Tao Portion-Lynch from the Athleta campaign
There’s a saying we like to toss around, “you’re only as old as you feel,” to make aging seem like it’s somehow optional, and that we can avoid growing old by just not paying attention to our grey hair, rickety joints, and changing mobility. While it’s true that a lot of us feel the same inside at 50 as we did at 25, to ignore the facts doesn’t serve us.
Mindfulness practices can help us pay attention to all sensations and not mind or be bothered by certain sensations that are often associated with aging, and this is helpful. The Dalai Lama has said over and over again that one of the faults of our western culture is that we live like we’re going to live forever, failing to prepare for our deaths, and that is a mistake. We need to pay attention and plan for our end of life. We need to face the reality that our lives in this form are finite and time-bound. In fact, in order to truly live, we need to be mindful that we are going to die.
Pretending that we’re going to live forever and stay young just by listening to our children’s and grandchildren’s music, learning new things, or going to yoga classes twice a week, will not serve us to take responsibility for our lives. We need to be mindful of our belongings, both our physical and psychic baggage. Cleaning up, clearing out, is a process that needs to continue so we can stay mindful and aware, uncluttered with false ideas, preparing to face our fears and deal with life as it happens.
Then we can stop waiting to do things that are important to us, imagining that we have all the time in the world. We can take action while we have stamina and interest and company with us to do the things that we’ve said we always wanted to.
That being said, growing older doesn’t need to be limiting or something to fear at all. In fact, if we plan correctly, growing older can be something we mature into and look forward to.