Friday, 15 April 2011


As a young man, it never occurred to me that one day I may become old. Not that I was in denial, just that my father’s side of the family was not renowned for their longevity. Of his four brothers, only one made it into old age and my father was gone in his early 50s. I am therefore rather surprised to find myself in my 70’s; it was definitely not something I had expected or planned for.

So, what’s it like to be 70? I guess the answer depends on your health. If you are reasonably well, you feel pretty much the same as you did in your 40’s. Of course I am aware that my short term memory is not as good as it was. I can recall events that occurred in my teens with absolute clarity but find it hard to remember where I was last week. And there’s a little arthritis too. I try not to let it show but you may notice it sometimes takes me a while to get up from my stool after meditation. However, they say (whoever ‘they’ are) that 70 is the new 50 and to an extent that is true. I am certainly just as busy and active now as I was then.

Is there a plus side of being 70? Obviously being alive is one. Another is the fact that there is no longer any pressure to achieve. Whatever career I once had, has now reached an end. I can’t deny that I get a buzz when my 40 years of knowledge and experience is occasionally called upon. It seems that the one part of me that has not aged or weakened is my ego.

I bumped into the Dharma quite by chance when I was already middle aged and I simply can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not done so. For the past 5 years it has been my great privilege to be part of the Tuesday night team teaching meditation and Buddhism to whoever walks through the door.

I guess everyone likes to think they leave some sort of legacy behind to mark their passing. Of course there are my children who all live wonderfully creative and exciting lives. But perhaps even more importantly, it is those strangers who crossed the threshold of the Bristol Buddhist Centre for the first time one Tuesday evening and encountered something so exciting and challenging that it set them off on a journey of discovery that will engage them until they too are in their 70’s.

During my 70 years I have learned several talents. I can paint watercolours reasonably well, play the banjo ukulele rather badly and balance a broom handle on my nose. Unfortunately I was never able to develop a talent for making money so I will not leave behind great riches. However, when my time comes, I will feel content that I have contributed in some small way to keeping the wheel of the Dharma turning.

That should be good enough for anyone.

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