The PEARL Chronicles: Women Transforming Life’s Grit into Pearls

January 26, 2008

MINDFULNESS FOR HAPPY AGING

Filed under: 1,Positive Aging,Spirituality — by thepearlchronicles @ 11:01 pm

Watching other people grow older often isn’t pretty but it can always be instructive.I say other people, because it is extremely difficult to see ourselves. I notice, for example, that when I’m in an audience at a classical concert and look around, I’m likely to think, “Hmm, everybody here is older. Too bad more younger people don’t come.” Younger people like me is what I’m thinking. Talk about delusions!

Who hasn’t said, at one time or another, “I don’t want to be like my mother (or father) when I get old”? We usually mean, “I don’t want to get set in my ways,” or “I don’t want to become boring,” or “I don’t want to look like that.” But once in a while we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror, and wince, because we see signs that we haven’t escaped our deepest fears. Most of us look away immediately. Denial has its uses, after all.

So here is the Big Question.

As we age, how, exactly, do we avoid becoming what we don’t want to become?

The simple answer is that we have to cultivate Mindfulness. For people of my generation the term was Awareness. I recently read The Secret (yes, it is one of my guilty pleasures) and was bemused to find this was an essential message of the book. The new brain research I’m reading, books like Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, come to the same conclusion. Other names for this are The Perennial Philosophy and The Tao (The Way).

So Mindfulness is clearly not a new idea. But if it has been described as The Way in so many different sources, why don’t we all live in this Way? Maybe you do. If you don’t, what is your reason?

I know mine: The Way isn’t easy; it takes training and effort, and I can be a very scattered person. I have moments and pockets of time when I am disciplined and focused. But there are lots of other hours when I fritter away Time as if it were not the most precious commodity I have. I avoid knowing–being mindful–that the time I before me is much less than the time behind me. That is probably the most foolish thing I do with my life.

Too much reality can paralyze us; that’s why denial exists. But too much denial can impoverish us if we close our eyes and pretend the future stretches infinitely, so we can afford to wait to do the things that would truly enrich our lives with meaning and allow us to leave a legacy for coming generations that will enrich them as well.

I do believe that Mindfulness is worth fighting for. I fight for it every day, in every way I can think of. I’ve taken the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire (it’s free; try it by clicking here) and try using my top strengths regularly to expand my ability to stay Aware, so that my time and energy are used more and more for things of real value.

These can be large and small.

Whatever you or I choose to spend time on has to be our own choice, but I urge you to reflect on your choices and learn to discriminate among choices that are truly life-enhancing and those that are simply habits of mind. So much is being learned about what contributes best to human well-being. Read, listen, observe, and talk with friends and family about what you’re discovering.

Share this wealth with others. It’s too important to keep to yourself.

-Lynne Berrett

January 12, 2008

A NEW YEAR, A NEW GOAL FOR HEALTH

Filed under: Personal Growth,Wellness — by thepearlchronicles @ 1:49 am

A year ago I decided I absolutely had to do something to build strength and improve balance. I knew (from research and personal experience with several nasty falls) that as we age, the ratio of muscle to fat goes in the wrong direction. I don’t need to spell it out for you, I’m sure.

So I found a young woman to work with one-on-one. I’ve been doing this for almost a year now and have found it so helpful that I asked the family as my holiday gift–and got it!– for two sessions a week. I figure that more of a time commitment can only benefit me.

Yes, it’s more expensive than a group class, but having individual attention has taught me how little I am in my body. I still can’t feel when I’m lying or standing “crooked,” head tilted to one side or shoulders and hips out of alignment. Fortunately, my teacher has an eagle eye.

I admire people who have the self discipline to go to the gym regularly or set up their own DVD exercise programs at home. Or others, like my friends who tap dance or square dance their way to health, or ski, or seriously bike ride and hike. Actually, I did some of those things when I was younger, but I had spent too many years sitting and listening to people for a living and hadn’t put aside enough time for strenuous physical activity.

So I swallowed my pride and obeyed my own precepts as a coach: I sought out expert assistance rather than do nothing!

Now that I’m looking at the milestone of 70 coming up this very year, I’m thankful that I had the foresight to make this decision a year ago. I actually have some abdominal muscles I can feel. I also am aware of the many parts of my body that still need work. I can’t walk like an Indian, for instance, heel to toe, without falling over. That’s a sign of poor balance, according to Jane Brody.

It’s embarrassing to discover how much flexibility I’ve lost–something I always took for granted, like low blood pressure. Having to face the reality of these losses is the down side. The up side is that I’m discovering I can still do quite a bit to improve things, if I’m willing to put in the effort.

I’ve recently made a 5 year plan that includes becoming more proactive about my health. I can’t control everything in life, but I don’t want to abdicate responsibility for myself either. And if the day comes that I can’t afford a trainer, I hope by then to have developed the ability to keep going on my own. While I have this gift, I will enjoy it to the full.

One interesting benefit: making this decision and implementing it seems to have energized me in surprising ways. For instance, I’m also working on other parts of my 5 year plan with an unexpected sense of ease and confidence. Has anyone else experienced this kind of synergistic connection between different spheres of life?

PS I am using synergy here in both its root and spiritual meanings: that is, (root) working together, as well as (spiritual) the idea that regeneration is effected by a combination of human will and divine grace. I kind of like that image. It suggests creating a vision of a healthy life rather than just a mechanical plan.

                                                                          -Lynne Berrett

 

November 1, 2007

LIFE AFTER 50: WHO KNEW?

Filed under: Personal Growth — by thepearlchronicles @ 6:31 pm

Life after 50 has been a delightful surprise so far!  That isn’t to say that I don’t have stress and challenges;  in fact, I’m discovering interesting challenges that come with aging.  But I am aware that I am better prepared to meet challenges that ever before.  Without knowing it, I have been preparing for this “third age” all of my life.  I am more self-aware, more resilient, more knowledgeable and more resourceful than ever before.  I have terrific support from a diverse and amazing social network.  I am up for the challenge, and I intend to make the most of it!

The “third age” refers to that phase of life when we become an elder, one of the experienced mature members of our tribe.  Being an elder implies that I have collected up pearls of experience that are valuable to me, as I create the rest of my life, and valuable to other tribe members who could benefit from my hard won wisdom.  Being an elder today is different from “elder experience” in the past.  I expect to live longer as an elder, and to have greater freedom in choosing my path through maturity to my final destination.  I intend for this part of the journey to be emergent and creative.  I intend for it to be meaningful and intrinsically satisfying.  I will savor the treasured times along the way, perhaps even the challenges.  I often find myself in a creative flow that requires no particular effort.  I am aware of ways that I promote this flow and cooperate with it as it happens.  It feels great!  It’s so different from the struggle and effort I associate with my life when I was younger.

So here I am, aging along.  And so far, it is just fine with me.  A few years ago a young psychotherapy client asked me, “Are you a mom or a grandma?”  It scrambled my brain:  I was a mom but my chldren were grown,and I am not yet an official grandmother, so where did I belong?  Today I am less defined by roles.  I am, more than ever before, fully and completely ME!  That’s a valuable pearl in itself.

                                                                              -Marcia McConnell Ranch

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