“The greatest gift you have to give is your own self-transformation.”
— Lao Tzu
The masterpiece that is your life is a gift to those you love, but above all, a gift to yourself. With a brushstroke upon the canvas of each new day, let this painting be the work of art that is your life, a work that expresses the beauty and substance of a life well-lived, unfolding before your very eyes.
What if we lived our life as a work of art that only we can create? And what is art but simply the expression of the human experience in whatever form it may take?
Consider this: The more days we live joyfully in the moment, the more days we have. Life, in reality, is not linear, but existentially unordered and unconstrained to all possibilities at all times. Our lives are simply operational perceptions based on cultural norms, beliefs, and attitudes. Everything we believe, hold to be true, and consent to represents our state of consciousness. And it is our state of consciousness that informs and drives our moment-to-moment life experience. In its simplest realization, aging is both a state of mind and a state of being. As such, this is an exciting time for new realms of exploration of what our lives can be, literally, and a time to reimagine ourselves.
It is said that the third act involves reinventing oneself. I have found it to be more a process of spiritual evolution and self-transformation, a limitless exploration of what represents meaning and purpose for me at this point in my life. As a photographer and writer, I feel so blessed because these things I will do until my last breath. There is a saying among serious photographers that the very best image we ever took remains unprocessed in our camera, as our ashes are spread upon on our personal sacred ground. So, yes, self-transformation for many people might not be so obvious and perhaps a little more of a challenge than it is for me, but at the same time, through technology and more importantly the cultural/societal awareness of the process of aging, there has never been more opportunities and support in so many ways to help us with that self-transformation. As such, this is, in many ways, a golden era of joyful, creative aging.
Heretofore, it seems that so much of our identity is a culturally based concept of time.
Deepak Chopra observes, “Aging is a shared illusion that everyone falls for, and once you are taken in, you have no choice but to age, simply because everyone else is. To make aging a blissful experience, the secret is to abandon aging altogether, which means abandoning time. Do this and you discover the bliss that is accessed in the timeless. It’s never too late to imagine a body that does not age.”
Thus, the concept of aging expands into an entirely new awareness when we endeavor to live in the present, for the now is the only location that is timeless.
When seen in the broadest context, our concept of aging is most often a conditioned response, a habit of thinking and behavior, when physical and mental decline is inevitable.
Or as author Richard Bach wrote in his best-selling book Illusions, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” So what should we do? Let’s not argue in favor of our negative and outdated beliefs on aging. If we understand that we are fundamentally pure, light energy, we must then know that our life force does not age for energy does not age. It may well be that the paradox of aging is that by changing our state of consciousness relative to aging we, in fact, can grow younger.
What good is our life-extending technology if our consciousness of aging well is not well out in front of those external life extenders? In other words, the issue is almost always quality of life, which I like to more appropriately refer to as “our evolving meaning of life.” To that point, it is my unshakable belief that “life that is not growing is life that is dying.” As such, how can we continue to paint our life’s masterpiece if we are not in fact growing, becoming in the moment, ever better and more expressive painters of our life’s canvas?
Therefore, let us embrace the joy and excitement of looking forward to our next accomplishment, whatever we choose that to be, sending our grandchild an art piece of our own making as a birthday gift, starting an online business, taking that long-planned trip abroad, writing that book you’ve been thinking about for years, weeding your potted plants, reading a new book, or planning a lunch with friends. Aging then is not an end, it’s a path into the future. And when it is time to pass, it will be on the path to that eternal journey.
Perhaps the best part of beginning each day is the realization that our life’s painting is not done, and it is this new day in which we may add another brushstroke to that masterpiece that is our life. Thus, with each new brushstroke, may we be joyful that we shall always live on in the smiles, laughter, and fondest memories of those we loved and who loved us.
Lastly, although it may seem mere semantics, I try to live my life knowing and feeling that there is a world of difference between getting older and living longer. For it is in the living longer that we may find our own unique and meaningful way to live fully in the present, and that is, indeed, the fine art of aging.
Bruce W. Heinemann is a fine art landscape photographer, author, publisher, multimedia producer, and speaker. For more than 35 years he has published branded fine art landscape calendars for Fortune 200/500, regional, and local companies. He has created nine coffee table books, two published by Barnes and Noble. One, The Nature of Wisdom, became a best-seller. He won the 1993 Virginia Merrill Bloedel Award (Bainbridge Island, Wash..) given to individuals for their contribution to the welfare of nature. His speaking presentation is titled, “The Nature of Life and The Fine Art of Living.”