A Dharma Glimpse by Dayamay
I noticed recently that the majority of the elderly people that I work with seem to have a very gracious attitude towards their, often very challenging predicaments. Many of them have extremely debilitating health conditions and are dependent on people like myself for some of their most basic needs. Despite this fact and the fact that I obviously, in many ways, represent the absence of their independence and a potential threat to their dignity, most of them go out of their way to make my job as easy as possible and treat me with great love and respect. I would go as far as to say that some of them positively radiate grace.
Given my Buddhist leanings, and the learning and training that I have so fortunately received over the years, I am inclined to wonder about the meaning of this phenomena.
My musings often lead me to ideas about how we learn to deal with suffering – how it seems to soften some of us up and make us more receptive to spiritual wisdom. I know that the acceptance that I eventually found with regards the inevitability of my own suffering, seemed to nudge me from a state of constant agitation, into a much more tolerant and philosophical outlook. But this all took time.
When I think about some of my elderly clients I can see that most of them have had more than twice as much time as me to master their afflictions and have maybe become more adept at holding them, or even subverting them.
Maybe they have inadvertently resolved the dilemma inherent to the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble truths, which, to me, implies a kind of enlightenment.
I often think about how, in our terminally busy culture, we are inclined to dismiss the elderly as if they have had their day and no longer have anything valuable to offer society. In reality they might be showing us and teaching us the most important lessons that we could ever learn.
Western culture seems to lack the Elder function that is so central to the health and prosperity evident in some of the indigenous populations of the world. I wonder if our obsession with wealth and success has superseded and thereby made obsolete, essential elements of the natural process by which real wisdom is transmitted from generation to generation.
If nothing else, my journey has taught me to pay attention to what the world is showing me and to try to think outside the box. The affliction of impermanence has a deeper meaning and, if we engage with it in a constructive way, can reveal great and powerful wisdom.
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