I’m very pleased to introduce today’s guest blogger, Dr. John Robinson, a clinical psychologist, minister and author, who has some powerful words of wisdom when it comes to aging. While he focuses on those leaving middle-age, much of his advice will be helpful to anyone at any age!
The new aging fascinates me. With the unprecedented longevity now gifted us by science, medicine, and nutrition, we are beginning to experience a brand new stage of human life – 15-20 more years of living! This is not your old, grim, retire-and-die-two-years-later kind of aging, this is an opportunity for a whole new you.
Ah, but what to do with the body? It doesn’t look so new. Doesn’t act so new. Age-related conditions seem to multiply in the years from 60-80, like parts breaking down on the old family car. We can’t really turn it in for a new one, though we might replace some of the parts. So how do we “live lighter” with our aging bodies in this new time of life?
In my exploration of the psychological and spiritual process of aging, I have come to see that three powerfully creative forces stimulate our growth in this new stage – initiation, transformation, and revelation. How do we experience these changes in the body?
Initiation happens when new perceptions, realizations or life events tell us that we have entered the next stage of life. It’s like the way that first kiss, first job, or first vision of what our life could be in adolescence moves us from childhood to the heady and complex world of adults. This same kind of shift happens as grow older. We leave the middle-aged world of performance, productivity, and care-taking for a life experience we never really expected – aging. It’s really happening! For the body, this initiation of age generally involves changes in energy, sensory acuity, strength, sexuality, health, and appearance. It’s how you look in photographs, the aches you feel after working in the yard, the new diagnosis, or the ever-increasing volume on the TV. Rather than becoming depressed or manically beginning a new self-improvement program, let these changes invite you to experience the next developmental force: transformation.
Surprisingly, transformation means trading your old body in for a new one, not literally, of course, but consciously. It happens when we look at our body with fresh vision in a consciousness free of expectation or judgment. Surrender all the standards and prejudices you carry about how you should feel and look – that supple and powerful body you remember from your youth or the toned, conditioned body of your middle-aged exercising, and discover instead an incredible new body full of secrets, wisdom, and personal guidance.
And what you find in this new consciousness will carry the magic of revelation. For example, this awareness will reveal a new kind of energy in the body – the energy of being that can replace the energy of doing. The energy of being is far more peaceful, centered, contemplative, gentle, and mystical than the goal-driven, high performance energy of doing, and it is so naturally full of love and creativity. It is like flowing effortlessly on a gentle river rather than swimming fiercely upstream. In this new consciousness, the body’s own revelations will show you how to age gracefully and even, one day, how to die without fear or struggle.
In this new aging, the archetypal forces of initiation, transformation and revelation allow us to trade old bodies for new. To engage these forces more consciously, here are some ideas on the discovery, care and management of our beautiful new bodies.
- Look at your body with new eyes. Stop judging the wrinkles and sagging parts, that’s our culture’s obsession with youth distorting our vision. Instead, explore this amazing face, shaped by the years and times, so full of wisdom and experience. Accept every wound and scar as well-earned experience. In a consciousness free of assumptions, comparisons and beliefs, tune into the radiant miracle of your own life force gently moving you along on the gentle path of aging.
- Listen to your body with new ears. Ask your body how it feels, what it needs, and how can you help. Then imagining your body’s response. Write down these dialogues so you’ll take them seriously. In other words, instead of imposing preconceived demands on you body, listen to its unique needs and whispered longings. Whether it’s about physical symptoms, low energy, diet or exercise, let your body reveal its wants and needs, and discover its very personal guidance intended just for you.
- Care for your body like a new friend. Respond to your body as if it were someone you really loved! When you get up each morning, ask your body what it would like most today? A walk? Time with friends? A meal out? Resist the boomer’s call to conquer aging – that’s more middle-aged heroism, and don’t push yourself like you used to – the no-pain-no-gain model hurts more than it helps now. Instead, love this friend who has supported you all your life. A new relationship will soon form between you.
- Have fun with body. Lie in the sun, get a massage, exchange warm hugs with family and friends, make deeper less hurried love, cook a great meal, play games with your grandchildren, listen to good music, or open your body’s senses to the natural world around you. The magic of embodied experience is still here, waiting to reveal its gifts. No better time to experience them than now!
- Practice gratitude. You have been gifted an astounding physical experience – life! Grace opens with gratitude and, in this new consciousness, it will reveal a new and divinely beautiful body. What a gift! Be happy. Be love. Be grateful for every moment and every moment will show you the way to a new world.
About the Author
Dr. John Robinson is a clinical psychologist with a second doctorate in ministry, an ordained interfaith minister, author, and authentic Baby-Boomer fascinated by the spiritual growth potential of the aging experience. Previous writings include popular articles on the psychology-spirituality interface (e.g. BeliefNet, Science of Mind Magazine, Unity Magazine) along with a number of books endorsed by well-known writers (e.g. Robert Bly, Matthew Fox, John Gray, Andrew Harvey, Robert Johnson, Kenneth Ring, and Bernie Siegel). Visit him on the web at http://www.johnrobinson.org.
I can tell from Dr. Robinson’s perspectives on aging that he’s growing older VERY gracefully! How do you view aging?