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Meditation and Ageing

Charlie Ivermee

I no longer recall what led me to book onto a two day retreat at Gaia House, a Buddhist retreat centre, in 2015 at the age of seventy. The retreat was entitled "What is Mindfulness' and it led to meditation becoming part of my daily life and influencing the way that I engage with the world. To a large extent meditation was instrumental in my facing up to the distress and dissatisfaction in my life out which came major growth and change.

Mindfulness meditation invites us to practise present moment awareness, to recognise how much we avoid being here right now by constantly planning for some wonderful future, being fearful of the future or ruminating on the past. All of which is somewhat crazy making when the only place we can actually live is in the present moment, the past is gone and the future is unknowable. Naturally we need to plan for the future and also share memories - the trouble is that we often cling to them and think that they are reality.

Another by product of a mindful approuch to life is that we quite naturally begin to reflect on who we are, what is our stuff and what is familial and cultural baggage that we have been carrying around often unquestionly all our lives - in other words we become more authentic.

At times the present moment can be a very hard place to be as it may invite us to look at our shortcomings, our hurts, our unhappiness. Perhaps the joylessness of our present situation. We may want to avoid the now in which we are ageing and our bodies and minds are changing. With practice we can bring these life events and feelings into the daylight, examine them and in the process reduce the power they appear to hold over us. Turning towards the things that we currently find painful, be they physical or emotional, with couriosity and goodwill engenders courage and equanimity.

Being in the present is not all sadness, sorrow and regret, for it is here that fun, laughter, joy, friendship and love exist along with excitement. It is by being in the present moment that we can develop compassion, for ourselves as well as others; where we can develop gratitude and generosity.

Mindfulness, by bringing us back to the present moment, is an invitation to slow down, something that happens as we age anyway. Slowing down actually brings more experience not less as well notice the complex and wonderful detail in ourselves, in those we come into contact with and in the beauty of the natural world.

One of the great gifts of meditation is that in the process of exercising curiosity and non-judgement, about ourselves and the world around us, we begin to develop part of the mind that observes. The ability to observe our internal and external behaviour without judgement offers the opportunity to accept reality - to be comfortable with things as they are. This is an excellent tool to have in the elder's toolbox.

About the Author

The Joy of Ageing Picture of Charlie Ivermee

 Charlie Ivermee has seventy five years of experience  and is active in his local community, most recently in  a Buddhist based retreat centre on the Sharpham  Estate near Totnes in Devon where he was a  residential voluntary co-ordinator and part of a team  that lead weekly retreats (when not in lock-down).  Charlie has a regular mediation practice and helps  facilitate various on-line meditation sitting groups and ageing workshops. He says, “I am excited by how  curiosity, reflection and a mindful approach to our  ageing can lead to a wisdom and joy that enhances  daily lives.”

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