Aging Awake

Within the dream of life, all people are growing into old age. As we become 70, 80, and 90 years old, we are not able to remember things as well as we use to, we lose our ability to perform complex problem solving, and we lose our physical abilities. Within this commonly accepted view of our lives, it is just accepted that this gradual loss of these important personal characteristics are inevitable and to be accepted. What does that “acceptance” actually look like in practice? Younger people try not to think about getting old because, well, it really is pretty bleak and they don’t have to deal with it yet. And older people try to deal with it the best they can because they face it every day, but it’s generally difficult and discouraging most of the time. It’s enough to make you just want to skip the whole thing all together!

But here is the real problem with this common view that says mental and physical abilities are what is most important about who we are.   It is not the inevitable decline of these functions, but rather that this view gives the highest meaning and importance to what are actually fairly superficial characteristics. Because if you look at it, what we all truly value the most in ourselves and others is being present, grounded, and giving/receiving love and attention.  Hold all these options up and compare them for your self.   Which do you think are most important?

Now, what if we were to change our focus to emphasize the sense of presence/awareness in ourselves and others rather than our mental and physical abilities?   Then the important things about us, what gives value and meaning, is how aware, awake and engaged in the present experience we are.   Not only would this make for a richer and more fulfilling experience of ourselves and others, but it would also radically change the whole issue around aging. Because the wonderful thing about awareness or awake-ness is this: It doesn’t seem to change as we age! The awareness that saw things when you were 6 years old is the same awareness that sees things now, and will be the same awareness that sees things when you’re 90! Just take a look.  Has the “seeing” faculty changed as your body and mind have changed over the years?

You see, all bodies and minds are constantly aging. So the time to consider this alternate view of who you are and what is important and worth focusing on is right now, no matter how old you are. Shifting focus, seeing this living awareness (with all of it’s content) as it is, is of the greatest significance. But if it is to make a difference in “your life”, it needs to be practiced and explored until it becomes a “habit”, a natural resting in what is most real and essential in life. Then, what difference does it make how the body and mind change or decline? Because what you really are, and what is most important, is always available.  And it never changes.


4 thoughts on “Aging Awake

  1. Hi, dear Dan, nice to read you, above all your mention of the dream of life: all kinds of changes belong to that dream and therefore are meaningless (aging issues as well as all other kinds of problems). Sometimes, the dream becomes a nightmare, just to encourage us to awake and be present as you invite us to.

  2. It was great meeting you at Mokie’s last night. Hope to see you there again soon. I’m in the process of winnowing out the most salient points from Wilber’s 806 page book, “The Religion of Tomorrow–A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions.”
    Plus trying to fit it into a Christian framework for the good folks at Stone Church–oy vey!


    • dkelso1 says:

      Thanks Jenefer, nice meeting you as well. If you would like to discuss your presentation in more detail, bounce some ideas around, shoot me an email.

  3. Alhazen says:

    This reminds me of the story of the professor who took out a $10 bill from his pocket and asked his students if they wanted it. Everyone wanted it. Then he took the bill through successive stages of deformation of the bill such as crumbling and throwing on the ground and stepping on it and asking his students after each such act if they still wanted the $10 bill to which they always said yes. He taught them; despite what happened to the outer appearance of the bill its essential value was still intact.
    The $10 was only a symbol or a token of a true buying power that lies behind its worthless body of paper with drawings on it.

    Thank you.

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