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Older people and the spiritual search

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Do you know any older people who got involved with spirituality at a young age but who now appear to have reached an impasse? My mother is one of these, she has cherry picked some of Osho’s statements to make it appear as if there is nothing left to do. When you talk to her about practice or meditation then she says she doesn’t need to do any of these things, or something like ‘anything can be meditation’. It causes me sadness.

I know a number of other older sannyasins who haven’t fallen into that trap. They tend to be lively people, many of whom still like to travel to India and Nepal for their holidays, even while in their seventies.

On the other hand if I recall my grandmother, who was an ardent Christian, she held on to aspects of her faith for a long time. While she lived independently she went to the church once a week and prayed before every meal. But I think she held on more to the idea of heaven than anything else. It only declined in her eighties when she started to get delirium.

It would be interesting to see some research about this, whether older people do at a certain point stop searching.

Comments

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    It will depend entirely on the individual person, on whether or not they have access to a qualified teacher (not a piece of paper, but actual growth/skill AND their own teaching telling them they are ready to teach).

    The Hindu Ashrama tradition, they indicate 4 stages of life: the first and the last are devoted to spiritual practice. So perhaps for those pursuing a spiritual path, old age becomes a re-direction inwards.

    As for your mother, I assume that she did not actually HAVE access to a qualified teacher or a guru. One of the functions of a teacher is to keep us from going off in unproductive directions ... such as assuming we have attained enlightenment when we are far from that.

    Don't be sad for your mother. Through her practices when younger, she has set imprints for her next life which will expose her to the spiritual path again. Each of us follows the path that is best for us, and since it takes countless lifetimes (they say) to achieve enlightenment, temporary glitches along the way are of little significance.

    Many people, as they get older and the future closes down, DO turn inward for their happiness and fulfillment.

    Nerida
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited August 13

    @FoibleFull said:
    Many people, as they get older and the future closes down, DO turn inward for their happiness and fulfillment.

    Yes, that’s very much what I see. I think it has everything to do with your attitude towards death. If you think death is the end, you get depressed and the world becomes very small.

    Thanks for the kind words about my mother. Not only did she not have a teacher (other than Osho at a distance) but I don’t think she ever accepted anyone else as sufficiently advanced to teach her.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited August 13

    I do try not to be evangelical about anything at all, although it’s clear I sometimes struggle with the impulse to share the dharma widely. And I realised before I started that this would be a new chapter in my daily practice, that after a long time on my own and being able to dedicate the bulk of my time to meditation, that there would come a change both in my daily patterns and in my practice. This is the rubber hitting the road, as it were.

    But I miss being able to discuss what’s on my mind freely with my mother, we’ve always had a very good relationship. My path is not the same as hers, and she has gotten into the habit of relating everything to her past experiences, and those discussions end up being frustrating for me because she does not connect. When I open a discussion about how we can learn something from Osho’s elegance, she replies with a story about a compliment she received during her commune days and tacks on the end that this proves she is very elegant and has nothing to learn. I find it brazen and somewhat hurtful.

    Of course it is good material for practice. I do my best to stay mindful through these exchanges, observing what is arising, but it often is only after the fact when I have had a chance to process things that I get some insight into my feelings. It can be difficult to keep up.

    I’m sure there will be further points of discussion.

    howperson
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    But I miss being able to discuss what’s on my mind freely with my mother, we’ve always had a very good relationship. My path is not the same as hers, and she has gotten into the habit of relating everything to her past experiences, and those discussions end up being frustrating for me because she does not connect. When I open a discussion about how we can learn something from Osho’s elegance, she replies with a story about a compliment she received during her commune days and tacks on the end that this proves she is very elegant and has nothing to learn. I find it brazen and somewhat hurtful.

    Of course it is good material for practice. I do my best to stay mindful through these exchanges, observing what is arising, but it often is only after the fact when I have had a chance to process things that I get some insight into my feelings. It can be difficult to keep up.

    I’m sure there will be further points of discussion.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions

    @Kerome you could be your own worst enemy by intentionally triggering your self's reaction, by bringing up topics with your mother which you know will cause you discomfort and it's possibly your mother also finds it discomforting when you do...

