Aging can be a discouraging process in our youth-obsessed culture. In popular media, those in the later stages of life are often presented as diminished, having little to offer, and disengaged from meaningful activities.
Luckily, that dismal view is not remotely accurate. Elderhood offers many opportunities not available to those with fewer years in the rearview mirror, and today’s seniors are actively exploring the connection, joy, and meaning that flows from a deeply lived life. A significant factor in celebrating the ongoing journey is the ability to age “consciously.”
Research shows that aging consciously is about building awareness, maintaining community, and exploring the depths of our inner world for a fulfilled and purposeful third stage of life. By utilizing resources and skillsets that are available to each individual — in a conscious and intentional manner — we can create ingrained habits that promote a thriving and connected life. You can create this in your own life with three simple practices.
Cultivate Intentional Self-Compassion
Often when we face challenges or suffering, we fall back on self-defeating words and feelings. Such moments leave us feeling demotivated, depressed, and restricting. Next time you find yourself having a self-criticizing or limiting thought, pause briefly, breathe deeply and engage your inner kindness to “reframe” that thought. Tune out the inner critic, and tune into the supportive friend.
Let it Go
Forgiving past wrongs can liberate you from loathing, sadness, and hurt. Forgiveness is often an on-going practice; whenever you feel the sting of the past, mindfully let it go.
you can even visualize it floating away. Notice how light you may feel in your heart when you do not carry that burden. Don’t forget to include yourself in the list of those you want to forgive (back to cultivating intentional self-compassion!). Remind yourself that you are a kind and well-intentioned person who now knows better and will do better.
Intentions are our inner compass to where we want to be in life. Make your intention your daily mantra, or write it down on a small piece of paper and keep it on your mirror or door. Repeat it to yourself when you first get up and before you go to bed. Visualize your intention and say it to yourself, knowing that the opportunities will become evident.
Conscious Aging enables us to cultivate wisdom, connect deeply with ourselves and others, and celebrate life. Aging with awareness creates the space for continued spiritual, emotional, social, and psychological enrichment, and living with purpose.
Our partners at The Shift Network will host a free online Transforming Aging Summit March 1-3. The event brings together some of the top medical, academic, and spiritual leaders in the aging movement to inspire aging individuals to continue to find purpose, community, and joy. Be sure to register to participate in a new way of experiencing an empowered elderhood.
You may also want to participate in an IONS Conscious Aging workshop. Cathy Coleman, who worked at IONS for over 10 years, is facilitating a group session at EarthRise Transformative Learning Center, May 20-22. Participants will enjoy a transformative weekend of introspection, connection,and celebration, in the serene hills of our Northern California campus.
And for those who would like to share this new perspective on aging, IONS has developed the Conscious Aging Facilitator Program. Since its recent inception in 2014, over 600 people have trained to help elders in their communities embrace aging with a gentle introspection and grateful celebration. The global reach speaks to the universality of a program that strikes to the heart of our shared humanity, providing an opportunity for growth and presence at a time when many feel forced to diminish and fade.
Mollie Robertson is an Education and Research Assistant at IONS.