Forgotten Wisdoms Of Ageing
Swept along by the speed and complexity, the stress and strain of everyday living, it is easy for the time-tested wisdoms that simplify and enrich life to be overlooked or forgotten. I'd like to remind you of two of them.
You Are More Than Your Body
In Amazing Ageing - The Psychological Survival Manual For Those Approaching Older Age (MX Publishing / available from Amazon) I remind the reader that they are more than their body. As the years roll on and the anti-ageing propaganda gains in both volume and momentum, we can be seduced into believing that getting older is all about physical decay and decline. There is a tsunami of advice on how to age well - the best diet; the right type of exercise; the latest therapies; rejuvenating yoga postures; the most pampering health spas; how to maintain a vigorous sex life while perfecting your golf swing, etc. Because you are more, much more, than your body, Amazing Ageing makes scant mention of the physical aspects of getting older.
You are not just a body, you have a mind and you are spirit. The mind, or what I call the 'inner you', is the part of you which includes your conscious and unconscious minds and acts as a sort of central controller. It is the ‘inner you’ that makes the difference to how well you age because it can change and grow even while the physical body is deteriorating. Your spirit, which I call Soul, is constant and enduring; it is the home of your wisdom, your creativity and altruistic love; it is where you experience a sense of oneness with the universe. Because it is unchanging and eternal, your Soul acts as an anchor keeping you steady as the currents of ageing eddy about you.
By working on your 'inner you' you can build sound psychological foundations which are so solid that you will be well equipped to cope with physical decline. This structure is built on four cornerstones and six pillars. The cornerstones are: Choice, Letting go, Acceptance, and Gratitude. The pillars are: Be Positive, Be Realistic, Take Action, Be Flexible, No Rules, and Be Resilient.
You Always Have A Choice
All four cornerstones are important, but, for me, the one which can make the greatest difference is Choice. You can choose. You always have a choice. It is easy to forget this as the social engagements in your diary are squeezed out by a seemingly unending round of medical, dental and optical appointments. You may not have a choice about whether you develop arthritis, but you can choose how you respond to being a person with arthritis. I was in my 40s when I realised fully and for the first time that I had choices, and it was this single paragraph that brought it home to me most forcibly:
"We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of his freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This is very powerful. However restricted or limiting your conditions may be, you have the freedom to choose how you will respond. You can make choices which are life-affirming, which focus on the good things that you have, and will have, in your life and on the gifts and talents you have been given; or you can choose to focus on lack and loss, on how badly off you are and how cruelly the world has treated you.
How To Do It?
I wrote Amazing Ageing because I wanted to share the results of my researches and my thinking into what were the characteristics which differentiated the sunny seniors from the Victor Meldrews. In the process I discovered there were remarkably few books on the psychological aspects of ageing, apart from dull-but-worthy tomes on psycho-gerontology, and almost none which were explicit about "how to do it". It is one thing to suggest to people that being positive is a beneficial attitude to have, but futile if no guidance is given on how to develop it.
Amazing Ageing is packed with a range of 'how to' exercises from the straightforward to the more challenging. Here are two very simple examples, one on how to develop gratitude and the other on how to let go:
Be Grateful For Every Moment: Be appreciative of everything as it happens. Consciously enjoy the cup of tea you are drinking - noticing its taste, its flavour, its colour, its texture - and be grateful that you have this drink.
Let Go By Just Sitting: Sit comfortably and quietly, making sure that you will be warm as your body cools down. Allow your body and mind to slow down and become still. Thoughts will come in and out of your mind, sounds will intrude from the outside, but do not hang on to them. Just let them drift by like clouds in the sky. Start by doing this for just a few minutes and then build up to just sitting for 10 or 15 minutes.
Remember - you are more than your body, and you always have a choice. One choice you could make right now is to work on strengthening your ' inner you'.
David Buswell's chief credential for writing Amazing Ageing is that he is in his 60s and wondering how to make the very best of the life that remains. He is a qualified Psychosynthesis counsellor, and a NLP Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and NLP Coach. Outside of his working life, David loves walking in the Northamptonshire countryside with his dog Charlie, is a pianist, organist and choir trainer, and has cycled from St Malo to Montpellier, and round the coast of Scotland from Glasgow to Inverness. Once.
Amazing Ageing £12.17 Amazon