Are you becoming more and more aware of your advancing age? Ever wonder if you’re making the most of your life? Or do you fear that something integral may be missing? If you can relate to these questions, then Thomas Moore’s book Ageless Soul is required reading.
As you may know, Moore has written for decades on various facets of the soul and in this book turned his attention to how aging impacts this deepest part of our selves. He reminds us that “the soul is not a technical or scientific term. It’s an ancient one, rooted in the idea of breathing and being alive. It lies deeper than personality, ego, consciousness and the knowable.” The soul is who we are at our very core.
“The first taste of getting old can be unsettling.” ~Thomas Moore
Amen to that, Thomas! You’re cruising through life, one day blending into the next, when suddenly you receive a series of unmistakable signs: You’re not as young as you think you are. Here are just a few of the signals that time is :
- You notice an unfamiliar stiffness and soreness upon awakening and after you exercise.
- You observe new wrinkles on your face or spots or creases on your body.
- You walk into a room in your home—and forget the reason you entered it.
- You find yourself holding printed materials away from your body, at an arm’s length, to read them.
- You notice that people are treating you differently, asking if you need assistance, or addressing you in a more formal way.
Moore calls these “small shocks.” I call them “wake up calls.”
These events snap us out of our illusion of youthfulness and force us to confront an uncomfortable fact: We’re getting older. The “wake up calls” that come with aging may be unsettling—but they are also necessary. Without them, we might go through life without reflecting on the subtle but significant changes that tell us time is passing and that our time here on this earth has an expiration date.
You now have a choice: aging or growing old.
Moore tells us there’s a difference between aging and growing old and it works like this:
- Growing old is a passive state where you sit back and let life happen to you.
- Aging is an active state, “a process by which you become somebody real and alive…more spiritually and culturally complex.”
Active aging requires your full attention and participation. No putting on blinders to the changes that are happening to you or making excuses that you’re “too old” for this or that. You’ll need to start thinking about what steps you can take to continue to grow and thrive and become the complete person you were meant to be.
One approach suggested by Moore is to “stay young from the inside out.” Everyone has the flicker of youth inside them and “that youthfulness needs only to be freed.” That means keeping the old person who craves order and tradition in check and letting “the youthful attributes of energy and ideas come to the forefront.”
As you age, your soul wants your attention.
Moore points out that for those of us who have had a long career, our priorities may have been focused on things like meeting the expectations of our boss or customers, getting promotions and increasing our salary. The soul doesn’t care about this stuff. In Moore’s words, “the soul lives on a different set of values.”
So how do we ensure we’re living the fullest, richest life possible and making the most of what Mary Oliver calls our “one wild and precious life”? Thomas Moore offers us a few clues via the 10-point checklist below. The words in bold are from Moore. I have added my own thoughts that follow each word or phrase.
Your soul may want:
- Beauty. Regularly expose yourself to the things that are beautiful to you. This may be art or music or spending time with nature, be it walking in the woods, jogging on the beach, or simply being fully present as you gaze out at your backyard.
- Contemplation. Spend time alone in silent thought, at least 15 minutes a day. If needed, use meditation or centering prayer to cleanse the mind.
- Deeply felt experiences. What really talks to your soul? It may be watching the sunrise, skiing down a snow-covered hill or having a romantic candlelit dinner at home.
- Meaningful relationships. Stay engaged and in touch (physically) with your spouse or significant other. Converse regularly with the friends and family members that matter most.
- Knowledge. Keep your mind active by reading, listening to podcasts, and watching TV shows, on the subjects that interest you.
- A sense of home. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is. Find it in the place you live or a place you visit often. Spend quality time there.
- Art. It talks to our soul in ways words cannot. Display the art that speaks to you in your home; make regular visits to art museums and galleries.
- Spiritual peace. Being at peace with yourself means being at peace with others. Practice forgiveness and when necessary, make amends even when you’re not at fault.
- Community. Be a part of a larger extended group. Many find this naturally at church, but if you (like me) don’t attend regularly, look to any group or organization that does good.
- Relaxation and comfort. Sometimes you just need to chill. In a hammock or an easy chair. With a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. With those closest to you or all alone. You’ve earned it.
I’d like to add an 11th point to the list:
- Movement. The body is a vehicle for the soul and as we move through life, we need to stay active, helping to care for and strengthen the soul’s home. I run, but you might choose to walk or swim or bike or attend fitness classes.