To Age Gracefully is the subject of a course I offer at the Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas from March 9th to the 13th. In those five days we will explore the challenges and blessings of growing older at any age. The philosophical and spiritual inspiration comes from the wisdom of Vedanta and the practices that help us create a lifestyle in accord with our stage in life from Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda.
I look forward to these daily workshops where we will discuss appropriate diet, exercise, relaxation, positive thinking and meditation. I will also be your teacher for the morning asana class adapting postures and accommodating for physical challenges. You will also join the Ashram schedule for the morning and evening meditation and some karma yoga or selfless service. There will also be free time for swimming or going for walks on the beautiful beach. Those of you who have been to the Retreat know how healing a stay in the Ashram can be. So join me for this event. I look forward seeing you again.
As a short introduction to some of the themes I will talk about I am reprinting an article I posted last year titled “Young for ever”.
“Young for ever” is the new anthem of my generation. As a baby boomer I have had it pretty easy so who would not like to keep the good times going? Every time someone remarks I don’t look my age I join my generation’s belief that I can defy the passage of time and keep it in mind when choosing clothes and hair style. Medicine and cosmetics also promise ever lasting youth through many pills, supplements and procedures. We are a generation intensely hyperactive, on a permanent quest to learn and better ourselves. Many of my friends in their seventies and eighties take new courses, learn foreign languages and travel to the “1000 places that must be seen in one’s lifetime”. Of course it’s all wonderful but I question sometimes the motivation behind that flurry of projects, the urgency not to miss the next activity or product. It is said that boredom is the worst enemy of old age after fear of sickness and death. Boredom, that old demon hidden easily during our active years, sticks now its ugly head.
In our quest to remain forever young could we be missing a very important stage in our life? The Greeks called it the “great age”. So how do I embrace my great age? Letting go is a start. Nobody likes a fool old woman or man hanging on obsessively to old memories. Letting go, that pending subject, becomes at this stage a necessity if I want to remain sane. But once I let go of much of the running around that kept me busy in the past I find myself with… time. Bertrand Russell said that idleness is one of the privileges of old age. Indeed, it is a privilege to have time. I can play with time and stretch it in the pleasant company of good friends, for example, or I can transcend it watching in awe a beautiful landscape. When I was young I fought constantly with time and the rhythms of nature which I always found slower than my schedules but now because I have time I can slow down and finally enjoy being rather than doing. The result is that I am more present, it’s better for my health and I am more aesthetically graceful. Yes! more beautiful. Real idleness of course needs patience, another of those virtues that used to escape me. Through patience we get at the heart of compassion and love so, who said something was lost by aging?
Epicurus was convinced that the great age was the zenith of life, its best moment. This quote is attributed to him: “It is not the young man who is happy but rather the old man who has lived well. The young man, full of vigor, makes many mistakes while the old man has safely reached the harbor and anchored his goods with the means of gratitude.” Yes, indeed, I can look at my anchored ship in the harbor as I sit in a small café enjoying contently the Mediterranean sun, something I was not quite able to do till recently. Plato also was convinced that the great age is the ideal time to study philosophy. Interestingly enough, a study from U. of California in San Diego* says that, neurologically, a slower brain is a wiser brain because those parts of the brain connected with abstract and philosophical thinking are free from the disturbing effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine, therefore someone older is less impulsive and subject to emotions. It’s good to know that I am not hooked on dopamine any longer. The truth is that now I think differently and, honestly, I don’t feel short-changed. It’s all good.