By Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA
July 24, 2019
Greetings one and all…
Last week I presented a new program on aging – Aging from the Inside Out. I invited people to view aging from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the outward, physical manifestations of aging (grey hair, wrinkles, etc.), I focused on the evolution of the mind, heart, and spirit.
A Different Perspective of Aging
Aging from the inside out is a somewhat counter-cultural view of aging. Instead of perseverating on the problematic changes and subsequent losses related to our physical aging, we considered what is to be gained as we age. By so doing, we recognized that aging is actually a life-giving evolution comprised of:
The Evolution of the Mind—We gain a more expansive understanding and comprehension of life with every step of the journey. With hard-earned wisdom teased from the trials of life, we are able to weave the various threads into a tapestry that reveals the meaning of life.
The Evolution of the Heart—By accepting the reality of our mortality, we generate an enhanced sense of gratitude for every moment. We are also more inclined to live more intentionally and more dangerously—willing to risk opening our hearts to those encountered along the way. We risk being vulnerable to life.
The Evolution of the Spirit— As we mature chronologically, physically, emotionally, and cognitively, the spirit matures as well. The twists and turns of Life challenge, reshape, and refine the tenets that guide and sustain us. With age, it is natural to shift our attention from the secular to the sacred—indicative of a shift in priorities. We literally and figuratively raise our focus to consider what matters most in life—the essence of our being.
What Do You See?
In the process of creating Aging from the Inside Out, I reflected on the evolution of my attitude toward aging. As I did so, a memory from long ago bubbled up—a conversation with my mom that changed my view of aging forever.
Even before I learned how to read, I loved books and magazines. Every month, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the new National Geographic. Once received, I would spend hours looking at the pictures. On one occasion, I remember talking with my mom about the photo of an old woman on the cover. As a 4-year-old, I focused on her deeply entrenched wrinkles and grey hair. I remarked that the woman wasn’t very pretty. It was then that my mom held the magazine and looked at the woman. She asked me, “Do you want to know what I see? I see a woman…
Who bravely confronts the challenges of life.
Who has grieved countless losses as well as celebrated many joys.
Who loves deeply and is loved in return.
Who has much to teach us about life.
Who is an amazing spirit in the world.
Who is beautiful from the inside out.”
Look Beneath the Surface—SEE the Person
She then cautioned me about judging people based upon their appearance—old or young, black or white, beautiful or plain. Judging people by their appearance serves only to diminish and to demean the person—and ME! Appearances are limiting. Instead, my mom instructed me to look beneath the surface to truly “see” the person.
Today, my experience of aging is directly related to this early childhood life lesson. When I look at myself and other older people, I look beneath the weathered surface to discover the gifts of the internal evolution of the mind, heart, and spirit—wisdom, gratitude, emotional vulnerability, and equanimity. By seeing beyond the facade of aging, we can embrace—instead of deny—the aging process. And who knows, we might eventually come to believe as Joan Erikson did that “to grow old is a great privilege.” Without a doubt, I am becoming a believer! How about you? Take good care and enjoy the moment. Blessings on your journey……jane
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