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Aging is Inevitable ....Suffering Optional

ShoshinShoshin No one in particularNowhere Special Veteran

I was browsing around one of the local Op shops (New Hope) when a couple of books drew my attention
Neil DeGrasse "Astrophysics for people in a hurry" & Lewis Richmond (a Zen priest and meditation teacher) "Aging as a Spiritual Practice"...I bought both books...

Anyhow I've just read the introduction (and part of the first chapter) of Lewis Richmond's book ...
One of his teachers was Shunryu Suzuki, and at one time when Lewis was attending a Dharma talk by Suzuki ( back in the sixties) a student asked "Why do we meditate?" Suzuki answered with a laugh, "So you can enjoy your old age,"

Lewis calls his book "A map that reimagines aging not as a time of decline. but a time of fulfillment than can, in spite of occasional indignities, be something to enjoy"

What are your thoughts on aging?
Do you enjoy aging?
Or do you fear it?
Or something in between... just accept it?


"Time flies when you're having fun"

personCarlita

Comments

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited November 30

    Did you get why Suzuki said, "So you can enjoy your old age"? It means, that meditation helps extend your life, so that you'll have an old age to enjoy. Look at all the people who keel in their 50's and 60's. They never even get to old age. Their lives are cut short.

    How does meditation extend your life? It minimizes the stress hormones in your system that cause aging, even if you eat a healthy diet. Exercise also cuts back on the stress hormones, but meditation compliments that. It calms the system, and turns on your calming hormones and soothing neurotransmitters and endorphins.

    The longer we're able to live and stay active, the more Dharma practice we can do, and the more we can contribute toward alleviating suffering in a samsaric world.

    Shoshin
  • 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
    edited November 30

    Putting aside for a moment that life holds no guarantees of an old age, I know what I DON'T want in old age;
    I don't want to be resentful, crabby or critical.
    I don't want to be burdened by regrets of yesteryear, and fear of what the future holds.
    My poor dear old mum is not enjoying her old age as much as she might; she misses my father, and his absence has changed her.
    She is less sure of herself, indecisive, stubborn and tentative.
    Never mind that he was 11 years older than she, (he would be 97 now) she was looking forward to living out her days beside him, and the void his death left, leaves her despondent, frequently maudlin and a shadow of her former self.

    I don't want to be like that.....

    ShoshinFoibleFullKundoBuddhadragon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Physically/biologically one is aging the moment one is conceived...
    So it would seem that there's no such thing as old age... only age AKA change, impermanence :)

    I think meditation enriches one's life and life is all about change/aging... out with the old and in with the new "Never a dull moment" Opportunities lost....Opportunities gained ....

    Ah the wonders of growing young in an aging body ;) :)

    JeffreyFoibleFullBuddhadragon
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran
    edited December 1

    I am 69 years old, with heart arrhythmia, so questions about aging are quite relevant to me.

    The more I go into mindfulness, the less I worry about it or feel fear. And the less unpleasantness bothers me (it doesn't go away ... I just am better-able to relax about it). Oh, I do what I can to retain my health and functioning, and have even been able to improve a few things. But aging and decline is inevitable. My sister and I (also a Buddhist and age 76) and I used to talk a lot about the "trap" of hoping you will get healthier as you go through your senior years. There is a grace to acceptance of what you cannot change.

    Do I ENJOY aging? I don't miss being young since I wasn't very happy when I was young. And while I cannot say that I enjoy health problems, I smile and chuckle a lot more than I did when I was younger and healthy, so I cannot say that I dis-enjoy (IS there such a word?) aging.
    It is what it is. As a Buddhist, I think our primary tasks are to relax, accept, and work on compassion for all (ourselves included).

    lobsterpersonShoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited December 1

    @Shoshin said:
    Physically/biologically one is aging the moment one is conceived...
    So it would seem that there's no such thing as old age... only age AKA change, impermanence :)

    Well there definitely is a threshold where you will find suddenly old age catches up with you. My father as a relatively youthful 70 year old had a heart arrhythmia which meant even as relatively little effort as walking up a ramp was causing him to have to pause several times... it was difficult watching him age 15 years almost overnight.

    Ah the wonders of growing young in an aging body ;) :)

    That too... from watching my stepfather his memory goes, troubles with eyes, ears, knees and he ends up sleeping a lot, but his mind still seems youthful.

    Shoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    One of the things I notice at my age, 78, is that mucking about, waxing sage about death or improvement or spiritual maturity ... well, it's all pretty much hot air and imagining you or I or anyone else might somehow escape. "Oh lookit me, Ma! I can talk about it as if I knew what I were talking about! How kool am I?" Intellectual tripe, in short.

    I’ve noticed in the past that there is an age curve to those interested in spiritual topics like Buddhism, 50 and people are very interested, 75 and they seem to be looking at other things. My father is kind of the exception, still reading books on the Bardo at 70.

    As far as I can see, the nice thing about death is that there is nothing extra. Buddhism is an extra, however lovely. And so it seems time to fall back on the line, "Just because you are indispensable to the universe does not mean the universe needs your help."

