Old people are ugly – is that true?
When I visited my mom last summer at her Alzheimer’s care home the staff exclaimed: “You look so much like your mother!” (My mom is in Sweden and I can only visit once a year so several of the staff members had not seen me before.)
I am ashamed to admit that for a moment I felt slightly offended…”Whaaat? I look like my mom!? But she is so, you know,.…oooooold! I don’t look like that…” my mind objected as I looked at my mom’s eighty-eight-year-old white hair, grey teeth and wrinkled up face. My vanity definitely took a hit!
That comment unraveled a deeper layer of beliefs around aging and “old” people. I felt awful and embarrassed to admit, even to myself, that I still held onto some youth-obsessed cultural beliefs around aging and beauty. And I was glad I noticed that; it showed me what to work through next.
I wrote a list of all the ugly, demeaning thoughts I uncovered about old people:
Aging is not sexy.
Old people are unattractive.
Old people are ugly.
Wrinkled up skin and flabby flesh cannot be beautiful.
Once you are old, that’s it; you have lost your looks.
And I also noticed the thought that my mom, who was very gorgeous in her youth, had lost her looks.
Old people are ugly-is that true? Yes! Can I absolutely know that’s true? Hmmm…, No, that is just a thought I have attached to, a judgement.
How do I react when I believe that thought? I look at old people through the filters of these ugly, unattractive thoughts and that is how I perceive aging/old people. It became clear to me that there is no way I could perceive beauty in aging with these beliefs. You can only see what you believe. The thought creates separation from old people in general, and my mom specifically.
Who would I be without that thought? My heart opened and I could be present in the situation and be glad that the staff connected me with my mom. I am happy to look like this sweet lady who have endured so much. Without the thought there is no comparing young versus old, there is just being and witnessing life in the moment; seeing my mom and the other guests at the care facility with love and kindness.
Over the next few days, as my sweetie and I visited my mom every day, and I continued doing inquiry on the thoughts from my list, my whole perception changed. Being with the unconditional love that poured out of my mom sure helped that process as well and I began to see her as cute, dignified and beautiful. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. I began to live the turnaround: Old people are beautiful. What are some examples of that?
I would pick an old person on the subway or in a cafe’, indirectly gaze at them without staring, and look for examples of beauty. I would find one thing at a time until mind opened and then whole person would appear as beautiful. It was so much fun. I would Google Image aging people and just sit and meditate on their faces and bodies.
I realized I never judge old trees or aging in nature, on the contrary; I love aging in nature. The flower stalks that dry and become ornaments, the shape of all seed pods, the graying tree branches that shine like silver, the gorgeous pattern of the bark of old trees, not to mention fall! Which is all the leaves aging and dying, returning to Mother Earth. We took walks in nature (and we would bring my mom along in her wheel chair) and I would on purpose look for examples of beautiful aging and silently bless them.
My (ego’s) thoughts about old people are ugly! Yep, that is the only place anything ugly ever existed! So glad I dissolved that!
If you judge your own or other people’s bodies, join me for this upcoming 6-week online exploration, starting April 18, 2019. We’ll question and dissolve judgments about our bodies and release the harsh, limiting cultural beliefs around beauty. Only for women for now, sorry brothers. I may run a class for men in the future since men suffer as much as women under this oppression.
Link to My Body My Temple Class: https://lookwithininstitute.com/product/body-temple-releasing-body-judgments-work-byron-katie/