In former times, ageing and death were considered normal parts of life. Nobody questioned them. You just got old and had to die. In the Christian belief you would be resurrected one day. People were able to find consolation in this idea, as well as in the certainty of the love of God.
With the renaissance, this certainty started to wither. Even more people no longer believed in a God in the sky somewhere. They became atheists, and with that lost the spiritual way of dealing with death. Our Western societies are still caught in this denial of a higher power – and in the fear of death. They believe in a “Human Almighty”, and the outburst of incredible technology seems to confirm this assumption.
Believing in God, or in any form of higher power, became considered primitive or old fashioned. Nevertheless, when approaching death, many hard core atheists are reported to have converted their ideas, they have become religious. Why?
We humans are wired to ask these questions: “why am I here, where do I come from, where will I be after death?” When we go deeper and deeper with these questions which, traditionally, the church was expected to give the right answers to, we are finding meaning in our lives. Today, we have to find the “right” answers ourselves. There are many, many spiritual teachers and communities where we can flock to, hoping to find what we are looking for.
This happens sometimes in younger years, but older people are coming inevitably in direct touch with death, their own or that of their loved ones, and so they are pushed into these questions naturally. From there the next questions arise: “How shall I now lead the rest of my life? What is really important to me and how can I cope with the many obvious changes which ageing is bringing along?”
These, ultimately, are spiritual questions. Spirituality becomes a real concern. We might find these answers, but this is not the point. What we really do is integrating a part of ourselves which we seemed to have lost. We have the chance to loosen the fear and to lead a life of joy and fulfilment, where death is the ultimate amazing experience for our existence on this planet. But how can we do that?
Our guest today, Toni LaMotta, has written many books on conscious ageing and is offering courses for the difficult time of transition into elderhood. Officially there is little support in our societies. Ageing is a taboo, don’t talk about it, don’t ask questions and try to appear externally as young as possible in order to mask the fact that the years are passing.
So what to do and where to go when we are interested in knowing ourselves better and mastering the unavoidable challenges? Thank God, we have those pioneers who have dedicated their lives to help with the ageing process, as well as with the dying process. They certainly don’t get rich by what they are doing. People seem to be ashamed to ask for help in their situation, they think to have to go through these life challenges with closed eyes and some magical beliefs that they can somehow get out of it by “hiding before God and the death angel”.
How sad is that!
Living in constant fear of the future and engaging with all sorts of things which can occupy their heads in order to not ask the important questions, is cutting down the quality of our lives. We could learn to live in love and confidence, if we wanted to. Yes, some inner work is needed. But isn’t that the real task and meaning of our lives: to get to know ourselves in a deep way and live our purpose – instead of passing our time with trifles and external glory ?