    I do find it interesting that old people are not more interested in learning about death. Buddhism has a great deal to say about it, and you’d think that those lessons become more critical to learn as you get older. But for example my stepfather, who is now 80, has never displayed the slightest interest in seriously learning about death.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Aging>moment to moment>hour to hour>day to day>week to week>month to month>year to year>decade to decade...

    When one looks around there are people in their 70s 80s & 90s still getting the most out of life (under their present circumstances ie, can't do some of the things they could do when they were younger but have learnt to live with/make the most of the changes) whilst others try and fight it ( having a strong aversion to the aging process)...and to no avail ...it continues to win out...fears & regrets being their constant mental companions...( as they continue to swim against the tide)

    It also reminds me of how some young children and teenagers who have a terminal disease or who are physically challenged but continue to make the most of life, living each day as it comes...and to the fullest...

    When it comes to aging, some people (so it would seem) are more inclined to be a bit more graceful when surrender to the process ( and going with the flow)... taking things one day at a time and making the most of the day( regardless of their physical aliments) ...by being grateful ...there's no rush...

    From what I gather, ongoing practice of mindfulness helps the surrendering process somewhat...

    But I guess as usual it's different strokes for different folks ...

    However when it comes to our physical bodies, we all know what the future holds....

    "Transient alas; are all component things_
    Subject are they to birth - and then decay
    Having gained birth; to death the life flux swings
    Bliss truly dawns when unrest dies away!"

    lobsterKundoBuddhadragon
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    I’ve noticed in the past that there is an age curve to those interested in spiritual topics like Buddhism, 50 and people are very interested, 75 and they seem to be looking at other things. My father is kind of the exception, still reading books on the Bardo at 70.

    It reminds me of when Richard Dawkins was giving one of his many talks (I think it was in Australia), and the question came up "Why do more old people attend church?" and somebody in the audience piped up "They are 'cramming' for the finals"

    I guess for some this holds a seriously yet funny truth :) I must admit it did bring a smile to my face when I read it ;) :)

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

    @Kerome

    I do find it interesting that old people are not more interested in learning about death. Buddhism has a great deal to say about it, and you’d think that those lessons become more critical to learn as you get older. But for example my stepfather, who is now 80, has never displayed the slightest interest in seriously learning about death.

    What do you imagine you or anyone else might actually learn? Learning is what anyone might hold in the palm of his or her intellectual hand. Since death does not seem amenable to such an option, furrowing the brow or scratching the chin or any other indicator of ersatz control posture likewise seems to be out of the question. Is it wise -- or merely arrogant? -- to lay claim to such "learning?"

    The translation of the Dhammapada I've got (P.Lal) attributes these words to Gautama: "All fear dying/ All fear death." So ... are we talking about learning that reduces fear? If so, does it really work?

    My Zen teacher's teacher once said, "There is birth and there is death. In between, there is enlightenment." "Between" is a peculiar suggestion in my ears. Where is the "between" in life's activities? Seriously.

    KundoShoshin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    From the book

    In the first stage, Lightning Strike, the dominant emotion is surprise.We are taken aback to realize, "I'm really growing old." and then surprised again at how long it took us to see it.
    The next stage, Coming to Terms, takes hold when we compare ourselves with how we once were-favorably or unfavorably. We look back at the "old me" and see how it measures up against today's "new me". If we like being the age we are now, that comparison brings happiness, if we don't it leans to regret.
    The stage of Adaptation comes when we no longer compare ourselves to the past and can rest in the stage we are now.
    And the final stage, Appreciation, comes when adaptation matures into full acceptance.

    He goes on to say that any stage can arise at any age and stages do not necessarily appear in a fixed order and sometime we have to traverse these emotional zones more than once...

    Hmm I wonder how often we have a...

    ...moment ....

    "If I knew back then I woulda...."
    "If I knew back then I coulda...."
    "If I knew back then I shoulda..."

    ....and then we wake up to the fact what's done is done...we are here now and there's no going back,,,so we make the most of now, taking comfort in the fact there's no time like the present to be present...

    Kundo
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    I don't think many people think about death proactively until they're forced to.

    I know I didn't until I was (mis)diagnosed with my disease. And while it's not terminal, it's degenerative enough that I've been told to think about a wheelchair in the next 5-10 years (yeah, nah I don't think so). I think @genkaku hit it on the head in his post:

    The translation of the Dhammapada I've got (P.Lal) attributes these words to Gautama: "All fear dying/ All fear death." So ... are we talking about learning that reduces fear? If so, does it really work?

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    Aging is an inevitable clause included in the small letters of our physical skandha contract.
    As with anything inevitable, acceptance is bliss.
    I am teaching myself to age gracefully with every new candle I blow.
    And as Woody Allen wisely said "Better to grow old than the alternative"

    Hozan
  • 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

    He also said "I'm not scared of dying - I just don't want to be there when it happens".

    Which is actually a more common occurrence than one might think....

  • Aging is Inevitable ....Suffering Optional
    Pain is Inevitable ....
    Unpleasant feeling is Inevitable ....

    "What, bhikkhus, is the Nibbana-element with residue left? Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate, and delusion in him that is called the Nibbana-element with residue left.

    ShoshinKundo
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