Let It Go - One Key to Aging Gracefully

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Years ago, I studied at Columbia University for a doctorate in Adult Learning and I was shocked to discover that adult development theories stop at 65 and very few of the theorists even broach the subject of spirituality.
So I decided to take it on.
I've since discovered a number of organizations that discuss spirituality, but most of them talk about spirituality and health or how to cope with dying.
While these are important topics, this article takes a different approach, and talks about LIVING, and how the aging process actually helps us to develop ourselves more spiritually.
Spirituality isn't just one aspect of life; it permeates and is what gives meaning to all of life.
Spirituality is not religion.
I've heard it said that more older adults become religious even when they haven't been earlier.
One comedian said, "It's because they are cramming for the final exam!" Spirituality can certainly include religious practices, which are supportive, but, for me, it is anything that gets us in touch with the fact that LIFE IS MORE THAN WHAT it APPEARS to be and that REALITY is not what we SEE, but more about what we cannot see.
When our eyesight and our hearing seem to get worse, our insight and our KNOWING actually get stronger.
Over the next few articles, I will cover four themes about spirituality and aging.
The first one is: LET IT GO One of the most important spiritual teachings for every religion and spiritual philosophy is about living in the NOW.
Ask yourself, If someone were to write a book about your life, what would its title be? Is that title focused on who you are, or what you've been or done in the past? How much of your life is spent looking back? I'm not saying not to have wonderful memories.
But I have come to a conclusion about this time of life.
Probably the unhappiest older people I have seen are those who long to be as they once were, rather than as they are now.
Those who compare themselves with the way they were 20 years ago are engaging in an exercise certain to keep them in an unhappy state.
Striving to be happy with who and what you are right now is essential to happiness as we age.
One of the spiritual tasks of aging is learning to live without regret.
Whenever you are anxious it is because you are living in the future.
When you are depressed, it is because you are living in the past.
One of the reasons we reject what happens to our bodies, for example, as we age, is that we can no longer do the things we used to do.
I was once a dancer (even danced on TV on the Children's hour with Ed Hurlihy.
) Does anyone remember that one? I won contests as I got older and could do every ballroom dance then imaginable.
But, a few years ago, I had my first hip replaced and now the second one is acting up.
I could make myself pretty miserable over that.
But, rather than regretting that I am unable to dance, I use DANCE as a metaphor for living fully.
That I can do at any age.
I used to be a singer.
I had a beautiful voice, which of course, I didn't really ever think was good enough.
But I played the guitar and sang before large audiences and once even at the Asbury Park, NJ band pavilion.
I even got to sing with the Von Trapp family once, but that's a whole other story.
Today, I can hardly carry a tune.
My voice has dropped significantly and my breath doesn't support holding high notes anymore.
I have two choices: I could be upset and discouraged that 'It ain't what it used to be," or I could rejoice that I had all those wonderful experiences and spend my time making new ones.
I'm choosing the latter.
ACCEPTANCE OF WHAT IS The columnist Jan Glidewell once said, "You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.
" ACCEPTING what is is probably the MOST important of all spiritual practices.
And certainly as we age, we get a lot of opportunity to practice that.
Every spiritual teaching emphasizes the importance of LIVING in the NOW.
Letting go of the past can get very practical, and for me, spirituality is nothing if it is not practical.
I'm in the process of moving and I'm following the advice that was given to me years ago when I left California for Florida.
The person helping me sort and pack would hold up everything before we packed it and say, "Is this who you are today?" I even let go of my doctoral dissertation because I realized that the learning is now inside of me and someone else could benefit from all those books and research materials.
They are no longer serving me and are not part of my NOW.
LIVING SIMPLY I do think that most people, as they get older, also learn to live more simply.
Living simply is another spiritual practice.
When we accumulate things, we are really telling the Universe that we don't trust that we'll have what we need when we need it.
Or that we never think we have enough.
Any collectors here? Take heed.
The very search and need for more is often a denial of the depth and beauty of what is present at the moment.
A guru once asked his disciples what they would choose if they were offered 10 million dollars or 10 children.
Of course, most people shouted out, "10 million," to which he replied, "You would be better off having 10 children, because then you wouldn't always be wanting more.
" One of the other ways that aging helps us to live in the present is the way our memories seem to be challenged.
Try this one on.
I believe that forgetting is the wisdom of spiritual evolution forcing us to stop living the past.
They say that one thing good about getting over the hill is that you don't remember climbing it.
I contend that forgetting is under-appreciated and should be re-examined.
It isn't time alone that heals things.
It's forgetting that smoothes the edges.
And that brings us to another Spiritual principle which comes under the heading of letting go of the past, the practice of Forgiveness.
I could write for days on this one alone.
But for now, I'd like to present what may seem like an unusual idea.
FORGIVENESS? The ultimate spiritual growth and experience is coming to realize that there is NO NEED TO FORGIVE.
What do I mean by that? I believe that as we age, we come to realize that Life doesn't just happen to us.
We are NOT victims of circumstance.
The ultimate spiritual understanding is that we are responsible for everything that happens to us and through us, and that no one or no experience comes into our lives by accident.
Everything is a function of our consciousness.
Therefore, every insult or hurt we think someone caused us was really a mirror reflection of something our souls wanted to learn, and the person and circumstance just obliged so we could get that gift.
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