A recent email from a south coast group leader…
What I really wanted to share with you is my afternoon yesterday. I share it in light of the conversation on meditation and ageing. It will be a bit of a ramble - sorry about that.
The pretext to it is that I bumped into Arno on Monday and we had a conversation about 'Transitus', the Benedictine process of companioning those who are dying. Arno also told me that he had recently bought a 'reverie' harp. Yesterday afternoon I went to visit someone at Banksia Village where Arno and Nell are now residents. The man, John, I went to visit has recently come into the village from Canberra and has become part of our parish. I had introduced him to Arno as I thought they would get on well. John, at 92, describes himself as a "seeker of the truth."
When I got to John's room he told me that Arno had invited people to the chapel for a 'reverie' harp recital and meditation. ( Arno and another of our parishioners meditate together there once a week). Anyway I suggested that we go along which we did.
It was so delightful to be with a gathered group of people in their 80's and some well into their 90's being led by Arno. For me, whereas I had gone there 'to minister' I found that I was being 'ministered to'. It was wonderful to see the faces of people come alive as they tried to play the harp themselves. But it was also wonderful to hear and see Arno speaking and playing. I think there is a little spiritual blooming happening at Banksia through people like Arno, Ray and John and it is so good to behold.
And a postscript…listening to Jean Vanier just now http://ageingmeditatio.
blogspot.com.au/p/links.html I remembered a very beautiful, brief exchange between John and Nance at Arno's harp afternoon. I asked Nance how she was and she, uncharacteristically, said 'I'm beginning to feel my age. I'm happy to move on though...the human spirit is never wasted.' John who was sitting next to her and hadn't met her before replied, very naturally, lightly with delightful ease and wisdom, 'Yes, I feel the same way'. Nance is 95 and used to come into our Moruya meditation group.
I also thought of John who says, and it is obvious, that he feels at 92 that he is living in constant awareness of God. This is so encouraging to me. Such a sense of gracious, peaceful letting go at the same time as these elders are still so vital. Beautiful to behold.
Rev. Linda Chapman
Rector Anglican Parish of Moruya &
Open Sanctuary Tilba Tilba firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Sanctuary Tilba Tilba email@example.com
Bozena, one of our younger meditators at present studying in Rome, has recently posted these on Facebook
There was a father, mother and their many children, and a grandfather lived with them. He was quite old, and when he was at table eating soup, he would get everything dirty: his mouth, the serviette ... it was not a pretty sight! One day the father said that, given what was happening to the grandfather, from that day forward he would eat alone. And so he bought a little table, and placed it in the kitchen. And so the grandfather ate alone in the kitchen while the family ate in the dining room. After some days, the father returned home from work and found one of his children playing with wood. He asked him: ‘What are you doing?’ to which the child replied: ‘I am playing carpenter’. ‘And what are you building?’ the father asked. ‘A table for you papa, for when you get old like grandpa’.
This story has stayed with me for a lifetime and done me great good. Grandparents are a treasure.
Helen Luke, 1904-1995 a Jungian analyst and author, in her book Old Age, A Journey into Simplicity (1987) uses some of our great literary texts to reflect on growing into old age, and how the whole of our life can prepare us for this time…(pp25-26)
“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On a marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
-William Butler Yeats "Vacillation"
In her book The Heart of Silence, Madeleine Simon rscj discussed the question of growing older “Now I have reached old age, and happily I still have all my faculties. I am aware that all of these years of meditation have helped to prepare me for this time of final maturing. They have given me a certain freedom which enables me to accept the slowing- down-process and the inevitable disabilities of this time of life. The norm for times of meditation remains twice daily, but I have to accept that this must be adapted or even omitted on occasion.
"A growing dependence on others is a sine qua non of old age whether one is in dementia or still alert. It can be a struggle to accept this dependence and diminution, as memory becomes less reliable and concentration more difficult to sustain.
But as time goes on, the aged often come to a freedom which brings in its wake a quiet love and a kinship with all. There is a gracious awareness that perfect fulfilment lies in perfect surrender to the loss of everything. It is unfortunate that the term 'second childhood' is only used in a negative sense. For those with dementia the use of the negative is easier to understand, but even then, with the loss of responsibility for one’s actions, there comes a certain return to the age of innocence. I have quoted to myself the hymn title "This Is Holy Ground" as I watch the silent procession of caregivers bringing the mentally sick along to the dining room.
Our meditation practised over the years will have helped us to live in the present moment. May it now lead us to that final maturity of 'second childhood' which Jesus was speaking about when he said, 'I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven' (Matthew 18:3)."