Forever Young: Elder Awe

On June 5th, The New York Times ran a piece called “A Group Portrait of New York’s Oldest, Old,”  Instantly, Jonas Mekas, the last person profiled in this piece on elder-hood, became my hero.

At 92, Mr. Mekas lives entirely in the present, taking each day as it comes..He says he  doesn’t know what he’ll be dong when he gets up in the morning. He doesnt worry. He doesn’t believe in it. Yet, he’s no slouch. Indeed, he’s a producer and writer of films, who makes time each day to thoroughly enjoy his life.

He sees this as “Normal.” He claims that anything else is not. His doctor says he’ll live to be a hundred! I’m counting on it. For like Woody Allen in Annie Hall,”.I’m in “lerve”

As for “happiness,” Mekas believes it’s a sense of inner peace and balance where he isn’t anxious about what’s coming, but involved in what’s going on right here, right now. The title of his most recent film Out-Takes From the Life of A Happy Man. bears testament to the success of his philosophy.

For what could be more healing, more empowering, more youth-ifying than elder-hood as a proving ground for the salutory effect of being here now? In truth, Where Else Is There For Us To Be? 

Here’s an image you can use to experience life without grasping. To live with no agenda. To be part of the wonder of Now..

 The Bridge of Now**

Close your eyes, breathe out, and see yourself on a rope-bridge, made of separate pieces of wood tied together, stretching out ahead of you and behind you.

Know and live, that behind you lies the past.

Before you lies the future.

As you stand here, look toward the direction of past and see the pieces of wood falling away until there is nothing there.

Now  look toward the direction of the future and see the same thing happening.

See yourself standing here, knowing there is no past. There is no future. There is only this moment.

Stand in this moment and give thanks.  Then open your eyes.

 * Imagery from Dr. Fritz Jean-Noel 

*Credit to Dr. Melissa Abrams for tweaking me back into action

The Mystery of My History

Greenville, New York, is in the Catskill mountains, south of Albany.  While I lived in Vermont, I went there to visit a friend who was giving a watercolor workshop. I sprained my ankle either just before, or right after i arrived, and Eliot, the owner of the resort, carried me to the dining room from the carriage house we shared (my friend and I, not Eliot). I heard this story yesterday, via email, from this friend, with whom I’d lost touch for the past several years. Until now, I thought Greenville was a place in South Carolina (yes it’s in North Carolina as well, but you get the drift). I have no recall of my painful visit to Greenville. Nothing. Nada. None. My personal history is spotty at best.

Thank God for my friends. The “Rememberers of my life.” If I ever write a memoir, which, on occasion, I flirt with doing, my research will consist of interviews with the ones who remain —the keepers of my spotty, well worn past 
My exceedingly poor recall, of what to others seem significant events, is a decades old infirmity. Nothing to worry about. Actually. I cant worry about it. It slips my mind along with the rest. But this is good, right? It’s the cost of living in the present, making life seem less worrisome, making me feel slightly enlightened, more highly evolved. 
My painter friend signed off by saying she needed to pack. For what? Had she just told me, and  had I already forgotten? I wrote her back: “You’re  packing for what? You’re going where?”  Her answer set me off. She’s going to Greenville. Hmmm. That’s how this all started, isn’t it?
Not to worry. This is her life, not mine. I have enough trouble remembering where I put my reading glasses. 
If you’re immune to forgetting things, read no further. If you’re anything like me, here’s an image that may come in handy, should you remember to use it.

The Mystery of History

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re looking into the mirror of your past. See there a lost event of your life, one you are now able to remember. It could be anything, from the time you were born until now. Embrace it. Then Smile, and let it go.
What happens? How do you feel? Then open your eyes, knowing that now, and forever- more, the present moment is all there is.

Presto Change-O: Our Magical, Mystical DNA

On December 17, the New York Times ran a piece on How Exercise Changes Our DNA,” thus proposing we can affect our genetic makeup by how actively we live our lives.

Nice!  But we can go a lot further with this —  to that oft ignored, and invisible place where we know that our genes are affected not only by how we move our muscles but how we move our minds. That place where it’s possible to create a self fulfilling prophecy that is not a dream, not an illusion, but undeniably real.

A Body in Motion

The idea that we need to “Keep Moving” is  more essential to our vitality and health than we think. At a certain point, too many of us, myself included, set the more active phase of life aside. We think slowing down, sitting back, laying low, is natural. Just the way it is. Yet, If we choose the high road, believing instead, that we’re the pattern makers of our destinies, in both body and mind, how much more willing might we be to take part in sparking the creation of our lives?

Instead of men and women in their fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties falling apart, we might continue to alter the old, accepted pattern of decay to one of healthy growth and active engagement. Why not?

It’s Epi-ge-What?

This is no pipe dream. It’s Epigenetics, a type of biology that studies changes in how a gene expresses itself when it’s influenced by events above and beyond the gene itself, such as environment, experience, beliefs, and images — events other than specific changes in the underlying DNA sequence — hence the term epi-genetics (from the Greek for over, above, outer). Although these influences from outside and above don’t change the underlying sequence of our DNA (i.e. our hard drive), they do cause our genes to function, or “to express themselves” in a different way. And these new genetic expressions, once created, need not stop. They can be passed along to future generations.Holy moley. Shazaam. And so forth.

