The search for the fountain of youth, whether through magic, drugs, or techniques indicates a resistance to the aging process. I prefer to call yoga a “fountain of life.” Aging is inevitable. Yoga allows you to approach it awarely as a transformative process that can bring growth and new depths with maturation. Resisting aging is actually resisting transformation and growth. Paradoxically, the resistance to aging, which includes holding on to old, inappropriate ways of living, exacerbates the very aging process you fear. ~Joel Kramer, Yoga Journal May/ June 1980
In our culture we have a desperate fear of aging (which includes gaining weight). Fourteen million cosmetic procedures were performed in the US alone last year. One in three women suffers from an eating disorder. Personally, I think we need to start a revolution. It would be so wonderful to see a backlash of this push to perfection and see more women (and men) living authentically. As I sat trying to figure out how to write this blog, my friend and student Wanda Meade, sent out her monthly newsletter. I read it and I cried. I cried for the daring of this seventeen year old girl and her determination to change things. I cried because I see how many women around me are conflicted by a need to lose weight, be beautiful and ever young. I cried because I was so grateful I have women like Wanda in my life who affirm this need to be authentic and reassure me I can do it… Her words are below, as well as a link to her monthly journals:
The nightly news frequently makes me want to put my head in the oven, but then hope shows itself in the face of a fourteen-year-old girl from Pittsfield, Maine.
On July 5, the NBC Nightly News closed with a story about fourteen-year-old Julia Bloom. Julia was worried that the girls in her ballet class continually saw themselves as fat, which she declared they were not. So she started a conversation with other girls, and they agreed that part of the problem was the perfect girls portrayed in magazines like Seventeen. Julia contended that the models had been air brushed and Photo Shopped into girls that weren’t real. She started a blog and an on-line petition, asking Seventeen to include “one unaltered photo spread each month…. I want to see regular girls who look like me.” The petition garnered 84,000 signatures. Seventeen made A Body Image Peace Treaty. Proudly, Julia said, “this started as just a petition and I feel like we’ve grown into a whole movement.”
When I was in high school, I could not wait for the August edition of Seventeen to come to the rack of the drug store in the small shopping center near my home. The August edition held all the back-to- school possibilities for a sixteen-year-old living off the hope that one day….yes….one day, I, too would have hair like the Breck girl. That my skin would be as perfect as the Noxzema model. That my eyelashes would be long and beautifully black just like the girl in the Revlon ad. Those Seventeen girls had it all, and $2.50 of my babysitting money would tell me how to make my glossy dreams real.
Then it was Cosmopolitan. The shimmery pages of Cosmo not only gave me wardrobe and diet advice, but told me how to be a tempting tigress steaming with sex and sizzle.
And the messages kept coming. When I turned fifty, AARP Magazine assured me that as a senior I could still look great. Fat liposuctioned. Eyelids lifted. Spider veins dissolved. Just waiting on me and my credit card.
Jungian analyst Marion Woodman expressed joy about women entering, what she calls, the crone phase of their lives. But her female readers rose up in horror, telling her how offensive the word “crone” is. When people hear the word crone, they usually think of a used up hag who is one step from brewing wing of bat and eye of newt. Yet Woodman describes crones as women of age with the gift of wisdom. Women who can hear with the heart. Who listen and nurture others into becoming fully and wholly who they are. Who recognize that real beauty lies within, at the core, no matter what the age.
I’ve known some of my women friends for decades. When I sit across the table at lunch and look at their faces, I am reminded why I love them. The gentle lines around their eyes and mouths tell me of lives lived. Of knowing sorrow and joy and wisdom and wonder. I see crone goddess.
It is difficult to acknowledge my cellulite and the crow’s feet and the ten pounds that now anchor my once flat middle. But with aging, there is a part of me that has been freed. An authenticity that is blooming. And while a surgical eyelift may smooth some wrinkles, to be genuine and true to my core, the crone work focuses on developing the inner eye. The soul’s eye.
Julia Bloom started a conversation with her peers about girls…real girls. She doesn’t want to be glossed over. I would like those same kinds of conversations with women about our crone years. To see the crone as goddess, not hag, and to seek ways to embrace and claim her spirit as our own. ©Wanda Meade
If yoga is truly meant to transform our lives, why not embrace the wisdom that comes with age? I know I will do everything I can to live an authentic life. I will surround myself with people who see inner beauty and soul work as a core value. I will do my best learn, grow, and appreciate each year as it comes. I know, I am not quite 40 so it is easy for me to say. I am hopeful the seeds I plant now will continue to grow as I age. For those of you reading this, feel free to call “bullshit” if you see me diverge from this message. Also, for those of you reading this why not create a revolution of our own? Let us embrace the journey to become crone goddesses (and gods) and honor the years that have made us who we are. Care to rise to the occasion?