Everything we know about aging in the Western world is wrong. Aging is a beautiful part of an ever expanding growth process. As the body contracts so too the mind is expanding.
We all know that there never really are “easy” stages of life.
Yet when we’re older we often look back at a particular stage, and from hindsight think or say that it was a wonderful time. But all of the different stages that we passed through had their difficulties. If there is one thing that life has taught both Fred (my mentor) and me, it’s that happiness is a decision you make on a daily basis. Some of us are extremely blessed with the perspective that everything is going to be alright. But I certainly didn’t feel that way during the first half of my own life.
Looking back at life from a more mature point of view, it’s clear to me that we are always learning and that our own character is in a constant state of development. Our greatest achievements are not how much money we amassed or how many things we managed to acquire.
Our greatest achievements can be measured by what adversities we overcame, what defects in our character we improved on, the quality of our relationships, who we helped in meaningful ways, and how we overcame destructive behavior patterns. Yet these great things may be secondary to a bigger accomplishment in life—that of realizing great universal truths that are subtle and sometimes hidden from plain sight.
Self-realization is another great achievement: It is figuring out who you really are after many years of not knowing. You may have never really asked yourself “Who am I?” on a deep level. But it’s never too late to do so. In our younger years, we were likely so caught up in the struggles of the world that we didn’t take sufficient time and effort to look at the deeper questions and find satisfactory answers.
But having said that, sometimes in the later stages in life it becomes time to stop asking ourselves questions and struggling to find the answers. It may be a time to just be present for each moment and be happy with simply existing and being.
Our daily patterns should center around absorbing each and every experience as it occurs and really practicing being in the moment.
For some people this may be too difficult a task. Experiences of fear and pain of any kind are very distracting to being in the present moment. If we want to be out of the pain and fear and out of the suffering, at times we transport ourselves somewhere else. But in doing so sometimes we are missing the moment.
If you are mobile and able to be active walking and staying aware of your own breathing, that in itself is a miracle. If you are not mobile, things can be more difficult, especially if you are lonely.
There is always a creative way to feel being a part of the world, even when we may feel as if we’re fading away. This may sound a little depressing, but it need not be. The importance of being close to nature is even more critical at the more advanced ages in life. Nature has all the answers. Just being with it and letting it embrace you is a healing experience. Look at the trees, the creatures, the sky and all the natural processes around you, and focus on being in the moment.
Diet is another thing that is critical at all stages of life. It’s never too late to change bad eating habits and patterns.
- You do not need much protein in your diet. You do not need animal protein at all. You can get all your protein needs from plant sources.
- Do not eat past sunset. If you feel hungry, drink a fresh green juice; you can add apple or pear to sweeten it (This is good sugar).
- Eliminate all processed foods.
- Avoid alcohol, even wine. (Red grapes are the only beneficial component of red wine, so just eat red grapes instead.)
Those four things alone will create dramatic improvements in your overall chemistry.
Following are some other things to work on:
When you reach a certain point in life during which you no longer look at the future ahead of you, you are then in the stage of expanding your consciousness. It’s a wonderful thing that as the body contracts the mind expands. And the two are not mutually exclusive; this is because the body is filled with so many distractions, cravings, and yearnings.
It isn’t until you’re older and more still that you can allow certain concepts to take hold in your mind. From the day you are born until the day you die, life is a series of transitions and progressions, from one phase to another. In fact, every day we wake up in the morning we experience a transition from yesterday to the present moment.
In the more senior years of life we need to let go of many attachments and ideas. We need to let go to the notion of complete freedom of movement. Sometimes we can’t do things we did in our teens or in our 20s. But we don’t have time now to focus on those negatives. We only have the time to focus on what we can do.
We need to make decisions to not quit things and to not be lazy. Laziness should have been put aside in our youth. If laziness still remains, then we need to write “I shall not be lazy” on a piece of paper and work at not being lazy every single day. Pick one or two necessary things to do each day that you do not want to do; it requires effort to get those things done. It doesn’t have to be building a pyramid or ending world hunger. Although if you have those kinds of ambitions and capabilities, it’s amazing—pursue them!
