Jun 29

Growing into Contemplative Seeing

Dualistic thinking is the well-practiced pattern of knowing most things by comparison. And for some reason, once you compare or label things (that is, “judge” them), you almost always conclude that one is good and the other is less good or even bad. In the first half of life, this provides ego boundaries and clear goals, which creates a nice clean “provisional personality.” But it is not close to the full picture that we call truth.

Dualistic thinking works only for a while to get us started, but if we are honest, it stops being helpful in most real-life situations. It is fine for teenagers to think that there is some moral or “supernatural” superiority to their chosen baseball team, their army, their ethnic group, or even their religion or gender; but one hopes that later in life they learn that such polarity is just an agreed-upon game. Your frame should grow larger as you move toward the Big Picture in which one God creates all and loves all, both Dodgers and Yankees, blacks and whites, Palestinians and Jews, gays and straights, Americans and Afghanis.

Non-dualistic thinking or both-and thinking is the benchmark of our growth into the second half of life. This more calm and contemplative seeing does not appear suddenly, but grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving, and forgiving reality. It emerges gradually as we learn to “incorporate the negative,” learn from what we used to exclude, or, as Jesus put it, “forgive our enemies” both within and without.

You no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, for or against. It just is what it is. This inner calm allows you to confront what must be confronted with even greater clarity and incisiveness. This stance is not at all passivity. It is, in fact, the essential link between true contemplation and skillful action. The big difference is that your small and petty self is now out of the way, and if God wants to use you or love you, which God always does, God’s chances are far better now!

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
pp. 146-148

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The Fosters

<iframe frameborder=”0″ width=”480″ height=”270″ src=”//www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x2c425n” allowfullscreen></iframe><br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2c425n_the-fosters-2013-season-2-episode-11-christmas-past-online-stream_tv” target=”_blank”>The Fosters (2013) Season 2 Episode 11…</a> <i>by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/bronizma23202″ target=”_blank”>bronizma23202</a></i>

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Oct 31

The 5 Things That Spook People Over 50

What to do about the scary stuff that makes middle-aged spines shiver posted by Donna Sapolin

Forget things that go bump in the night, global warming, Congressional paralysis, creepie crawlies and assault weapons. There are five other worries that make the hearts of middle-aged folks leap into their throats on a regular basis. The good news is it’s totally within our power to chase these evils away — or, at least, diminish their hold on us.

1. Declining memory Sporadic forgetfulness, slower reaction times and other glitches in cognitive processes can result from an aging brain. Some symptoms may point to dementia and Alzheimer’s; others shouldn’t trouble you.

On the bright side, the latest research tells us there are many things we can do to take advantage of the brain’s natural plasticity to reverse the aging process, sharpen our abilities and ward off debilitating brain disease. Examples:

Preserve mental health and acuity by engaging with the arts, particularly dance.
Eat less saturated fat from animal products, which cause the brain to produce beta-amyloid, a protein that contributes to Alzheimer’s. Instead we can consume brain-protecting foods like Vitamin E-rich nuts (about 1.5 ounces or 8 milligrams a day will do), vegetables, beans and a small amount of fruits and whole grains.
Exercise! Walking briskly just three times a week for an hour has been shown to boost the connectivity within brain circuits.
Get a good night’s sleep. A recent study, published in the journal Science, proves that during sleep the brain cleans out the toxic cellular waste products it creates during the day, thereby preventing their build-up. Remain curious, challenge yourself to learn new things and explore things you’re passionate about. By deepening knowledge and skills, we help our brains to thrive.

2. Increased loneliness and isolation Society is now afflicted with a growing isolation epidemic. More adults 50 and older are not only living longer, they’re living apart from family members, divorcing, and becoming separated or widowed. In addition, they begin interacting with fewer people, a fact of midlife.

But people who describe themselves as lonely are at far greater risk of developing dementia and other health problems. It’s vital that we seek out ways to engage with others. Here are some ways to do that:

Make new friends, both young and old. Sign up for classes, get active in social media platforms, hit the gym and join networking groups. Above, all, open your mind and heart to the possibility of fresh connections.
When retiring, think about living close to your friends and family members instead of moving far away, as so many people do.
Rehab your relationship dynamics by following Dr. Terri Orbuch’s (aka “the love doctor”) expert advice on Next Avenue. Overhauling unhealthy habits and participating in therapy sessions may be among life’s more difficult missions, but they can help you secure peace of mind and critical emotional nourishment.
Consider a communal living arrangement — the options are numerous and include co-housing, NORCs (Naturally Occuring Retirement Communities) and living with one or more roommates.
Mentor others. We can derive great satisfaction from passing on our knowledge and, in the process, forge enriching bonds.

