- “Well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive,” according to Atul Gawande.
- “Everything changes, all the time,” according to Buddhist wisdom.
This double helix demonstrates better aging
as a relationship between
our practical everyday spirituality
and actively nurturing integrated elements of our well-being in the process of growing older wisely and well.
This gross over-simplification of a basic tenet of Buddhism highlights a fundamental challenge of our aging experience. As soon as we become adjusted to its current form and needs it changes again, forcing another adjustment. For many (most?) people, commencement of felt “change” begins somewhere in midlife: in the 40s for some, the 50s for many, or the 60s for most of the rest. It often becomes sharply felt just before or just after retirement, when people become more acutely aware of the style, type, tone, tenor, and magnitude of the numerous changes impacting them, and their response to them. William Bridges makes the main point that, “It’s not the changes that do us in, it’s our transition.” That is, our response to ongoing changes over which we have little to no control.
Our everyday spirituality is how we choose to deal with the never-ending transitions of our aging life. It is our regular practice of all that puts into action our personal “reasons…to be alive.” It is expressed in how we maintain our wellness balance. It is the outcome of the thoughts we nurture and the actions we take each day, and our value-laden reason(s) for both. It is the process and lifestyle we choose that contributes to our personal well-being and better aging. Very simply, our spirituality is our way of being in the world; it is most clearly shown by the path(s) we choose to follow…and avoid. The more conscious we are of these things the better. Which is why we encourage and promote our program Conscious Aging as a Spiritual Practice (CASP).
This is why our daily well-being is not static. It evolves and matures, grows and moves, from one interesting thing to another as life unfolds for us one day at a time. Actively attending to our well-being reflects our everyday spirituality in action. As does avoiding doing so. When we actively attend to its call to life, we are basically practicing our own form of conscious aging as a spiritual practice. When we are oblivious to it, for any length of time, we experience soul sickness.
But sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes our stuck-ness can be something as benign as a “time out” where we take time to consider our situation and options. Sometimes we get stuck because we can’t see any way to get unstuck.
Recently I experienced a malaise, that I see now was really a message from my deepest self, aka my Soul, telling me in no uncertain terms to move on; to attend to something(s) that was being under-nourished, and/or unattended to in my life. Perhaps to prune some activity(s) in the way of doing so. This is important to me given the closeness of my horizon.
I don’t mean to claim any particular
competence or moral high ground here; but when my vocation includes helping others
find their own way to wellness and better aging, and I still get stuck, i.e., lose my own spiritual and emotional
balance, as I did recently–then (without embarrassment, I suggest) it can
happen to anyone, at any time … more than once! And it does! More to the point,
this commonly happens when, and because, I/ we aren’t paying attention to
what’s important to us as our life continually unfolds.
So, what is “Better Aging?” –It is simply better than usual aging. Which we encourage at NEW FUTURES through our program of conscious aging as a spiritual practice (CASP), and support with a variety of programs, because it is a foundational way to nurture and support a practical Everyday Spirituality. Onethat nurtures our innate selfhood through insights and practices that result in Better Aging generally. While this is different for each of us, there are some basic patterns, just as all music comes from eight notes and the rainbow is comprised of three primary colors. Thus, a significant part of what NEW FUTURES does is help people recognize their own patterns, so they can prune and shift them in order to develop new ones more “righter” for them, when they are ready to do so. Which really means, when they are able to let go of some aspect(s) of their evolved lifestyle—beliefs and behaviours; in order to take hold of new ones that contribute to better aging for them.
This is why we at NEW FUTURES offer two formats where people can talk openly about their aging psycho-emotional and spiritual needs. Our small group workshops and retreats offer the benefit of hearing others talk about things that touch on their own situation. When one’s issues are too deep or complex and/or personal to share with strangers, we offer one to one coaching and spiritual companionship with individuals and couples.
Check out other blog posts on this website for more insight into my practice of my Everyday Spiritualty in imperfect action. Better still, check out the three events here that we are offering on March 23 and May 11, where you will find people like you talking about issues like yours. Or contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, or for a free no obligation introductory conversation about your needs now.
As always, we invite your feedback about this article, or anything else on this website.