Sunday, August 22, 2010

Aging is the Path Deepening

So many people around me seem to use their age as a measure of themselves, useful to their critic and judge. Age also seems to play a big role in the way we all pity ourselves or worry about "the future." Our view of the past is totally washed by the waters of age bracketing.

My parents are old. Their children are old too. My children are young yet, but they are old compared to how I can remember them.

My body does not function exactly the same way as it did yesterday, or three years ago, or 40 years ago for that matter.

In my practice I teach people of all ages, with bodies that have lived through many different experiences and registered them in various ways. Their minds took all that in as well. My own practice began as an exploration of who I might actually be, an effort to discover whatever I could about living this life in this body as this person, and searching for a way to at least limit the pain involved in that process. I've learned about all these matters, and opened doors and windows that I did not know were there before my practice of yoga, and some that I could see vaguely in the distance have become more familiar to me.

Age is for me now a natural reminder to deepen the practice. Continuously letting go, finding new layers and ways of understanding acceptance, gratitude, and joy. Each creaky joint, each little bit of energy opening up, the requirement that I check in with reality and not make up anything about what is, these are just a few gifts of my aging.

I observe my parents, one in a wheelchair with dementia, one fully in charge of a dependent household, and contemplate the number 90. Imagine living ninety years? Imagine memories of being my own age of 56 as so very much younger than the present moment. Nearly half a life ago. What difference does it make that I was more or less flexible a decade ago? How is that knee right now? What can I do to relax that shoulder a little more and draw my energy through my core instead? Can I listen to this conversation in this moment without laying judgment upon every one and every word? Have I seen this before, been here before, heard this before, felt this before? Really? I take a step back to see, think, feel, breathe, observe myself in my patterns and shepherd my feelings like a little flock, safely into the gated pasture where they can be free, and I can be free of them enough to be here now.

The gift of openness, of letting go, gives freedom and truth the chance to take hold in this moment. Just being is the only being there can be, at whatever age. And adding years in and of itself means little. For me, the moment now is the only opportunity offered.

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