(MORE: 9 Most Common Regrets of the Living and Dying — and What to Do About Them)

3. Big debts, little savings The 50+ crowd is facing a perfect storm: the prospect of living on a fixed income at the exact time that government entitlement benefits are at risk of being curtailed and health care needs and costs are soaring.

Many are counting on their ability to continue to work well into older age, yet they will need to sustain good health and secure employment despite the known difficulties of landing a job after the age of 55. Suggestions:

Analyze how much money you will need to retire and still be able to afford the lifestyle you expect. A good online calculator, like the Ballpark E$timate from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, can help.
Work on reducing debts, especially credit card bills, which carry high interest rates.
Prioritize saving. Evaluate all aspects of your lifestyle to see what you can cut back and then apply the ax. This may even mean downsizing your home. You should also contribute as much as possible to 401(k) accounts, reallocate your investments to reduce related fees and build a health care emergency fund.
Hire an astute financial adviser to help you devise a smart plan, which may include delaying Social Security benefits.
To find a job, implement these well-proven strategies: shorten your resumé and incorporate keywords into it, spend more time networking and less time using broad-based job boards and develop a strong, positive online presence.

4. Greater physical frailty and risk of illness The majority of us are carrying extra pounds; many have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol; and our knees, feet or back may be aching.

There’s no question that the aging process itself leads to increased frailty, but lifestyle behaviors magnify and accelerate health problems. Changing just a few of our habits can go a long way toward enhancing vitality and longevity. Here’s how:

Opt for a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes olive oil, fish, legumes, fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains — and vastly reduce your consumption of sugar and salt.
Try intermittent fasting, which provides enormous health benefits: Eat a Mediterranean diet (about 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day for men; 1,600 to 1,800 per day for women) five days a week and consume only a quarter of your usual calorie intake the other two (non-consecutive) days.
Sit less. Recent studies have shown that sitting more than three hours a day can cut life expectancy by two years even if you exercise regularly during the week. Get up at least a couple of times every hour when working at the computer or watching television and move around. Also, stand up while talking on the phone.
Instead of skipping your workout session because of aches and pains, learn how to adjust common exercises to accommodate your infirmities. To make exercise a priority, schedule your sessions in your calendar and find a workout buddy, which will help keep you motivated.
Reduce stress by practicing meditation, allowing yourself to focus on one task at a time, using relaxation apps and choosing to be happy.

(MORE: 30 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Die)

5. Death Every day, we get a step closer to “the end.” Although we are living longer than ever, by this point many of us have witnessed the passing of one or more loved ones and the final stage is all the more real and perhaps also scarier to us. To reduce your fear of death:

Take serious inventory: Think about how you would like to spend the second half of your life, what you would like to accomplish and what regrets you would like to resolve. Dr. Lissa Rankin advises that you be “unapologetically you.”
Connect with the most vibrant part of yourself — the child-like spirit that is endlessly curious, appreciates adventure and learning and dives readily into new things. Allow your dreams and passions to ignite you.
Practice forgiveness, which is about remembering and telling your story, confronting and absorbing it fully, refusing to give in to anger and revenge and holding on to your humanity.
Stop fighting your enemies. Anger and hostility and the underlying aspects of ourselves that fuel these emotions hold us captive. They are our worst enemies. We can transform our experiences with adversaries into deep learning experiences by recognizing that they are, in fact, our teachers.
Mend rifts with adult children and parents. Give up the need to be “right” and work on yourself (perhaps with the help of a professional counselor) to avoid repeating the same offenses. This will help you shape a new, healthier dynamic.

Remember, some of the fiends that haunt us are of our own making. But even if they aren’t, we can take action to bust the boogeymen.
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Oct 28

5 Secrets to Transform Your Experience of Aging

By Ed Merck from NextAvenue.org

My 15-year-old son Evan walked off the tennis court triumphantly, as if he had just won the U.S. Open. Up to that point, our matches had always ended in a tie: I made sure of that or, rather, I could make sure of that.

