging experiences are here to help us remember our humanity, to remember that life is a gift, that it is a privilege to grow old and witness all of this adversity, and to really live it. When we truly recognize this honour, the blessing in our blip of time in this body, it seems to me that this is when age loses its’ negative power over us. People I know in my life who live this truth are NOT old, in fact their hearts are wide open like a child and they are young and alive. They are Alive. They are aware and in direct relationship with their vitality. Maybe this is the core awareness required for the fountain of youth to remain inside of us…a forgotten story about being old and dried up, and instead an ever-emerging and intelligent ‘Peter Pan’ complex, in which we ‘never grow old’: never losing our relationship with curiosity, imagination or appreciation. This intelligence allows us to take the lessons of life and integrate them, rather than separate ourselves from them: We feel it ALL, sorrow and joy, and we fall in love with our lives, in all stages and phases.
All of our experiences shape us, but I believe it is up to us to decide how we respond to that. With the loss and the pain, there is also the lighter side: the joy, happiness, fun, the spontaneity, the sunrises, patio drinks, the family adventures, new babies, weddings and soulful chats. The dark and the light, the top of the mountain peak and the deep ravine; both have their place in us, and are unavoidable. As the saying goes, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”
So perhaps age really isn’t the problem, but that our personal and cultural attitudes about it are. If you believe that age will define you, limit you and identify you as less than, then it will. The body will follow the mind, and if the mind believes aging is game over, then the body will surely follow.
I was at a yoga retreat a few weeks ago in Sorrento and more than half of the people there were over 50, and some over 60. As the weekend progressed and we moved, connected, reflected, shared, chanted, breathed, and dined together, I watched as everyone started to look more youthful than when they’d arrived. It appeared as though they were actually getting younger as the retreat progressed. They experienced less pain, easier posture, and there was radiance, brightness and a ‘lift’ that started to emerge. We joked at the end that we should have measured ourselves because we all appeared as though we had grown an inch at least and for those of us ladies in the group, it appeared we may have had a boob lift as well! (Yoga Therapy rocks, just sayin’!!) 😀
Everything seemed to be a little more buoyant, a little more supple in all of us, both younger folks and older. This experience was such a glaring example to me that aging is really what you make it. I literally watched the years melt off of my new friends at the retreat, as they took the time to nourish themselves, as they allowed themselves to be supported, as they gave themselves space to emerge, feel and allow. It was cool and lends creedence to this post: Getting older is not a choice we get to make, but how we do it certainly is! My older (and wiser!) friends at the retreat had a few traits in common that allowed youthfulness to emerge and grow in them:
- they gave themselves permission to be taken care of and took the time to take care of themselves
- they accepted love and support, and opened to connection with others in a way that felt possible for them
- they moved their bodies daily in a whole wide range of ways that nourished relaxation, ease, stability, mobility and strength-without pushing into pain, tension or anxst.
What if you didn’t even know your age, how would you identify yourself? What might you do? Who might you be? Consider that you really aren’t your age, but you are your attitude towards it. Are you choosing to age out or age in to your life?
From my Fierce Heart to yours~