At this time in our history, many Americans are feeling anxious when we consider the state of our union. The idea of pledging allegiance to the flag, crossing our hearts while stating our commitment to “one nation, undivided and with liberty and justice for all” seems a distant dream of our fore fathers.
Each passimg day brings us the world, national and local news, causing us to feel unbalanced and, let’s face it, worried. Perhaps, as never before, we feel on shakey ground, uncertain about the instability in Washington. Will it get as serious as an impeachment? Are we moving further into the next war? With budget cuts will our health care and the education of our children be compromised? Will we lose our hard-won freedoms? How about our life savings? Could the stock market plunge? With climate change, will the rising tides and severe acts of nature (just seen in Texas) threaten our very homes?
Who can tell? How can we be certain we will come through unscathed, with all this chaos swirling around us?
Yet, it is good to keep things in perspective. Do we recognize how fortunate we truly are to live in the USA, as compared to Afganistan, or North Korea. Venezuela, or Syria. We might pause and feel gratitude that we do live in a country that is not war-torn like those places where its citizens have lost everything, where the only possessions they now have are what they can carry in ther hands or on their back and as refugees are forced to wander the world, looking for a place to settle and start over. This may be temporarily true for victims of the devastating hurricane, Harvey, but at least our government will do what it can to help people get back in their homes as quickly as is possible.
For aging Boomers, and those beyond, there are additional concerns. We become keenly aware of our physical body, and its changes. Sometimes these are out of our control and come suddenly, but more often, the changes in our physical or mental health are gradual and we then have some choice. We can find ways to slow down the process of getting old. Depending on motivation, we can either accelerate the decline by accepting the premise we are over the hill and so we might as well just throw in the towel. Or instead, we can choose a more proactive approach, exploring the many ways to take better care of ourselves. We can adopt a healthier lifestyle which includes looking at how we nourish our selves with food and whether we are exercising almost every day. Can we get better at remaining young, even as we get old?
After a certain age we begin to consider, more seriously, our own mortality. Although we may not like to admit it (thinking it too morbid) there is one certainty....we will die. With this understanding in mind, it is a good idea to make some preparations, including our end-of-life instructions, thereby making it easier for those loved ones we leave behind. It may also be a good idea to generate “the bucket list” of what we want to do with this last part of our life. How about that trip we always wanted to make or is now a good time to work on healing an important, but broken, relationship?
The American Buddhist monk Pema Chodron tells us in her book, “When Things Fall Apart...Heart Advise for Difficult Times”...
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.
It is when we cling to what we have had but is no more, whether a relationship or a home we have outgrown, or a job that is over, that we suffer. “
The Buddhists teach us how to live more peacefully, with all the unknowns. It is easier, once we can accept that everything is impermanent, that we live
in an ever-changing world and body.They also inform us we cannot change the world. There will always be suffering, but we can change our minds and give up the attachment of wanting things to stay the same, rather than embracing what is... including all the uncertainties.