Judith on Old Age
by Judith Hunt
First published on: November 2, 2017
On June 27, 2016 during retreat with Venerable Rene Feusi, he asked long time community member Judith Hunt to give her perspective on old age. Her short speech was so inspiring that we wanted to share it with the community. Listen, download or read the transcript below.
Listen to Judith Here:
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Venerable Rene: I had the idea one time during this retreat to have someone speak to us. You see, many of us, we’re still young and in good health and we don’t know how it feels like to be old and to have various health issues coming up and how to graciously transform it into the path.
So we have a dear friend, Judith, that many of us know, which has had an incredible life and as being a mother and care for children at Kopan Monastery and has a very interesting life and now she’s going to the stage of aging and having various health issues. She’s willing to share her experience, how she’s going through her days and how she transforms that into something spiritually meaningful. So I think it’s good for us to know what’s ahead of us, what we will be one day.
You see, we always pray to have long life. So long life comes with all these things. So I will leave the work to Judith.
Judith: Thank you. I have the thought that maybe my tremor will go out of control and then my voice will go out of control. Then you would all get to watch. So I didn’t want that to happen.
This morning, I did something quite remarkable for me. I surprised myself. I went to the Chenrezig Gompa. I don’t know if I can say this without emoting. To see the statue of Lama [Yeshe]. So beautiful! Don’t miss it. It’s really alive and I thought about all the brave things that Lama [Yeshe] did. Maybe I could release it up here and talk a minute or two.
I’m really not very old. I’m only 83 next month and I have many friends who are much older. Of course they’re all Japanese women.
All five of them and they set a bar very high for old people. I warn you right now, if you know any. So I’m trying hard to be a good old person. It doesn’t always work. I would like to say first of all that – I have friends who are in their 60s and they think they’re old. Really they’re not. But one can’t help thinking because there isn’t a lot of respect for old people in this particular culture. I can remember in my 50s, I traveled there for a reason, between San Jose and San Diego every weekend.
Jack was still in San Diego. He hadn’t come up to San Jose yet and I suddenly noticed that nobody saw me. I used to have a kind of a shape and all that.
It gave us a kind of a crushing feeling and that might be how it is with my friends. You know, that you suddenly realize nobody sees you. No eyes are seeking you out of the crowd and looking you over. So I would like to say that there is a function that could be beneficial to Dharma people that is a sort of deflation of the ego. Continuous.
Every time you look in the mirror, you think, “Oh, I look just like my mother or my grandmother,” you know? And many, many things go – many other thoughts go along with that ego deflation and then you get a tremor and then you – I always say as long as I can eat in public and control the mouse on my computer, I will be OK. But after that, I don’t know so much.
Another benefit is not only the deflation of ego but constant, constant reminder of impermanence. There’s no way, 7/24, there’s no way you can think away from that or dismiss it or minimize it. It’s coming, folks. It’s there all the time.
So there’s some pressure to be – to attempt at least to be kind of a decent person in the world. OK. There’s a thing about love when one gets old and I find when I’m among – especially among Dharma people. I don’t notice it elsewhere very much. But among Dharma people, one becomes a kind of a love magnet and really people are so kind and so pleasant and I always feel like I’m not in any danger. I’m not going to get hurt. There’s nothing to worry about.
Like when I go to Tse Chen Ling, I benefited greatly from the fact that the nuns have moved to where I live, so I always have a ride and that’s just a sample for you. I feel like I’m in a nest and I hope that when you get old, that you will feel when you go to the Dharma that you’re in some kind of a nest. It’s very wonderful and I’ve been extremely fortunate in every imaginable way. Few unfortunate things but hey, this is samsara. You got to have something going on.
So thank you very much. Can I go now?