Key Philosophies in Mindful Aging
Feb 02, 2017 03:10AM
By Elaine Voci
The final third of our lives is a great opportunity to grow spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. We have time to celebrate our life’s journey and to gather the wisdom of our experiences to share them with others—our peers, our children and our grandkids. There is meaning to be found in our life history and many elders write their memoirs, or what are called “ethical wills,” to preserve their memories and pass them on to the next generation.
Yet, in part because we live in a youth-obsessed culture, there are many fears and anxieties about growing older, especially for seniors who live alone. There are also practical concerns about safety, well-being, preventing isolation and loneliness. How can we ensure that the quality of our life remains healthy, positive, meaningful and productive as we age?
As with the other stages of life, in our senior years we have a choice about how we wish to age. It’s up to us, not our circumstances, to decide how we want to live, think, feel and act. It’s always been the case that life is what we make it, and that our attitude is the determining factor between living fully and happily, or living in a state of anxiety and unhappiness.
We must first begin by acknowledging that we are in charge of how we will view our own aging and how we will meet the challenges that we will inevitably face. We sometimes assume that solutions to our problems come from outside of ourselves. More often, however, they arise from within us. We all have beliefs, emotions and filters that Key Philosophies in Mindful Aging by Elaine Voci we use to relate to the world in which we live. We are much more than just our thoughts—we are a blend of our gut feelings and intuition, for example, as well as our cognitive processes.
When we use the term “conscious aging”, we mean that we can choose to age with mindfulness, be intentional about our aging, become skilled at coping with impermanence and change, to act with calmness in the presence of death and dying, and to maintain our connectedness with others.
There are certain key philosophies that apply to conscious aging. The first is the intention to make life-affirming, positive changes in our outlook, attitudes and viewpoint about aging in general, and our own aging in particular.
The second is the will to create daily habits of mindbody practices that build new neural pathways and bring renewed vitality and energy to our aging.
The third is consciously seeking inspirational guidance from a variety of sources, such as books, movies, teachers, trusted allies and role models in our community that contribute to and support our own inner authority.
The final philosophy is the capacity for surrender in order to yield to our potential, yield gracefully to the aging process, and act in accordance with our inner wisdom and the ancient wisdom of elders who came before us.
Psychologist David Powell, Ph.D., notes that, “Deepening requires surrender, letting go of control, abandoning competition, power, possessions, and prestige. It means going to a larger, spiritual sphere that embraces others and their story. In the first half of life, you focus on ‘My story’ and ‘Our story,’ your traditions, family, group, community, country and religion. In the second half of life you begin to focus on ‘The Story’ wherein you realize you play a small, but vital, role in something greater than yourself; a cosmic story found in a sense of interdependence with others, our world, our Earth, our Creator.”
Aging consciously is a way of claiming our elderhood and rejecting/questioning the mainstream contemporary models for aging with a belief that there are more possibilities for our senior years than are those recognized and supported. A new model is beginning to emerge as the cultural landscape is being redefined. The distinction between being an elder and being old is getting blurred. We know that we human beings are hard wired with a need to live passionate lives of purpose, meaning and service to a greater good.
As our life expectancy continues to lengthen, many of us will have years to focus on making a contribution to our communities, the younger generation, and society itself. As Steve Jobs reminded us, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Elaine Voci, Ph.D., is a life coach in private practice in Carmel and teaches the IONS Conscious Aging workshop. She hosts the quarterly Carmel Death Café and is the founder of the monthly Carmel Creative Aging Meet Up. Author of six books, she also writes a blog on her website. Connect at 317-730-5481 or ElaineVoci.com.