The Gift Of Slowing Down: A Midlife Lesson On Mindful Aging
I recently had a relatively minor outpatient surgery. Though I fully expected to be up and running like normal by the afternoon of my surgery, and back to work the next day, instead, I found myself dizzy, nauseous, and in pain.
I’m 42 years old, and because I fully believe in the power of words, I avoid giving voice to that O-word thought which likes to creep into my psyche (I’m definitely NOT old!). Yet I’m finally starting to admit to myself and others that there’s an unmistakable shift that seems to happen to our bodies around the onset of our early forties, even to the most health-conscious and mindful among us. And I pride myself on being one of those mindful people.
Health is important
My long-fought battle to achieve a level of mindful self-care for my body, mind, and spirit wasn’t always my way of my life. It took a health scare and a serious bout with adrenal fatigue in my 30s to jolt me into the awareness that I was neglecting my well-being at dangerous levels. I overhauled many of my bad habits, but apparently, I missed an important piece of the mindful health puzzle.
My husband has been alluding to this shift since he turned 40 almost a decade ago. I’ve listened to him, but I haven’t truly heard his message. As proof, days after my surgery I found myself not only still assuming I should already feel better, but also lamenting all the activities that had to be put on hold, all that time spent sleeping instead of doing things, all the mental energy spent trying to simply keep my head up for my much-needed recovery.
Slowly, hesitantly, a deeper truth began to take root.
In being truly mindful, we must also make room for an awareness that our bodies naturally change. Their needs change. And as with all cycles of life, we must accept and change with them. And that just might mean slowing down.
It’s okay to slow down
In other words, being mindful doesn’t inoculate us from the trappings of aging. In fact, we aren’t truly practicing mindfulness when we neglect awareness in furious pursuit of wellness at all costs. And yet, we still resist slowing down.
What’s so wrong with slowing down anyway? I mean, we only have to deny every external message around us, messages which lead us to a deeper and deeper spiral of trying to keep up. No problem, right?
Except when it is. Except when our bodies say, “Enough!” Except when we know it’s what we must do.
When success is no longer measured by hours worked. When parenting is no longer judged by activities logged and parties hosted. When the work of staying alive is the very thing that’s slowly killing us, day by day.
These revelations come from the only place they can – within. From the place that reminds us, “Screw what the world says.” And asks us, “What does your gentle, breaking heart say? What does it really, truly want?”
Until we come to a new awareness, one that is entirely a product of our own inner knowing:
Our love, greater than any,
Our passion, unmatched
Yet we falter,
Our steps come out of sequence,
Each one like feet in quicksand
Shouldn’t it be easy
For those who have answered the call to love?
Shouldn’t a life of passion
Follow the most direct path?
And yet that passion keeps us fiery,
Out of balance,
Darting to this fire and the next,
Trying to put out each one simultaneously
While rejecting the fire inside,
That heat which fuels the drive to move at all,
And which inspires movement to continue,
The movement that is love,
Given selflessly to the world,
Yet heaped minimally on ourselves
Shouldn’t it be simpler
To love ourselves,
To fuel the fire within,
To stoke our own divinity?
Slow down, dear ones, and rest,
There is time for movement forward
And there is time for fighting fires;
The times spent freeing feet from quicksand
Has more forward momentum
Than actual movement often does
Relax, embrace the resting times,
The quiet times,
The times which feel like stagnation,
For these are our gifts too
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