Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014.11.16 Stretching for Age in Gratitude

It seems odd to be grateful for aging, yet I am, because aging calls me to do things I might not have done, oh, even ten years ago.

What stretches me, quite literally, is my yoga practice.We are instructed to stretch our bodies to our "edge," but not beyond, not to create pain. Now, what a temptation such instruction wards off! (This lovely image is called Dancer's Pose. It's not me. I can do the pose but I sure don't look like this:0)

My culture would tell me to push—do more, be more. My ego would say, show off.  I’ve done this most of my life. Push. Push. Push. This is what my Lord’s prayer warns me against, the temptation I pray God will lead me away from. All my life I’ve prayed this, and all my life I’ve pretty much failed to heed its wisdom. Aging, however helps. It forces mindfulness; it makes me listen.

My attitude, mind you, isn’t greatly transformed. It’s my body. She talks back to me now. Living in a older body that can be crotchety, keeps me mindful of my “edge.” The yogic instruction is good body wisdom. It is also good spiritual wisdom. 

When I stretch my body, I also stretch my soul. We work together more closely now. We don't go over the edge. If it weren’t for the gentle reminders of aging, I’d push the edge.

I know this because when we first retired we moved into a city. I grew up in a big city, New York. I was thrilled to get back to city sidewalks and storefronts to gaze into, watching for my reflection and checking out the wares. There is a lovely 55-acre park near where we live, so I have plenty of opportunity to walk in nature and watch the garb of each season unfold in its course. It’s a perfect balance.

Then I fell, not once but thrice, and apparently for no reason, though I blamed the heaving sidewalks.

But I know I didn’t trip. I was lucky and only suffered black eyes and bruises, but I felt afraid. Medical tests revealed that nothing was wrong with my brain or bones. So? Aging? Yes, brains age along with everything else. My elderly brain let me know that it could no longer stretch itself to walk and daydream at the same time. I would have to be mindful of my steps.

Grateful for these little salvations, I developed a body-soul practice: Every day before my feet hit the floor, I thank God that I can walk. Every day that I take my first morning stretch and breathe, I thank God for my aging lungs that still inhale and exhale, like a bellows to keep me going. Every day I bless my body and give it a word of thanks for accompanying my wild and wandering mind and my roaming spirit—just not over the edge.

With each step I take, I say this mantra to the rhythm of my pace: pick up your feet and fear not. The first part is my own reminder to my feet, and the second I got from Jesus and Mary.

I also thank Godde for the blessing of marriage and a good man (also full of gripes about THE church!) Also, lots of good friends and good Mercy sisters where I am an associate. And for the Holy Eucharist that feeds me daily with grace. If God can stuff grace into that tasteless old wafer we call “bread,” then Christ can surely get some grace into me—and you and you and you, aka everyone who reaches for it.