Age 60: Tasks of Aging

When you get to age 60, you know that you have used up possibly 3/4 or more of your  life span.  Now is the time to get real with yourself, face reality and get your priorities straight for the latter part of your life.  Here are some thoughts on the tasks of aging.

Face Reality:
Reality 1. You are old and getting older.  Your body is deteriorating and you will experience increasing disability, discomfort, pain and illness.  No point in whining and complaining–just accept it all as inevitable and natural.  Remember, your are in the tiny minority of all humans in history that have lived this long.  Don’t waste the precious gift of longevity.
Reality 2. You will die–and sooner rather than later.  Death is the big trip, so be sure you are packed and ready when the time comes (which may be tomorrow).  Have you lived your life to the full?
Reality 3. Time, energy and attention are your most precious and scarce resources–everything else is extraneous.  Never sell your time (for status or money) to someone else for less than it is worth to you.  Use your energy and attention for those things that are essential and life-enhancing.

Get Your Priorities Straight:
You do not have the time to mess around.  Get to grips with the reality of who you are and what is most important in your life.  Procrastination is the life stealer.
Your priorities need to be:
Your Self – not your ego or personality, fears or desires but what is essential in your being.  Take care of your soul first and your outer life will follow.
Your Relationships – your capacity for love and connection is essential.  Practice love and gratitude every day, particular with your partner, children and close friends.
Your Legacy – the enduring difference you make in the world that contributes to humanity.  Will you die totally satisfied with your life?  What do you still need to do and be?

Our relationship with and appreciation of the tasks of later life are changing rapidly.  It is no longer a time for torpid retirement, sitting in the armchair, idling away the hours.  It is a time to take stock, make some powerful intentions and live life to the last drop.
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The Tasks of Living

Accept the reality of life
Experience the joys and pain of being alive
Adjust to changing circumstances
Invest emotional energy in relationships
Let go of old patterns and attachments
Get in touch with the deeper aspects of the Self
Be aware of the experience that you are experiencing
Pay attention to the difference between Doing and Being
Develop a spiritual practice that nourishes your Inner Self through quiet

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Inner Nature

Each person has his or her own inner nature.  It is a like a fingerprint that distinguishes that person from every other.  That inner nature is also a blueprint for the tasks and challenges a person experiences in this life.  The inner nature is not simply the soul but–how the soul relates to the world and its unfolding.  It is a reflection of the soul in the mirror of the world.

The soul’s capacity for impacting the world in a good or bad way is determined by its level of development.  We are burdened by our person karma, our ancestral demands, our inheritance and our own limited awareness of the consequences of our own actions.  These determine the influence of the material world over us, and our ability to move the world toward greater conscious evolution.

Our own development depends on our level of awareness, our ability to extend our understanding and wisdom, our intention and our surrender.

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Relationship and Conscious Aging

I am in process of co-authoring a chapter in a book on Jungian approaches to aging with Jerry Ruhl, the director of the Jung Institute in Houston and author of Contentment and Living Your Unlived Life.  Our chapter is entitled “Relationship and Conscious Aging” and will explore the way Individuation is supported by intimate relationship in later life.   The book is scheduled for publication at the end of 2013.

To add reality to the chapter, I am interviewing a number of older couples who have been together for many years and who have a strong spiritual basis to their lives.  The information I have received is inspiring and uplifting.  It shows how deep and profound are the fruits of love.  I will share some of their insights in other posts.

Levels of Engagement

There are four levels in which our consciousness engages with the world:

  • Ignorance
  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Wisdom.
Ignorance is the blindness that comes from our inability/unwillingness to be aware of the consequences of our being in the world. This is the influence of the unthinking material world.
Knowledge is seeing the world as if it were a picture, two dimensional as something that is distant and separate from us.  The way of science and education, it allows manipulation and some semblance of control and so helps us contain our anxiety. Knowledge is better than ignorance but has the danger of superficiality and exploitation. It is disengaged.
Understanding is three-dimensional; it is the world of participation and engagement, or experience. To understand is to be involved with the object, to feel its nature, its function and limitations. It is the world of empathy and creativity that accepts the suffering and loss of control that comes from involvement. When we understand, we know something with more than just our perceptions and mental constructs – we know its nature.
Wisdom is experiencing the whole–knowing fully the expanding consequences of our actions, the part something plays in the web of connectivity and in our life experience. It recognizes that nothing is separate, that complexity and chaos are essential for all life and growth, that we are small and inconsequential in the face of a vast universe, that our awareness is limited and constrained.Our purpose in life is to consciously evolve–to develop our capacity for understanding and wisdom–so that we can make that difference to the world that is a reflection of our own individual nature.

Gardening

Everything in the garden is alive, each with its own unique nature.  For all of human history, the garden has been a symbol of life, an archetype of wholeness and connection to our essential being.  Whether we realize it or not, when we nurture a houseplant, a flowerbed or a landscape, we participate in the mystery of life, the evocation of the Life Force.

In the Bible, God is the gardener: “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden.”  Eden is our childlike innocent self; it is a time when we need to be looked after.  As we develop, we take responsibility for our own growth; we become our own gardeners: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”  Cultivating our inner garden is a sacred task that we cannot avoid.

To be a gardener is to participate in the miracle of creation.  As a skill, a vocation and a contemplative discipline, it requires dedication of body, mind and soul.  Nurturing plants and the soil they depend on, is a privilege earned over a lifetime.

Nature reveals its secrets only to the devoted.