I’ve found that aging typically becomes a struggle when we try to control it, deny it, fight it, or rigidly define the process.
The truth is, to our egos, change is scary. It makes us feel that we’re not in control of our lives.
Though growing older presents us with poignant reminders of loss or “dis-ease,” the practice of radiant aging allows us to surrender to all the changes, growth, and miracles that come.
The following are the four types of aging—biological, emotional, energetic, and spiritual—that I discuss in my book The Power of Surrender, and how we can integrate them into our lives.
Aging is not a disease. It is an organic evolution that we can honor and augment once we learn to tap into our vital energies and surrender our fears.
How we age is more in our control than we might think. Research has shown that poor health isn’t a necessary consequence of aging. If we practice healthy behaviors, take advantage of preventive services, and engage with family and friends, we are more likely to remain fit and have fewer medical issues. It’s essential to surrender the notion that we are too old or too sick to create positive changes in our body.
What is emotional aging? On the positive side, it is the wisdom and radiance we gain over time from being committed to compassion, love, and an open heart. On the negative side, emotional aging can manifest as rigidity, bitterness, and resentments that are etched on our face and spirit. We feel a heaviness of being, a numbness, a closing off which comes from clinging to hurt and resentment, the tightness of not surrendering year after year.
Part of my radical aging process includes surrendering bad ideas about aging that keep me feeling old. For instance, I avoid thoughts such as, “Who would want me now?” “I’m too fat,” “I’m all saggy and wrinkled,” or “The best part of my life is over.” Though I understand the tendency to put ourselves under a microscope, obsessing about flaws, disappointments, and shame is akin to cursing ourselves. Even worse, it’s often a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Having abundant energy is a precious gift. It’s associated with youth—though I’ve had plenty of 20 and 30-something patients who are chronically exhausted from pushing themselves too hard, and vibrant 70-something patients who’ve told me, “I’ve never felt better.” Nevertheless, many older people often say, “I don’t have the energy I used to.”
To counteract the energy decline associated with age, we must realize that there’s a fire within us that most people don’t know about. It’s called the Kundalini energy, the coiled serpent power at the base of our spine. If we want to function at our peak, age radiantly, and live longer, it’s crucial to awaken this force. Then it can rise up our spine like an electric current to our crown—nourishing our cells and life force—an experience my patients have called “exhilarating,” “invigorating,” and even “orgasmic.”
When we view aging from a spiritual perspective, everything changes. Spiritual aging allows us to see that there is more to our life experiences than the material world or ego. The soul has a life of its own, which is free of the space-time continuum.
Numerous studies have found a strong link between spirituality, longevity, and physical and emotional health. Having a spiritual foundation has many advantages, including greater optimism, less stress and loneliness, and a greater sense of belonging to a community. Believing in a higher power has been shown to impart strength during tough situations, like grappling with serious illness and loss. When we’re at peace and stress hormones aren’t ravaging our system, we age less rapidly and live longer.
Never give up on hope or creativity or passion. Keep falling in love with the world. Once in a while, kiss the ground. Your life is an offering from spirit. Your body is the altar within which your soul grows.
Something good has begun. It’s been coming for some time, shining on you as you age. Shining on you, always.
(Adapted from The Power of Surrender by Judith Orloff MD.)