A way to stay young forever is to make sure that you remain as mobile as possible. You always need to incorporate exercise into your daily activities. It’s also important to always work on things that give you hand-eye coordination.
Some people are frightened by being mobile. They’re overwhelmed by the fear that their bodies are not strong enough, and that if they overexert their bodies then they will die. It’s not right to live in that type of fear.
So, you should go to your doctor and get his advice. If he advises you to just sit on your couch, find another doctor. Get a doctor who agrees that you’re always capable of some mobility—even if it’s just lying in a bed and doing neck and ankle exercises.
No matter what you do, do not give up. No matter how immobile you are, you’re alive. And if that’s the case, it means that you’re breathing. If nothing else, you can do breathing exercises for 30 to 60 minutes per day.
The way to stay young is to recognize that the only thing a young person has that you don’t is a young body, But they’re also going to get old and die one day. You have something that a younger person does not have. You have the ability to focus your concentration and be in the present moment.
It is crucial to remind yourself of this because it can be the premise of what makes you happy. You can experience joy now, at an older age, when you see a beautiful bird sitting on a branch singing. You might not have been able to do that when you were in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or even in your 50s.
You may have a wonderful experience watching the sunset because you are amazed by its exquisite beauty. This is the way to think like an enlightened person. Surrender the body and make it into a temple during these years of your life. It will take effort to get on such a path, but you will have a great comfort and you will struggle less. And you will have accomplished a lot by extinguishing some of the unhealthy cravings of the body.
I hope that my writings don’t come across as if I consider myself to be a monk. I certainly don’t. But I do struggle a bit with how to communicate this information in a way that makes it sound fun and exciting. I’m not sure how to write or talk about it without making it sound too technical at best and uninspiring at worst. I know exactly what my elderly mentor Fred does to make himself happy. He keeps an extremely positive outlook on life. He always plans a little bit for the future while staying in the present moment. He always has tasks to do and things to look forward to.
Fred refuses to quit. He works hard at being healthy. He tries to be helpful. He speaks positive words. He practices a faith and he is devoted to it. These are all things that I do. This does not mean that we’re perfect. No human being can be perfect. It just means that we have spent a lot of time thinking hard about these things and have tried to put them into practice. Something influenced both of us to pursue these efforts.
Fred is far more advanced than I am regarding dietary practices, and I think I’m doing fairly well. He has managed to do fasts of long durations. I’m working up to doing so myself, but I don’t have the mindset yet. I think it is my duty to do some of these fasts so that I can describe them better as I do them longer and longer.
Long fasts are very good for my body. I need to learn how to give myself the things I know that are good for my body without fighting; this is a struggle for most of us. We have the knowledge that certain things are really good for us, but we don’t do them. Day after day, month after month, year after year, we simply don’t do them. Perhaps by not doing them we’re protesting, or being lazy, or being fearful.
It could be even more complicated than that. We might have very deep-seated connections with the suffering of our parents. When that is the case, it makes it difficult for us to feel happy about moving on and not experiencing the same unpleasantness. Suffering sometimes gives us a sense of a connection to the source of suffering. And we need connection with our parents, even if our relationship with them was not perfect. So we hold on to their ideas and their behavior patterns. Such things are reminders of those periods in our life. And for a season those things served us, and perhaps served us well, to some degree.
But then as we get older and we learn more in our experiences, things really can unwind in a positive way. We start to see the ways in which those things don’t serve us anymore. We start to see that we do not need to carry certain burdens anymore.
Some of the problems that I have belong to my mother and father. I carried them as an attempt at trying to help them. But I couldn’t help them—I was powerless. I was powerless as a boy, so I must let go of the feelings associated with those experiences. Because holding on to those experiences doesn’t help me. I can begin to let go by talking about those experiences with appropriate people.
How happy I can become is proportionate to how deeply I can go into my childhood wounds and heal them. I need to teach myself things such as self-respect, which I didn’t learn appropriately in my own home. By looking at those experiences and healing those wounds to the best of my ability, I can build my self-esteem and get on a path to true happiness and fulfillment.