    Definition of insanity Continuing to do the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a different outcome

    You can lead a camel horse to water, but you can't make it drink...

    lobsterNerida
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome
    I've seen as much interest as disinterest in the elderly following a spiritual practice ......much like every other age grouping of humans.
    Even those who consider themselves to be spiritual seekers often end up not being able to recognize that their former simple worldly attachments have only been exchanged for more complex spiritual attachments. A change up of one tribal membership for another, when in reality all memberships are just different experiences of sufferings cause.

    This is not unlike rock climbing where the risk to oneself in each stage of uncliping from a known safety line to go higher into the unknown becomes more pronounced the higher one decides to climb.
    Only in letting go whatever you presently find too scary to let go of, will you come closer to understanding what you are asking your parents to do.
    Only in doing such a thing will you see that there might be less real difference between your parents practice and your own as well as demonstrating to them that with some spiritual courage, a continued climbing is possible.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 14

    Some of us are busy carrying a mountain to Mohammad, with us on top of Mount Meru. There is a simpler task.

    Stop carrying.

    @Shoshin described this tendency ... and the solution. I am always at an impasse. Go around.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    @Kerome you could be your own worst enemy by intentionally triggering your self's reaction, by bringing up topics with your mother which you know will cause you discomfort and it's possibly your mother also finds it discomforting when you do...

    We used to always be able to discuss things, so I was used to just openly bringing these things forward. It may be that she is going through the process of turning inward, and these are just signs of that. I’ve more or less stopped discussing these things with her, she is obviously not interested.

    I think it is likely she just made her peace with spirituality, she found a place where it didn’t demand anything further from her and she thought that was a good place to stop. Now when I bring up discussion points that maybe cause her to re-evaluate that, it is difficult for her.

    It is a complicated issue.

    Shoshin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Thus have I heard ...Change is inevitable...Suffering is optional...

    Ren_in_black
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @how said:
    Even those who consider themselves to be spiritual seekers often end up not being able to recognize that their former simple worldly attachments have only been exchanged for more complex spiritual attachments. A change up of one tribal membership for another, when in reality all memberships are just different experiences of sufferings cause.

    I do know some, like my father for instance (he and my mother are separated), who has his own spiritual path by himself. He has friends, but he is not part of a spiritual community, yet he meditates and reads a lot of spiritual books. I admire him for that.

    Only in letting go whatever you presently find too scary to let go of, will you come closer to understanding what you are asking your parents to do.
    Only in doing such a thing will you see that there might be less real difference between your parents practice and your own as well as demonstrating to them that with some spiritual courage, a continued climbing is possible.

    I’ve thought about this some, but I don’t really think I am asking them to do very much. Keeping an open mind and having reasonable discussions is not much to ask.

    Still, I don’t insist on anything. If the space for these discussions is not there, then we will talk about other things instead, and I will talk about spirituality with my uncle and my father.

  • @Kerome: While my practice of 54 years is somewhat different from your mother's, it is clearly not that she has nothing left to learn. When we stop seeking, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we stop living. When we stop living, at any age, we are truly old. When we are truly old, we can not share. When we can not share, life (growing old) is a suffering. It is by seeking and learning that we stay young at any age.That is what enable us to celebrate life.

    Peace to all

    ShoshinKeromelobsterVastmind
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Lionduck said:
    It is by seeking and learning that we stay young at any age.That is what enable us to celebrate life.

    Yes, I agree. I was talking to my uncle about this topic this morning, and he is another one who has managed to stay mentally flexible into old age. He still reads current books such as Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman.
    But I wonder whether he has a real appreciation of silence. A lot of what he says seems very intellectual, very much worked out into details.

    lobsterhowLionduck
  • @Kerome:
    In his own way, he is still seeking. It may not match up with "appreciation for silence", and it may not be in the direction you would prefer, but celebrate with him and for him.
    Appreciation is key.

    lobsterhow
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Well said @Lionduck

    Appreciate. Celebrate.
    The closer we listen, the more here is heard. Not hard. Softly, softly.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Lionduck said:
    Appreciation is key.

    It is true, that any authentic seeker is good company along the way. They inspire us, we learn from each other, it is that “good company is the whole of the spiritual life”.

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