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Experiencing My Time Passing


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Lake Forest Friends Meeting, reported by Don Fuhrmann

During 2017, Lake Forest Meeting Friends gathered for three forums to talk about our experiences of the passage of time, that is, getting older and the associated celebrations and challenges. Our overall intent was to enhance the cohesiveness of our meeting by exploring issues that are not usually discussed. In the hopes that other monthly meetings might benefit from our efforts, here are some of our thoughts.

Specific goals for the three discussions were:
  • To provide a place for knowing more about ourselves and each other.
  • To have experiences together that increase our curiosity and awe.
  • To use our own innate wisdom for examining our aging.
  • To provide some references to read at our leisure.
  • To increase our appreciation of and love for each other, and particularly for ourselves.

The first session focused upon our awareness and experience of the passage of time. No matter how young or old we are, rarely do we consider and explore time passing. Rather we attend to tasks and responsibilities leaving little time for reflecting upon “our own time.”


In the session, by comparing our own age to the other participants, we considered our actual age, how old we felt, how we perceived our wisdom, emotional maturity, and feelings arising about gathering years. Many people shared their thoughts and feelings, while others chose to ponder ideas quietly. In addition, we considered significant life experiences, both highs and lows, writing these down for personal use. We then focused upon a specific remarkable event that may have shifted the way “I” think about aging and reflected upon the feelings that occurred when “the lightning struck.”

Our second session addressed the present. Aging not only affects us physically, intellectually and emotion-ally, but also we can expect changes in the way we perceive ourselves at any age. Changes in our identity are fraught with joys and complications. Consider the shifts in self-perception from being single to having a partner to being a parent to having a work identity to retirement to friends dying and moving away. We pondered, wrote, and shared some of our perceptions of who we are today and who we were twenty years ago. We also examined whether aging helps us to be aware of our core values and also what it is that provides us today with self-respect and energy. We did not have enough time to review and practice focusing on the present using meditation, mindfulness, and prayer.

Our third session encouraged us to face the crucial issues of aging. We all must deal with losing the identities experienced most of our lives. We need to live in and appreciate the present. Accepting the reality that we will die will allow us the joy of sheer being, here and now. We considered some tasks that could help us deal with finding the joy of being. We thought of someone still living toward whom deep gratitude is felt that never was expressed and briefly wrote a letter of gratitude to that person. Some shared the letter with others in the session while others kept its contents in their hearts. Then we were asked to make a personal visit to the person toward whom gratitude was felt and read the letter aloud. Another task we acted upon was to write our own brief eulogy, to read it aloud if we wished, and later on to take any actions necessary to fulfil the description in the eulogy. A quote from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is particularly poignant: “When we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are also dying, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and of each being, and from this we can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.”

Our experience with these three sessions enlivened our awareness of each other, deepened mutual under-standing, and provided resources for further exploration on our own.  Some queries that may assist in the consideration of aging are:  What is my awareness and experience of the passage of time?  How does time passing influence the Light within me?  How does recognizing the end of life influence my daily experience?  How has my spiritual awareness changed over the years?


Some books that might help the search for finding meaning in our aging are: Atul Gawande, Being Mortal; Thich Naht Hahn, The Miracle of Mindfulness; Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air; Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy; W. S. Merwin, Garden Time; Leo Tolstoy, Death of Ivan Ilyich; Irvin Yalom, Staring at the Sun.

“The way to value life, the way to feel compassion for others, the way to love anything with greatest depth, is to be aware that these experiences are destined to be lost” (Irvin Yalom, Staring at the Sun).

 

Queries about aging:

  • What is my awareness and experience of the passage of time?
  • How does time passing influence the Light within me?
  • How does recognizing the end of life influence my daily experience?
  •  How has my spiritual awareness changed over the years?