"Are we the generation that will redefine aging?

Can aging be not just growing older but growing wiser?

Isn't there a little Zen in all of us?

Although 'growing old is not for sissies' this writer hopes that aging well is a real option."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spiritual Practice in the Emergency Room


 
 
It was late Saturday afternoon and my heart had been fluttering—afib style—for hours. The last thing I wanted to do was to go to the ER on a Saturday. So I waited, took my heart meds, and waited some more. My neighbor, a nurse, came by, looked at me, grabbed her stethoscope and declared my heart was flopping around like a fish.

As my husband and I hurried out the door I grabbed my phone and ear-buds along with my med list, and by the time I was in ER they were both being used. While I lay for hours amid the cacophony I listened to my music LOUD with eyes closed hoping to drown out the reality of what was happening….it was the finest music I’d ever heard. I was wheeled along on gurneys and parked on the sides of the halls like a  slab of meat…waiting…waiting….while bells and ringers were going off and on as I wondered if my life would end at the sound of an alarm unattended to.

 I didn’t die and I was extremely grateful for all that was done for me. I was admitted to the hospital for four days. And yes….I am extremely thankful… and yet …dare I say, it was a humiliating process. As I put on the hospital gown, removed my jewelry, and repeated my name and med list I become yet another patient in Room 5.  Each time an injection was done or a new nurse came on the floor I was asked my name and date of birth. How ironic is it that when one goes to the hospital we repeat our names and birth dates over and over again—and then we’re treated—like bodies with no identities or souls. We become: the patient in Room 5 who rings the bell too much because there’s no bed for her upstairs, and she’s been here for 7 hours, and she’ll have to be guerneyed out to the hallway to wait.

Behind our heads, but never totally out of sight, one can see the heart monitoring screens reminding us that our life force is a matter of numbers. There are good numbers and bad numbers. There are the good nurses and doctors who come in to check…and then there are the bad times when no one comes in…is this the moment of death?

I know this sounds harsh. Many, if not most, of the nurses and doctors try to engage us with conversation so we don’t feel this de-humanization, but it’s as much a part of the hospital as the rules and regulations. And it probably has to be this way in order to avoid mistakes; so I’m not blaming.

Being in a hospital is a “spiritual experience”—really! We lose our sense of self/ego, and we are challenged to learn patience and acceptance. What at first feels like the safety and security of being cared for, eventually turns into the slow process of being released where the ritual is reversed in slow motion and the images of prison and freedom ravage the brain. Always another opportunity to practice patience…they say good patients are patient. Can't say I passed the test this time....

Monday, April 2, 2018

Astrological Weather Patterns



What's happening with me now? Why am I feeling like this? These are the questions we ask our astrologer or Tarot reader. I often have to remind myself how moods are like the clouds or passing weather patterns—they come and go. As an astrologer, I should be keenly aware of this as I observe the patterns of the Moon and planets continually moving through the heavens and our lives. But it’s not so easy to always remember that ‘this too shall pass.’

Late yesterday afternoon I fell into a low energy vortex and ended up on the couch unable to do anything but question the aching in my spine and the complaining of my psyche. I’ve been diagnosed with low iron anemia…and I’d forgotten to take my pills for weeks. And then there was ole Saturn and Mars squaring my Sun exactly. Saturn rules the bones, and squares bring out the tension or underlying problem…so there was the arthritis in my back and the pain. I reminded myself that I’m like a 1947 model car…what can I expect?

 I wasn’t happy despite coming up with multiple reasons for my sudden “downfall.” I lay down and forced myself to rest for 20 minutes then made myself get up and walk to the drugstore to buy iron supplements. On the walk home I popped one along with a chocolate Cadbury egg…and slowly I began to open like a frozen daffodil just cut and put into warm water. It was Easter, so one can indulge a bit, I told myself. Tomorrow I will start losing weight. Sigh…

Just as I walked in the shop at home a FB friend dropped by, and in the course of our conversation she mentioned she hadn’t seen a blog post for me in quite a while. Yes! Someone had noticed. That felt good.

Someone had missed hearing from me! Here was more warmth, like sunshine, flowing in...even better than the chocolate egg.

