In my recent post, 4 Ways to Embrace Aging, I offered five hints but should have offered a sixth. What’s most important when growing older, I believe, is to treat the body with compassion.
There is a temptation to micro-manage our physical forms as they age. Cosmetic surgery, anti-aging creams, hair-growth formulas, erectile drugs, and innumerable other interventions promise to halt, reverse, or compensate for deterioration. Their massive market success is testament to how we resist growing older, how we struggle to hold time at bay.
From one perspective, steps to slow the aging process make sense. It is surely a good idea to eat well, exercise regularly, stretch out the muscles, and maintain sleep hygiene. In later years we do well to eliminate destructive habits and reduce stress. The wise person lives as healthfully as possible.
But from another perspective, striving to stay young sets us in opposition to Nature. The battle against aging must be lost sooner or later, so why battle at all? Why not just treat our bodies with kindness, support them as best we can, but grant them the freedom to follow their inevitable trajectories without criticizing or feeling ashamed of them?
Compassion is key to feeling satisfied during later years: compassion for our companions and their struggles, compassion for our own foibles and difficulties, but most of all compassion for our physical forms. This organism that is the human body deserves affection and appreciation for the way it tries so hard, the way it does so much to support our personalities on this journey of Life. Such gratitude for our own biology nurtures feelings of rootedness in the world, feelings of belonging to an ecosphere that is vast, ancient, and luminous.