Let’s celebrate old age!
'Ten thousand flowers in spring the moon in autumn a cool breeze in summer snow in winter If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things this is the season of your life'. Wu-Men 1183-1260
Does this year's spring regret being so much older than the spring of many years ago? 'Oy, I was so much younger then.’ In autumn, does the birch tree knit its brow and get anxious when autumn leaves start to fall? Growing old? The important word, surely, is growing and we never stop growing. Maybe we don't have to turn life into a series of crises if we stay present and go with the flow through all the different stages of life. Women are forced into the collective image of what it means to be a post-menopausal woman. A woman of any age can be a going concern in all her compartments if she stays in tune with the life in her, as well as all the anxieties and despairs. As Mae West said, ‘It’s not the men in my life, it’s the life in my men.’ If you let your energy flow your honeyed secretions don't have to dry up because you are no longer nineteen. All the herbs and diets in the world won't help if we don't know how to slow down and ‘go with the flow’. Ignorance is going against the flow and not even knowing that there is a flow. We dig our heels in, resist life as it is and wonder why we are feeling out of it. And then blame it on the Bossa Nova! If we become conscious of our feet on the ground and our spine releasing from the root upwards, let our head balance and allow our breath to flow, we’ll experience wholeness and youthfulness, at least for a moment. Let such moments accumulate! And sometimes I personally 'lose it'. Who doesn’t? But I don't feel that because I still lose the plot from time to time it devalues my insights or makes me into a fraud. If habitual patterns still come up I hope to be able to recognise them. The practice I am talking about helps to develop skills to notice and to deal with what comes up, helps to make us less frightened to let it come up, to ‘lose it’. If we are not frightened of ‘losing it’ we don't have to hold onto it and we might eventually realise that there was nothing to hold to and no need to hold on in the first place! The other day I was shopping at ‘Fresh and Wild’ organic food shop. As I was paying, the assistant said, ‘Do you know that as a mature citizen you are entitled to 5% discount?’ To be honest I would have much rather paid the extra £2.50 than be recognized as a mature citizen! ‘I am tired,’ I caught myself thinking, 'I don't look my best.' Akh! All this trying to hang on to the illusion of being young and still attractive to the opposite sex for one more day, and missing out on being who I am at this moment and the wisdom that comes with it. It's much more practical to cultivate awareness of life beyond our disturbed and disturbing minds, opening the way to a more balanced, rhythmical, supple way of being, no matter what age. When someone says to you, ‘You look so young today’, is it really a compliment? So, at other times I look old? When a young actress said to Mae West at her seventieth birthday party, ‘Darling you don't look seventy’, Mae West replied, ‘This is what seventy looks like!’ It’s really weird, the stigma attached to being a woman of a ‘certain age’. It is a very uncomfortable feeling. Suddenly you feel you are being labelled, isolated, put into a category, put in a box. It’s quite a scary feeling, not unlike racism. You are being treated in a certain way, which has nothing to do with who you are. So yes, it helps to practice mindfulness and Yoga with breathing, so you don’t get caught up in the image others project on you out of their own needs and limitations. To me Yoga has been a way of becoming more confident in the inherent common sense of my being so that I don't take on board anything that demeans the dignity and joy of life.
A fragment from my book 'The Distracted Centipede - a Yoga experience'.