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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aging and Materialism

As we all know, thanks to technology and medical advances, the average life expectancy continues to increase at a very high rate. If we believe we are only our body, then keeping it alive is the ultimate goal and we become obsessed with “looking and being young”. Isn’t this the ultimate definition of materialism? Keeping our body away from deaths’ door?

Part of our mythology is how long we can expect to live. But it seems that mythology changes slower than reality. We are adding years to our life-span and have no mythology about what that means. No mythology to support us to find a sense of place and where we fit in our culture as we get older. This can be emotionally painful. I know that there are times when I feel this way. And this usually causes me to become fixated on acquiring “more”. More time, more health, more youthfulness, more experiences and more possessions.

This is not to say that getting happiness and joy from what we have is not a good things as we age. I know that I get a lot of satisfaction and joy from my possessions. But I really don't need to acquire another TV set or a bigger house or another car or even newer golf clubs because I am learning that true fulfillment, at this time of life, comes from other sources.

So when do we have enough? And just maybe our culture is failing us by promising that we would all be happier and more fulfilled in the second half of life if only we would continue to accrue more comfort and material things?

If we can move beyond simply identifying with our bodies and possessions how much suffering could be eliminated? How much comfort and joy would there be in the world?

Here are a few ideas for living more intentionally:

• Find peace in every day
• Practice humility
• Search for a sense of spiritual well-being
• Increase our awareness with less control from the ego
• Find ways to be in-service to others
• Live authentically by being true to our deeper values
• Share our lives with others, intimately.
• Be purposeful in every moment

And here is a really hard one....Remember that the ego is what experiences aging (and mortality). As Ram Dass says ‘When the Ego thinks it is dying, it mistakes itself for the whole --- body, soul, awareness- and often people who are ripening into God run around to different doctors because they develop an even more intense dread of death.” Hmmm! There is a lot to chew on!!

Please share your wisdom on this topic.

5 comments:

tinyE said...

Wow, I'm so glad I read this today. Merely hours ago, I was attempting to explain this very concept, that our egos anticipate old age. And, that the ego's concern with the potential future makes it difficult for us to focus on the very real present. This is a concept I am working with and planning to incorporate into my teaching this term. Thanks David, for providing an excellent jumping-off point for discussion. Erica

David Rozell said...

Erica, glad someone is reading the blog and finds it useful and maybe a bit thought provoking. Please let us know how your class goes.

cardoons said...

David, and Erica - This concept and your explanation is so beautiful. I am considering too, that all fear comes from the ego. Death is probably the ultimate fear (losing the self, going into the void), but along the way we experience fears about acceptance, pain, confusion, safety and certainty. etc.. All this is very real for us, but if we can learn to come back to the moment and ask, "am I okay right now?" often the answer is, "yes." Learn to consider past the material world. The fears that come from the ego drive us into most of our predicaments in the first place. Climbing out is much harder than diving in was.

Emily Headley said...

Hi David - I adore the Ram Dass quote - esp. the "ripening into God" piece. Wonderful. You are doing good work here, my friend. Miss you and wish you well with this site. I'll leave you with my fave quote of the month, or year, even, by Anna Halprin, an 87 yr. old dane teacher from Marin County, Ca:
"Aging is like enlightenment at gunpoint."

Jim said...

The Ram Das quote reminded me of this one by Einstein

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” -- Albert Einstein

Intentional Aging is part of that process of freeing ourselves from "this prison..."
Jim D