When we thing of ageing, the commonly evoked image is one of declining health, fading beauty and dimming mental acuity. The seniors in society are considered to have very little to offer a world whose many eyes are fixed on goals of ambitious achievement and youthful attractiveness.
Yet the truths we are missing, the wisdom we are seeking, the calm and peaceful maturity that can steer our life’s ship out of troubled waters, lie in the experienced hands of the elders.
In Ayurveda, life is divided into 3 stages. The first stage, from birth to puberty, is considered the Kapha stage of life. Kapha is represented by the earth and water elements which play an active role in growth, plumpness of form and the natural cheerful sweetness of a child.
From puberty to middle age is the Pitta stage of life, represented by the fire and water elements. These act to create increased metabolism and hormonal development and the kindling of fiery emotions like ambition and drive.
From middle age to death is the Vata stage of life, represented by the air and ether elements. This does mean that the tissues become more dry and sensitive, that cannot be denied. But it also indicates the gradual deepening of a higher understanding of life and its meaning.
The ever moving air element is like the wind, and in the Vata stage of life this wind of time stirs up memories and lessons from the past, and brings them to the surface of the conscious mind to be shared.
When there is none to listen to the wellspring of wisdom that seeks to nourish young minds and hearts, that knowledge turns in on itself and the elder is left feeling isolated and unappreciated. I feel an important step to restoring harmony to our fragmented world is the revival of community values.
This global community can begin in our own families, through the younger generations taking the initiative to reach out, to ask the questions, to go and quietly sit at the feet of the ones who have paved the way. To lay aside for a moment the fierce and fragile independence that separates us from each other, to recognise that we are part of a greater whole, and that in this lies our strength.
It doesn’t take much. A softening. A stilling of the turbulence of opinion and pride. A humbling in the face of hard won lessons. Every crease and wrinkle has been earned. Every struggle and dashed hope and joy carving passages that we can follow and with reverence touch their memories with our minds. All we have to do is listen.