Ok, something crazy just happened. I turned 70!
And, to be clear, I’m celebrating. 🙂
If I mention that I’m old, or older, some of my younger friends are like, Don’t say that! Or—We have to have a conversation about this! I think these very dear friends mean that I’m not washed up, I’m still relevant, I’m still clever, or whatever “old” tends to imply, and especially that they want me to think well of myself. But—I do!
I don’t think being old is a bad thing. When in our cultural evolution did we decide that being old was something to avoid (like the plague)? That wrinkles are unacceptable? That we should marginalize older folks? Well, I just don’t buy it. In fact, an antipathy to old age is very unwise since, hey, we’re all headed there.
During the early phase of the pandemic in 2020, I began working daily with the Five Remembrances, reminders that we are of the nature to grow old, of the nature to die. First seen in the Upajjhatthana Sutta (“Subjects for Contemplation”), they are meant to be recited aloud—powerful, resonant statements that the Buddha suggests we face head-on, absorb, and accept.
Like so many Buddhist teachings, this approach is utterly counterintuitive. Our fear of death can weigh so heavily on our psyches that we humans, responding intuitively, tend to scurry around hiding from the inevitability in every way we can possibly devise! But the Buddha taught, just look at this. Just be with this.
And, lo and behold…we can. The result? Peace. Calm. The opportunity for contentment, joy, savoring the moments and the miracles of life, every day—which we don’t have room for if our subconscious is scurrying around occupied with the fear of death.
Once we accept the reality and let go of the fear… life can be wonderful!
Full of gratitude. Spacious. Sweet. Alight with the glow of it all: precious family, friends, sangha, community. Curiosity, discovery, birdsong, fall leaves, tender spring shoots, breathtaking skies. Just go outside and look up* to see them. That’s life. That’s here. That’s now.
*With thanks to La Sarmiento 🙂