Monday, July 12, 2010

Act You're Grandkid's Age -II

The article I was discussing goes on to say that current pop media tells the over-70s that they must be proactive to "stay young". As a comment on yesterday's blog said, there are practitioners of yoga in their 80s and 90 who are healthy and very active. I'm a strong believer in the benefits of yoga, a flexible body leads to a flexible mind and gives energy most older people don't have. But the article wasn't talking about that -- the few who do yoga late in life are an exception. Most aging people are urged to stay very busy, "volunteer!" and play golf and tennis, walk, have a busy social life. I agree that all those things are good and I feel that social life ought to extend beyond your family -- by the 70s family see you through blinders of familiarity and habit including both good and bad past experiences. So being involved with an organization in your community whose purpose you believe in whether church or culture or service of some sort is valuable. This is the line we all read in magazines from AARP's to the women's service mags to newspaper articles.

But as Ms. Zernike also points out, this emphasis on doing things leaves out the opportunity for contemplation that leads to preparation for the inevitable end. Those who are too busy, or simply unwilling to face their own mortality will be unprepared for decisions and emotions that will come unless they get that day dream so many have, of lying down one night, having a quiet heart attack and dying without waking up. That sounds very nice to a lot of people -- especially those who have a way of avoiding responsibility for their on lives, and their numbers are legion. That nice neat death is extremely rare.

Even the yoga practitioners should be thinking about an end. One of the ancient purposes of hatha yoga was to prepare the body for a transition from life to death, even to gain the control to choose the time of death. There are stories of yogis who were able to make such a choice. This is usually not a part of American practice of yoga.

I've observed people I've known who lived "normal" lives, that as the physical body deteriorated they began to think more about religion. My highly skeptical mother became much more religions after a major heart attack and surgery. Others I've known have also. And certainly it seems better to do so before dementia sets in -- which is not inevitable but which is mostly unpredictable.

I'm glad the Times chose to publish this particular article in the much read Week in Review section. In the magazine yesterday they also had an article about cryogenics -- the idea of having your body and/or brain frozen in the hope that in the future technology will allow resurrection. That is quite a different subject. We won't go there, not just now but probably never.


Kass said...

I agree with you about the busyness and activity that sometimes seems frenetic and an avoidance of deeper issues. Interesting post.

standing on my head said...

the american practice of yoga leaves much to be desired. the focus is usually on the asanas, and disregards the other 7 limbs. yet the asana practice is preparation for the rest. doing, rather than being? uh, nope.