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Friday, June 17 2016 09:35

The New Yorker magazine, of some fifteen years ago, published a cartoon showing two Buddhist monks. They are sitting next to one another outside their monastery.

The one on the left says to his companion on the right: “Are you not thinking what I’m not thinking?”

Besides entertaining readers, this hilarious exchange says something about the way some people pray. My impression is that, quite a few of us in late life, do so.

We may have found our own ways of being like those monks in the cartoon. Thinking is not of great importance to us. Rather being there is what counts.

What does it all mean? Perhaps some prayer has allowed us to discover things about later life that we had known before.

I’d like to propose varied ways of cultivating compassion toward ourselves.  Not blaming self; not going over past mistakes, not focusing on faults.

This approach can mean seeing yourself as loveable and loved.  Also appreciating your life as mystery.  Admiring what you are. Doing things you enjoy doing.

Another jokester, heard from on the subject, says: “The nice thing about meditation is that it makes doing nothing quite respectable.”

This way of dealing with a kind of nothingness appeals to me as a fine way of approaching a kind of prayer.

Later life is a privileged time for us to take care of our own souls.  This is a chief reason for valuing leisure.

Aging is a mystery.  It has more reality than we can grasp. It should not be seen as a problem to be solved. Instead its depth requires contemplation, not mere action.

What does my new status in the world mean? What can I make of my religious traditions, of other ones? Do they have anything to say about old age.

It’s a time for taking stock of the present. This might mean exploring our own creativity, for seeing how we can better serve the community.  We may hear a call to deepen our relationships with family members and with friends.

American society harbors entirely two negative views of later life. The main reason why: the spiritual meaning of aging is ignored.

Big issues of later life: Why am I still alive?  Why should I think well of my self?  Does anyone care about me and my experience?  How can I put retirement to meaningful use? How can I recognize the Spirit in my life?

We should perhaps cherish those moments when we have an awareness of our life being something more than it appears to be.

You need such transcendent moments for the times when the presence of God seems to recede like a great river rolling back from its banks.

We don’t have to be perfect; I tried it for a long time and proved a dismal failure at it. Since then, I have tried to be merely human, while trusting God.

Sometimes that is not so easy. Becoming merely human, the work of a life time, can be greatly furthered in old age.

Old age can provide the perspective for sorting out good and bad spirits. What casts us down, makes us “unhappy” and “dispirited” cannot come from the good spirit. It can liberate us to recognize this when we are being led by the good spirit.

The value in silence. My discovery of it in1949: I could not figure out why everyone did not apply it. My grandmother believed in it.

Tout est grace – Everything is a gift.  Ask older people: do you enjoy a deeper peace than earlier in your life?

The spiritual life of many elders is marked by a growing simplicity.  Perhaps that’s what the two jokes expressed earlier are saying to us.