On Aging

marcia-3982_0_0By Marcia Miller

As I write this I’m on my way home from teaching a weekend yoga workshop to a group of people over 50. One of the most meaningful parts of the workshop for me was the time we spent answering the question, “What do you know now that you didn’t or couldn’t have known when you were 20 or 30?”

The wisdom in the room was felt viscerally, as one person after another offered a phrase or two about something they had learned, often with a poignant story from their lives as examples. One woman described an unexpected acceptance of life’s difficulties, despite a deep longing for health and happiness for all. Another described understanding her own mother’s maxim, “This too shall pass.” She shared the face she used to make when her mother would say that, but lately she realizes her mother was correct. You may know that saying, that our parents get smarter as we get older? This turned out to be true for her. Another described a life in which his longtime question, “How do I get this right?” evolved into more interesting questions, including, “What can I learn from this situation?” Or, “What are my choices here?” It was quite a relief to not have to always get “it” right, whatever “it” is. We heard one woman speak movingly of a hard-won realization that she could not control the world around her. Life can take us to our knees, and, while painful, the lessons are precious.

Most spoke of a deeper understanding of what is really important in their lives now, having lost loved ones or faced death themselves. This clarity allows them to let go of that which is not important anymore and move on. And of course—love. We spoke of realizing that the essence of life is love—it all comes down to love.

These are likely ideas that we all heard when we were younger, but what I saw this past weekend was embodiment. Life turned concepts and ideas into lived experience that we could embody as truth.

In a culture where youth is revered and our elders are often invisible, I was inspired by us this weekend. Personally, my 20s were painful for me in many ways that I would never want to return to. I was naïve and judgmental, often sure I knew what was best for everyone around me. I was also earnest and caring, but without many of the skills I have now that make my life so rich and meaningful. Those of us in of 50s, 60s and beyond have lived life, earning our grey hair, our wrinkles and our shining eyes, and, to some, we are invisible. But our lives do not depend on being noticed—they are precious and empowered either way.

Marcia Miller was one of the original co-founders of Yoga on High, was the genesis behind The Yoga on High Foundation, teaches yoga classes on the public schedule, and runs many of the upper level specialty studies at Yoga on High, such as the Urban Zen program and the Therapeutic Teacher Training Program. She teaches workshops throughout the US, this workshop on yoga and aging as an example.

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