Sometimes it takes a lot to take us out of our youthful, automatic approach to living and wake us up to what is consciously going on in our lives. We may or may not be shocked by what we see as the onset of getting older, but it could motivate us to look for some assistance to cope with its unrelenting changes. While the art of focusing our attention on an object, such as the breath, does help in the four stages of aging, perhaps it’s most beneficial in the first.
After all, the earliest recognition that we are aging has probably occurred because of some physical or mental alteration in our lives, which certainly can be gradual but is oftentimes like a bolt of lightning. It follows, then, that the initial benefit of a concentration practice, if we have it in hand, is to help us regain our stability after such a shock. For example, if we’re experiencing high blood pressure, focusing on something as simple as our breathing, will assist in restoring it to something closer to normal. If we’re going through pain, concentration will serve as the foundation for other practices that will make it more tolerable. Through all of this we begin to realize a sense of space in which we might enjoy some rest and temporary peace. Moreover, we’ll have gained a greater awareness over what’s going on with our physicality. Secondly, we’ll be giving ourselves a window of opportunity to regain and increase our mental clarity. We will begin to see ourselves in a different light with less and less confusion and ignorance. We’ll realize the value of the foundation concentration offers to the next meditative step, mindfulness, which permits us to explore the different levels of awareness within us. We might even experience the value of silence in reducing harmful speech. Our ability to “interbe”, the level of communication we have between our inner and outer being, may also become enhanced, thus, creating a balance not previously experienced. And all the while, we might discover we can be of service to others who are also experiencing the initial stages of aging.
Obviously, using the enhanced version of what we used to think of as “counting to 10” or “taking three deep breaths,” before responding to a stressful situation, has become a lifeline right from the initial shock of what caused us to recognize that we’re aging. Much like me, who woke up in the middle of the night a few months ago feeling uncommon stress in my chest, we’ve experienced one or two of the benefits of practicing concentration within the first few minutes. Moreover, taking a walk in nature becomes a joy due to our increasing ability to focus and sincerely take gratitude in its beauty. In conclusion, most people, who have truly experienced the initial stage of aging and begun a concentration practice, will continue, without a doubt, to enjoy and expand its infinite value in daily living. And you?