Moving into Stillness: The Intrigue of Aging

Dear Friends and Students,

Ever since I was a little girl I was always interested in why I looked the way I did. I wondered how and why the inner being was interwoven with the outer.

As time passed this fascination morphed into a state of sound awareness wherein the dialogue in my mind seemed to speed up and speak aloud in a voice that was not my own. This experience was both intriguing and frightening. As I got older if I found myself in a room with a few people, their manifestation would get larger and their voices would get louder and louder.

These experiences were mysterious and lured me into questioning why was I here on earth, who I was, and in growing up, what was the nature of getting older.

I found I was both fearful of aging and yet very motivated to find answers to these phenomena. When I tried to speak to my mother about it, she said “Leslie, you think too much, ignore it”. This left me feeling flat with not too many options for these lifelong questions.

So in the simplest of ways I became a ‘seeker’ always on the lookout for someone or something that could direct me on a path to understanding. It was when I first was introduced to the bust of a Black Buddha resting high on the wall of my best friend Ilene’s living room that I perceived a being whose presence was ephemeral, with the soft slant of his eyes, the subtle smile of his lips, that I realized I had touched the depth of a being who had no end.

And I began my journey on the Buddhist path; practicing meditation, becoming aware of myself and reality in newfound ways, inquiring inwardly, studying his teachings, and observing many associated rituals. This was the first time in my life I found calm for a period of time.  I was inspired to pursue and find answers to my questions.

I still was puzzled that I had periods of fear, troubles, and feeling out of control, loneliness, sadness, and anger.  I soon learned in studying one of the Buddha’s early teachings, “The Four Noble Truths” that part of what I experienced was what was known as Suffering or un-satisfactoriness or dukkha, that state where we are living with a “broken wheel’ and are stuck and negative emotions seem to dominate our thinking. I also learned that these noble truths consisted of aging, injury and illness, losing everyone we love at some point, and dying. These teachings magnified many of the common states I felt and I realized that my fear of death since I was a child had remained with me my entire life. 

The second noble truth spoke to me of a cause for this sad state of affairs and promised a way to free myself from suffering; letting go of what is known as clinging and grasping. I saw that I was holding onto life as I knew it; this meant not wanting to look older or feel older which would bring me closer to death.

I learned that I could let go of material possessions without clinging and be generous with sharing them with others. Yet, I was still holding onto the form and state of this body. As I reached my fifties I began to have back issues, in my sixties I developed digestive problems and further back issues, and then as I entered my sixties I began to have very tight, painful hamstrings and now neuropathies in my legs. I did not like the fact that my skin and hair were drying out and the softness, vitality, and energy of youth was diminishing. So I became aware that my attitude had so much to do with how I approached these waves of new manifestations in my life.

I remembered that suffering could cease or stop or lessen if we followed “The Noble Eightfold Path” of teachings and this is most helpful. I have found that being able to share my difficulties with a compassionate friend who was like-minded has been a great solace: that not over-focusing on my difficulties and dwelling on believing that my difficulties will worsen and that I can do nothing to help, is a false belief system. I have found it helpful to believe that I can keep looking for answers to problems I have, and not give up.

 I also see that trying to hold onto my youth physically can be frustrating and a sorrowful trap. I feel it is positive to take as good care of myself as I can without craving the idols of youth. Accepting the way things are without losing hope, love for life, or resilience for living is the best way for me. I also find that teaching others and working with clients helps me to feel energized, connected to others, fulfilled, and at greater ease and peace.

You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,

if you do not read,

If you do not listen to the sounds of life,

If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly

When you kill your self-esteem;

When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly

If you become a slave of your habits,

Walking every day on the same paths…

If you do not change your routine,

If you do not wear different colours

Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly

If you avoid to feel passion

And their turbulent emotions;

Those which make your eyes glisten

And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly

If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,

If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,

If you do not go after a dream,

If you do not allow yourself,

At least once in your lifetimeto run away from sensible advice…

–       By Pablo Neruda

In Lovingkindness,