or is it down and up again? today, as i walked outdoors in the sunshine, i saw a young man stumble over a rise in the pavement.
he recovered his balance and continued talking to his companion as if nothing had happened. as the years pass many of us become afraid of falling or stumbling, and with good reason. the youngers recover more quickly. they have more resilience in their bodies and minds. we olders may have less.
when a younger breaks a leg it can be a time of jest and joking with friends while the body heals itself relatively quickly. when the same fracture happens to an older it can be a time of anxiety and slow, painful healing.
when a younger forgets a name or place, she laughs and thinks nothing of it. it happens all the time and a friend will remember and fill in the blank. when an older forgets, she might become frightened and label it early-onset dementia…no laughing matter.
how did this transition happen? do we even notice it as the decades pass? surely this change did not happen from one day to the next. nor is it inevitable. while the body and mind certainly change, it is often the fear that grips us…the fear of less mobility, the fear of limited options, the fear of mental decline, the fear of losses unexpected.
and it is this fear that can cast a pall over our eldering years, causing us to withdraw, both physically and energetically, from the world around us.
maintaining our health, on all levels, is a priority for many of us. it is often the first thing mentioned in a conversation about ageing. “i want to maintain my health as best i can and for as long as i can.” there is, in that statement, a recognition that there will come moments when we are not in control and can no longer do what was "best" only a few months previously. meanwhile, however, we do all that we can…exercise, eat well, give up smoking or sugar or gluten, take a course, learn a new skill, regular visits to a health care practitioner.
we might even begin to make a mindful practice of continuing to bend down to tie our shoes, or sit on the floor, or climb the stairs to our flat instead of taking the lift, or riding the bicycle to the shop, or walking to visit a friend instead of taking the bus or car. all of these daily activities can become spiritual practices with the recognition that we are staying connected to our essential well-being, our deep self.
we can also continue (or learn) more traditional spiritual practices. they just might take on new significance, and great joy, when we discover we can still, actually or metaphorically, sit on the floor…and get up again!