by Gerret Gielen
“What does everyone want to become but no one wants to be?”
In our society, aging is associated with frightening realities such as physical and mental deterioration, the loss of friends and loved ones, isolation, being left alone to figure things out, and the threatening cost of healthcare. The way it is portrayed in the media, growing old is considered highly undesirable. The question is, how do we deal with the inevitable? How do we make our way with confidence and connection to the end of our lives?
Everyone approaches aging in their own way. In this essay, I want to share how I think about it, because having been born in 1956, I am now considered old, and am facing the same negative messages and realities. Ideas about aging as they are expressed in society today are fundamentally wrong and usually negative. If we could let go of these worn-out ideas growing old could be an enriching, joyful, liberating path back to the light, the truth, yourself.
I may sound naïve, but I believe that the years we have left on mother earth can be a time when we bring our focus back to the source, to presence. Old age doesn’t have to equate with living a meaningless and joyless existence. Ask yourself why you might be so sure this can’t be the case. Don’t believe everything you think. Be aware that most messages about aging play on our fears. Reject them as erroneous and limiting.
If you are certain that old age is a process of watching the body decay, and there is no life after death, there is no hope. Why not entertain the possibility that there is life after death, that there is always hope that we go on without the body. If you suspend your beliefs even for a trial run, hope arises. What is there to lose? The workings of the universe may be different than you think. Look back on your life with an open mind. How many beautiful, inexplicable things have happened to you in your lifetime? Aren’t we, not to mention the vastness of the universe, miracles?
I saw an interview with a famous professor of psychology who was in the last phase of his life. He passed away years ago, but I’ll never forget what he said, “Why is there no one who will honestly admit that we don’t really understand anything at all?” Even people who are experts in their field and have an abundance of knowledge recognize the mystery and wonder of life and admit that our understanding of it is extremely limited. If we stop relying on our thinking and reasoning so much, we can fill our days with joy and hope.
Take an honest look at your life. Look into someone’s eyes and see and feel what is behind them because you will see the presence of an inexplicable miracle. In uncertainty there is room for mystery and hope. The deepest moments of your life cannot be described or explained in words because they are mysteries. As we grow old, allow this mystery in, invite it into your awareness. Old age is meant to be a profound spiritual process and it consists of letting go and allowing.
“It all diminishes,” I once heard an elderly woman say. This is why many of us do not look forward to it because she is right, it is a time of loss and diminishment. We decline physically and mentally. Our children are busy, and we don’t see them as often. We understand less and less of the world. It is hard to keep track of everything going on around us. Our youth is gone, and many of our friends are gone as well. It is no wonder we don’t want this to happen to us. Ironically, it is exactly because we don’t want it to happen and can’t accept it is happening that we adamantly cling to it. This is a tragedy because clinging to anything makes aging difficult. When we resist change, we suffer because we are unable to let go and flow with life, flow with consciousness. If we can’t let go, we swim against the current and over time this effort robs us of our strength. It takes a great deal of energy to hang on in desperation. We are literally “old” when we cling to ideas whose time has come, while resisting the new that could bring youthful, renewed energy to our lives.
What does it mean to let go? Everything is constantly changing. Look at the world around you and compare what you see now with what you saw as a child. It is clear that things have changed so much. If everything is constantly changing, why do we hang on to what we know is going to go away? How can we not release our grip and let go? It is a strange trait humans have, to hold on to things, people, and ideas for dear life. Is it possible not tograsp and cling, but instead to say Yes to life and the changes it inevitably brings?
Our minds are full of ideas about ourselves, about who we are, about what happened to us in the past, about how the world should be. Observe these thoughts and ideas that are anchored in the past. Just as a ship’s anchor keeps it from moving with the ocean currents, these thought forms are an inner, energetic anchor that keeps us connected to the past and inhibits moving forward. When we observe this in an aging person, we say they are stuck in their ways. In other words, they are “old.”
Our thinking anchors us in the past, in the way things used to be, the good old days, and living in the past is what really makes us old. When we are stuck, and anchored in, it is the end of growth. Sometimes we don’t realize that we are holding on to outdated, exhausted ideas that belong to a world of the past, not to the world of the present. These ideas we hold onto so tightly are not who we really are. We are not our thoughts. We are timeless beings of pure light.
Those who hold on to the past for dear life grumble about young people who do not live up to their expectations. They see young people who are free and loose, who are less interested in working themselves to death, and are more interested in enjoying life. These young people do not let themselves be pigeonholed, but instead of receiving support, they are sharply condemned.
