During the question-and-answer period, someone asked,
‘Why do we meditate?’, Suzuki answered with a laugh,
‘So you can enjoy your old age.’
I’m about halfway through a book called Aging as a Spiritual Practice and really enjoying it. Written by Zen teacher and priest Lewis Richmond, it explores the ups and downs of aging with a light touch, humour and lots of stories. There is no question that there is a Buddhist dimension to his view, but anybody will enjoy and appreciate most of what he says. Interestingly, he is comfortable speaking of God from within a Buddhist view.
The first third of the book covers various topics: when the lightning strikes, or when we viscerally experience the reality of aging in our own or another’s experience; the stages of our inner adjustments to this reality; and “elderhood”, or, finally looking at what is good and what is difficult about getting older. Richmond doesn’t skip the hard stuff. I was particularly struck by this idea of elderhood, which involves reframing our relationship to getting older. Aging is not merely biological deterioration, but it also holds the possibility of many good things, such as increased freedom from social roles (i.e. being more yourself), mentoring the young, and, dare I say, the cultivation of wisdom. However, I support what Suzuki Roshi says in the above quote, and Richmond too, that meditation can make a big difference in helping us to find the good during the many challenges of getting older.
Highly recommended to most people over the age of fifty!
P.S. Search for Lewis Richmond on Youtube. There are several good short talk
by him about this topic.