I’ve a recurring reminiscence of assembly for an interview with one in all my non secular lecturers. What number of years in the past did this assembly happen? I feel a number of, even perhaps a decade has handed. I used to be battling reminiscences round private and household wounds over-taking me throughout my contemplation and meditation practices. My trainer responded by asking me not in regards to the reminiscences that have been intruding upon my apply – not in regards to the content material—however, quite, in regards to the contours of my apply. I don’t bear in mind what I described about my apply. However I do bear in mind the dharma she provided to me; it was recommendation within the type of an aspiration. She mentioned: I want for you extra alternatives to come across the empty and groundless nature of actuality, as you spend numerous time within the realm of relative expertise and self-cherishing.
I’ve been pondering my ongoing misgivings relating to the anti-ageism activism I’ve been partaking in for the previous quarter-decade (not less than). My misgivings really feel fierce however onerous to pin down. I usually really feel possessed by the conviction that a lot of the work on ageism isn’t fairly getting it proper, that there’s one thing problematic in regards to the framing of the difficulty, there’s one thing problematic in regards to the impulse to privilege ageism above all different types of bias and discrimination. I’m sympathetic but grumpy with the concept as a result of growing older is a common human expertise, one thing that we’re all doing throughout the life-course whatever the some ways wherein we’re various, that that is the thought round which we are able to arrange and interact in anti-ageism schooling and activism. The assertion that after we interact in ageism towards older individuals we’re discriminating in opposition to our future older selves is a potent thought, one which connects to the work I’ve been doing for not less than twenty years round imagining and befriending our “future older selves” as a apply for extra deeply partaking in a single’s personal life-long growing older journey, as properly for opening up house for curiosity about (and maybe better empathy for) others’ growing older journeys.
I’ve seen many individuals expertise profound transformations of their consciousness about growing older and previous age on account of partaking in an intentional relationship with their future older selves (in addition to their earlier youthful selves). I’ve by no means examined whether or not this apply results in a discount in internalized or externalized ageism – this has by no means been an express goal of the apply; quite, my elementary purpose in inviting others to have interaction in deep reflection (and generally dialogue and writing, too) about their imagined future older selves is as a result of it affords a artistic method into experiencing ourselves as rising, always-developing beings and growing older as a dynamic, multi-faceted life-long course of.
The universality of growing older is a potent fact – it’s dharma. However I feel within the context of anti-ageism schooling and activism we might maintain some confusion about how greatest to harness this fact. (I personally share this confusion.) What’s the texture of this fact and the way would possibly we embody and enact it? Touching the universality of growing older feels to me to be related to the “empty and groundless nature of actuality” that my non secular trainer advised me to develop into extra intimate with.
Getting older can be a deeply private expertise which is embedded within the context(s) – occasions, locations and areas – wherein one is located and formed by (usually over-determined by) one’s positionalities reminiscent of gender, class, race/ethnicity, capacity, nationality, technology, and extra. Contexts and positionalities contribute to the great range of how growing older unfolds and is skilled over the life-course. The range of growing older experiences – the beautiful particularity of how we journey by means of the life-course — feels to me to be related to the “realm of relative expertise and self-cherishing.”
We regularly get mired within the “realm of relative expertise and self-cherishing,” possessed by and obsessive about the particularity of our experiences touring by means of the life-course and confronting (and being confronted by) our growing older. We really feel betrayed by growing older – how our our bodies and minds change in ways in which really feel out of our management. We really feel wounded by growing older…or maybe it could be extra correct to say wounded by ageism, these reductive and damaging messages that are projected and internalized. Our growing older wounds can develop into totalizing forces, unconscious and under-theorized and thus probably big blind-spots. Getting older wounds…. wounded by one another, by the tradition, self-inflicted wounds. Oh, I’m barely scratching the floor, there’s a lot extra to be explored right here!
My robust and abiding take-away, which has been confirmed a number of occasions now within the context of the various casual and formal conversations I’ve facilitated about age, growing older and ageism, is that our struggling round ageism has to do with the relative realm, not the common realm. Our struggling has to do with feeling caught, misunderstood, hemmed in, decreased, out-of- management, confused, upset, bereft of hope…. basically aggrieved that the growing older journey, which is the human journey, is a journey towards final destruction of the self. The stronger our “self-cherishing,” the deeper and extra intense our wound.
Getting older unfolds over the possibly lengthy life-course and entails a stability between positive aspects, losses and stability of skills and functioning throughout a number of domains: physique, thoughts, spirit, social roles and relationships. That is one other necessary little bit of dharma.
After we foreground our growing older wounds, after we concentrate on ageism, we are inclined to activate our fears of the various losses that inevitably go to us as we journey by means of the life-course (As Kunitz pleads in his poem “The Layers,” How shall our hearts be reconciled to its feast of losses?). Being human is to be weak and vulnerable to losses irrespective of our age or life-course stage. However it’s after we enter the land of later life – previous age – that these losses and vulnerabilities develop into unavoidable and most intense.
There are additionally many items – positive aspects – that will include touring by means of the life-course. Each life-course stage and age is characterised by its particular items. A part of the work of understanding and ending ageism and increasing growing older consciousness is to find and rejoice the items of various ages and levels, to create the causes and situations for these items to be appreciated and shared inside and between generations. However what are the items of various ages and levels? Can we are saying that there are shared common items, or are items made manifest in various methods on the particular person and communal degree and, thus, within the “eye of the beholder”? I’d suspect that there are items that are each shared and specific.
One of many challenges in speaking about “the items of growing older,” which is usually the antidote provided by anti-ageism employees addressing the “losses of growing older,” is to take action with out perpetuating a optimistic growing older stereotype reminiscent of older individuals are sensible rather than damaging unfavorable growing older stereotypes reminiscent of older individuals are senile. My associates, a stereotype is a stereotype, even whether it is optimistic. How will we think about the items of previous age — or any age — with out doing so in a totalizing, reductive method?
That is all so complicated, isn’t it? And we people appear to not desire to dwell with complexity. And but, I believe that dwelling in complexity is the key to muddling by means of all of this. It certainly looks like the reply to the query of find out how to reconcile my coronary heart to its feast of losses.
Dwelling in complexity – on this case the complexity of the growing older journey – requires me to discover the methods wherein growing older is concurrently an empty and groundless phenomenon, and a deeply private expertise of self-hood.
Complexity is the dharma of growing older.