“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” (Satchel Paige)
I had been contemplating writing a piece on aging as it is such a fascinating topic and then when I was browsing in the library a few days ago I came across Satchel’s quote somewhere and wrote it down on a scrap of paper and put it in my purse. I realized that Satchel had asked the seminal question. Most days I feel about twenty. However, there are days when I ‘feel’ my age. You KNOW what I mean when I say this. I feel the way I am ‘supposed to’ for a woman of ‘a certain age.’ It is, of course, learned behavior when we believe that a certain age goes along with a loss of energy and vitality. I understand this well. If you had asked me how old I felt when I actually WAS twenty (43 years ago at the time of this writing) I would have, many days, said at least 40! However, that was 15 years BEFORE I began a daily hatha yoga practice. Like Benjamin Button, with yoga I am aging backwards.
We Boomers are aging differently. However, all through the ages there have been people who refused to enact their age according to their society’s expectations. Now, please do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating regressing to childhood (although I HAVE taken up skipping and hoola-hooping again!) I am, however, saying that exercise of some form is what most of us Boomers realize creates our mechanical resonance, which is an important source of our personal energy. Studies show that regular exercise and deep breathing and moving at a comfortable and leisurely pace and manner project an attractive mechanical resonance.
Dr. Deepak Chopra cites a study that took place many years ago now where “daring gerontologists” at Tuft’s University visited a nursing home. They selected a group of its frailest residents, and put them on a weight-training regime. Some people might fear that a sudden introduction to exercise might maim or kill these frail residents; however, they not only survived, they thrived. “Within 8 weeks, wasted muscles had come back by 300 percent, coordination and balance improved, and overall a sense of active life returned. Some of the subjects who had not been able to walk unaided could now get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night by themselves, an act of reclaimed dignity that is by no means trivial. What makes this accomplishment truly wonderous, however, is that the youngest subject in the group was 87 and the oldest 96.” (AGELESS BODY, TIMELESS MIND: THE QUANTUM ALTERNATIVE TO GROWING OLD) Dr. Chopra points out that nothing ‘new’ was added to the human body. All that happened was that a belief changed and when THAT happened, aging changed. As Chopra indicates, “If you are 96 years old and afraid to move your body, it will waste away. To go into a weight-training room at that age, you have to believe that it will do your body good; you have to be free of fear; and you have to believe in yourself.”
Decades ago, in yoga teacher training, I read some of the work of Ken Dychtwald who has done a lot of work regarding the mind-body connection and aging. Dr. Chopra shares Dychtwald’s implications of putting old and young at opposite poles:
* If young is good, old must be bad.
* If the young have it all, then the old must be losing it.
* If young is beautiful, old must be unattractive.
* If it is exciting to be young, it must be boring to be old.
* If the young are full of passion, the old must be beyond caring.
* If children are our tomorrow, then old must be our yesterday.
These ‘old’ beliefs are actually disappearing as part of the New Age is a dissolving of the ‘old’ dualistic world. It is a part of the Ascension process.
Joy, as we know, is the New Age’s prescription for aging. We Boomers are refusing to perform anyone else’s idea of what aging looks like and we are embracing a new reality. A reality beyond the false duality of “old” and “young”. Yet, joy IS the natural state of Being for those in the past, also, who understood instinctively, that mind-body-spirit are one. Recent polls indicate that we feel that 75 is the ‘new’ late middle-age and 85 is considered the ‘beginning’ of old age. Staying healthy, at any age, is the goal for most of us. Chopra studied the results of research regarding 1200 people on social security who were 100 years or older and lived independent lives and who nearly all expressed a strong will to live and a deep sense of appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. He says: “If aging were simply a matter of wearing out, we would expect centenarians to be in poor health, trapped in bodies with many deteriorated working parts. Actually, standards of health are high among our centenarians; fewer than one in five report that they are disabled or in such poor health that they require assistance to eat, walk, bathe, and so forth. Most still get around on their own (almost always without crutches or walkers), and many continue to work, at least by keeping house and caring for themselves.”
Soon, these facts will not seem surprising to us as we comprehend the science of psychoneuroimmunology and understand the ways in which the brain resists aging. It may take some of us a little time to understand and digest the scientific information regarding neuroplasticity. Alvaro Pascual-Leone ( a researcher @ Harvard Medical School) states that “neuroplasticity is an intrinsic property of the human brain and represents evolution’s invention to enable the nervous system to escape the restrictions of its own genome and thus adapt to environmental pressures, physiologic changes, and experiences.” (“The Plastic Human Brain Cortex, ” ANNUAL REVIEW OF NEUROSCIENCE, July, 2005) Dr. Perlmutter says that “researchers have discovered that not only can we create new neural networks, but also we can create them to become powerful enough to overcome our instinctive emotional reactions.” The capacity we have ( for example through repetitive positive affirmations) suggests that we can rewire the circuits of our brain. In other words we can change our associations with our day to day activities which often involve toxic emotions – thereby freeing ourselves from the tyranny of our “emotional limbic brain.” We are confirming, through science, what the ancients, witchdoctors, shamans and medicine women KNEW intuitively through their spiritual and metaphysical explorations and experiences.
In an interesting episode of what Dr. Chopra might call “syncrodestiny” a term he apparently coined, I came across and listened to him speaking last night during a free on-line webcast. He repeated some of his thoughts on health and enlightenment. We need to read his many books to study his work on enlightenment; however, he gave us his own 6 pillars for health which he abides by: (1) sleep (2) meditation (3) movement (4) water (5) healthy emotions (6) non-toxic food. He also practices the 7 spiritual laws as detailed in his books. Dr. Chopra spent the most time, regarding his 6 pillars, explaining what non-toxic food is. ( no steroids, pesticides, antibiotics, petroleum products & not processed). He said that the chemical “agent orange” is in our food. As we Boomers remember, this is used during war to kill people. Therefore, we need to educate ourselves regarding food.
Dr. Chopra said that the 6 pillars and the seven spiritual laws have moved him along his journey from health to enlightenment. Maybe that is what enlightenment IS? Complete health.
Love & Light, Monica