Spring is slow in coming this year. Snow is forecast for tomorrow. My spine aches so intensely I must lie down again, and plan on calling the doctor tomorrow.  But I’m going to return to the drugstore and buy sunglasses that will change the color of the world from mundane gray to warm amber hues. Simple solutions! Followed by the hard phone call…

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”…and God bless friends who remember us…and notice when we are missing.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

"In All It's Moods I See Myself"





                                          “In All Its Moods I see Myself…”

Yesterday after a perfectly lovely day—in fact a day more perfect than most, my energy dropped.  And so I rested and waited for it to return. After a couple of  hours I could feel it trickling back into my body ever so slowly…why? Why did I unexpectedly lose energy and then regain it? It wasn’t fully back until this morning, when I began thinking about energy flowing… and how it ebbs and flows in our bodies like moving water.

We may think we know why it’s happening, but is it true? Of course, when it ebbs we assume certain things: perhaps we need more rest, food, vitamins, a call to a friend, or any number of things? And there is always the fear—will my energy return? When? At times when the ebb-tide is long and shallow I question:  Is this what old age—or depression feels like? Or even dying?

And then there’s the flow of energy returning inward... sometimes I feel it returning quickly and other times it seems so long before the well is full again. What a blessed relief when it fills up! Most times I just chalk it up as a return to normal. When one is ill, it can take weeks, months, or years to feel that inflowing energy again. Now that’s depressing. Here's where trust comes in; and that's not easy.

Perhaps what is most unusual to explain are the hours and moments when I feel electrified with energy, grace and curiosity. It happened a few days ago while talking with some people at a party. I was inordinately interested in them and their lives. I was excited by everything they said and it felt as if there were internal sparks of joy radiating from within me. It didn’t go unnoticed. At the end of the evening people commented on how good I looked; how happy and healthy and…on and on they went! I simply took it as a complement, but I was curious as to why…

What is this when a ‘joie de vivre’ infuses everything? Is that a touch of mania? Why do I frame it in terms of illness rather than mood or situation? I could say I’m happy and energized (or unhappy and depleted) because of such and such and so and so—searching the horizon for a cause or person to blame or eulogize. But is that really true?

I think not.  I’m putting a spin on a state of consciousness that is essentially a mystery. And don’t we love mysteries? Mysteries that are a gift of grace? Sure, I’ll check in with my body and soul, my emotions and situation.  But I’ve come to believe it’s not so simple, and not as knowable as I once thought. I’ve come to see this movement like the ebb and flow of the tides…giving me time to slow down, wait, and stand on the shores of my life… giving thanks for wherever the inner ocean takes me. It takes trust.

“My moods are like the sea and the tides, they ebb and flow, while I stand on the shore and watch. I have seen the sea when it is stormy and wild, I have seen the sea when it is calm and serene, and in all its moods, I see myself.” E. Spring

Elizabeth Spring

Monday, January 22, 2018

Why do I write?




“I write now, to move into a different consciousness; one that might be called ‘poetic’ or mindful, or simply slowed down enough so that I can extract the sweetness of life. I write in order to be both present to the moment and removed; to be here and there; to be the witness.  I yearn to catch glimpses of synchronicity and meaningfulness around me.  I want to engage the inner Self in my life, to reach down deep enough into the moment to notice nuances…so that I can dream again with the dark lover who is myself….”  Elizabeth Spring

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Sweater

 
                                                  This is a poem that was inspired by this old sweater which Harry gave to me 35 years ago on a vacation on Martha's Vineyard. I tend to keep things I love, and yesterday I gave it to my daughter and snapped this picture.

                                                   Early today, over coffee,

                                                  I told her I was going home

To clean closets and write a poem—

Such ambition and pride!

As if I could summon the Muse at will…

 

Smiling now

As I stand over the sink eating my

Sardines and onions

Dripping oil,

Marveling at my delicious weakness

For these easy fish—

I wonder if I will rise to the occasion

Of such poetic ambition or collapse beneath the weight of words

And closets that remain undone?

 

What is a poem anyway?

A thoughtful madness or a soulful necessity?

The heart spilling over on itself

Searching for words

Can be harder to face

Than the cave of the closet

But sometimes.

I call it delicious.

 

The closet calls to be cleaned.

The under-seams of my broken life

Pile up like soiled clothes; lost loves, lost shoes…

The wrinkles in my face, my dress—

They startle me, demand words, demand attention.

 

Existential questions rise before the pile of clothes

As well as the empty page.

Who am I becoming? Who will I be today?

What will I wear?

 

This chance mood tonight; this reprieve

Demands a singular courage.

It calls me to order—

Entices me to make an effort.

I listen well, re-defining the fabric of my life—

By swift decisions, I declare:

I’m not tailored, stark or sleek.

