Jung viewed the aging process as a “developmental stage”, not just the passing of time until death. Through work with his patients and his own experience of aging he came to see it is an important period of time during which we naturally draw away from the physical world and the conquering of externals to an inner process of “unifying the opposites”. We move toward further individuation and the “gradual spiritualization of consciousness”. As such he believed that there are seven tasks of aging as outlined above.
Task One: Facing the reality of aging and dying
Aging gives us plenty of opportunity to face the reality of aging. As our body changes, our energy diminishes and we witness the passing of time in so many small ways we are often shocked into the awareness that youth is not forever and that death really is on our future “to do” list. When we are young we pay no mind to these things, so focused on the task of creating a life and a future. It is likely, according to Jung and others, that our psychological awareness evolves with time. It pushes us toward our own natural evolution and toward the development of an elevated consciousness.
We run into obstacles in today’s world that include the ever present message that youth is to be revered and the aging to be discarded. While this attitude has changed slightly over the last decade it is still ever present and if we are not careful we may fall into the trap, and think we’re supposed to avoid and postpone the challenges of aging. An avoidance mechanism kicks in and we find we are focusing on trying to stay young and active rather than embracing the important tasks of aging. It is also likely that we we do so, something doesn’t feel quite right. Deep inside we know we are avoiding or evading the essential reality of aging.
Aging offers us a delicious opportunity to go deep, to resolve painful issues, to figure out exactly what we believe and value, and to move to a place that is more accepting of all of life, it’s ups and downs, its ebbing and flowing, its living and dying. As we go deeper we open to something beyond ourselves and this world. Our attention naturally goes to these issues if we follow our inner guidance. The task of facing aging and dying is not always an easy task. It is a demanding one, and yet, pushing it away is ultimately more difficult, more taxing and less rewarding.
How does one go about facing the reality of aging and dying?
It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to do it. It has been my experience that facing aging means to have the courage to drop one’s defenses, to set aside one’s presuppositions, and to allow the questions to arise within us. This is a gradual process for most people. Selecting one or more of the following practices and incorporating them into our day to day life, helps us turn our attention toward the task at hand.
Quiet: Seek every opportunity to sit in the quiet. Turn down the volume on the external world. Turn down the inner voices that chatter relentlessly. Sit in the quiet and listen. Just listen.
Deep Breathing: Breath is our life force. When we focus on our breathing it brings our attention back to ourselves and an awareness of the inner world. Focus on the process of breathing and feel the breath of life move through your body. Slow and deepen your breathing and feel your body expand and your mind calm. Again, allow what thoughts and feelings arise to surface and exist. Notice them and let them go.
Journal Writing: Develop a practice of writing about the thoughts and feelings that arise. If there are unresolved issues or conflicts bubbling beneath the surface articulate them. Push the envelop of your thoughts and follow your feelings where they lead. Writing helps us resolve issues as it engages our rational mind in the process and organizing and evaluating. It’s an excellent tool for gaining understanding and perspective on our deepest concerns.
Get Back to Nature: Nature draws us naturally to more spiritual things. Move away from the man-made toward the natural and open your senses to what it has to offer. Spend your quiet time outside. Walk more. Turn off the phone and headphones. Listen and observe.
Meditation: Develop a meditation practice. There are many different types of mediation and meditation methods. Choose one that feels comfortable to you or enlist the help of a meditation class or teacher. Buy a book on how to meditate. There are many.
These practices help us engage in the process that will allow us to face aging and ultimately death. They support us in our efforts to face our fears and overcome inhibiting obstacles to awareness and acceptance.
If you would like support in this endeavor, reach out to me. I am available on a limited basis for Mentoring and Spiritual Direction. AgingAbundantly@gmail.com
There are also many books available that offer further support for the development of the practices mentioned and the process of facing life as we age. See my reading list. I add to it regularly, so check back from time to time.
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