During my youth in the sixties, when many men had long hair, it was interpreted as a sign that civilization was surely coming to an end. “Long-haired, work-shy scum” was the common cry. In their estimation, it was considered wrong for a man to grow a beautiful head of hair, embrace his feminine side, and enjoy a life freely chosen. This kind of judgment didn’t happen just in the sixties, it has happened throughout human history. The older generation always grumbled about the new one—the past was better than the present, young people lack character and do whatever they want, they don’t play by the rules. Eventually, the grumbling dies down because life has a way of going on. The sun still rises in the east. We interpret change as bad, negative, less than, and these critical judgments have been handed out since the beginning of time.
People who condemn the young condemn the energy of their own souls. The soul wants to grow, expand, be adventurous and instead is blocked in its trajectory by worn-out ways of thinking and judging. Old age doesn’t have to partner with old thinking. Sometimes, we see an old person, but we can feel they are young in spirit. This is possible. These elders are open, accepting, curious, and non-judging. No matter how old one is, this is a sure sign of youth.
The first step to letting go begins with embracing doubt, because if we admit we have doubts, we acknowledge our ignorance. A person who does not question their thinking assumes they know everything. Socrates said, “All I know is that I know nothing.” This is the first step—to admit how little we know. It is possible to allow some doubt in and realize that our true self is different from the personality we think we are. Most of the world, however, does not think this way.
Let go of time to experience your eternal self.
Let go of space to embrace oneness with the universe.
Let go of the non-self to be more Yourself.
Let go of fear to embrace love.
Let go of thinking inside the box—you are bigger than the box.
Let go of limiting ideas, and your life will change, you are limitless and eternal.
Letting go becomes easier when we realize that we can allow something beautiful into our awareness.
“You become old when you cling to something that is past. You do not allow the new, which always carries within it the renewing energy of the young – youth.”
This is a liberating idea because the new always brings with it a refreshing, youthful energy, and when we allow that energy to come in, it is the key to eternal life.
We die in order to be born again, but it need not be a sharp transition. Just as the fetus develops in the womb, an angel of light develops in the aging human being. This angel carries consciousness further along its cosmic journey and is capable of leaving the earthly body behind without holding on. This is the angel of the new. As we age, this angel helps us grow new wings and when we allow that Angel in, we become it, and we can also let go of the old.
We have (almost) completely lost ourselves in our belief systems and the fear of living in this world which emphasizes performance, looking and being successful and winning the rat race. But now there is something within us that perceives and experiences things differently and does not want to live in the old way. When you nurture this angel within, you are it and a new life will reveal itself, and show you its power, light, and wholeness. Let go of the past and allow the angel in. This is how to grow old.
Letting go is easier and more natural when we realize what we are allowing our true self to emerge. When we grow old, we can become who we really are. We have played a role for so long in this world that we think we are the role, and the game of life is all there is, but as we age, we come to know we are more than that.
Growing old, at its deepest level is not even about letting go per se, as much as it is about our willingness to receive and restore the truth of who we are. It is about growth, not decay. It is about liberation, about allowing. We are liberated from untruths, from the chains of the physical world. Growing old is a process in which we leave behind forever the limitations of physical reality, the limitations of human society, with all its musts and fears. It is a process by which we allow our divine reality, our eternal self, our freedom to come to the fore. Why is that so difficult? Because who we really are is at odds with who we think we are. The Truth is at odds with what we believe.
The aging human being is pregnant with the Angel that is emerging in her or him. But many reject this Angel, do not want to be it; thus reject the nurturing and healing energy of the Angel.
The key to dealing with old age is understanding that you are pregnant, the key to dealing with older people is understanding that they are pregnant.
And the beautiful thing is you are pregnant with yourself. Slowly you allow your true self, slowly you let go of the role you have played in this life. Getting older is only problematic if you do not accept this. Decay occurs when you resist this development: when you resist ascending into the light – the light that you are.
What is light? When we talk about light, we think of an external phenomenon like the sun or a lamp we can turn on. But what brings light? Unity brings light. The moment the sun rises, and the night disappears, everything is One in the light. Oneness is, everything is connected. We feel part of the world. Light connects us and banishes fear. The world of cubicles and boundaries and struggles now looks unreal to us. Light is a timeless state. If you travel on a beam light, at the speed of light, time and space disappear. Everything merges into the eternal now. We know light because light is love. Love connects, it transcends time and space. Love brings us back to the source, and in love we become the source.
To grow old is to hear the call of the source. “Come back to me, leave the world of separation, of fear, come back to me. This is your home. You are the source. You are the universe. You are love.”
Allow it. Say yes to it. Become who you are.
The time of awakening has arrived.
Accept the inexplicable. Let go and know.
Accept the miracle.
You are the miracle.