This post was inspired by the book Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser, by Lewis Richmond. Aging can cause us to feel diminished. We can lose physical capacity, infirmities can start creeping in, and our sense of self-worth can decline in retirement if our work had supplied a good deal of the meaning in our lives. But it is not all negative. Some people take the opportunity to re-invent themselves or pursue self-growth through various transformative practices. This is the main theme of this book, which I highly recommend to anyone sensing Father Time peeking over their shoulders.
Lewis points out that people can respond to aging in unhelpful ways like worry or denial, and then gives inspiring accounts of those who age more successfully by reacting in positive ways. He is a Buddhist meditation teacher and gives various useful techniques to use this time of our lives for self-growth. He also has overcome serious health challenges in his own life.
My main approach to aging is motivated by the desire to show that many of the physical declines of aging can be prevented or at least delayed by positive lifestyle measures like staying active and eating a healthy diet, as I discussed here. But decline still eventually comes and to be in denial of this is not helpful. I’ve had to give up various activities I enjoy, like running and basketball. But retirement has also given me more time to pursue my remaining physical activities vigorously, as well as take important practices like meditation and yoga more seriously. This book gives me encouragement to continue to do so.