|Sometimes, you see more by simply slowing down
“Seasoned adults” (my own term for seniors) are becoming more and more vivacious.
And many of us who are younger may be too busy to notice.
While we are running around getting things done, many of these seasoned adults are choosing to live their remaining lives to the fullest…and teaching themselves how to do so. But our own younger selves have become so blinded by stereotypes about aging we miss seeing the inner radiance so many of them attain. (If you Google “Aging Myths: 10 Common Misconceptions About Growing Older,” you will find an excellent article about these stereotypes in the Huffington Post.)
In Wendy Lustbader’s wonderful book, “The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older,” she talks about her mother-in-law needing all the strength to get down the stairs. But even as she was dying, she walked down those stairs as often as possible because she was choosing to live for that walk down the stairs.
As we made almost imperceptible progress down the sidewalk, she pointed out every garden ornament, artful decorations on mailboxes, each interesting texture on the bark of a tree.
I had never seen my neighborhood before – not like this – even though I had traversed this sidewalk countless times on other walks.
My wife’s 91-year old mother lives with us from January through March every year. (Her home is in Michigan, so we want to get her out of the snow.) We take daily walks together with our grand dogs. (We don’t have grandchildren yet so we take care of our children’s’ dogs during the day.) The slowness of her pace at first drove me wild, and I had to choose to suppress all the thoughts floating through my brain of the things I had to get done.
But suddenly she would stop, not because she was short of breath, but to get a better look at a rose. Eventually, I chose to put myself completely into the experience and let go of other concerns. How could I hurry a woman who has experienced 91 years of life?
Walking with her has now become like a prayer or a meditation. And you know what? I am choosing to do the same as I walk the same way through my business day…to be far more receptive to the people, the colors, the sounds, the tastes and everyone else around me.
This is what aging and getting closer to dying teaches us – to choose to live like our life depends on it.
As I grow older (I am 66 now), I find myself choosing to pay more and more attention to everything around me…not simply looking, but really seeing. I am also choosing to turn each ordinary day into one of gladness for still being among the living. And you can do this whether you are 16 or 106.
My mother-in-law reminds me of the gift it is to continue to be in the world. I welcome getting older because my capacity to enter into such vividness grows stronger every day.
So, how do you slow down to “smell the roses?” (I promised I would tell you at the end of this article.)
The answer is in the word “choose.” Do you know how many times I used the word choose (or its derivation) in this article: seven. Choosing is the key. Why? Because we know our brain believes everything we choose to tell it.
In fact, one of the foundations of cognitive psychology is that as you grow, everything, yes everything you are is based on what you tell yourself about yourself. You choose.
And then when you lock onto those new messages, like stopping to smell the roses, slowing down to look at a sunset, looking across the table and telling her how pretty she is…your brain will do everything it can to make those new messages real in your life.
Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. He can be contacted at 480-5007 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.anintelligentheart.com.