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Retirement and life-rhythms and the dharma

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Over the last few years I’ve been close to some people who have retired — my father and an uncle, and in a way my stepfather too — and I’ve noticed that there are very different life rhythms for the elderly and those who still work in society. But I notice their interests go more towards travelling than towards the dharma.

Do you think that retired folks become less spiritual in their orientation? It certainly seems to me as if that is the case... there seems to be a certain age when people become more interested, around their 50’s, and then there seems to be a settling into the state of things as they are, as if it is no longer necessary to pursue things with such fire. There are exceptions of course.

But if I recall the Buddhist courses I have been on, it seems that that may hold some water.

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The older I get, the more 'Laissez-faire', 'Che sera sera' I get.
    I occasionally realise I have loosened my grip on all matters Dharma, so renew my concentration, Effort and Focus, but trivia drops off far more easily now than when I was young.
    Youth to me, meant urgency and speed. A more senior time now, permits me to - frankly - not give a damn what people think of me, I am only answerable to myself, and so far, my conscience is pretty well clear. (with the odd, tiny smudge or blemish now and then, like a fingerprint on glass....)
    My practice used to be very intense ("The thing is, you think you have Time...") Now it's more "Yama awaits, ands when his hand rests on your shoulder, beckoning you follow, you cannot refuse".

    And I'm comfortable with that.

    lobsterperson
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Over the last few years I’ve been close to some people who have retired — my father and an uncle, and in a way my stepfather too — and I’ve noticed that there are very different life rhythms for the elderly and those who still work in society. But I notice their interests go more towards travelling than towards the dharma.

    Do you think that retired folks become less spiritual in their orientation? It certainly seems to me as if that is the case... there seems to be a certain age when people become more interested, around their 50’s, and then there seems to be a settling into the state of things as they are, as if it is no longer necessary to pursue things with such fire. There are exceptions of course.

    But if I recall the Buddhist courses I have been on, it seems that that may hold some water.

    I'm about the same age as you and I too see my parents generation retiring and how they spend their time. I guess in my circles I don't see much change in predilection towards spiritual life, but I do notice the trend towards travel.

    But as @federica points out, it does seem that the older one gets the less fire people have. I wonder if it is more a function of less energy or a larger perspective, maybe some of both?

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    I think when we retire, we tend to follow whatever direction we were previously focusing on ... we just have more time to pursue it.

    I don't agree that people become interested in spirituality, settle into it, and then their interest decreases. Mainly because you cannot "settle into" something that is constantly changing .. and life - especially as we start to age - is total change.

    My theory is that people get into spiritual pursuits much the same as they fall in love. And just as romantic love is a 3-5 year phase of infatuation, and many couples lose interest once the infatuation dies out. I've seen many "followers" at our dharma center be very enthusiastic .. for 3-5 years. And then they start missing lessons, and then they stop coming.
    And perhaps this is why Lamas won't ordain someone until they have been doing the dharma for at least 3-5 years? To make sure their intention will last?

    Yoga recognizes stages in life. In the Hindu tradition, there are 4 stages of life. Without going into it in detail (you can google the details if you want), the person starts off learning spiritual disciplines and then marries and becomes a householder, and as they get older they discharge their responsibilities and turn back to spiritual growth again.

    Unintentionally, I have followed this. My mom practiced yoga, so I was introduced to meditation at a young age, but moved away from it to pursue my outer life in my early 20's and through those "householder years" of my life, although I never totally gave it up. Turning back once the kids started to leave home.

    I've been retired for 4 years now, and find that increasingly the dharma becomes more and more important. Part of that is that my body is wearing out and I need the tool of mindfulness to handle some of the things my body does (or doesn't do!). But more than that, it is the understanding, for the first time in my life, that death really DOES come.
    Before that, death was just an intellectual concept I accepted, but it now sits beside me and studies me.
    Also that if I want a good rebirth with exposure to the dharma, I need to set strong imprints now (which is proportionate to how much we do dharma). I haven't decided if rebirth actually occurs, but it cannot hurt to learn to accept and relax into change .. I think this might be useful when death reaches for me.

    So I guess, with too many words, I'm saying that I don't think people necessarily turn away from spiritual work when they retire. I think it depends on the underlying theme of their life.

    Keromeperson
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I think it also depends on the seriousness, or devotional level of their practice, and what benefits they reap. Without trying to be contentious, this is perhaps why the Church is seeing a fall in attendance, by the young.. They're bringing out the whistles and bells and pulling out all the stops (a Church-Organist's term!) to try to entice them back.

    person
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 11

    The Hindu stages of life are interesting, I know a little bit about them and the practice of renunciation for Hindu sannyasins. For them it is almost as if they die towards the family, all their property is inherited by the heirs and so on, while they go off and devote themselves to spiritual practice in the last years of their life.

