Deep in my essential core, I’m a dancer. I may be 52 now, and not quite as nimble as I used to be, but I still go to Swing Dance once a month, and my beloved 5Rhythms every week. Not to mention the regular groovy late-afternoon outdoor queer dance parties I sometimes see my son at.
At age 28, living in Newtown, Sydney, and dancing at techno raves all weekend, I began to wonder if I could make a living with movement somehow… which led me to an extraordinary teacher, Janis Claxton. Her free, wild, & fiery moves still live in my body, while her feisty attitude found a match in mine, inspiring me to pursue performing/Clown/dance & Improvisation (which all still rock my creative world).
Last week she died of lung cancer, aged 53.
At the Women’s Buddhist Dharma Day Part One last Sunday, facilitator Carol Perry asked us to reflect on the question I’ve titled this post with; of course, none of us know the answer, and therein lies one of the causes of our human suffering.
Apparently when asked why we should meditate, the Buddha replied:
“So you can enjoy your old age.”
No one in the circle was aged less than 40, and I’d guess the majority of the 25 of us were over 55. I wouldn’t have been there 10 years ago, yet I’m incredibly grateful to have the privilege to be able to sit quietly all day, safe and sound, with a homemade shared feast for lunch, including half a dozen cakes.
Carol’s teachings included the following:
- Sickness, ageing and death are actually gifts- they remind us what is truly important
- We cannot escape emotional pain, but we can learn to observe it, and not add further arrows of self-criticism, projection, and reactivity
- We need to be good supports for others’ sickness, ageing and death
- Just bear witness, with the full attention of your being
- Life is full of loss, but also blessings- Ageing helps us be clearer about how to live gracefully
- This very moment NOW is important
- We can choose to orientate ourselves to timelessness, mystery, and love
- Do not cling to the material world
- Shift yourself from ‘playing roles’ to a sense of freedom- look at what roles you can put down e.g. the Survivor, the Entertainer, the Good Girl
- To actually live with Present Moment awareness expands time, creating joy & spontaneity
- In a way, the world becomes bigger, as we realize our dependency and interconnectedness
There was so much to absorb in her teachings, observations and life experience; my little list in no way does her justice. And perhaps the majority of my almost-1000 bone&silver Readers aren’t really that interested in this topic… but here I am anyway, sharing a unique experience, and wise elder’s perspective.
Are you interested or ready to think about Carol’s big question? How would you change your life today if you knew your time was limited (which IT IS)?
In gratitude for curiosity, and older women who walk the path ahead of me, G xO