Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community
by Harriet Epstein & Rayna Aylward
Last August our multi-talented Rayna participated in a workshop entitled, “Aging and Awakening” presented by David Chernikoff, a Buddhist scholar and clinical psychologist who worked closely with Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal, and also with the Ram Dass. Their ideas and philosophy on aging were the basis of Chernikoff’s own thoughts and perspectives. I asked Rayna to please take notes for me. If you’ve ever asked Rayna to take notes for you, you know how thoroughly she does this. So let us now take hope from these concepts Rayna shared.
The first important concept is the increasing awareness of change. In youth, we look forward to physical growth, maturity, new learning, developing a career, having friends, a loving relationship in adulthood, and all that goes with it. However, as we age, we become increasingly aware that we will most likely experience a decline from the days of our prime, and eventually die. However, by recalling the good experiences of our lives and our accomplishments, we can learn to find acceptance of the life cycle and happiness in our memories.
Chernikoff next mentioned four models of aging in Western Society, some more helpful than others.
1) Study of Gerontology- positive use of knowledge of bio, psycho, social aspects of aging.
2) productivity – the urge many older people have to continue to be productive, (even if
sometimes counterproductive to their well-being.)
3) consumerism- no longer delaying gratification, motto “now it’s my turn to….” whatever.
4) spiritual/transformational – development of wisdom, love, compassion, equanimity.
The Buddhist saying, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” seems to your blogger more than just relevant to one’s older years. Life is replete with both experiences at all ages. The Ram Dass suggests letting go of resistance to what is, and awakening to one’s “limitless self.” Another wise person, Polly Francis, suggests “awakening to a larger world of wonderment.” So this May, as flowers and plants continue to blossom forth, (and even if the Cicadas soon appear), this is our time to awaken to the wonder and beauty of life and nature. Happy Awakenings, readers, and many thanks, Rayna!