The eighth lesson on the worksheet of Practices is all about how we find encouragement in this, our new age. Let me start with a quote from Dr. Bill Thomas: “We live in an age when older people are deemed worthy only to the degree that, in their thoughts and actions they resemble young people.”
We have learned that humans in ever stage of life can use encouragement. If you were an educator in your earlier years, you know how difficult life it is for middle school and high school age children. If you have been in criminal justice you know how fraught with danger the years 19-25 are especially for young men.
Our encouragement needs, include the courage to outgrow our adulthood and loosen up on the expectations we have of our minds and bodies. Being as an aging person vs the doing of the adult. The vigor and power of adults are not the only way to change the world or live you life. You have made it through that phase. The people who stay in denial too long about old age, end up not being emotionally prepared for the day it smacks them in the face (or the knee or the hip or the spot of cancer in an organ, or the number of funerals you start attending)
So, your assignment:
List the people you go to for encouragement. Hopefully there are at least three or four. Are you in regular contact with them? They need to be optimistic people who believe in the goodness of life–no toxics allowed. You want and need these people to reflect back to you the belief that you are competent and have potential to solve the issues that arise in the aging process.
You can also ask yourself about who comes to your for encouragement and how you are helping them.
As difficult as life can be, give yourself a pat on the back for just getting out of bed and moving forward. Pull deep from inside and know that you can do this!
The picture above is of Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado. One of the best things about living in Colorado is that beauty is all around you in nature. But nature only holds one type of beauty.
This exercise on the list of Practices is one of my favorite, and can be yours too, if you do that paying attention thing you don’t like to do.
List at least 5 things of beauty you have seen or personally witnessed in the past few days
Something beautiful stirs an emotion. Getting to a place in your life where you are able to label that emotion is a skill people have a difficult time learning. Today when I was visiting my friend Judy (who is very creative) we spied an old light (small lamp) that had been a TV light. It looked like a beach scene on a shelf where she keeps inspirational kitschy stuff. That piece is not beautiful like the picture above, but it helped drag a memory out of my brain about one of my aunts having one similar to it on the top of her TV in the late 1950’s. She would watch wrestling on Friday nights. No one else in my world did that, so it seemed a treat to watch Gorgeous George in the ring. He was called splendid. That memory was beautiful because of the wave of unexpected nostalgia it brought to my throat.
The pile of chopped vegetables in my kitchen is beautiful because I am making soup for a sick friend and she will say “excellent”, which is another way to say beautiful, lovely and handsome and the more diminutive, pretty.
Try your hand at listing some beauty that does not include leaves changing color, faces of your grandchildren or a winning lotto ticket.
With the thought that beauty is close to the word blessings,
Time to get back to work on practicing your best life. By now you can see that the basics call for paying attention, living in the moment and adjusting your attitude frequently while still being an authentic you. One of the phrases that frequently appear in less than literary fiction is “the smile did not quite make it to his eyes”. When you observe that in yourself or others you can bet the farm that the person is not sure of his/her authentic self.
In our age group, old people, we spent years playing our roles in society. Not the roles we chose necessarily, but what we were told early on to be, how to act and what to believe. Now, we all get to redefine ourselves. My hope is that we all chose to be kind and compassionate and tell our wisdom stories in a soft way so that our children’s children really hear them. That requires practice.
Look around you for several days and see if you can spot 5 acts of kindness that you are someone around you performs. (If it is appropriate, notice it and mention it aloud)
There is an issue for me with people giving money to get their name in a booklet about the organization. Not the billionaires who are setting an example, but the people who are full of ego and hubris. An act of kindness does not have to involve money or goods.
People to people, neighbor to neighbor, driver to driver or pedesterian, young people to the elder or infirm, mother or father to child and especially children to children will help us keep some type of civility alive.
I will be looking at the Costco parking lot and the Trader Joe’s to see if there is any kindness anywhere.
My trusty car, Karma, took me on a short break to see my brother and his wife who live a bit south of Durango, Co. It was a lovely drive both ways as you can see by the picture above from Kenosha Pass. Numerous deer were out and about on my drive home at dusk yesterday and the colors of fall all around.
While visiting my brother I asked if he had completed his homework from the last post. He brought up a point that had escaped me: some people have never thought about the traits they like about themselves. What also happened in the years he and I were growing up is that the concept of self-esteem was not even articulated as that. Unless you had parents or grandparents that praised you for an activity or sport or subject in school in which you excelled, you never thought about it much.
So, we are combining two of the exercises on the page of PRACTICES you are completing.
Fifth on the page
List 5 people for whom you are grateful…why do you appreciate them? Do you ever actually tell them?
I will tell you why I am grateful for my brother Steve, so he can see that there are 10 (at least) things to like about himself.
He is a kind, loving, loyal, smart, artist scientist, who leaves a small footprint on the earth, but a large print of smiles on all his friends, neighbors and family, who trust him with their lives. (And he loves his older sister, even though he used to kick her shins or pinch her arm)
Now, see how easy that was? Tomorrow, my individual grateful list will be sent to four more people who help me through this age of challenge.
Get outside to see Mother Nature in all her glory this week. Your body and soul will be grateful.
Number four on your list of introspective questions and practices is easy….for some of us. Some people can get to six or seven and then start with less than thoughtful answers. I am sure that will not be you, but just watch out for the tendency!
List, on paper or sticky notes, TEN things you like about yourself and post them where you can see them everyday. Because we become almost immune to our good qualities we forget we need to know them when the going is getting rough.
Take the list and move it around your house so it catches your attention for a while. Mine have changed over the years, but the top four are ones I could have named at age 12.
Please remember to try the morning- when -you- first- awake- exercise every day….it will become a habit or semi habit before you know it.
Sleep well you extra ordinary folks!
The practice from the worksheet next up will require you to actually remember large blocks of your life. Deeply remember the highlights, the lowlights, the patterns of your behavior and the environment in which you lived your life.
While most of us are never CEO’s of a large manufacturing company, we are the CEO of our life. You, as an elder, have effected hundred’s of thousands of people’s lives. Positively or negatively?
Third practice: Make a written list of at least 10 things you have done successfully at some point in your life. What long-term impact, either personally or in a larger way, have they had?
If you are thinking deeply, you will remember incidents that seem small, but are long-lasting. You may think of large projects you completed or social experiences that taught you about mistakes you never wanted to make again.
This practice gives your attention to your life and what you may still want to experience before your last breath is drawn.
Writing these down will help validate your memories.
If you have been setting your attitude each morning and think it is a worthwhile behavior to practice, here is the next one. A student of Buddhism will recognize this from readings and meditation study.
Show up and work–be mindful and alert about your life. This is not only a live-in- the- moment practice, but it is telling us to be full of intention about our life and then do more than just give it lip service. Don’t send in a substitute for the work, do it yourself with attention.
Put the first practice and this second one together and you have the basis for the remainder of the points. Attitude, Attitude, Attitude. Shifting attitude changes not only you, but the world.
Make sure your paper and pen are ready for the 3rd practice coming up in a couple of days.