I have friend who is also a client. He is 83 years old. For many of us certain numbers elicit certain stereotypes. I believe these generalizations about age are deeply ingrained. Many of us hold on to visions of our grandparents or even our parents as they aged. Many of us decide we will travel the same aging road. But times have changed and continue to change. We now know we have choices and we can make decisions as to how we want to age. As our teacher Bobbie Corbean always said, “We choose how we want to grow up.”
My 83 year old client John said to me yesterday, “I spend more and more time in the morning stretching. I stretch my ankles, my back, my shoulders, and my neck. It’s a good 20 to 30 minutes every day. I guess that’s just how it is when you get older.”
I congratulated him on his dedication. I also shared with him my belief that no matter our age, we all need to be moving our bodies daily. Movement is part of our responsibility for accepting one of these incredible bodies that houses our spirit. We know we have to maintain our home, our car and our relationships or we see them deteriorate before our eyes. The same is true with the body.
My friend John loves life. It’s obvious. He travels, spends many hours with his wife, sons and his grandchildren. He also works five days a week. He is fortunate in that he probably doesn’t have to work but he enjoys what he does and he knows the socialization and interacting with others is good for him. He does it because it brings him joy.
He is also madly in love with his wife. I am not just giving you my opinion. John tells me that Susan is the love of his life and he enjoys nothing more than spending time with her, being with her and sharing life with her.
I believe John gets up every day and stretches his body, goes to Pilates, heads off to work, gets massages and watches his diet so he can have the longest life possible with the highest grade of quality.
When I mention my clients who are in their 80’s or 90’s, people comment they too would love to live a long life but they want a “quality of life”. That is where the commitment comes in. We have to keep moving and growing. Literally and figuratively we need to stretch our body, mind and spirit.
We don’t know what health issues are in the future for us. Life is full of uncertainty. But I advise my clients, “Live like you’re going to celebrate your 100 birthday and beyond.” Who knows, the long term effort you make to your overall health may just help you face any issues that arise with a more resolute body and mind.
Humans have never had the luxuries and conveniences we have now. Many of us on the planet don’t have to concern ourselves with survival issues. We have the rich opportunity to explore the depths of our consciousness. We can spend time alleviating fear so we can deeply relax, heal and expand our lives on many frontiers. In our healthiest state we must face “the human dilemma,” the realization that our physical Being is Mortal which, for many of us can be experienced as the “Fear of Death”. How do we make sense of life knowing that we will eventually shed this body and move on? More bluntly, how do we deal with the fact that we and those we love will one day die?
The fact is, our bodies are finite. In yoga, the fear of death is one of the Kleshas. The Kleshas are the obstacles to liberation. The reality of our own mortality immobilizes some of us. It may be the reason so many of us seek out anti-depressants, alcohol and other drugs.
I think John is a good example of how to live life at any age. Find the things that bring you joy, do them and experience them regularly. Focus on activities that support you to do these things as long as you can in the healthiest state possible. Move your body, expand your mind and let your spirit soar. Start now!
John does his stretches every morning because they affect the rest of his day in a positive way. He has been doing his morning routine for many years. At times he has added to his routine as he feels a need for movement in different parts of his body. His routine grows and changes as he grows and changes.
Is longevity something you want? Of course there are no guarantees but we can do our best to move in that direction. Ask yourself, “What brings me more joy and happiness and less fear and constriction in my body, mind and spirit?” It may take some soul searching to really find out what it is for you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t set unrealistic goals that you know will be impossible for you to maintain. Don’t let ageism be a factor. Instead envision in your mind’s eye a healthy you. Raise your arms above your head or as far as your particular unique body will allow and enjoy the stretch and a full body breath. No matter our age or physical state of being, most of us can find movement which feels good and brings a smile to our face. These same activities make us feel lighter and healthier. That is when the ding, ding, ding inside our head goes off signaling us to pay attention.
I am in no way suggesting that we can defy gravity or escape the grim reaper but we can learn to stand up straight and stretch ourselves so we can experience more moments of full on joy!
Like John, we may find that as “we grow up” we may need more time stretching because more body parts may need our attention. But with each flight of stairs we climb either alone or with the love of our lives or each time we get down on even ground with our four year old grandchild, we can remind ourselves that all our movements are worthwhile. No effort is wasted my friends. Expand your body, expand your spirit and expand your life. Remember to smile and breathe deep. Joy is part of this incredible human experience. Bring it on.
Be sure to tune in to Simple Steps Real Change on Empower Radio this week
when Rob & Steve join Cheryl to talk about the simplicity and the power of meditation.