Thursday, August 25th, 2011

This month’s theme is about maintaining and improving the health of those who are of the Baby Boomer generation. There are tons and tons of resources that can give you recommendations on nutrition and supplements, specific exercise and stretching programs, and other wellness modalities like massage and acupuncture to increase longevity.

In this article however, you’ll discover a radical re-framing of the concept of aging, and a new definition of love.

Enjoy,
Alvin Tam, Founder Acrofit, http://www.acrofit.com/

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There is a common belief that we carry with us, either consciously, or subconsciously, that as we grow old, we become weaker and feebler. This unchallenged statement is so deep rooted, so perfunctory, that we accept this dictum as incontestable truth. Our slow, rotting decay is as dependable as the sun rising, as factual as an encyclopedia article. We are condemned by this collective supposition that growing old is withering away cell by cell, wasting away memory by memory.

But what if you were wrong? What if aging meant an increase in energy, a conservation of vitality, and a magnification of your joie de vivre? What if the mythical, elusive fountain of perpetual youth was not a magic elixir, but a series of carefully practiced habits that subtly sculpted the landscape of your senior years?

In my years of training and performing as a professional circus artist, I have been consistently astounded by one thing: the vibrancy of my teachers. My art is shaped by the passion and drive conveyed to me by my acrobatic mentors, who ranged from all corners of the globe, and spanned all ages. But the most impressive and memorable gurus were those who combined years of hardened wisdom with an irrepressible physical stamina. They were the teachers who could still show me how to flip, well into their senior years!

I recall Lu Yi, a celebrated Chinese acrobat, now 73 years old, doing handstands in the corner of the gym like he was drinking a cup of tea. His legs would rise effortlessly, his body settle into stillness – and stay – for minutes. Then there was my 65-year old Russian aerial coach Alexander, who, to demonstrate how to catch and throw a flyer, usually a young girl of 100 pounds, picked me up and threw me around like a rag doll. And of course there are the two South American brothers, well into their 50’s and 60’s still performing the Wheel of Death in Cirque du Soleil’s KA, whose lightning fast reflexes, jumps, and uncanny balance easily trump the agility of any 18-year old.

So it turns out that aging really is a question of the mind. And it is the mind that creates habits, so in a roundabout way, aging is partly a function of our habits, our way of thinking. You might readily protest – but cells die! Injuries beset life-sapping scars, mild illnesses spiral into crippling diseases, and the mind, oh the mind checks out through the back door as quick as a rabbit before the real pain of senility can rob you of any treasured memories.

It turns out that if you can still read this article, you have a chance. (Phew.) Since your mind governs your body, begin to create a new set of actionable items by which you’ll live. You don’t need to see yourself running marathons into your 80’s, climbing Mt. Everest in your 90’s, or fighting bare-knuckle in the octagon as the first centenarian. Your vision may help but your daily awareness of life-sapping habits is more crucial. Some tips on how you can change your life.

How many times have you agreed with someone that aging sucks? Or that after 40, life goes downhill? Or that your body just isn’t the same anymore when you were young? Every mindless acknowledgment of these statements is really the confirmation of the fear of impending decrepitness. These socially acceptable jokes are overlooked strikes against your chances of perpetuating a long life of high vitality and energy. Don’t accept them, don’t let them in. Let them pass and fall harmlessly by your side.

For example, the next time you recognize a life-sucking joke, don’t force the usual smile or chuckle so that you can laugh with the rest of the crowd. Just return a blank stare, with no reaction, and carry on with your day. And… voila… you have just deflected yet another arrow intended to take society, hook, line and sinker, down to the nursing home.

Perhaps you have a habit of saying something like “one more _______ won’t hurt me.” Fill in the blank – is it chocolate, cigarette, drug or mind-numbing panacea of choice? Consider that it’s not so much the substance you take that affects you but your attitude toward yourself. In that simple, seemingly innocent phrase is the assumption that the most important person in your life – you – doesn’t really matter anymore. If I showed up at your doorstep with a giant boxing glove, and told you that I was about to pack the hardest punch I could deliver to your temple, because one more _________ won’t hurt you, you’d look at me incredulously with disbelief, and say no. But how many times have you overridden your own sense of value and steamrolled your worth with just one more?

This article talks about aging. But it is really an article about loving yourself in greater depth, and in more expansive ways. Growing to a ripe old age may or may not be your aspiration, but living with vitality, stamina, and vigor without succumbing to the fearful tides of aging is actually a true and deep practice of loving yourself authentically and wholly. Loving yourself is the act of defending your mind and body against reactionary attacks by others who, out of unconscious will, try to drag you down into the muck and mire for extra company. Don’t go there.

So in the end it’s not about trying to live as long as we can or finding the potion for eternal youth. It’s about using the quality of our aging process as a barometer of our love for ourselves, a mirror to reflect the passion for our existence, and a diary of our brief experience here in this universe as human beings.

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A LIST OF 10 THINGS I DO TO LOVE MYSELF
1. Reduce or eliminate gluten or dairy in my diet.
2. Plan to die on my 300th birthday on September 26, 2274.
3. Moderate my intake of alcohol.
4. Pursue my passions relentlessly. If I lose them, I keep trying until I find them again.
5. Read constantly about what other people do to increase their health.
6. Trying to learn to control the ejaculatory response to maintain sexual vigor.
7. Breathe.
8. Exercise when my body is restless.
9. Stop exercising when my body is tired.
10. Fall in love over and over again with my wife and son.

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