Should we think about how we would like to age & die, when we are still young & active?
It’s not good if our body ages faster, but the mind is strong & active. Our body cannot do what the mind wants. We may want to read, exercise, be independent etc., but we cannot do much if the body has aged faster than the mind. Imagine a 70-year-old man, frail & ill, but with an alert & conscious mind, possibly bed-ridden, & frustrated. Pitiable state.
It is also not good if our mind ages faster, but the body is strong & active. Our body, though robust, becomes a useless shell. All the bodily physical activities we do don’t matter. If the mind is not alert & engaged, a strong body is of no use. Imagine a physically strong 50-year-old woman in a coma or some other form of disease which dulls the mind. Pitiable state.
Many of us are caught in between, where the mind & the body do not age together or in sync.
The mind & body, if cultivated well, can age the way we want them to, even though we may not have full control over them and the events that buffet us over our lifetimes.
How can we do that? What are the best ideas & practices? Can we learn from others who have been (at least partly) successful in aging their bodies & minds beautifully?
Yes, of course. When we pause to think about it, many of us may intuitively know what we need to do. Adhering to a potpourri of good diet, exercise, thoughts & actions is the simple recipe. Each of these – diet, exercise, thoughts & actions – have been actively studied over the ages. We could start by studying the master practitioners in each of these disciplines and learn progressively as we age.
Mortality and death can be more difficult to contemplate, compared to aging. Many of us are scared to die. It’s an unknown void. Despite our scientific, religious & philosophical beliefs, the inevitability of death and the uncertainty of what happens after death may scare us. The thought of our own death becomes more complicated and fearful when our body & mind have not aged beautifully.
If we have cultivated our body & mind well, put them through a disciplined mix of diet, exercise, thoughts & actions throughout our lives, we should be able to manage our death well. History is replete with examples of great masters who have faced & managed their deaths admirably, in many different ways. How Socrates or Seneca thought about & faced their deaths may be very different from how Jesus, Buddha or Gandhi did so. And there are many other masters from all walks of life to learn from. Death may become just another milestone in life to be managed well.
The frenetic pace of our lives can make our aging & death painful and traumatic.
We should pause & ponder.