Today, I’m posting somebody else’s story because it expresses my hopes for life after “midlife.”
Bodhi Hanna Kistner (88): “Only After Sixty My True Life Began”
At 60, Bodhi Hanna Kistner moved from Germany to India. Then she started practicing Kyudo, Japanese zen archery. At 70, she became a Kyudo teacher. Now she’s 88 and gives lessons in India, California and Hawaii.
— At 60 you started studying such a tough and physically demanding sport as Kyudo, and you’ve been practicing it for over 25 years now. How did this even happen?
— When I moved to India at 60, I was actually planning to practice gardening. But I accidentally met a Kyudo master, visited his class and developed a passion for it. To tell the truth, I was a terrible student. I did terribly for a long time. Even when I followed my teacher to Japan he was very displeased with me. Eventually, he even kicked me out of his class. He said I was hopeless. But I was attracted to archery because it was not just a sport, but a way of life. Unlike the usual kind of archery, in Kyudo we aim not just to hit the target. A bow is only a tool that allows us to open up, physically and mentally. To make a shot, you have to straighten your back and slow down. If you master this art, which is extremely difficult, you can hit the target even with your eyes closed. It happens on its own accord. This skill of opening up to the world that I have mastered along with archery is most precious to me. That’s why I continued to practice despite anything. And when I was 70, I started to teach, because with age came an urge to share my knowledge.
— What helps you enjoy your life after fifty?
— I think it’s the skill of living in the present that I have mastered in the last 25 years. It is the key to enjoying your life in full. Enjoying life doesn’t mean being unreasonably excited all the time. On the contrary, as I became older I realized that the first step towards finding the joy of life was to accept reality openly and sincerely, accept everything as it is. Reality is not perfect. But it is important to face the truth. This attitude works wonders. By the way, speaking about joys, after sixty I fell in love with dancing.
— You have just come from California to Germany and soon you are going to India. Is it difficult to live like that, traveling over great distances?
— Not at all, for me it’s easy to travel between continents, I don’t even suffer from jet lag. I feel great after any flight. When you are fully focusing on what happens right here right now, time difference becomes irrelevant. I never try to figure out what time it is in the place I just left. This way I don’t feel tired or sleepy after my travels.
— What can you do today that you couldn’t do before fifty?
— My life before fifty consisted of my husband, my children and a job at a large bookselling company in Germany. I was always in a hurry, always worried about something. I was organizing the system of book distribution in Bavaria (without either Internet or a computer) and taking care of my family. Only at sixty, when I quit my job and my children grew up, my life truly began.
— You are 86 and you practice archery every day. Do you think there’s an age limit for Kyudo masters?
— Archery doesn’t exhaust me; on the contrary, it brings me energy. When I’m tired, I take my bow, straighten my back, open up, pull the bowstring, and feel how the energy returns to me. Right now I don’t even think of quitting it. The eldest practicing Kyudo master is a woman who lives in Japan, she’s 98. As far as I know she is not planning to stop any time soon, and neither am I.