As I advance into my elder years – my seventies – I notice that my eyesight is not as keen as it used to be, I cannot hear as well as I used to, my touch is not as sure as usual, food tastes a little weird, things even smell different!
My sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell are fading; these losses are organic, inevitable and common. The sensory habits connecting us to the material world are fading away, but they don’t mean that we are fading away! As my five senses fade, new valuable gifts are presented.
One is gratitude. What I can still see, or hear, or feel, or taste, or smell, I now appreciate more deeply.
Another gift is mindfulness. I have to take more care with everyday activities – even simple tasks like taking a jar off a shelf in the kitchen. I have to live more in the present – pay closer attention.
Another gift is curiosity. Like a two-year old, I find myself asking the question “Why?” a lot.
A philosophical question like “Is your cup half-full or half-empty?” doesn’t matter anymore because in elder years the cup can be both all full (What a life!) and all empty (I’m done!) and thus there’s no water sloshing around: life is quiet!
Saying ‘it doesn’t matter’ means ‘it isn’t matter’ anymore, it’s Spirit.
As the five senses bring less information from our exterior material world – less water sloshing around in our cup – peace and quiet are revealed in the interior spiritual world. Peace and quiet were there all the time but covered up by the noise of our lives. Now we have more silence, a wonderful quality in elder years, a calm.
The vast cathedral of a lifetime’s construction stands silently revealing peaceful spaces of the heart and soul. The sun’s rays created by years of experience passing through the heart become wisdom pouring through the stained glass windows to illuminate the soul.
This is a process of simplification and purification, of paring down, letting go, appreciating.
Ramakrishna, the revered Indian mystic, says, “As you advance nearer and nearer to God he will reduce your activities little by little.”
Letting go of the five senses is a distillation process designed to reveal what’s been there all along, something that isn’t buffeted by time or distorted by space: our interior spiritual life.
As the five senses focused on the exterior fade into the background, and we look inside and find peace and light, may we become more conscious and appreciative of our own unique interior lives, and be able to say, as Saint Francis of Assisi, the best known Catholic saint, said on his deathbed: “I have done what was mine to do.”