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The Art Project of Aging

Do you remember that art project we did in elementary school…the one where you crayoned bright colors on a blank sheet of paper and covered them completely with a black crayon? The magic happened when you used a paper clip to scratch the black surface revealing lines of amazing colors. Today, in spiritual direction, this art project came to me as a metaphor of life.

We begin with a while blank surface - as if made of pure undivided light of consciousness. In early childhood, as our senses awaken, we stumble drunkenly amidst the colors of the world - azure skies, yellow buttercups, greenness of grass, the rich brown earth, how light reflects from our parents' faces. Then, sadly, the years steadily cover over our birthright-bright world with the dark lenses of names, words, beliefs, rules, and goals, until all becomes black. As sunglasses hide the world's intrinsic beauty, or coal smoke pollutes the light, so these lenses dim perception of the divine world.

As we age, perhaps we can take the third step in this life-giving art project. Can we scratch through the soot-smudged surface of consciousness to let the light back in? I think we can. I think we can do this with sensation and contact. If we will silence our busy-body mind, open our senses once again, and intensify perception, and then focus this razor-sharp awareness on something real in the world, something right in front of us, we will scratch the surface of life's crayon project. Whatever you see in this laser-like perception suddenly seems brighter, clearer, more beautiful and amazing. Look deeply at a friend's face, or rose in a vase, or your own hands, and the light of the divine world will shine through again. It really happens!

The intense challenges of aging - pain, loss, sickness or loneliness - ask us to look deeply into reality, to scratch the surface and find the light again. If you have become a caretaker, look at your loved one with this intense and vivid oneness of focus and you will see the light once again. It's in everything. If your life is dark with depression, scratch for the light in gardening, visiting with friends, reading poetry, wherever you find it. Our job is to scratch away cynical or despairing thoughts and beliefs and greet the light that has always been there. It didn’t' leave, we blackened it out of consciousness. As we scratch away the coal smudge, the world will reveal itself to we in all its resplendent radiance, beautiful and shimmering colors shinning through the figures of the world like sunlight through stained-glass windows.

Can you do that? Will you?
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