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Book: What is Soulful Aging?

 

There is something in you that is not touched by the brush of time.
                                                  - Thomas Moore, Ageless Soul

Thomas Moore's new release, Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy, challenges us to re-imagine aging.

According to the renowned author of Care of the Soul, aging means: "You become a real person, someone with individual judgment, a particular outlook on life and a set of values to believe in." At the same time, aging invites us to view the world around us in a more expansive, open-hearted way.

Moore, 77, draws on examples from his life as a psychotherapist, former monk, teacher, musician, husband and father. He says aging is not just about the older years; aging is a lifelong journey, demanding that we ripen at every stage in life.

In 15 deeply engaging chapters, he explores five phases of aging:

1. Feeling immortal

2. First taste of aging

3. Settling into maturity

4. Shifting toward old age, and

5. Letting things take their course.

The subject matter includes sexuality in later life, friendship, community, illness, melancholy, retirement and legacy.

Legacy

Living a soulful life means reflecting on our life story. "This is a time for alchemy: observing the glass vessel of memory and turning over events again and again, releasing their beauty and sadness and eternal meaning," he writes.

One way Moore mines story is through the idea of legacy. Here, he is not just talking about leaving something of value for future generations, but also appreciating what others have left behind for you.

More at home in the past, than the present, Moore is enthralled by the 15th century: the art, writings, dress and architecture. He recollects how the work left behind by Renaissance scholars, especially the Italian philosopher Marsilio Ficino, has influenced his story, shaping his life and work.

In a similar vein, he connects to the future through making provisions for his great-great-great-grandchildren. He muses, "I love them already and want them all to have copies of my books, even if in their time I am forgotten or deemed irrelevant. And so I keep books and papers and souvenirs and vases and Buddhas and mementos." He doesn't assume that they know what he wants to say to them, so he shares his thoughts and affection in old-fashioned letters stored in wax-sealed envelopes.

Moore's father was a retired plumber and plumbing instructor. He was in his late 70s when he wrote a letter outlining his wishes on what to do when he died. It also contained reflections on his life and his hopes for the next generation. Moore treasures passing this precious relic on to his children and grandchildren.

His mother – a housewife and parent – passed on a legacy of love and devotion. She loved the Rose of Sharon tree. So whenever the family moves to a new place, Moore plants a Rose of Sharon at the side of the house in her honour. More recently, he has started carrying his mother's rosary beads with him when he travels. It offers him strength, reminding him of his mother's deep spirituality.

Retirement

For Moore, to age with soul means becoming a whole person: the way certain wines and cheeses "age" well over time.

He views retirement as a time for new discoveries. His advice for those contemplating retirement: "When you make your plan for retirement, consider your deepest self and how you can add significantly to your life now."

More concretely, he suggests:

  • If you plan to travel, visit places that have deep meaning for you.
  • If you volunteer, invest in something that you're passionate about.
  • If you want a new hobby, choose an activity that has substance and will open up a new life chapter for you.

Spirituality

Spirituality is the lifelong effort to keep expanding intellectually and emotionally. "If you're becoming more a part of the greater world and larger life, then your spirituality is alive," he writes.

In one chapter, near the end of the book called The Angel of Old Age, the author offers a host of practical ways to foster meaning and peace of mind in the older years. Strategies range from practices rooted in ancient religious and spiritual traditions to ideas for creating a spiritual practice of your own.

This courageous book celebrates maturity, holding out to the end a promise of fullness of life.