By Mike Milstein
Jay Shapiro, a spry 79 year old, was recently interviewed by Connie Marshall on the Fresh FM Baby Boomer show. He moved from Brooklyn, New York to New Zealand more than thirty years ago because he thought this country would provide opportunities for him to become more reflective and inner focused and that he has!
Jay sees life as a series of challenges, the most important of which is that we are born into a life that ends in death. Given this reality "we should get as much out of our short time here as we can. Don't take life frivolously even when you are being frivolous!"
As a young man Jay was "swept out to sea by a rip tide. What was there to do except focus on staying alive and wait till the tide changed". We all have challenges to deal with. "To get through them we have to experience them fully. Unfortunately our society and culture tend to restrain us from expressing the emotions that we feel at such times. This can cause us harm and damage. Then we focus on the damage, not our lives."
As Jay sees it, the ultimate challenge is to come to grips with the reality of death. What does death really mean? How should we respond to it? For many people avoiding such questions is the preferred choice. However, if we find ourselves responding to a crisis, such as a debilitating disease, we are more likely to think about the prospect of death.
Jay believes that "transition and change is the permanent state of our lives. It's like the seasons of the year. We need to know how the world keeps changing around us, and figure out how to keep pace with it. Every day we are transiting into something else. Every tick of the clock comes but once, and then we are faced with a new tick not experienced before."
Whether it is about ageing or death, Jay believes that the way to deal with it is consciously. "You need to know what you need to do now, what the next chapter holds in store for you, and what goals you need to focus on." This is especially true for baby boomers who are just starting to come up against retirement. People in this generation have the potential of 30 or more years of life left. "They can just let it happen to them or they can age consciously."
Jay says conscious ageing is like driving a car over familiar roads. "You can't do it with a blindfold on no matter how often you drive it. It's the same with ageing. It's important to direct our lives, to be the cause of it rather than the effect of it. This is a big task, but what's the option: Ageing unconsciously?"
How can we promote ageing well? Jay's advice is to become conscious about it much earlier in life. "Invest wisely; don't use up all your resources. For example, high engagement in contact sports as a youngster may have significant physical ramifications 30 or 40 years later. Consciousness is not just about what you do when you are older. It's also about what you do when you are younger!"
We can promote ageing well by staying connected. "We need to know that we are not alone. Most people share the same anxieties, but they don't communicate with each other about them."
Encouraging and promoting spiritual energy is important to Jay. Engaging in sacred dance serves this purpose for him. "I walk out with a glow when I'm done dancing" says Jay. It appears that a spiritual glow also typifies his daily life.
Note: This article was published in The Leader, Nelson, NZ. It summarizes an interview aired on Nelson’s Fresh FM that was conducted by Annie Henry for the Conscious Ageing Network (CAN), which is sponsored by Age Concern, Nelson. If you want to share your thoughts with CAN or wish to know when interviews will be aired, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.