Archive for Aging

Choosing Happiness

pexels-photo-320007Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear (p. 141.)

This quote is from The Untethered Soul’s chapter entitled “The Path of Unconditional Happiness.”

Sounds simple? Maybe simplistic? All you have to do is maintain your determination to be happy regardless of what happens. That’s what spiritual guide Michael Singer tells us.

Okay, I thought, I’ll give it a try. I’ll experiment with a new way of being. For thirty years as a psychotherapist I’ve delved into the underlying causes of human moods. Early childhood’s adverse experiences are known to be responsible for most of our anxiety and depression, as well as our inability to get what we want and need from life.

Here was something totally different, a prescription for disregarding emotions and thoughts. Instead of going into the feeling state to mine its message, I was being advised to breathe deeply, relax and let go of the fear or worry disturbing my peace. It was a revolutionary way of reaching the goal of happiness. Could something so simple really work?

I set out determined to test this new approach. My inner critic voice seized the opportunity to poke fun at me. Oh sure, it was saying, just decide to be happy and wipe out a lifetime of hurts and habits. Still, I was feeling pretty good. I took a deep breath and released the scolding into the atmosphere. Energy is neutral, neither good nor bad. I was releasing energy into the source of the Great Energy that connects us all.

Everything went pretty well that morning as I drove around town grocery shopping and doing routine errands. When I paused too long at a red light, not realizing it had turned green, the guy behind me honked his horn and made a very rude gesture. I was about to get upset. But wait, I had a better way. I could relax, release the emotion into the universal energy and remain happy. I kept him waiting another minute while I cleared my inner messiness. It worked: for me at least.

I was hopeful and surprised at the effectiveness of this new/ancient way of handling stress. Back home, I went to my computer to write about this amazing new experience. That’s when I met with an insurmountable block to my happiness. I could be happy as long as my inability to deal with technology wasn’t exposed. That was a gaping wound, one of those situations I can’t handle.

My internet was not available. Something was unplugged or unpaid for. This sort of technical problem completely disarms me. I was on my own. I became so upset I began seriously questioning the wisdom of having left my marriage. Could I function without a man to deal with technical problems? There was no computer-savvy husband to turn to. I felt alone and vulnerable.

As the day went on, the happiness-threatening situation grew worse. I’d just installed two portable air conditioners in my apartment. One was in the bedroom: the other in the living area. Agitated and unnerved by the internet disaster, I realized my feet were wet. What?! I looked down and saw water pooling on the living room floor. I rushed to the bedroom. Water was puddling there too.

Somewhere I’d got the idea I had to buy little garden hoses to run the water resulting from cooling into white plastic basins. The trouble was, the little white basins didn’t hold enough water. I was completely unnerved.

Breathe, for heavens’ sake, I told myself. Send the hysteria into the universal pool of energy.

It was almost a week later that a technician came to my rescue. Guess what? I didn’t need those garden hoses. Modern air conditioners somehow turn all that water into condensation and spew it out the white tubing vented through the window to the outside.

A husband would have known that.

Divorce at 73

Read about Patricia Kirk’s experience with late-life divorce:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/getting-a-divorce-at-age-73-helped-me-turn-my-lifearound/article35574801/

Divorce Photo

Contest: Name My Website!

Aging and Taking Charge of Your Life: that’s the current title of my webpage. I chose those words when I was leaving my marriage of 54 ½ years. Determining my own path and living the life I wanted loomed large in my mind. Clearly I was determined to take charge of my life.

A year and a half has gone by since I struck out on my own. I’ve faced many challenges I’d never have tackled as a married woman. Deciding where to live and signing a lease, negotiating a loan for a new car, dealing with the bank and making major decisions. All of these were shared tasks when I was married. As a single person, there is no partner to help carry out the chores and decisions of normal adult life.

Interestingly, the title Aging and Staying in Charge of My Life no longer feels meaningful. I’ve changed. That’s why I need a new title. I am no longer of the opinion that taking charge is right for me. In fact, my current life path teaches me not to wish things were different from what they are. “Things are what they are,” goes the wisdom. We are part of an energy that pervades all beings and all life. It’s not our place to decide what should happen. Trying to order our world so as not to stir our innate fear of living makes no sense. What we need to change is what’s inside us: and this happens by relaxing, not by striving.

My awakened awareness came last winter when I visited San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Naturally, I headed for the local yoga centre where they were offering meditation classes. I signed up and headed for a comfortable couch in a circle of a dozen other meditators. The particular practice was called Non-Dual Meditation. Listening to the lectures, I found myself taken back to a very old place where I’d been when I was in my 30’s and Swami Radha was my spiritual teacher. These were her teachings, but this time I was listening with the ears, heart and life experience of an older woman. This was exciting!

Non-Dual Meditation reflects the findings of Quantum Physics. (Nothing is fixed and solid, including us humans. We are all connected through the same universal energy.) Insights and ideas scrambled furiously in my brain and in my memory. My fellow Unitarian Universalists refer to “the interconnectedness” of all beings. Eugene Gendlin describes Focusing’s felt sense as: Your physically felt body is part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other people – in fact the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is your body as it is felt from the inside.

All my beliefs, understandings and practices were coming together in this whole new path. I was excited!

Image result for the untethered soul michael singerSince returning home to Canada, The Untethered Soul: the journey beyond yourself by Michael A. Singer has guided me in this new stage of my journey. It is a straight forward guide to living life more fully through mindfulness and letting go of self-consciousness. I’ll tell you more about this in future posts.

Meanwhile, I’ll make you an offer. Whoever sends me the winning title for my webpage will receive – free – a copy of this remarkable book. I’m looking forward to your suggestions and, as always your comments on what I’ve written.

