How old are we?
It’s often a cruel question and we wrestle with the answer, knowing full well how many years downstream we are … but feeling, not too deep inside, that our inner state bears no relation to that set of two digits…
Traditionally, this has been dismissed as just part of our psychology. We don’t want to feel old, so we learn to feel young inside. Personally, I find this a thin explanation, and one that does not fit the facts.
Much of this is related to health. If we are fortunate to be well – regardless of our age – then we naturally feel young. That ‘youthfulness’ is actually part of being well, not of the numerals attached to us by officialdom.
Having spent most of my life in the mystical tradition, this mismatch between age and ‘felt age’ intrigued me, and I began to look at fitting it into a broader and much kinder explanation.
Our bodies gradually wear out. Genetically we are programmed to have a finite life. I read that, from the age of about thirty, we are getting old, rather than older. The decline takes a long time, and allows us to mature, become parents and even active grandparents.
We are not helpless in the face of this. We can take responsibility for our own health – in particular, for the state of the primary systems of our body. Smoking is obviously a route to a shorter life, and one in which the end may be deeply unpleasant.
Exercise is its own reward, but it takes effort to get to a mental and emotional place where we look forward to it. The quality of food we eat matters. What really makes a difference to how we live our lives is our mobility and flexibility – the elastic within our muscles and joints. The growth of Yoga and Pilates groups demonstrates the effectiveness of these ancient systems (Pilates is a modern derivative of Yoga). I can say from four years of personal experience of the latter that it has literally changed my life and that of my wife. We not only feel twenty years younger, but we have far more energy than we can remember having at say, forty.
As children, we are like rubber bands. Everything is fun and everything is bodily flexible. We exercise all the time, and our cardio systems are fully functioning. It is natural to simply feel the power of youth in our organic selves.
But these things are of the body. They are not about the invisible attributes that are so much the centre of the idea of ‘me’ – the sense of self.
The planet can be said to feed the body. We inherit from great Nature the patterns of healthy cellular life. The body, via the senses, feeds the mind: the self ‘inside’ the body, though we can’t really allocate the mind a ‘home’, just as we can’t physically point at the future, the past and the present.
Yet the present is all we have, and even in that we have what seems to be precious little. If we try to pin-point the present, it’s gone… And yet we know, somehow, that the present is at a level of ‘here and me’ occupied by no other presence in our shifting landscape of matter.
The present has an existence like nothing else… second only to the awareness that knows both the present and itself. The present is continuously passing and only our reactions try to cling to it.
That non-static awareness is our Being, whose properties are itself, and not built on or borrowed from anything that we would find familiar in the world of matter.
Put simply, the Being that we truly are – reflected in the mind and the body – has no age, and like the idea of Russian Dolls, nested one inside the other, it has always been there, prior to the mind and prior to the body.
The body will leave us at so-called death, its molecules returning to the good Earth from which it came – itself an eternal world of matter-as-energy and energy-as-matter.
The mind has spent the lifetime facing the body, but its nature is not the world that is the body’s home. At the end of the body’s life, it must ‘turn’ to see of what it is the product, and in that homecoming, it will find the answer to its final questions.
How old will it be? It will be as ageless as it was at the birth of its world.
At our transition, the mind loses its bodily senses, and turns to what was always the source of its world and even its own life. In that mystery is the answer to what does not age, and a suggestion that the golden trail to that state is what lends our personal inner it’s signature of agelessness.
©Stephen Tanham 2023
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.
http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog
This a perfect explanation of age and inner life … 🙂 x
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Thank you, Carol! ❤️
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