Who am I? Who are You? How and why we tap into our spirituality as we age
As our clocks run down, we may reflect more on our past—our loves, likes and losses, our children and grandchildren, our experiences, our parents possibly long deceased, our ups and our downs, what we’ve contributed to society and what we’re leaving behind as our legacy. It’s also a time when spirituality comes more into play as we face our mortality, search for the meaning of life and wonder what happens to our soul after death.
In our book, Not Dead Yet, when we asked a few friends and colleagues how they define spirituality, we learned it takes many individual forms. Here are some of the answers we received:
- Showing kindness to others;
- Doing something that touches us all such as a deep sense of feeling alive and connected to maybe nature or a community;
- Experiencing religion with its rituals and traditions;
- Being aware of living in the present and stepping away from distractions through meditation or reflection, then returning to focus on what gives life its greatest meaning and pleasure;
- Finding a way to make the world a better place in whatever time we have left;
- Seeing the world around us, which inspires all forms of art and then creating that art whether painting, acting, singing or playing an instrument;
- Treating others, the way you’d like to be treated. It’s a big world, and everything’s not all about us.
Overall, both of us define spirituality as the deep values we were taught by parents, those by which we try to live and the meaning of our values. It’s not about religion per se, although our spiritual lives are influenced by religion—its history, practices, focus on family and even its foods.
We both believe spirituality is a connection to something that is greater than ourselves—a deity, a community, a world. How we tap into that comes in various guises and forms. “I’m glad someone upstairs is taking care of me,” said Tiger Woods recently, after having survived a terrible car accident in 2021.
Some turn to spiritual-focused groups for guidance, perhaps, one doing transcendental meditation, Est training, Esalen (a holistic educational center offering a space for emergent transformation and for internal exploration), according to its website, or Mussar, a Jewish spiritual practice that gives concrete instructions on how to live a meaningful and ethical life.
Others might engage with a clairvoyant or try the new age version of spiritualism where they turn to mediums to help communicate with the dead, mentioned in an article in the New York Times, Nov. 28, 2021, “She Found the Voice She Had Been Waiting For” about Carissa Schumacher in Los Angeles. She connects clients with the dead for a hefty price. “Its popularity is surging in times of high mortality rates,” aka the pandemic, the author Irina Aleksander writes.
We’re also living in a time—perhaps it’s the pandemic or the world in general--with many folks feeling out of control. Waldon Pond is making a resurgence in popularity. This is addressed in the book, Now Comes Good Sailing: Writers Reflect on Henry David Thoreau, an anthology edited by Andrew Blauner.
In a New York Times book review on Nov. 28, 2021, it states that Blauner asks, “Why does Thoreau live on? Because we need him to. Thoreau suggested that the business of life—the frenetic pace of our jobs, the demands of our bank accounts, the status that we seek and never find—should never be the exclusive focus of living. This is the lesson of Walden Pond: that our immediate concerns usually obscure the important ones, and almost always distract us from what is ultimate, the chance to live and die with the knowledge that we have tried to ‘truly live’.”
Here are some tips to tap into our spiritual lives.
--Pray or perform yoga in a group. Support your mind and body and note how they connect.
--Keep a gratitude list. Appreciate what you have, the people around you, your work, health, home and what you’ve accomplished in life.
--Look at art. Go to a museum and make an emotional/spiritual connection to the artwork.
--Get a daily dose of nature. Go outside and really savor trees, flowers, grass, mountains, sky and clouds, even changing weather patterns. Spending time outside helps build balance in your life and ramps up personal growth. If it’s cold, simply pile on the layers—hat, mittens, scarf, warm socks, heavy undergarments and boots! Then, return home and have that hot cup of cocoa or tea.
--Surround yourself in music. Music can speak to you and heal you in so many ways because it affects your thoughts, emotions and subconscious when your mind drifts with its cadence.
--Spend a day at a spa just focusing on you…this is more than physical. It’s how you think about yourself, your body, inner self and how certain activities from an active class to massage make you feel. This is all about taking care of you.
--Go to church, temple, synagogue or a mosque for guidance and to clear your head.
--Visit loved ones at a cemetery; it can be therapeutic to talk to relatives who’ve passed.
--Head to a library and wander the stacks, take out books, sit down, see which ones you want to bring home. Real books can give a different type of experience than reading on a screen.
--Begin your day with meditation to calm your brain; end your day with meditation to relax before sleep.
--Grow spiritual energy through kindness and compassion. Help others in your community with no expectation of anything in return by dropping off books, working in a food pantry, cleaning up debris, feeding the homeless in a shelter.
--Accept others. Each of us is special. And each of us is on their own journey. Even cut strangers some slack—that pushy one who butts into the line.
--Learn to forgive, which doesn’t mean you forget. But try to be more compassionate about others’ flaws.
--Learn about grudges and why, as one writer recently wrote in The New York Times magazine, they can be so satisfying.
--Read such philosophers as Thomas Moore. Listen to TED talks on the topic of spirituality or attend lectures about how to get in touch with your spiritual self.
--Engage in joyous activities and that means feeling happiness for others, not just yourself.
Tapping into our spirituality can help us be sanguine in tough times. It also reduces our blood pressure. Rather than focusing on why, or poor me, let’s pull out our assets and use them. We can think, act, create, shift gears. We’ve had many years to learn how to do so, and we hope many more to come.
How lucky we are in different ways. As we write in a blog, “What Remains Within Our Power to Control” (Dec. 31, 2021), “We have healthy, employed children (in most cases), a roof over our heads, a decent income, partners, a community of friends, talents that we tap, and other relatives whether siblings, cousins or aunts and uncles. Wake up [meditate] and be grateful; it’s the best morning pill you can swallow.”
It’s also a good way to continue adding joy into our lives in this new year.