I’m not quite old enough to get a discount at the movies, but I’m feeling the pleasure of advancing age.
In our youth-oriented culture, people don’t look forward to old age as one of life’s pleasures.
But it is.
The accumulating years bring a lovely ability to see our lives in longer rhythms. Nature equips us, as we age, with the ability to stand aside from fads and fashions and remain calm before the swirl of world events.
I’m don’t suggest that we “tune out” of our lives, or look for a so-called happiness, as some older people do, by reducing our world to something small. Quite the opposite.
I accepted the truth of reincarnation before I was twenty years old. Still, at that age it seemed that my life would go on forever. The idea of other lives was merely a vague theory.
Although I am hardly tottering on the edge of the grave, forty years of living have shown me how quickly a lifetime flits by.
I read about a charming exchange between an elderly lady and a young child. Looking intently at the ancient form before her, the child asked, “How old are you?”
The elderly lady replied, “I am ninety-two years old.”
Incredulously, the child asked, “Did you start at one?”
A friend of mine had an unhappy childhood. It wasn’t tragic, merely unhappy. She had no idea about reincarnation, but at age ten she told herself, “Don’t forget, childhood is not all it’s cracked up to be!”
Now she understands that she was practicing Gyana Yoga. She was saying “neti neti.” These Sanskrit words mean, “Not this, not that.”
The practice of neti neti helps us discriminate between what is Eternal and what is only part of the passing show.
We might think that “neti neti” would make us cynical. Not this, not that. Nothing in this world can make me happy. But the opposite is true. By looking beyond impermanent things, we learn to see the unchanging bliss of Spirit behind everything. We learn to embrace life wholly, with our heart, fearlessly, as a constant experience of God.
I find it easier to practice “neti neti” now that I’m older. I’ve seen enough of life’s pleasures and tragedies to be aware of the inevitable end of my outward experiences.
When I am a child again, will I lose my hard-won detachment, swept away by youthful enthusiasm?
To ensure that whatever small Self-realization I’ve gained will stay with me, I like to affirm my commitment to God within.
I asked Swami Kriyananda about this. I said, “How much of what I’m feeling now is the result of age, and how much is true realization?”
His answer was broader than the question. “Longing and resentment,” he said. “These are the attitudes that bind you to delusion.”
To long for something other than God is to believe that fulfillment can come to you in that way. To resent something is to believe that life is unfair. These are signs of unfinished karma that will draw us back to this world, enmeshing us in delusion again and again.
Our soul is all-knowing. Our deepest consciousness is like a thread stretching back and forward in eternity. This life is but a tiny knot in an infinite tapestry. The more we live in the vastness of the whole, the more joy and freedom we can find in the present moment.
This realization comes with passing years, and passing lives.
Take care of the minutes, Paramhansa Yogananda said, and the incarnations will take care of themselves.
Blessings and joy,