“I’m ALIVE!” Those were my dad’s first words when he woke up from his heart surgery this summer. My dad, who’s just shy of 94, has always been a wise man of few words, but those few words in particular were so full of meaning and sweet simplicity.
Having just survived my measly 50th year, they say I’m technically an “elder” too. Even though I feel like 35 in my head and 25 in my heart, my body often tells me otherwise. Now that I’m in it, I guess it’s in this mid-life stage that we recognize, yes, we are getting older. But at the same time with that, new opportunities can still arise and growth can always occur, no matter what stage of your life.
Even though we live in a culture where youth and external beauty seem to be where it’s at, other cultures revere aging. “Age before beauty,” as they always said in my family, which was always most clearly demonstrated when we lined up for any celebratory Chinese feast. Old people first, young people second. Period.
Last year as I quietly celebrated my 50th with mixed feelings of accomplishment and weariness, my mother told me that in China, people often didn’t celebrate birthdays until they turned 50. It’s as if 50 signifies a rite of passage of sorts, into the world of deeper understanding and wisdom. Perhaps that’s the shift we all need to make in our minds.
In the quiet of our yoga practice, seeing the reflection of ourselves on our mats, our tendencies, behaviors and thought patterns, can often unearth things we don’t want to admit, have repressed, or just plain don’t want to see. It bubbles up to the surface for us to acknowledge, deal with, let go of and continue forward from. Now that I’m in the second half of my life, the practice has taught me there are certain poses that don’t come as easily anymore or just may no longer be an option. Foot-behind-head pose, for instance, just isn’t happening … However, through that recognition, a sense of acceptance eventually begins to wash over us and a sense of peace and contentment reveals itself with time.
Oddly, then the challenge becomes how do I still be driven to be the best version of myself that I can be and live to my fullest potential, but still maintain that sense of contentment? Working to find that balance creates yet another conundrum. But since balance is never static and an always changing experience, whether we’re in our 20’s, 90’s or somewhere in between, we’re really all like the Weebles, weaving and wobbling our way through life. It’s in our nature to want to continually grow and evolve and as we do, we will wobble along the way, just like in tree and boat pose.
So despite our constant efforts to not tip over, to stay afloat, take a few risks and fend off the occasional capsize, in the end all we can really do is ride it out, hope for the best and remember how lucky we are to be ALIVE!!