By Michelleanne Bradley
The first of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances:
I am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.
I am currently 48 years old. I am also all of the ages I have been before now.
I am a beginning practitioner of Buddhism, but I also have been practicing for more than a decade. My practice has become a part of my muscle memory. When I am driving, I use awareness practice and breathing practice.
I have a daily meditation practice.
I am aware of my body aging. I used to run. I am not sure what happened, or if there was a singular incident that made me stop running, but I know that when I did my second marathon, I had a deadly hard time. One of my coaches suggested that I quit at the half, and in my stubbornness, I finished the race. After that, I slipped on a stick during a trail run and injured my knee so I needed more time away.
It was a gradual easing back until I no longer went running ever. Looking back, I wonder if that was the beginning of when some of my health issues were laying their roots. I was later diagnosed a few years later with a thyroid condition that made me tired and depressed, and had a giant impact on my metabolism. I took all of the symptoms as a sign of aging. I have submitted to the humility of the changes in my body.
I see the way my parents and loved ones are aging.
My mom has started shrinking. She used to be taller than me. I see it in her skin, I see it in her hands. My dad used to have hair as black as night. His body hair was all black too; but if he grew a beard, it would be as red as my hair. His hair is now mostly white, with a bare hint of dark still visible.
My grandmother is 92—she has had a rough year. She has had two major falls in the past year, resulting in two hip replacement surgeries. Right now, she is experiencing what the doctors are calling anesthesia induced dementia. Last year she was bowling in a league, taking yoga and Pilates, and active at the local senior center. When she fell the first time, she was concerned about whether or not she would be able to bowl this season. She fell the second time when she was just on the cusp of recovering from the first surgery.
They have shown me a lifetime of strength and grace.
I have had animal companions for the majority of my adult life. My family always had a dog when I was growing up, but it was not the same as having my own dogs and cats. My pets have all been rescues. Being with them and providing a safe space has always been an exercise in showing me how much room my heart holds. I have never had a puppy, but I have always stayed with my pets as they have aged and we have grown together and they have opened my heart to the beings who are only with us for a short time. They have shown me how love and acceptance can restore even the most traumatized.
We live in a society where aging is seen as a hindrance rather than a blessing.
As a part of practice, I have changed my perspective about so many aspects of life. There is a delicate poignancy, the honor afforded those of us who grow deeper with age, more compassion, more understanding, more appreciation of the delicate balance in this life.
I have earned all of my years. May you live your best life with grace.
Editor: Dana Gornall