Now, toweling off while feeling an unfamiliar tug on my heart, I said to him, “Hey, Ev, did you ever wonder why the score always remained the same in our tennis matches over the years?” Then, in a suggestive whisper, I continued: “Maybe you could continue that trend — gracefully?” He didn’t respond, but I knew his answer. And it was deafening.

Walking back to the car, I was consumed by the thought that my relationship with Evan (and with my life generally) was clearly at a crossroads. Staying positive as I aged would require letting go of capacities that were diminishing and embracing ones that were expanding.

(MORE: Free E-Book: The Aging Well Revolution)

Easy transition? No! Gratifying? Mostly!

Here are five secrets I’ve learned along the way that helped turn my experience of aging from a sense of loss into a sense of gain:

1. Learn to accept what is. There is no end to the expanding benefits of embracing life on its own terms. If I hadn’t accepted my inevitable decline in physical acuity — the awareness of which began on the tennis court that day — it would have led to nothing but suffering. Instead, by refocusing my attention on supporting, even celebrating, my son’s physical ascension from boy to early manhood, I was able to walk away from “defeat” feeling relatively good.

This mindset shift allowed me to interpret the situation, and many others that have followed, as a smooth, downhill coast, rather than a long, uphill trudge. It really is as simple, and as difficult, as just accepting what is.

2. Engage risk. Complacency is the enemy of feeling alive and vibrant. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to unknowingly slide into what is safe and familiar, especially as we age.

(MORE: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Later Life)

Risk (and its kissing cousin, change) is the counterbalance, and must be willingly embraced or we wither on the vine. Make a commitment to move into something new that has an edge for you.

At 63, after divesting from my successful software business, I sold my house, moved out of my community, bought an ocean-going sailboat and with no destination in mind, began sailing up and down the east coast of America. Along the way, I experienced fiery romantic trails, a deepening bond with my son, emerging spiritual insights and the blaze of self-transformation.

Was it tough at times? You bet! Today, however, at 68, I feel alive and ten years younger. (That journey towards wholeness is captured in my recent memoir, Sailing the Mystery.)

3. Settle into your body and open your heart. Most of us spend years in the workplace perfecting our strategic minds, and essentially living in the future. But engaging ourselves with vitality and gusto in the years after working full-time requires that we more fully occupy our bodies and hearts, which root us in the present moment — the only place where we can feel truly connected to our life experience.

(MORE: Secrets From the Island Where People Forget to Die)

To practice, try engaging anything that is sensation-oriented such as exercise, sex, or even falling in love — and not just with another person, but with life itself.

My mother’s end of life was filled with fear, and drawn out over many years. At first I tried to mitigate her pain using talking strategies, which only exacerbated the frustration for both of us. Then, when in her presence, I began working on just breathing deeply and moving more into my heart. Overnight, the connection between us changed; we grew closer, her trust of me increased and I experienced again the heartfelt juice of our mother/son relationship. Most noticeably, her suffering — and mine — decreased.

4. Practice equanimity. Many spiritual paths embrace the state of equanimity as their end point; that blissful place of being engaged without reactivity. Muting our temptation to be judgmental (“I am right, she is wrong.”) is key. Try dropping fully into the moment with as much empathy as is available to you — over and over again.

Several weeks ago, my friend Jason went a week without answering my increasingly urgent texts. At first I took his silence personally, which made me feel uncomfortable. Then, a moment of grace occurred: I dropped into my heart and wondered if he was okay. Rather than projecting more negative scenarios, I placed a call to a mutual friend, only to find out that Jason’s phone had died a week ago.

5. Soften the edges of your identity. To paraphrase Carl Jung, we spend the first half of our lives building up a sense of “I” and the second half tearing it down. Inflexible trees snap in the wind. The more we protect who we think we are in the face of major life changes, the more we’re at odds with the natural flow.

So, let go, loosen up and don’t take yourself too seriously while learning to open yourself to the new you that emerges in every moment.

I was able to do that on the tennis court many years ago. Ever since, it has become the ultimate win/win for both Evan and me.
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Oct 17

Fashion and Aging

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Sep 24

Healthier Aging – Inside and Out

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