Personal Reflections on 'Ageless Soul'

My book Ageless Soul came out two days after my 77th birthday. I wrote about what I know firsthand. I don’t like getting old, but I do like being alive in a world in motion, where aging is the norm.

Whenever I have to face some life challenge, I write a book about it. For me, writing is therapy. I wrote about relationships in Soul Mates, when that was the issue that kept me awake at night. I wrote about illness when I had stents placed in my heart. When I was getting close to retirement age, I wrote about work and decided never to retire. This book on aging is, for me, the most therapeutic of all my books. I worked through many issues that are my own but that many people share.

I understand the difficulties in getting older. I lost both my parents in the past 15 years. A low-grade sadness or melancholy is part of my life now. I take pills for high blood pressure and flirt with diabetes. Whenever I see my beloved 25-year-old daughter, I hope and pray to have many more years with her. I cherish the days with my talented wife, who is 15 years younger than me.

Writing about aging helped me see its benefits and pleasures, too. I no longer feel driven to become somebody, though I continue doing the work I’ve enjoyed for 30 years. I’ve always had a Zen-inspired outlook that starts with sheer acceptance of what life wants from me. As I age, I’m like the trees surrounding my home that turn a youthful green in the spring, flourish for a few months, and reveal a different beauty as their leaves grow old and die. I’m happy to be part of this universal rhythm, although of course, if I could choose, I’d live forever.

When he died, my dad was a young 100, and I feel a similar strong youthfulness in me. Sometimes it’s plain immaturity.  Everything has a shadow. As a writer, I don’t feel any older, and I just keep churning the books out. The writer seems ageless. I often think of my good friend James Hillman, who died six years ago. I visited him a few times during his last days, when he was on morphine and trying to stay awake enough to get some projects done. Like my father, a thoughtful plumber, and like Hillman, a genius of a psychologist, I love my work and can’t imagine not doing it forever.

I was surprised in writing this book how much I learned about leaving a legacy. I had never thought much about it, but then I realized how important it is to be connected to the future as much as the past. I insist on keeping copies of my books in the house, even though they take up space, because I want my great-great-grandchildren to have them. With great joy, I see my habits of work and my tastes having a future in my son and daughter.

I run into people every day now who are worried about getting old. They’re afraid of being a burden for their children. They don’t want to lose their mental abilities. They’re afraid of a potential illness that makes them shudder. I don’t have all the answers, but after years of writing, teaching, and working intensely with people on their most intimate issues, I have some clues and even a few solutions.

I think the secret to aging well is to love all beings, to finally be free of prejudices and judgments. I sometimes think of aging as a gradual opening of the heart that echoes the slow birth of a child. My heart feels more open than ever, and I wish that hard-won birth of love to everyone who is worrying about getting older. Love the world around you, identify with nature, and then just let life unfold on its timetable and with its own beauty.

Don't miss Thomas Moore at Kripalu: Ageless Soul: Creatively Navigate Life’s Passages, Enjoy Growing Older, and Be Uniquely You, November 16–18.

Thomas Moore, PhD, author of Care of the Soul and 25 other books on spirituality and depth psychology, is also an international lecturer and psychotherapist.

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