 

Ruthlessly discarding outgrown clothes

I allow space for the new—

And caress the memory of the old.

Smelling the wooliness

Of the old red-ribboned sweater

I remember the trip to the islands,

And how we loved then.

Squeezing the torn yarns between my fingers

I hold the memory of that day

Till my heart relaxes--

Then fold it tenderly

And tuck it back in the drawer.

 

The torn sweater must be sown together, healed.

A poem will help…

Sorting and savoring what is good

I let the rest go—

Remembering and releasing…

The effort will be worth it—

So this is my pleasure tonight!

And sometimes I call it delicious.

Elizabeth Spring

 

 

 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Give Back Your Heart to Itself



Give Back Your Heart To Itself

“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”

 Derek Walcott

When I think of conscious aging as a spiritual path I think of this getting to know oneself better…getting to know “this stranger whom you ignored.” Conscious aging comes from paying attention to our emotions and reconnecting to ourselves through reflection, writing, and creative works, as well as through relating to nature as subject rather than object…

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung speaks of the years in his eighties as a time of freedom from individuality and a “growing kinship with all things.” He says, “there is so much that fills me: plants, animals, clouds, day and night, and the eternal in man. The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of a great kinship with all things.”

Conscious aging as a spiritual path is what this blog is really all about…and I love what Jung has to say about that:

“The decisive question for man is this: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.

 The more a man lays stress on false possessions and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life…if we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, then desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.” Carl Jung

Perhaps it sounds a little harsh to say wasted—aren’t we all on a journey to find what really matters--to embody the link with the infinite? This staying connected with the infinite may be the work we have to do, but there are so many ways to do it. Whether through nature, prayer, random acts of love or sweet conversations…there are numerous ways to be conscious in our living. And ultimately to be conscious in our dying… 

I love to think that glimpses of the infinite can be as simple as looking into the loving eyes of a dog or looking through a microscope and watching the atoms dance…or simply standing in awe of the night sky.

For me, living in relationship to the infinite means being mindful of both the God within--the “loving the stranger who was yourself.” and the God out there who shows up in the sunrises, sunsets, and the loving eyes of a baby.

And to end, some profound words from Elbert Hubbard: “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”
www.ElizabethSpring.com  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Putting On My Astrologer's Hat




I was just asking myself why I was feeling this impatient, edgy mood. I haven’t been in the “groove” of my life today. I’ve been floundering in-between things and haven’t had good exercise or good work or anything to make me feel…what? Happy? Accomplished? Worthy? Yes, all of it; or rather none of it.

And so I decided to check it out astrologically. Wow! Four planets plus the Sun and Moon in serious Saturn ruled Capricorn, and tonight is the dark of the New Moon. Add to that, it’s so cold outside it hurts to walk, and top that off with an un-deliciously gray palor to everything! This weather shuts us all inside and the mood here almost matches the grayness out there. Even if you live in sunny California you’ll notice a serious tone to the emotional weather pattern for the next few weeks..and then it breaks.

But why so bleak now? The Capricorn New Moon is tonight, and each year it typically delivers the goal setting and new beginning boost we often feel at New Year’s. But we have to do it, create it. With 6 heavenly bodies ruled over by Saturn, it’s not a gift this year—we have to do it the old fashioned way; we have to earn it.

 We have to—or rather I have to---apply myself to doing something I care about, so I’m writing. And not I hope, into empty space either. I’m writing to you, the reader. (Maybe you’ll let me know you’re there?)

 As an astrologer I take it seriously that part of my job is to deliver the astrological weather forecast. The current climate is tough, gray and needing work. Today I need to translate this weather forecast from the Universe: dig your heels into something and do it! Today. Tomorrow. Now. Wash the kitchen floor or paint a picture. Make some soup and share it with a friend. Plan your year. All these will do to turn the tide or as the Zen Buddhist’s say: To enable you to be in the Tao…in the flow of things.

This is a time to think about your goals and to begin to act. Sure, make a list, but be sure to begin something. This is a time to turn alone time into creative solitude.…in whatever way you determine that to be.

Saturn is depicted in mythology as a tough old man. He’s a no frills or thrills kind of guy. But he has a promise for you: if you do what needs to be done in your life, he will deliver the goods. Simply take the next step in the direction of your dreams…or your survival. Saturn richly rewards those who roll up their sleeves and use elbow grease!  

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Whatever you can do or think you can do, do it. Boldness has genius, power and magic.”   Goethe