I read a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Aging is not for sissies”, and I wondered why we look at aging with such a jaundiced eye. Growing old is a natural and necessary part of life. Since the day we were born, we have been participating in the slow death march all human beings have taken since time began. It doesn’t take toughness to age, it happens automatically and we should embrace it and gather the fruits that are available at every stage of life.
Gary Zukav, one of my favorite authors, suggests that we all enter this world as novices in the Earth School. Those who have been here longer are more than likely in a more advanced grade. I like this metaphor because it adds no more value to being young to that of being old. Some keep flunking part of the curriculum and get held back to repeat the lesson until it is learned.
Every day someone is hear complaining about his or her fleeting youth as though their best days were behind him or her. I know this dance well, for I have spun to it for decades trying to hang on to my youth. This has been a loosing battle that I finally gave up. If only had I grown up being comfortable with the wonderful journey that is life? After sixty-six years, fortunately, I did get the message, so I want to share the five things I discovered everyone can start doing today that will help you evolve throughout your life.
1) Pay attention to what you put in your body.
Many books speak to what or how to eat, but I find them unnaturally restrictive. Denying yourself the pleasure of eating will not work in the long run. But the food and drugs you put in your body can affect your moods and behavior. I have a few rules easy to follow. I eat three regular meals daily and try to include a good balance of protein and carbohydrates in every one. I stay away from processed foods, choosing instead to eat organic, low sugar and foods without preservatives or that are genetically modified. I try hard to adhere to this, but it isn’t always possible, so I don’t beat myself up about it when I can’t. I also drink a gallon of water daily.
Moderation is also vitally important. This means I eat until I feel satisfied and no more. If I eat at a restaurant, I part out some of my meal and take it home in a doggie bag. Occasionally I will consume a glass of wine or a beer, but I don’t do this daily nor do I ever drink over two drinks on any occasion. I don’t use “recreational” drugs of any kind.
2) Use it or loose it.
There is nothing better for you than regular exercise. Your body was made to move. If you lead a sedentary life style, your muscles will atrophy, your organs will malfunction and you will feel shitty about yourself (I mean this mostly figuratively). Exercise has many benefits both physical and mental. It keeps the body well tuned and helps you feel better about yourself and how you look. You can manage your weight better when you work out. Exercise will keep your mind sharper and make you more mobile, which gives you access to the entire planet. Staying fit keeps you interesting, believe me, no one is interested in hearing you complain about your malfunctioning body parts. There is no particular formula that defines health or fitness. We all posses different physical levels, the trick is to pick something you enjoy doing (four to five times a week) and do it for an hour.
3) Discover your inner world.
Most of us spend our time and energy chasing after external things, but life is more than career, home ownership, wealth and having kids. There is an inner self waiting to connect with us. Developing a spiritual practice will help you gain an understanding of these inner urgings that can lead you to live a more authentic and fulfilling life. This inner/higher self is where true wisdom and maturity are rooted. You don’t need to join a religion in order to do this, although if that works for you, by all means then do it. What I am talking about is a contemplative daily practice, like meditation. Many medical studies tout the overall health benefits of meditation. Find a method you like and do it daily. One should also make time to read authors who deal with the topic of enlightenment and the inner world. Wayne Dyer is another favorite of mine, but many more exist.
4) Be open and accepting of all.
Life is beautiful. People are beautiful. There is nothing wrong with being gay, or having a tattoo or being a woman who was born in Mongolia. If we are pupils in the earth school — as I believe — then it is easy to see that everyone is learning from a customized curriculum established just for them. Learn to celebrate and enjoy the myriad of cultures, races, languages, beliefs, style, dress, customs, etc. Approach the world with the knowledge that everyone was born to stand out and not to blend in. Viewing people in this light will make you happier, more loving, grateful, enthusiastic and joyful for life. Nothing is more draining than an unpleasant, bitter individual. You can avoid that by appreciating life for the lessons it teaches and not as a series of victories and failures that leave winners and losers. This form of acceptance isn’t that difficult if you keep an open heart and mind.
5) Choose your actions wisely.
Every day you are gifted with a brand new twenty-four hours. While it is true that you need to spend some of this time resting or doing boring necessities like doing the laundry or cleaning the house, you don’t need to waste time in activities you don’t enjoy or hanging around people who bring you down. Remember, you are the only one who is responsible for living the life you want. You want to set up your own rules of engagement and establish your boundaries. When you are a people pleaser, a glory or power hunter, a social climber or a wealth seeker, you are allowing others to decide the meaning of life for you. You can change this by becoming your own observer and decide on what brings you enjoyment, passion and fulfillment. Live life in the present moment with those things in mind. Life can at various times seem like a roller coaster, but it is all for your own evolution. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.
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