Is There Life After Fifty?
by Sw Prem Giri
his past year my body has turned 50. A milestone in my life to be sure and there are nasty rumours circulating that we get even older.
Being from the youth-infatuated, baby-boomer, flower-power generation, my reaction was and remains to be in positive, life-affirming denial. This past spring, my friend Bodhiprem enticed me into doing the Grouse Grind with him. This is a 2700' climb in North Vancouver, a sort of natural StairMaster that takes about an hour of huffing and puffing, with the added advantage that once you start, you can only go up or down, there is nowhere to get off the damned thing.
I found that in very short order, my body and person were starting to shine from the intense physical exercise and that all those endorphins and oxygen to the brain were getting me off, by the time I got to the top. Who needs drugs, sex and rock-and-roll, when you can have natural drugs, sex and rock-and-roll? And as if a sign of things to come, old goats aged not less than 65 were passing us on the way up. Obviously, age is just an idea in the mind.
Our ascent up the mountain has taken on quasi-religious overtones since those humble spring beginnings and new converts have joined this cult of the body. If there is something I have learned out of this, it is the joy of surrendering to the body. Bodies are made to put out even at fifty, sixty or seventy. For the past four months, every day, I have let my body do whatever it pleases, for not less than one uninterrupted hour per day. In fact, this has become the most important part of each day.
Thus liberated from me, my body is getting quite uppity about the things it wants to do. Almost every day, it wants to climb, run, swim, dance especially dance and every day, I let this errant child have its way. My body no longer takes it as a privilege, but as a right. And now it has informed me that we are doing a marathon in the spring. Give it an inch and it wants to take 26.2 miles. Where is this going to end?
This is my heritage! For millions of years we have been running through the veldt and the jungle, not sitting on our increasingly broadening asses in front of a computer or listening to endlessly boring lectures. Our bodies have been running from saber-tooth tigers and woolly mammoths and after buffalo for millions of years. Running, dancing, moving, allows the body to be alive.
Paradoxically, it is so clear to me that we are not our bodies. Our bodies occupy only the tiniest millisecond of the larger play of life on earth for the past 3 billion years. In another 4 billion years, the whole earthly drama will go out in a blaze of glory as the sun becomes a super nova and vaporizes the planets. There is only flux in the world of matter and man's body is composed of matter. By some great miracle, conditions have been stable enough on earth for the past 3 billion years for millions of episodes of successive begattings from lower life forms to arrive to this moment in this body. The body carries the knowledge of billions of years.
And paradox of paradoxes, if I am not my body, how is it that when I fully allow my body to stretch, run, exert, be, dance, push the limits, it blesses me and makes me feel better about myself and my life? Certainly, body robustness pushes back the meaning of age. Inside this body is housed a mind, and if the body has needs, so does this mind. My mind has generally been more overpowering in my life than my body. Really it has dominated both for better and for worse. The mind is not just the mechanism through which existence creates, but also the instrument by which the ego dominates, often through the subconscious. Putting more of my energy and attention into my body has helped bring more balance.
My mind loves to create and I indulge it. At the age of 50, I find myself nearing completion of an internet-driven MBA, on the edge of a business book, and a new career in financial consulting, to support myself in the years ahead. Putting the mind into training is not much different from putting the body into training. Both operate better through use. No question. The mind has more ageless qualities than the body, but as the body eventually surrenders its last breath, so the mind inevitably follows the body to total oblivion. Joy, love and contentment can move through the body and the mind, but there is no ultimate refuge in the body or mind.
And then, there are the needs of the heart. They can be denied, pushed under-ground, but they do not go away. That is a big one for me. Osho gave this form the name Prem Giri (mountain of love) when I took sannyas in 1982 and I understood almost right away that the most natural and strongest energy flows that run through the fiction called Giri, are the ways of the heart. When I find my heart, I am god. While I had liberating experiences in the first flush of sannyas, it was also the time that a marriage that began with a lot of love, but also a lot of dysfunction, was coming apart. I could not run away from the fact that it was me that chose to live in dysfunction, although why I should so choose was baffling for many years. I knew I hurt a lot and needed a long, long rest from romantic entanglements. Besides, the pressing needs of three growing children overwhelmed me and the last 15 years of my life have quickly passed in a blur of activity. I have felt liberated from this intense devotion for the last three years and it is so nice to again have space to myself. It is so nice. Of course, I know that love is much, much more than a romantic interest. Part of my abiding interest in love is that I feel instinctively that while the body and the mind turn to dust, such is not the case with love. When love is true and strong, even death cannot undo the connection between two hearts that are true.
Over these past 15 years, I have been learning the most important lesson of all: to love and accept myself, to be contented with myself and with life, just as they are. As Osho has told us so eloquently, love really is a state of being. It is not the object of love that matters, it is the subject who loves. When two mirrors with inner harmony open to each other, reflect each other, the divine is reflected through the heart. Over the past half year, I have again begun to get out of the way and encourage this other errant child, my heart, to follow its ways. Grandmothers! Lock up your grown daughters! Giri is loose. R-r-r-r-r!
And then there are the needs of the soul, beyond the ways of the body, mind and heart. One comes closer to the divine when one can see the eternal in the moment. All the masters tell us that the moment is the entry into the eternal. The best way I know into the moment is meditation or following my heart. But my meditation goes in phases and I am again feeling to do a 10-day vipassana retreat, to jump-start myself. The silence arising out of vipassana is so tangible, settling and vast.
Barring an unexpected meeting with the grill of a Mack truck, the historic genetic makeup of this body suggests that I could quite easily go another 50 years before the inevitable and by then blessed demise of the body. I know that I am the emperor of everything this side of the tip of my nose. But it is not really me. It is god in one of his millions of manifestations pretending to be Giri. If I have a job in all this, it is to be empty, get out of the way and allow god to have her play.
Let the way of the heart,
let the way of the heart,
let the way of the heart shine through!