The science of using outside behavior and our innermost thoughts to affect what’s going  on, on the inside, may, in another twenty years, inform the way we live our lives. At least for those who want to live better, healthier, happier and longer.

A client of mine, a psychiatric nurse/dancer worked with patients in a large Manhattan hospital, where she managed to get a donation of tap shoes and started holding tap classes twice a week for the patients. The “short of it” is it changed their mood, and the way they thought and behaved. The “long of it” is the change extended into all areas of their lives. Sadly, they left their tapping and the concurrent changes it wrought, behind when they left the hospital.

Imagine what might have happened had they not.

Tapping it Forward

So let’s keep tapping. Never stop. Our bodies and minds are the laboratories of both our personal  and universal futures.Imagine! Happier, healthier, more engaged generations to come, living happier, healthier, more engaged lives. Genetic engineering at it’s best! Not a bad thought, not bad at all. . .

 * * *


Aging in Real Time

Bill Maher’s recent commentary  on “Real Time,” featured a photo of a lovely young woman, definitely a head turner. That photo was of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yes. That Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

We all start out young. We may even start out beautiful. Then we age, and get less young, and less beautiful. No matter how we struggle, there’s no way around it, . And though some manage to stay younger longer— I got carded when I was fifty. Now, cab drivers ask my advice about Medicare— the truth is, it all goes. And goes and goes and goes.

Botox and surgery have their limits. And those who indulge take the risk of looking pathetically “plastic.” Is it worth it? Ask some of our face-lift royalty.Though tempted, I won’t name names. But I’ll bet there are  more than a few regrets.

Held hostage to our American prejudice 

So what holds us hostage to this unholy American prejudice of “ageism”?  What makes us hand over our power and possibility while trying to hang onto something that’s guaranteed to be fleeting, no matter what? And why are the young so bent on labeling their elders as irrelevant?

Yes. The young are younger. That comes with the territory. But they lack experience and wisdom. And despite the sexy iPhone appendages that bind them to overloads of unnecessary information, wisdom is not their forte.

Starting at the top

My daughter is a civil engineer. She’s been one for 25 years. She’s paid her dues and still pays them, daily. She finds it absurd that newcomers to the business question the need for them to pay theirs’. They want to start at the top.  To do  her job, right here. right now. They think they are ready. Clearly, they’re not!

The invaluable payoff in aging

FDR, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson, got so much done since beyond being smart and canny they were old enough to know what they were doing! There’s an invaluable pay off in that. It’s time we stop our pointless groveling at the shaky altar of youth, give age it’s due, and let it roll. The following image may come in handy if you’re so inclined. .

Golden Age

Breathe out one time and see, sense and feel the golden mantle of maturity as it settles about you. Know and live the wisdom of the ages woven into its cloth. Lovingly pass this along to those who come after you. Give thanks for this privilege.  And then breathe out and open your eyes.




Word Power

The night before she died, Joan Rivers performed at a club in New York and spoke these darkly prophetic words:

 ”I’m 81 — I could go at any moment, I could fall over right here and you all could say, ‘I was there!’”

She was off by only a hair”s breadth. And she was far too close for comfort. Yet as she riffed on death, death seemed a million miles away. One big joke. But the universe had other things in mind. Things for which Rivers failed to account. Like the fact that the power of Words is great, indeed, and not to be joked with. Unless it’s okay if the joke’s on you.

Coincidence? I don’t believe in it. Bad luck? I think not. Randomness, Chaos? Too easy. Too pat. A poor excuse.

Existence Vibrates, So Do Words 

Existence is vibration. We exist, inside and out, of what we think, say, and do. Everything: you, me them, the street you stand on, the chair you sit in,  the food you eat, carrots, chocolate, potatoes, and steak, the color of your shirt,  boiling water, ice water, still water, the sound of music, pain, pleasure, birth and death.  It’s all vibrating, moving, open and susceptible to our thoughts. Certainly to our words. Remember: First there was the Word.This is not witchcraft, or woo woo, or new age feel good. This is science. Go. Look it up. Go Check it out.

My Christian Scientist Aunt Warned Me

So we had best watch it. Watch what we think. What we say. Not be so cavalier. Not unless we’re disinterested passersby, alien presences in a world, strangely and  invisibly connected. When I was a child my Aunt Roy, the Christian Scientist,  insisted I not say “hate.” I thought she was being silly. It was only a word. As an adult, I see she was right. I stop myself when that word comes sailing out of my mouth. I try not to use it. For when I do, it reverberates in my consciousness for hours.

I wish that Joan had said something else. I wish for once she hadn’t been too big for her bloomers. Though I  disliked her cruel edge,  her craving for worshipful attention, I was in love with how she could make me laugh. She was smart as a whip. The best at what she did. And she did it easily and often.

Rest in peace Ms. Rivers. And the next time around, Please! May you draw the line when it comes to laughing out loud at death. Especially your own.