Psychological astrologer Jennifer Freed, PhD, is the bestselling author of A Map to Your Soul and Use Your Planets Wisely. Her next video course, Psychological Astrology for Loving Well, begins on August 21, 2023.
If we are among the lucky, aging is inevitable. Any consideration of its alternative—early death—helps us recognize how completely the current debate about “anti-aging” or “pro-aging” misses the essential point.
No matter how much we do to appear youthful or feel younger, age will embrace us and death will come. This was just as difficult for me to sit with as it may be for you, until I realized what truly matters: vitality.
Vitality is an energy of engagement, gratitude, and aliveness. It is a blended sweet spot of pleasure, purpose, and meaning.
Without luscious, plump pleasure, our lives are parched and arid. Without a sense of contribution and purpose, our lives feel flat and untethered. Without a rubric of meaning, our lives can feel empty and prone to hopelessness and despair.
When we are chock-full of pleasure, fulfilled by our efforts and contributions and saturated in a daily sense of meaning, we experience a thrumming, receptive sensitivity: a kind of soul fitness.
Skin, body, and hair are the chalice our spirits and souls inhabit. Tending the chalice is a fundamental part of containing and supporting vitality. It is an ongoing challenge and privilege to do our best to polish, shine, and nourish the chalice we have received for this lifetime. Some have the time and means to use nutrients, cosmetics, supplements, exercise, and procedures that contribute to the health of their insides and outsides. I have seen many folks access these enhancements without losing sight of the bigger picture and possibility of growing older.
On the other hand: I have known people with perfect-looking bodies, skin, and hair, who receive countless compliments on their age-defying appearances, who complain in private conversations about feeling lost, irrelevant, unfulfilled, even depressed. Their singular focus on keeping their exterior looking youthful meant neglecting essential ingredients of vitality. Their most holy-looking form coexisted with a true hole in their soul.
Instead of admiring how young someone looks, perhaps it is more useful to ask: How alive do they seem? Aliveness comes through as a light in the eyes and an ability to express deep and vulnerable feelings. It comes through belly laughs, torrents of tears, and a willingness to be fully engaged regardless of outcome, approval, or “likes.”
The most alive people I know:
- Look to see where they can make a difference and walking their talk
- Do everything they can to keep learning from and listening to others
- Are astoundingly generous and open
- Are able to laugh and cry with equal intensity
- Have a profound connection to the divine
- Are willing to be unpopular if it means being authentic
This level of aliveness is soul fitness, which has nothing to do with appearing younger than our years. Soul fitness is gained through robust commitment to and consistent practice of the aliveness measures listed above.
Remembering that we are here for just an infinitesimal whisper of time: This is the sacred call to soul fitness. We are preparing not for a moment in the spotlight but for a culmination conversation as we approach the final runway. Talking about death in this way—let’s call it death positivity—does not need to be morose or dark. Imagine meditating every day on this possibly being your last day alive and letting this awareness lead you to love and live this day to its absolute fullest.
We can liberate ourselves from the oppressive memes around aging—of obsolescence, unviability, and being unwelcome. Instead, we can see this blessed arc of innocence (youth) to ambition (reproductive years) to wisdom (third chapter) as a glorious symphony, with each movement a complete and essential part of a breathtaking unity. Growing older can be the ultimate honor of cultivating deeper roots and realizing fuller blooms.
When we change the conversation around “anti-aging” to an emphasis on vitality and wisdom, we incentivize and encourage the next generations of elders. In seeking to maximize our vitality no matter our age, we model for young people that growing never ends; that pleasure, purpose, and meaning are all richly possible even in the final stretches of life; and that aging is not a mistake or a failure, but an invitation to be more fully alive.