Ben Fletcher blogs in Psychology Today about staying younger for longer. It’s the simple things we can do to avoid succumbing to age.
Ben regularly reminds himself that habits have a tendency to stop growth and interaction. He says it more succinctly, “Habits steal your life.” And while it’s important to remind ourselves that habits can be deadly, it’s more important to do things differently as a matter of course. Children love doing things differently. It’s fun. And that is one of the best things about being a grandparent, being with the young ones who are testing things and ideas as if the rules are flexible.
To stay younger for longer, try some difference in your life.
Question: What have you got to lose?
Answer: The sense of being old.
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I remember being 14 years old and having strange, intense pains in my legs. Yet, there was no visible cause. So, my parents took me to the family doctor who couldn’t find anything. He told my parents to “Relax. It’s probably just growing pains.”
“Growing pains?” I thought. “I’ve been growing for 14 years and growing pains were not present before. He must be wrong.” But he wasn’t. It was just growing pains.
Suffering emotional pain is a lot like growing pains. I’m not saying it’s just growing pains, but there are similarities. Often, our suffering is caused (or worsened) by our misunderstanding of a situation or clashing with an expectation we think we know is true.
Additionally, suffering comes from a grudge we won’t let go of, a lapse into victimization, a bad habit or lack of will to change. Like growing pains, these things may pass without any effort on our part. But it is more likely that these suffering pains will pass when we make effort and do at least two things:
1. Recognize our part in it and
2. Have willingness to let it go and live life differently.
I found that during my grief over the loss of my father, that committing anew to the entire scheme of life (including the loss of my father), was the tonic I needed for my emotional pain. Committing to life, all of life, proved that I had done at least two things: I admitted my part in the suffering and I used willingness to let go of the pain and live life differently.
It’s okay to take these two steps without assurance that you will have the inner strength to do it. That’s like going to a dance lesson with two left feet. (Two steps, two feet.) You strongly doubt you can be taught to dance, but you go to class and give it a good try. In a few weeks you can move in ways you didn’t think possible.
Suffering and grief call us to the dance of life. We can stay “home” and miss out, wondering if people are having a good time at the dance. Or we can go to life’s dance and be willing to let go of our grief to live life differently.
Did you miss the announcement that March 20th was the International Day of Happiness? I caught it on a blog that day. I’m not sure I needed to know it was designated so by the UN two years ago, because I was already committed.
Before I saw the blog post, I had been to the County Courthouse finishing up some “nasty” business. The clerk who had helped me before was unpleasant. “Do you have a copy,” she demanded? “Then give it to me! I need to stamp it.”
I handed her the copy. I thanked her for her help. “You’re done,” she uttered as she handed me the stamped copy. Then I wished her a good weekend.
Afterward, my personal agenda was interrupted by a phone caller who began issuing a prepared statement about his identity and purpose of his call. Just then my wife texted me, concerned that the dinner was burning. I politely stopped the caller and went to the stove to find dinner had started burning. I went back to the caller and told him that I had to interrupt because dinner was burning. We hung up and I gave him a pleasant goodbye.
Did I do that to imitate Dora Doormat? No. I did it because I wanted to add happiness to my life. I remade the rice without grumbling about the loss of food and my wife rescued the main course.
That dinner was delicious! It’s wonderful how choosing happiness boomerangs back and might land in your dinner.
I recently conferred with a marketing guru about readership of this blog. His advice: narrow down your focus.
I agree that the multiple foci of this blog, namely of “the meaning of life,” “commitment to the twelve essences of life,” and “Love, Understanding and Gratitude Energies,” is broad. Even love is too broad for some marketing professionals.
Is it love for animals? Love for IT? Because if it is, good marketing means narrowing it further to cats or cats of a particular breed. And instead of Microsoft or Linux, narrow it down to one program that runs on your favorite operating system. That’s the kind of narrow target that finds readers/ customers, they say.
This blog started as a focus on dealing with grief following the loss of my father. But the grief led me to insights about the meaning of life, how we are energies of Love, Understanding and Gratitude. I wrote a book on how commitment to life on its terms is the way to live fully. But I refuse to try to stick to one narrow topic, such as gratitude, even as powerful as gratitude is.
Have you ever noticed how closely Gratitude, Love and Understanding are connected? If we want to have full Gratitude, we need Love and Understanding for that object of our Gratitude. If we want to know Love, Gratitude and Understanding of the loved object are part of the whole picture. To follow Understanding, we must Love the thing we want to understand and have Gratitude for it.
So, no. Marketing principles notwithstanding, this blog will be about the whole enchilada, not just the sauce, cheese, meat, or tortilla.
Come to think of it, Life and its Meaning are funny things, too. We can’t lose sight of the big picture or our life will be lived with partial meaning, partial involvement and partial results. I want more. I want the whole picture. I want to know how Life fits together into a meaningful concept. I hope you readers do, too.
Life is the very best experience we could possibly dream of or experience. Particularly, life as a human being.
