GET TO 80 IF YOU CAN (Maya Angelou)

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“Cougar – The Musical” – is a very funny off-broadway show about three women “over forty” who are looking for love.  I went with 2 baby boomer women friends, and as you can imagine it was campy and fun, and we laughed til we cried. But at its core this show is a very poignant look at love, loss, aging, wisdom and self-awareness, as these three women evolve.

We “boomers” are in a wonderful stage of our lives. Every decade you have lived is a blessing.  We’ve all lost people who died young.  So be grateful. When Maya Angelou was asked about her life recently, she reflected briefly on her 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, and when she got to her 80s (she is now 85) she said, “Oh yes, your 80s.  Get there if you can.” (Her new book, “Mom, Me and Mom.”)

It’s the journey that counts.  The “organ recital” of complaints, my heart, my liver, my joints, my back, my … may all be true but is it your only truth?  Are your ailments bigger than you, more than you? Do you struggle with them, and are you losing the battle?

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Take a moment to reflect on what you are learning from aging?  Remember that aging is like a mighty oak tree, which needed both sunshine and rain to make it grow. We need both love and suffering in this life to grow.  So when life sends you suffering, drink it into your roots, and allow it to make you stronger, wiser, and more beautiful.

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You may want to reflect on some or all of these questions and write your responses in your journal:

  1. What is a most important life lesson you have learned in the last 5 years that you did not know as a younger person? Has knowing it had a positive or negative effect on you?
  2. Is this a lesson that an elder tried to teach you, or something you discovered yourself? How/ why did you come to own it?
  3. What falsehood has exposed itself to you, as you have gained age and wisdom? What made you shed that belief? Has this had a positive or negative effect on you?
  4. How has change served you in your life?  Do you embrace or resist change?  Why? Why not?
  5. What are your fears about aging,  and what actions do you take to counteract these fears?   (make a simple list- we will come back to it over the next few months)—-example  heart disease– stopped eating red meat, walk a mile a day, etc., Depression got a therapist, meditate, walk a mile, etc.
  6. You may also list  fears for which you do not have a counteraction.

You may also want to add visual images to your journal.  Draw pictures, cut out and paste images from magazines.  Just have fun with it.

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So You Wanna Meditate

BASIC INSTRUCTION FOR ANY MEDITATION  (The Breath)

Starting With The Breath

We start with focusing on the breath to meditate because it is always with us and it is easy to focus on. We will learn to focus on other things such as sounds, the body, a mantra, and visualizations in the future. The breath is soothing to tune into because of it’s gentle ebb and flow.  The breath can also signal how tense or relaxed we are so it is a good starting place.

Preparation

  1. Choose a comfortable position where you will be uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes. You should be sitting straight, in a chair or cross-legged on the floor.  But don’t be in a lying down position because you may just get so relaxed you’ll fall asleep.
  2. Play soft music if you like.  You may also use ear plugs which may help focus on breath and dampen outside noises.

Shift From Thinking To Sensing

  1. Notice the sound-scape.
  2. Notice how your body feels and let it soften. Let your jaw drop and feel the muscles in your face relax.
  3. Take a deep breath and let out an audible sigh.  Repeat this several times.  

  Focus on the Breath

  1. Sense where you feel your breathing (chest, throat, nostrils, belly)
  2. On the out-breath, let your mind sink into that place.
  3. Feel the breath rise and fall, the body expand and contract.  Breathe naturally.
  4. Don’t try to control the breath, just let it do what it wants to do.

 Count The Breaths (5-10 breaths)

  1. Say the word “one” as you breath out, then “two” on the next out breath, and so on.
  2. Keep the counting going, even if you have other thoughts.
  3. Just acknowledge other thoughts and let them go.

Notice The Signs of  Your Body Relaxing

  1. Your limbs may feel heavy or still or light.
  2. You may notice tingling or pulsing of the skin.
  3. Aches and pains often become obvious.
  4. Breath becomes lighter and gentler.  Enjoy these feelings. 

Name The Distractions

  1. If a thought or sensation persistently distracts you, then try “naming it”.  Name the content, “work”  “headache”,  “Susan”,  “doctor”, “sadness”
  2. Let go of these distractions and refocus you attention back to the breath.
  3. Do this as often as necessary.

Emerge Slowly

  1. Have your eyes open for the last few seconds.
  2. Keep the breathing steady and your face soft.
  3. Realize you don’t have to speed up just because your eyes are open.
  4. Stay passive and enjoy the way you feel.
  5. Ask yourself, “Am I more relaxed and settled than when I started?”

LISTEN TO A GUIDED BREATH MEDITATION