In Japan, some married couples — when faced with advancing age and the “empty nest” syndrome — choose to spend their final years in Buddhist monasteries.
The monastic environment offers a number of advantages:
In a like-minded community of both young and old trainees, ambient despair (the disability, dementia and depression that exist in an aging secular community) appears with much lower frequency. (anecdotal)
Because zazen (meditation – sitting quietly) is integrated into every aspect of a trainee’s life, this simple, but powerful tool – after diligent practice – fills every moment of the trainee’s life. Thus, there is no need to “kill time” with hours of Bingo and Pinochle. Time itself becomes infinitely valuable.
Trainees ultimately learn that everyone: Buddhist, Hindu and Atheist alike possess the Buddha Nature — our original, primal nature. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when fellow monks become old and infirm, they still retain value. This is when long term care takes on a new dynamic. People, regardless of their level of ADL failure, are treated with respect and compassion.
Everyone dies, yet to grow to grow old and not know who you are — this is the profound sadness of “world mind.”
And while it is tempting to cast blame on “evil corporations” and “reckless REITs” for imperfect SNFs and CCRCs, rarely do these equations balance. Seniors are rarely held accountable for their lack of determination and vision. Our parents are not helpless victims and it’s time we stopped treating them as such, world mind or not.
In fact, we are told by a prominent and highly-respected geriatrician that the three plagues of growing old are loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
I respectfully disagree.
If you have not conquered loneliness, helplessness and boredom by the time you begin to “grow old,” chances are, you never will.
When was the last time you stumbled on an 85-year-old entrepreneur discussing a new start-up opportunity?
The answer is — yesterday, Warren Buffett, ‘the Oracle of Omaha.’
What’s my point? Just this . . .Does Mr. Buffett impress you as a lonely, helpless and bored Octogenarian?
No? Me neither. (In fact, I know Zen Buddhist monks who would be envious of his courage, joy and ‘life in the moment’ commitment).
There will always be those — young and old — who hunger and thirst in a valley of sadness and suffering. That is the nature of life on this planet.
And there will always be those who, despite almost impossible odds, choose the life of a true warrior.
Which road will you travel?
Originally published by The Voice of the Aging Boomers.