A Spirituality of Aging

By: Helen Cahill

In his book The Force of Character and Lasting Life, author James Hillman raises a tantalizing question: do you ever wonder what nature and God had in mind when designing the aging process? Hillman claims that the soul must be properly aged before it leaves the body. It’s a huge mistake, he continues, to read the signs of aging as indications of dying rather than as initiations into another way of life.

Aging is part of the life cycle and one that often elicits in us a fair amount of re-sistance. Even though we cannot control what is happening to us, we have choices about how we respond to aging. We are learning that we can rejuvenate cellular activi-ty and retard the aging process through contemplative practices. We decide if aging is a graced experience or a life diminishing experience. Do we fight aging or do we em-brace it?

Television bombards us with ads on how to tend to our bodies as we move through the different phases of aging. Exercising, paying attention to our breathing, healthy eating, taking vitamins and visiting doctors on a regular basis are all part of what we do. A question worth pondering is do we tend to our souls as carefully as we do our bodies?

To age consciously and well is a spiritual discipline. Attending to the sacred di-mension of reality moves us toward becoming whole. Aging is a gift from God, a con-templative time which invites us to withdraw, to a certain extent, from life’s busyness so we can tap into the wisdom of the Spirit who dwells within each of us
How we age is a personal choice but let me make a few suggestions that may make the journey a bit easier.

    • Remember that God loves you exactly as you are. Just by simply being you al-low God to delight in you as God’s beloved daughter or son. Be in touch with your inner life. Meditation on a regular basis is helpful. Breathe deeply.
    • Trust that God is with you in the process. Words from Isaiah can be reassuring and comforting.

Even to your old age I am the same,
Even when your hair is gray;
It is I who have done this,
I who will continue,
And I who will carry you to safety (Is 46:4)

    • Spend time with friends to deepen relationships and to nurture a community of love and support for yourself. Stay connected to the outside world in a spirit of openness and curiosity.
    • Practice gratitude. The mystic Meister Eckhart asserts that if the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Be grateful for all that is as you prepare for an initiation into a wonderful life.