The Three Pillars of healthy aging – Spirituality
by Dorothy Lowrie
In these times of the pandemic, we are all living in what could be considered chaos. We are dealing with a change in the nature of our society that no one, regardless of their age, has had to deal with before. Depending on how we deal with change, each one of us can face days when the changes feel overwhelming.
When I talk about the importance of spirituality within the courses I run for seniors, I refer to how having a sense and knowledge of our spirituality can be used as a source of constant support and power to help us as we move through the changes that occur as we age.
If we think of chaos using the metaphor of the river that you have to cross to get to the future, spirit involves those aspects of life that we can draw on that we have used in the past to give us strength, courage and support to cross that river. Certainly, we may have family or others to help, but spirit is what we hold within ourselves.
Spirituality may mean different things to different people. I believe each one of us needs to explore and find the things that nourish our spirit in the positive way, in a way that brings light and hope into our life. For some people, that may come through nature. And by the number of people that I meet out on the walking trails these days, that certainly seems to be the case for many people during these times of isolation. For others, that support may come from within a particular religious practice.
As a Christian, the Bible for me is a great source of comfort and strength. As I mentioned in the first article on the three pillars for healthy aging, examples that support all three pillars of creativity, social connection and spirituality can be found within the Bible. Using the Bible to help develop your spiritual practice (outside of organized religion) is what I will explore further in this article. Again, my suggestions may be of help not only to seniors, but also to anyone seeking a source of spiritual strength at this time.
There are many ways that you can use the Bible as a source of support. A learning Bible is often helpful since, if you are not part of a Bible study group, the book provides additional discussion of sections that you may find require further clarity. There are many online support sites that you can also access for interpretation of scripture.
For myself, I find that referring to daily readings such as: Forward Day by Day (see www.ForwardMovement.org) or daily readings condensed from a longer book such as Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment (2000, J. Countrymen Publishing), is a good meditative exercise that allows me to find scripture that is supportive for me.
From the daily readings, I look for scripture that provides me with spiritual inspiration and God’s grace. A friend of mine asked me this week what God’s grace is. My response was that the meaning will differ, depending upon your own interpretation. For me, I see it as a hug from God. The words seem to wrap around me and hold me in a way that is supportive and loving.
Keeping track of the scriptures that are meaningful to you can be done in different ways; this is where spirit can meet creativity. For myself, I am currently using the writing of scripture as a way to practice calligraphy; calligraphy is one of the creative skills I am working on learning. You could choose just to mark the scripture in the book or create a journal where you record the scripture in different categories that you determine.
Christian meditation is another way to seek support through scripture. Again, you can find support groups within various organizations or online. A method that comes from the Jesuits that I just read about in the book, Jesus – A Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ (2014, HarperCollins Publisher) uses Ignatian contemplation in which you imagine yourself to be present in a scene from the Bible. I have found that this works particularly well if there is a scene in the Bible that really speaks to you. Again, this is a practice that you turn into your own creative way of recording, such as writing in a journal or sharing your imagined participation with others as part of a group meditation.
Before I started writing this piece today, I have to say the chaos of the world was making me feel quite overwhelmed. I was also saddened by a report that I heard on CBC radio about the lack of care seniors had been experiencing in some care homes in Ontario. But I picked up my Max Lucado book and read “Actions in heaven begin when someone prays on earth” (Grace for the Moment, Pg. 142) and took some minutes to pray that this report allows us to learn, and to change how we provide respectful and supportive care for seniors.
And if this article I have written inspires even one person to pick up their Bible, then I have done as God has called me to do….share the strength that a person can gain through His word.
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