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Spirituality: Awake to Our Aging

What are the wakeup calls associated with aging?  How do these calls relate to spirituality?  How can ContemplAgeing help us to face them, grow from them, and become more alive as a result of navigating these experiences and realities?

 There are many ways we would probably not want to be awake to our own aging, for example, aging brings us face-to-face with our own finitude and mortality.  This is a scary prospect for all of us in many ways, even the most courageous of us.

 Woody Allen said it this way, “I don’t mind death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”  Feelings such as these do give rise to an avoidance of the reality and a wish to remain unconscious of it.  We would prefer to sleepwalk through the realization.  Ernst Becker wrote about this in his book, The Denial of Death.  Others like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross see the opportunities inherent therein.  See her book, Death: The Final Stage of Growth.

 Other aspects of aging challenge our willingness to be awake.  Three in particular come to mind: first, changes in our physical health—at a recent presentation one member of the audience reported that she just cannot walk on some days; second, ending of the many roles we have had in our families, our communities, and our work lives—such losses affect our sense of identity and impact our sense of self, causing who to ask a profound question, “Who am I now, and what is the meaning of my life?”;  and third, losing our social network through the deaths of family and friends—creating a experience of isolation, aloneness, and loneliness.

 Let me ask the question again: Is there anything about spirituality and ContemplAgeing that can help us to face and grow from these fundamental human experiences associated with our aging?  Next time I will look at how both can help us.

 For the time being let me end with the following observation about ContemplAgeing.  It is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the questions that you and I ask ourselves.  ContemplAgeing respects the many spiritual practices and religious traditions that are important to each of us.

My own spirituality is rooted in my Catholic background and in the 10 years I lived as a Jesuit.  Nonetheless, my approach to these questions is ecumenical.    Let me conclude with a passage from the New Testament (Luke 9:49-50) that best illustrates the importance of respect for various answers to the questions.

“John spoke up, ‘Master,’ he said, ‘we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we tried to stop him.’  But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.’”

 This passage from the Gospel of John suggests that there are many ways to cast out devils, just as there are many ways to transform the aging process, spiritually.  What is most important is that this transformation occurs and that the fullness of life is enhanced for the person.

Posted in agingspirituality on 1 February 2010
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