Living Well And Aging Gracefully
“Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live once. Be comfortable with growing older” -Louise Hay
It is nothing more beautiful than looking into the eyes of wise elders who have birthed generations and aged gracefully with love, peace, and dignity. The marks of time are apparent on their faces, like rings of a mighty oak tree, that measures the test of time weathering of life’s storms. The experience of love, joy, pain, and sorrow is inevitable and reflected throughout the seasons of life. Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House” captures the essence of our human existence, “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. a joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Perhaps we all have memories of those who aged well. My beloved grandmother, through the years, was selfless, loving, vibrant, and talkative. As she aged, she talked less, observed more; but when she would speak, her words were profound. Echoes of her voice remain in my heart and as a source of guidance in my daily life. During my time spent in the East, I observed the reverence and respect for elders, many of whom I had the opportunity to spend quality time and listen intently to their wisdom, history of the land, and memorable stories.
Aging is an attitude. How we feel about ourselves and our beliefs about aging will have an effect on whether we age gracefully and flourish or regard it as a degenerative process fraught with negativity. In Western society, we are heavily influenced by societal attitudes of beauty and youth. Many struggle to defy nature and the natural process of aging being mass consumers of anti-aging products and costly and painful surgical procedures to be regarded as having timeless beauty. At the core is a desire to be admired, accepted, feel worthy, and be loved. The radiant beauty of aging is reflected inside and out, not only through outward appearance but virtues of warmth and compassion.
Life is a gift and one that is an evolutionary journey. To become seasoned with age is to take the bitterness and sweetness of life with grace, feel good about who you really are, and dedicate yourself to maintaining a good life. By knowing yourself, caring for yourself, being appreciative, continuing to grow, creating wholesome relationships, and paying it forward, we can become energized and live interesting and useful lives for the good of ourselves and others.
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Knowing yourself is an on-going process of self-discovery and ultimately self-realization. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important. Our needs and life circumstances change over time and present opportunities for honest self-inventory to adapt and become who we aspire to be. Through gentle self-reflection and self-introspection, we can pose critical questions: “What lessons have I learned? Am I satisfied with my life as it is? What changes would I like to make to live my best life? What is keeping me from making the desired changes? Change is not easy but like the caterpillar, transforming its body through the struggles, we can eventually emerge like the butterfly with profound beauty and grace.
Care for yourself
Our well-being is the epitome of graceful living. It is our responsibility to love and care for ourselves. There is an interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit; and a holistic wellness program to nurture ourselves can help us maintain equilibrium, stay vibrant, and optimize functional capacity. Physical wellness encompasses respecting your body’s uniqueness and sustaining higher levels of health through proper sleep, diet, and exercise. Our body is an expression of physiological and personal evolution and should be treated with respect. It is important to pay attention to your body and recognize early signs of illness and discomfort and seek support from your healthcare practitioner to ameliorate potential problems. Emotional wellness is the degree to which one feels positive and enthusiastic about oneself and life. It is the capacity to manage one’s feelings and related behaviors, develop autonomy, cope with stress, and maintain satisfying relationships with others. Strategies to enhance emotional wellness include: Being optimistic, expressing your concerns in a healthy manner, reading positive literature, participating in wellness forums, spending time with friends and family, and being supportive of others. Spiritual wellness involves our values and beliefs that gives us meaning and purpose. The path to spiritual wellness may involve meditation, prayer, affirmation, gratitude practices, and spiritual rituals. Implementing a personal self-care program can focus our attention on caring and loving ourselves.
Appreciate the abundance of life. Loss and change are inevitable and part of the human condition. Through our experiences and circumstances, we can embrace the fullness of life. Everything serves a divine purpose for our evolution. Love who you are and strive to be your best. Each moment is an opportunity to make healthy choices. As we age, we move beyond the quest for worldly achievements, discern what is important, and appreciate the simplicity of life. Plato quotes, “Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity”. Move with the ebb and flow of the cycles of life and see change as opportunities for new beginnings.
Continue to grow
Life presents many opportunities for conscious awakening and transformation. Our lives can be transformed not only by catastrophic events but joyful and exhilarating experiences and encounters. Take advantage of opportunities to grow and use your creative inspiration to ignite your passion and purpose. Perhaps you are at a point in life where you have more time and freedom to pursue interests that lay dormant. Explore possibilities, let your heart be your guide, and take small steps. Whether it’s major milestones or small steps, chart your progress and celebrate your life.
Create wholesome relationships
Healthy and loving relationships are essential for a well-rounded life. Whether it is with family, friends or companions, it is important to foster healthy connections. Our relationships have varying levels of closeness and intimacy. Appreciate them all, even difficult ones that teach us best. Do you have relationships that have endured the test of time? What qualities sustain those relationships? Relationships that are mutually reciprocal, based on authentic self-expression, trust, sincerity, and grounded in unconditional love are everlasting. As we age and evolve, we discern those that are outworn, unhealthy, and toxic. We cannot change others but we can make healthy choices to attract relationships that make us feel good. Exploration of interests, activities, and hobbies can result in the development of new friendships that are fun and pleasurable.
Paying it forward
There is so much richness and wisdom in aging gracefully. Selfless service is a way to make a difference and share our gifts. Mother Teresa quotes, “We can do no great things, but small things with great love”. Acts of loving-kindness create a ripple effect of change that impacts the consciousness of humanity. Simple acts of listening intently, offering a helping hand, smiling, and giving encouragement can be uplifting. Consider opportunities for volunteering, whether physical or providing online support, where you can make a difference. You cannot help others without helping yourself. Most importantly, find joy in whatever you choose to pay it forward. Leave your mark in the world and your voice of wisdom in the hearts of those you touch.
Aging gracefully is not something to be considered at a particular point in time. It is an ongoing process of preparation as we position ourselves for years to come. Renew your beliefs about aging and love who you are. Become seasoned with age. Learn from the wisdom of masters and elders and appreciate what they have added to your life. Love and accept yourself, nurture your inner being, and be grateful. Let your evolutionary journey of life transcend you to a higher level of well-being, and your life be a service and highest expression of love.
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