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The I Ching of Aging

I recently consulted the I Ching on aging. The I Ching (Book of Changes), as many of you know, is an ancient Chinese divination system predating recorded history. As an oracle, it is both profound and easy to use. My copy of this book with its instructions had been gathering dust on a top shelf of my bookcase for the past several years. With a new decision facing me about moving, I returned to my trusted friend for assistance. The results were stunning.

The reading (Hexagram 41) stated, "This hexagram indicates the time of a decrease of some sort in your life. It could simply mean a loss of material possessions. It could also mean a diminishing of activity, of pleasure, or of social contacts. Whichever or whatever recently played a large role in your life will now diminish…Now is the time to return to more basic values…Even one who has been united with the One and the All - the saint, the bodhisattva - must 'decrease' and reenter the wheel of karma. After a time of revelations and spiritual landmarks you will now become a little more ordinary…If you have been enlightened you will accept and love your role in the material world. Instead of seeking union with God through your psyche, you now can be at One though simply being. In this time of decrease you will become one of the simplest things, which you know are in notoriously close touch with the One and All." (Reifler, Sam, 1974, p. 183).

I talked recently about my "lack of motivation" and wondered what it meant. My three recent books on aging have indeed been "a time of revelations and spiritual landmarks" and it feels right to move next into a simple and ordinary life, which is itself so close to the divine. We climb the mountain and then come down. For me, now, the "diminishment" of aging is an experience of simply "being," a homecoming that I appreciate for its beauty, simplicity, ease and perfection. I believe aging itself takes us into a realm of quiet flow, and I am reminded of my previous books Ordinary Enlightenment and Finding Heaven Here which anticipate this new kind of conscious existence.

The great Persian poet Rumi was a well-known university professor. One day an ecstatic "mad man" named Shams approached him, threw his books on the ground, and said, in effect, "Now you must live what you know." After revelations and insights, after a lifetime of learning, the time comes for all of us to "live what we know." The new land of aging brings us to this same alchemistry - the culmination and integration of all we have learned. We no long seek, we are.

I love that my deep trust in self and being continues to light my path. May you find the light in your path.

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