Aging isn't an affliction. Aging reveals the thought processes and habits that we have assumed and consumed throughout our lifetime.
Despite promises to myself not to succumb to signs of aging, such as the stooped-over shuffle, in my sixties I fell prey to a limp, yet I did nothing about the pain. All of the assumptions I heard about aging—assumptions I disagreed with all my life—congealed into four words: “I am getting old.” After a while, merely stepping up on a curb was so painful that I had to use the section leveled for wheelchairs. Sadly but resignedly, I had come of age.
Then I checked myself. Why am I making myself at home in the “old” box without even trying to heal the pain? Could my ailment be a consequence of inadequate self-care? So I made a few adjustments. A massage therapist* got me to the point whereI could walk without limping and take the stairs without discomfort. A memory foam-top for my mattress ended the hip pain. A carpenter advised me to throw away my metal bed frame and built a platform for my mattress. After these small but effective changes, the limp and pain in my leg greatly reduced.
I suspect some doctors would have prescribed a walker if my health insurance had covered it. A healthy seventy-five-year-old runner, biker, and tennis player was informed that Medicare wouldn’t pay for dental or eye care. However, they would pay for medicine, a walker, or a scooter—items that seal your fate as old and falling apart, and which could lead to further debilitation.
As we age we think consciously or unconsciously that we are supposed to feel weak, as if growing old is a sickness and we are the victims of nature. We accept the pain as fact rather than as guidance, and we often turn to medicating or “managing” the pain, discomfort, or disease rather than thinking of how to heal it. Some companies in the medical, natural healing, and beauty industries take advantage of our fears and shame about aging. We might hide and or lie about our age rather than embrace the new opportunities and strength aging opens to us.
Aging isn't an affliction. Aging reveals the thought processes and habits that we have assumed and consumed over our lifetime. Perhaps our youth hides overeating potato chips and resorting to worry, but aging reveals a lifetime of accumulated stresses, such as lack of nutrition, neglected dreams, misinterpreting what it means when a dream doesn’t come true, belief in poverty and lack, and resentment. Although these anxieties might be revealed in our physical condition and life circumstances, their revelation is not to shame or guilt us. Shame and guilt are seldom effective in promoting rehabilitation or healing—even when our actions land us in the hospital or jail.
The revelation’s message is that we can heal at any age. We can dream, plan, and wake up to the awesome power and beauty of our being—that which doesn’t diminish with age. Healing literally means to make whole. Healing may require overcoming limitation, resentment, and a perception that our worth and value is contingent upon circumstances outside ourselves. Healing means understanding our cosmic connection, and bringing to light that which is hidden. Many of us fear what’s hidden, as if the truth will reveal that we are a monster. The truth is always that our awesomeness is hidden beneath erroneous thinking. If we haven’t developed it yet, we will do well to learn and engage in the art of self-reflection described by Gary Zukov as a “journey through your defenses and beyond so that you can experience consciously the nature of your personality, face what it has produced in your life, and choose to change that.”
I’m not a medical professional and I make no claims that with self-reflection your diagnosis will be reversed (although I am convinced that can happen). However, healing can take place at the level of the soul, and sometimes that’s manifested in your physical body and life circumstances. Rather than succumb to limitations, let the limitations that crop up in your life (whether they be physical or something circumstantial, such as financial problems) be a guide and road to understanding your larger place in the world. Louise Hay has associated many physical ailments with the unconscious beliefs that spawned them, and although this counsel may not reflect everyone’s situation, it’s a helpful guide. Click here for more information about this.
No matter the physical or circumstantial disorders in our lives as we age, we can still dream, and not just dream for others, but dream for ourselves. Someone who has lost a leg won’t grow a new one, but can obtain aids that help with mobility or “walk” toward a cherished or hidden dream. Aging is a road of recovery for our sense of wholeness.
Aging also reveals the wholesome habits and thought processes we can recover at any time. Happy older people glow and laugh easily. The practice of self-reflection and exploring complex questions about the nature of reality expresses itself as wisdom. The expression “keep on keeping on” easily applies to elders who are socially active when they want to be, live with passion and purpose, and are still learning and growing. May this be you and me as we embrace our age and the wisdom that comes with each passing year.
*I am indebted to Michele Redd for the ability to run for the bus.
Photo of Ngoma Hill by Hollis King. Ngoma is a performance poet, multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and paradigm shifter, who for over 40 years has used culture as a tool to raise sociopolitical and spiritual consciousness through work that encourages critical thought. His latest CD release is Lessons from the Book of Osayemi.