For hours at a time in San Miguel I experienced what it’s like to be here and now. Returning to Kingston my mind has once more become a monkey or a butterfly, depending on which meditation tradition you follow. I’ve lost the ability to be totally present.

There’s no good reason for my busy, irrelevant thoughts. I’ve de-cluttered my physical possessions. I’ve moved to a newly tidy home and finally done all the million chores associated with moving, but my mind is filled with stuff that has nothing to do with the here and now. I need to de-clutter my thoughts the way I de-cluttered my house.

I think back to my early training in mindfulness with Swami Sivananda Radha. I was a young yoga teacher when she took me under her wing. She taught me to empty my mind of all distractions. To do this, I filled the vacant space with the repetition of a mantra. A mantra is a group of words designed to unite the person to the whole universe. It connects us with something much larger than ourselves, I was told.

It’s the lightness and joy in being I want to remember. What was it like to walk around in a mental state free of anything but my mantra? To get there, I had to accept the worthlessness of most of my mind’s chatter. I’d much rather have an ongoing mantra resonating off the inner walls of my consciousness. But how do I get there again? How, in my old age, can I find that peace and contentment?

In my old age, there’s nothing to stop me. I live alone. I structure my days as I wish. There’s no need to go to work or, for that matter, to go anywhere. I’m free to seek spiritual Oneness. The Unitarians talk about “the Interconnectedness of all Beings.” Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as the faith of aboriginal people, teach that we are all One. How does this rational, science-respecting, almost 80 year-old-woman find the peace and wholeness she once knew?

Follow me as I seek for it in Kingston in my little apartment near the water.


  1. Ben Uchytil says:

    Ah, but you are no longer working. This has complicated the situation. It’s a paradox. One thinks that, in retirement, one can meditate more, etc., but it generally doesn’t work that way.

    In retirement, there is no longer ‘stuff’ to keep our minds busy. As a result, we have time to ruminate on anything and everything. For someone with a trauma background, inactivity just does not suit. We can actually ‘lose’ ourselves in all of that time, especially if we use dissociation as a defense mechanism.

    Once I retired, I found it very hard to make progress in any personal realm. I have actually gone back to graduate school in order to find purposeful activity and life.

    • admin says:

      Yes, we can’t retire into a vacuum. When I retired I floundered for a period of time, knowing I needed a new passion. Could I go back to where I left off at graduation from university in 1962? I finally settled on learning to write. I took workshops and training in fiction writing, then was convinced that I was not a fiction writer, but a good memoir writer. So that is now my passion, writing this memoir on aging.

      The passion has to be possible in one’s later years. I believe it’s a mistake to try to pick up earlier interests that don’t fit the changing brain and the older body.

  2. Judy Steed says:

    Interesting….Pema Chodron teaches us not to seek the blank mind or the so called perfect meditation but to be present within ourselves. To allow our thoughts and feelings to arise, to not repress or deny anything, and to learn to be at home with ourselves, at ease with ourselves with all our strengths and limitations? Maybe you could consider starting a Focusing group.

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