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Friendship with Aging - Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community

Friendship with Aging

The most common word I hear linked to aging is “anti-.” No one wants to be aging… they want to be anti-aging. To this end there are anti-aging creams, serums, vitamins, exercise programs, health drinks and diets that all claim to slow down the aging process. In a Reuter’s article, June 2017, they quoted an Orbis Research study that discovered that the global anti-aging market was worth $250 billion in 2016 and was estimated to reach $331.41 billion by 2021.

It’s clear NO ONE WANTS TO AGE, despite that inevitability.  [aging] I wonder what this does to us on a soul level? How do we find balance and harmony if we are constantly fighting what is a natural process? Is it possible to become friends with aging?

And certainly understand fighting growing older… what good is there about aging anyway? Well, that’s the deep spiritual challenge, isn’t it? This can’t simply be a miserable, declining time of life? After all, not everyone has the luxury of growing older.  Is it possible for aging to be transformative? Yes, I believe that is possible, and I believe that the deepest transformation at this point in our lives is at an interior, soul level. Sure, we could talk about bucket lists and trying new things and traveling… but not all people have the financial capability to do those things. So, simply being able to fulfill a bucket list, as wonderful as that might be (and I say “go for it”, isn’t necessary for the inner transformation I’m talking about.

Celtic spirituality encourages us to incorporate the wisdom of the seasons (among other things) into our lives. Metaphorically, the aging process invites us to spend some time considering what autumn might have to teach us. Specifically I’d like to look at four particular characteristics of autumn: diminishment, transience, solitude, and harvest.


Obviously we experience aging as a time of diminishment of what our bodies can do, and this is frustrating and sometimes very sad. We may find ourselves grieving the loss of our ability and our health.

But, spiritually, there is another perspective. Because the Celtic understanding is that we are a body within a soul, and our soul energy extends outside of the body, John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara, suggests that perhaps we can take some comfort in the concept that as our bodies age we can “become aware of how [our]soul enfolds and minds [our] body.”

And while our soul enfolds and cradles our bodies as they decline, our souls also rest within a greater Love, a greater energy or spirit, that of the Divine, God, Goddess, the Ground of our Being. Isaiah 46 also reminds us that God is with us always, from the time we are born until we grow old and our hair turns gray. Yaweh says, “I created you and I will carry you.”

Even if our minds become such that we can’t remember or function the way we used to, that does not diminish this Truth.


As we grow older we become more and more aware of the transient nature of all things, because we are dealing with loss so much more than we used to. We are faced again and again with the fact that time passes and everything passes away with it. We experience physical and mental loss, the loss of friends and family, the loss of our identity, our homes, our feeling of importance.

Given the amount of loss during this period of life, we could find ourselves spending significant time grieving, and grieving is certainly appropriate. Another response would be to allow ourselves to be drawn into what O’Donohue calls “one of the most beautiful realities of the soul” – the memory. The things that have fallen away are caught within the net of our memory to reside in a place beyond yesterday, today and tomorrow.


Because so many things begin to fall away as we age, we are often left with more solitude. That solitude gifts us with the freedom to take that inner journey we didn’t have time for in our younger, busier years. We can intentionally enjoy the solitude and silence and use it not to mourn our losses, or wallow in our loneliness (though there may be those times when that is needed as well), but to reflect and begin a time of harvesting our souls, according to O’Donohue.


I think of harvesting as reaping the benefits of all the seeds that we’ve sown and gathering them in.

O’Donohue invites us to look at this time of aging as a time to harvest the fruit of our experience and memories. A time to gather them all in and, with reflection, find understanding, unity, healing, and wisdom. He says, “Old age, as the harvest of life, is a time when your times and their fragments gather. In this way, you unify yourself and achieve a new strength, poise, and belonging that was never available to you when you were distractedly rushing through your days.”

For this inner, soul harvest we gather together all the pieces of our lives: memories (good and bad), experiences (good and bad), decisions made, relationships, trips, moments of awe and wonder, etc. Then we put them together as perhaps we might an album or a collage and take a step back, viewing our days from the distance of perspective and wisdom. In this way we are able to have compassion for ourselves at different stages of our lives and we can seek a greater understanding of ourselves and our life. Through this lens of age and experience, it is possible to begin to let go of guilt, shame and regret, lo learn the art of forgiveness and to find wisdom in our past. As a result serenity and healing are possible where they weren’t before.

For example, as I’ve aged, I’ve been able to look back on my time with my mom and see things from a different perspective. She died when I was 17, and we weren’t really close. I used to blame myself more for that, but I can look back now and see differently. I can gather the wisdom I’ve garnered from having been a mother of 17-year-olds, from talking to my mother’s friends about who she was, and from understanding family dynamics better, and I can see a more complete and accurate picture of that time. With this new perspective I could gather those pieces and view them with  more compassion and understanding for who I was, and who she was. Doing so I have been able to let go of the need to impose judgment or guilt upon anyone, including myself. This has been incredibly healing for me.

Perhaps this is all easier said than done…and I realize it only scratches the surface of developing a friendship with aging. Still, I hope this will prompt you to think about aging with grace, the diminishment and transience of life and how we handle it. Consider solitude a gift and freedom to journey within in a way that there wasn’t time for before. Contemplate the harvest of your own soul… and remember that you are always held (metaphorically) in the arms of the Divine.

Love & Light!