a number

  it happened again. once again my hackles rose.

an article’s headline that reads, “embrace life. age? it’s just a number”

embrace life...for sure it’s just a number....no!

it isn’t JUST a number. it’s a number...a sacred, precious, honourable number.

the word “just” negates all the years of joy and tears. it minimises the many decades of experience, the unique wisdom acquired in a lifetime.

certainly the people celebrated in the article are honourable and wise. and yet we are exhorted to dance, swim, sail, garden in the same way we did in earlier years. they are meant to be shining examples we are supposed to emulate.

no mention is made of this wise and honourable person and his understanding of ageing.

"My work around the issue of aging is to quiet the mind — it’s standing back enough so that I am not so caught in the culture and the set of attitudes I developed from my childhood; so that I can see what is, and respond in a way that is in harmony with that; so that I become a part of it. This is the way a bird sings or a river flows or a baby cries."

these words were spoken by ram dass, a venerable sage of our time. after his debilitating stroke he despaired, in spite of decades of spiritual practice. in a moment of insight he understood that he could use his suddenly less-able body as his spiritual practice. in that moment he came alive again, filled with irrepressible energy. currently his speech is slurred, he spends his days in a wheelchair and he is filled with serenity and vibrancy.

ram dass


he’s 86.

that’s not just a number.

as our physical capacities decline, as ram dass's did, our inner resources can expand and evolve. the places that gratitude, faith, love, acceptance occupy can grow to fill more of our being. these qualities can radiate from our core to touch those around us, to exemplify conscious ageing and spiritual eldering.

to do this we need numbers...sacred, precious, honourable numbers. we need the years of living so that, even in dire circumstances like ram dass’s, we can open to our deepest selves. we can let go of the images and demands of youth and middle years for the glory of conscious ageing.

may we all open to these possibilities.