The process of aging well offers us one of life’s most satisfying rewards: maturity. Mature trees provide shelter to birds and small animals, breathe for our planet, and weather storms. In some Native American traditions, trees and plants are called Standing Silent Nation. Clarissa Pinkola Estes compares us to mature trees when she applauds people for “still standing” after experiencing traumatic events. Habits that support our intentions to do well by ourselves and others expand our maturity. As a negative habit transforms into a positive one, we are able to turn our gaze inward regardless of what might be going on in the world. This inward gaze signals our capacity for reflection, a sure sign of maturity. Developing this capacity, we discover and strengthen our inner balancing point, our inner core.
All wisdom practices help us to mature by connecting us with this core strength. Tai Chi, Yoga, Aikido, and other energy practices train us to live from our physical centre of gravity, in Eastern practices called the Lower Dantien. The following meditation practice makes the power of the Lower Dantien palpable:
- Sit comfortably with feet flat on the floor and spine straight
- Curl the fingers of both hands to form the upper part of an upside down heart, the nails of both hands touching each other and resting on the belly about two inches below the navel
- Thumbs form the tip of the heart, pointing upward, and rest on or below the navel
- Wrists relax and rest on the thighs
- Breathe in to this sacred centre through the nose for four/4 slow counts; hold briefly
- Breathe out through the mouth for six/6 slow counts; hold briefly
- Repeat four/4 times before continuing the meditation with your usual breathing.
Using this or other meditation practices helps to calm the nervous system. Feeling the power of responding rather than reacting, we find ourselves contributing to solutions – a sure sign of maturity – instead of adding to problems with outsized emotional displays. While it may not sound glamorous, one of the most important consequences of developing life affirming habits is maturity When we are mature, whatever the outer reality, our inner reality makes it possible for others to count on our wise council and level-headed approach to challenges large and small.
In a culture that yearns for eternal youth and exhibits many signs of immaturity – vanity, insecurity, narcissism, and fear – mature people become magnets for those who hunger for wisdom and sanity. What a gift to give ourselves and others.
Until next week.