Second Time Around; A heart-warming film about passion in a retirement home

pexels-photo-269140 As I write this, I’m in Toronto visiting people and places I left behind when I moved to Kingston almost two years ago. I’m surprised to find I’ve adapted in many ways to living in a smaller city. I’m no longer a big city woman. Here’s a typical scene of what happens, now that I’m accustomed to Kingston’s ways.

The film I wanted to see was showing at the Canada Square movie theatre. I was fortunate to be in town for a special showing. Along with a cluster of other people, I was standing in front of the closed glass panels of the Canada Square movie theatre. It was not a usual time for films to start and so they were shutting out the public. A handful of us stood idly waiting to be let into the theatre.

Then I realized something was wrong. There was tension around me. People were avoiding eye contact with me. They looked nervous. Oh! Then I realized! I’d been chatting to the folks standing around me. That’s what people do in Kingston. Here in Toronto it makes people uneasy. If you’re strange enough to talk to strangers, goodness knows what you might do next.

I determined to keep to myself until at last the way to the box office was cleared.

Before I moved to Kingston, when I was just visiting, I remember sitting in Starbucks when a man said hello and sat down near me. My whole spine tensed. What did he want? What was he selling? Then I realized that in Kingston people don’t feel a need to guard their personal space the way big city folk shut out strangers. Seems we humans can handle only so much intrusion into our personal space.

………………….

pexels-photo-233223At last we were let into the box office. And now – to the movie. What awaited me in the darkened theatre was a real treat. The screenplay is written and produced by Sherry Soules and Leon Marr. Sherry is a friend and former neighbour. For years, I’ve admired and respected her courage in wanting to tell the story of residents in a nursing home who find love and intimacy in their advanced years. And here it was, playing in major theatres!

The female lead, played by Linda Thorson, is an elegant woman with a passion for opera. Leaving a performance at the opera house, she falls, breaks a hip and ends up convalescing in the retirement home. She’s not happy about being there and assures fellow residents that she won’t be staying long.

Another resident, an elderly Jewish tailor (Stuart Margolian) proves to be her match. He too loves opera. He begins by mending her skirt and ends by falling in love with her. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it’s very satisfying.

The movie’s was shot in an actual retirement home and the characters are so true to life that they look like actual residents, although they’re played by professional actors.

It’s very satisfying to see older people portrayed as intelligent, attractive personalities. So often characters older serve for comic relief or are seen as pathetic, doddering old wrecks.

When the credits roll on – and on – and on – after the film, you’ll see some familiar names from the past if you’re old enough to remember these actors. They’re now aged enough to play the role of retirement home residents. You’ll also be made aware of the enormous amount of effort that went into making this film. Again, I appreciate and thank Sherry and her colleagues for this remarkable and hopeful story.

Make sure you see it. There’s more information on the internet.

Who Am I? 1.2 % Neanderthal!?

clinic-doctor-health-hospitalThis is the fourth in a series of “who am I?” posts. My curiosity is a factor of aging. Now that I’m no longer distracted by professional challenges, family duties or the need to earn a living, I find myself pondering more and more the wonder of being human in this amazing world. How is it that I fall asleep for eight ours each night and waken in the morning, oblivious to what’s happened during the night? How do I continue breathing twenty-four hours a day, even though “I” am not doing the breathing?

Recently I started wondering about how we, as the human race, developed.

If you’d asked me about my ancestry a few months ago, I’d have told you I’m the result of a long line of blond, blue-eyed men and women. My light-skinned forefathers and foremothers immigrated to Canada from England, Ireland and Scotland. They chose to settle in southwest Ontario. End of story.

That was before I sent my cheek swab and $100 to the National Geographic’s genome study. For my $100 they told me about other ancestors: those who predated written history.

Here’s what they said: My ancestry began in Africa. In fact, our whole human race originated on that warm continent. My particular group of ancestors migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago. They were the first group of modern humans to leave Africa. These early members of my tribe, who had dark skins, kept moving northward, eventually leaving the African continent completely. When they got to Europe they found a world that was covered in ice sheets. As the ice retreated they settled in whatever European lands were now habitable.

Life in a cold climate had its problem. Their dark skin blocked out too much of the weak sun’s vitamins. Over time, in order to survive in the cold their skin grew lighter and lighter so they could absorb Vitamin D.

Narrow noses replaced flared nostrils since breath had to be warmed before it hit the lungs. Of course, their relatives who remained in hot countries kept their dark skins and their physical adaptations to a hot climate.

78% of my ancestors ended in Great Britain and Ireland. 16% went to western and central Europe. The fascinating thing is this: my ancestors (and probably yours) weren’t the only inhabitants walking about on two legs. Our ancestors met with another hominin group, the Neanderthal. These two lines interbred. That’s how I ended up having a DNA of 1.2% Neanderthal. If your ancestors left sub-Saharan Africa for Europe and Asia, you too have some Neanderthal in your DNA. 2.1% is average. Interestingly, early humans who stayed in sub-Saharan Africa and did not migrate, have no Neanderthal DNA.

Other than finding I had Neanderthal ancestors in my lineage, there weren’t any big surprises: 12% Scandinavian, 9% Central European, 5% Southern European, 2 % Eastern European and 2% Jewish Diaspora.

Knowing the scientific history of our human species is important. How can we be racially biased now that we realize the colour of our skins results from adapting to the climate in which our ancestors lived? If some people remained dark-skinned in order to survive the blazing sun, while pale skinned people evolved to absorb sufficient energy from the sun, where’s the social judgment? We’re all the product of the human race’s ability to adapt in order to survive.

I’d like to hear from you. What do you think? Are you interested in having your own DNA analyzed? If you are, you can go to www.genographic.com.