Ruth Barnhart

          “Well, you’re not 25.” This is what my young orthopedic doctor said as he glanced at my chart while we were discussing whether or not I should have surgery on my broken wrist. And this means what? Too old to matter whether my wrist fully heals, too old to handle the stress, too old for my bones to heal themselves?

          At 25, I was mountain climbing, exploring wild caves, running, biking swimming. Since then, my runs have slowed to brisk walks and hikes, my mountains have lowered from 14,000 feet to 2,000 feet, and the spring in my step now talks back to me with a noticeable hitch in my back and hip. Where I used to jump out of bed, I now carefully stand, stretch, wriggle to get myself in a grounded alignment. Where I used to effortlessly lift all sorts of heavy objects, from backpacks to couches, I now defer to younger, stronger bodies.

          How do I deal with this experience called the aging process? I know those who nip and tuck, who apply additional make-up, who fashion themselves after the younger generation and refuse to slow down. I also know others who have given up, who cease to care for their bodies, who regularly complain about aches and pains and not being able to do what they did when they were 25. I have to admit, I have sometimes gone there myself.

I have decided that the best way to deal with not being 25 is to approach it as a spiritual practice. What does that mean? First it means I just notice my experience, my feelings and, most of all, how I am using my body. I catch myself when I start to think, speak or act negatively to myself. And just as in my meditation practice, I come back to my breath, to the present moment and to opening to the fullness of life. I make room for discomfort, for changes in my body and abilities, gray hair and wrinkles, a slower walk and a relinquishing of certain capabilities. In other words, I accept where and how I am. I avoid projecting into the future and practice just being with today. I’m not 25 anymore.

         One really positive aspect of invoking my spiritual practice with aging is I’ve lightened up on myself. I eat healthy but I am no longer so strict or harsh with myself when I stray. I let myself live life more, including taking naps when I am tired. I push myself when it is required. I still like adventure, but I no longer have to be the first in the 33 degree lake. It’s okay to just go slip into the warm pool.

In one of her Facebook postings, Antonia recently asked the question, “On a scale of 1-10, how healthy are you?”  I have stepped off all scales. I am fully alive as I am. My aging body proclaims one thing, ‘I Am Still Here.” And I’m not 25 anymore.

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