An acquaintance recently suggested that the inquiries might be useful in regard to aging, a looking into what to do as we confront the challenges of growing older. Great idea. As facilitators we regularly offer a body identification inquiry, and of course there can be a general sense of deficiency when we start to experience the limitations that we are culturally conditioned to believe are part and parcel of heading into the second half of life. “I can’t do this anymore” is a common lament, a general theme. As we age, everywhere we go, we look around and are startled to discover we are the oldest people in the room. The world appears to be getting younger faster. It’s like being on a train that’s headed in the opposite direction from all other trains, that are going the other way at an accelerated speed. Yet we are slowing down and headed back to the station where the journey began, looking out the windows at the scenery we passed by seemingly just yesterday, but was it really so long ago?
My 83 year-old mother suffered a massive stroke this weekend. My father seems more at risk of dying than she, because he has no idea how to take care of himself. These these last few days he has looked like a vision of terror, like an abandoned child. So what to do?
It is so clear that, as simple as it sounds, there is never a time of life where the central issue is not the capacity to live in the present moment. Whereas the idea of using the inquiries to address the aging mind and body initially appeared to be about the most obvious concepts of physical limitations and mental sluggishness, I now see that it’s an ageless, timeless, genderless, collective concern. Are we living in a world of regret or nostalgia, or the terror or hope of what’s down the road? Or can we be fully present in this moment—literally, abandon all preoccupation with what was, or what is to come?
My father has almost literally left his mind and body out of sheer terror. His waking nightmare has always had to do with a dire future. He is a master of worst case scenarios, and is continually living in those movies as if they are real and true right now. My mother is resting and healing, and seemingly has a better quality of life in comparison to the horror show my father appears to be living in. Right now, it appears as if he needs drugs more than she, just to get through the day. I do not tell my father to be here now (only once, gently.) I show him how to do the laundry and find affection for simple things, like how that sock still looks like the foot it so recently covered. My mother is physically incapacitated on most of the left side of her body, from her face down to her toes. She cannot, for the moment, go anywhere or do anything, as most of us feel we must, most of the time, so she rests without compulsion, without his debilitating agitation.
If I lived in the future, I might look at these two and think, “This is our fate,” this slowing down, this incapacitation, the whole spectacle of death and dying. You don’t have to see my mother’s immobilized, slackened body in the hospital bed to know or suspect this possibility. But I might just hear my father’s starkly panicked voice over the phone in regard to an uncertain and dismal future–and just stop.
Stop all movements toward any other moment but this. No matter what your age in years, just stop all thought of an imagined bleak, or better-than-this future. Relinquish all ties, debts, and lingering resentments about an equally imagined past, right now. This is the paramount opportunity of a lifetime, because we are never really old or young outside of the present moment.
Scott Kiloby’s upcoming book about addiction, Natural Rest, has the simple yet profound prescription to rest, simply rest, into this present moment. Rest, right now, with what is. It is the age-old admonition to be here now. We can come up with all kinds of inquiries to deal with all kinds of apparent “problems.” But there has never been a better time, nor will there ever be, to live from this universal axiomatic truth in regard to surrendering all to the present moment. What else is there?
This is it; this moment. I sing this song to myself. No one or nothing from the past or the future can hear it. But the melody lingers sweetly.