I remember when I was a young adult and “Life” was pretty much a struggle. I felt that I “had life” but, really, “Is that all there is? Work? Stress? Jockeying for better pay? Marriage trouble? Avoiding disaster? An occasional escape on vacation, only to return to the same hamster wheel? There’s just got to be more here.”
The truth is that that is all there is if all you have going for you is your ego, and you’re not connected with Life. All the ego-self can provide is that kind of striving against other egos, and often against the forces of Life.
What the ego doesn’t understand is that the point of Life is to be connected and in sync with Life. That’s when Life gets amazing, appreciated, precious and unbelievably good.
In my book, The Twelve Commitments to Life, I discuss how our experience with Life can be enhanced by listening to Life and its essential elements. These are beautifully simple concepts. Anybody can do them because they are built into our bodies and souls: love, awareness, consciousness, health, kindness…
A lot of people think they are not experiencing Life at its best unless they are conquering some mountain, falling out of a plane or doing something never accomplished before. Those are perfect examples of the ego-self in control, not knowing Life and how it works for us. Being in contest with Life’s forces, conquering or overcoming Life’s parameters is not being in synchrony with Life or having commitment to Life.
The difference between the “normal,” ego-centric view of Life and living from Life’s agenda is huge. The “normal view” is ego vs. Life and living creatures, the other is appreciation of and harmonizing with the best experience we can possibly dream of or know, Life as a human person… breath, relief, learning, arousal, balance, rest.
Got Life? Yes you do if you are committed to Life as it really is.
Have you ever wanted to move forward more quickly? I ask that because some people don’t want to move forward at all. They want to stay secure or move at a comfortable pace while the world goes by. You might even hear them say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But we have a compelling need to move forward because Life is taking us into what used to be “the future” in a way that seems faster and faster.
I think moving forward quickly can be rather scary, but I still want to remove the blocks that keep me resistant to moving at the speed of Life. I’ve been thinking about three such blocks because I have noticed them in myself and others and they come from a part of us that is immature and reactionary. Identifying them is the first step to removing them.
Motion blocker 1 is the feeling that because I just got turned down or got bad news that this means everything is at stake. Getting rejected in any form feels terrible, I know. But allowing the feeling of rejection to color the rest of our perception of Life and relationships is a surest way to sour them. But if we can observe ourselves coloring outside the lines, so to speak, we can start the clean up sooner.
Motion blocker 2 is the feeling (yes, another feeling) that what I don’t know will be forever difficult to learn or figure out. This is similar to writer’s block, eyeing a new skill or responsibility, test anxiety, et cetera. Here’s how life looks at it. “I hear you don’t know how to raise children. Ok. Here’s one (or two). You’ll get the hang of it.” Yes, it can sound that ridiculous, but that is how Life works. Later, you might look back, like my parents did, and wonder, “How did we ever do that?” So, don’t ever fear going forward without knowing all that will be required of you to know. Life trusts you, your parents, and even very poorly equipped parents. Trust yourself as much as Life does.
Motion blocker 3 is “thinking” that forward progress is highly unlikely given the players. This is where we look at our situation (or people in a situation we know about) and “decide” that it’s not going to get much better, if at all. This is a total lack of observation concerning how things change, improve or move forward. Life elements do not always move forward because we will it so, try hard to change it or even “let go and let God.”
Things do not require us to be willing to move forward because moving forward is not about human will. It is mostly about the unseen energies of Life. To understand how to move forward, we must drop expectations of our part, our understanding and our effort. We must just observe, knowing that observing has more influence than we could ever measure.
Observe all your forward movement, voluntary and involuntary. That is really the key. Otherwise, we are probably moving forward without trust or understanding. To observe is to grow in understanding (which is forward movement in itself), and in better harmony with those forces that make things happen.
Check out the disciplines of mindfulness or as Daniel Siegel calls it “mindsight.” It’s not that hard and the benefits are thrilling.
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I realize that in my last post, I used some self-deprecating comments like “I am only boringly normal.” But lest you think that I’m starting the new year on a depressive note, I am very grateful to be normal!
Firstly, I knew since I was young that my mental processes were slower than other kids. I was like my dad in that respect, a slow plodding thinker. I knew that I’d have to work harder than those with faster minds, so I made up my mind to work harder and longer. That way I’d be able to keep up with the normal ones.
I can see now that I did keep up in spite of my slower, more thorough pace. I may even be ever-so-slightly better than average. My health is very good. My skin looks several years younger than I am. My mind is sharp. (The A+ grades at school prove this.) I am not alone. (Better yet, I live with a wonderful, caring and somewhat indulgent, loving partner.)
Secondly, I stayed true to my values. Knowing I was slower, I still never tried to cover up for my pace with lies about my progress. Nor did I try to become someone that I am not in order to gain success. I am very much like the normal boy I was in grade school. But he was an even-tempered boy, creative and he liked to help.
Thirdly, my slowness got me into some accidents as a pedestrian/ bicyclist. I was hit by cars four times, with at least one concussion. As a result, I may be slower than I might be without the concussion, but I am not destroyed.
So I’m normal. Thank heaven!
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