    But I think in colder countries where it is not easy to survive the winter without a heated home, such a tradition is unlikely to catch on, although I do think it is a beautiful one. It is open to women as well, although for both women and men it is rare.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sannyasa

    FoibleFull
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    But I think in colder countries where it is not easy to survive the winter without a heated home, such a tradition is unlikely to catch on, although I do think it is a beautiful one. It is open to women as well, although for both women and men it is rare.

    I live in the Canadian prairies. I totally agree. No wandering renunciate here!

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said: ... But I think in colder countries where it is not easy to survive the winter without a heated home, such a tradition is unlikely to catch on, although I do think it is a beautiful one. It is open to women as well, although for both women and men it is rare.

    Women can do it, we're as tough AF. I cite Tenzin Palmo, and rest my case. .

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 14

    @federica said:

    @Kerome said: ... But I think in colder countries where it is not easy to survive the winter without a heated home, such a tradition is unlikely to catch on, although I do think it is a beautiful one. It is open to women as well, although for both women and men it is rare.

    Women can do it, we're as tough AF. I cite Tenzin Palmo, and rest my case. .

    Interesting documentary.

    And in the major cities there are winter-time housing programmes for giving the homeless a roof over their heads. At least I hear that’s the case in Amsterdam and the other big Dutch cities.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    The Salvation Army, in the UK, manages many "Drop-in" centres, to help and support the homeless, all over the UK.
    And this should be available in every single major city in the UK. I mean, the World.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited October 14

    There was a pedal-to-the-metal phase for me -- maybe ten or 20 years -- but credulous adulation (even that which made common-sensical sense) -- took a hit with my retirement. The Dharma is not a joke, but there's no escaping the laughter. Trying to escape or 'understand' or unravel or revise ... well, sure, give that a whirl. It seems a bit arrogant to me these days, but that's just me.

    Nowadays my connections seem to lose their grip. The meditation hall I once built with quite a lot of energy is now used to store unused stuff. Deeeeeeep thinking is pretty much off my charts. Public Sunday sittings are in the rear-view mirror. I began my formal practice in the early 1970's with a vow/wish to find out if spiritual life were bullshit or not. I didn't want to know for anyone else ... just on my terms ... convincing anyone else was a mug's game played by novices. Now it's so many years later and I have my answer: Is it bullshit or not? The answer is "yes." Or "no" if you prefer. If you want a brass ring, ride a merry-go-round.

    But there are fragments of wonder that carom here and there in my mind ... so much time... so much energy ... and, well, what remains of so-called spiritual endeavor? I am honestly not sure. Bits and pieces....

    -- I once asked a Benedictine monk via email: "I sometimes think only God can pray to God. What do you think?" From that day forward, I never heard from him again.

    -- My Zen teacher gave me what I consider a pair of gifts. 1. He never, to my knowledge, acknowledged another student (this is a Mahayana tradition) as being 'transmitted' or 'enlightened' or whatever ... and he suggested, mildly, 2. "Take care of your family."

    -- And then there's the old teacher Ummon: "When you can't say it, it's there. When you don't say it, it's missing."

    -- And the line, "Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help."

    -- Was there ever another choice to make, another way to follow, a divergent path that might have taken me to some ineffable home more efficaciously? I don't know and never will. I do know that I don't wish my training on my worst enemy and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China. One jackass like me is more than enough. Think of it: One of these days, things will go "poof" and I will join the majority. Spiritual endeavor ... poof! All things considered, it seems a reasonable and loving outcome.

    -- Try not to be too virtuous ... "too much virtue makes a person crazy."

    -- Be as kind as possible, but don't get tripped up by imagined kindness.

    -- Don't be a jerk and simultaneously set aside the wet dream that you might somehow not be a jerk.

    .... all of this and more like it whispers and tinkles like small bells of memory and leaves me uncertain... and yet, when was being uncertain unusual? I suppose I might have delivered pizzas if I had been wise, but when was being wise ever an option in spiritual endeavor? :)

    Just noodling from the far side of retirement.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 14

    My father has taken with a passion to watching Danish and Swedish thrillers on tv in his retirement... perhaps he craves some form of stimulation, I’m not sure. But on the plus side he has also bought a book on the Bardo on his Kindle.

    @genkaku wrote:
    Now it's so many years later and I have my answer: Is it bullshit or not? The answer is "yes." Or "no" if you prefer. If you want a brass ring, ride a merry-go-round.

    So basically since the 1970’s you’ve put in a lot of effort and have no definitive answer other than to say “to each his own”, although the journey has produced some worthwhile gems. I think that’s not unusual, the journey shapes you and the spiritual life will leave its traces.

    But I do think it is worthwhile. The renunciate’s holy life is not for everyone, but I think time spent on spiritual topics is a good addition to most people’s lives.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    So basically since the 1970’s you’ve put in a lot of effort and have no definitive answer

    @Kerome -- Did I say that?... definitive answers tend to peter out, don't you think? If they didn't, how "definitive" could they be?

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