Aging is a Choice
We are often confronted with a certain view of reality that other people have upheld and adopted before we did.
One of the best examples of how we create our realityis aging. Biological aging, which should not be confused with chronological aging, is a natural phenomenon that will affect every person at some stage in life; at least this is what we have been led to believe. Since everyone repeatedly tells us the same story, we begin to accept the ‘reality’ (of aging) and reinforce it through our personal experiences. So it must be true! But this does not explain why some people age much faster than others and why some do not seem to age at all.
It would be intriguing to find out what really determines our life span. Some of us may live up to 100 years or more without feeling old whereas others might die from ‘old age’ 50 years earlier. The ancient Indian sage Shankara who displayed extraordinary wisdom from the age of 8 saw the process of aging as being deeply rooted in a person’s own belief system. He said: “The only reason why people age and die is because they see other people age and die.” We all have more or less different viewpoints or opinions about the world as such. This may lead to varied perceptions of reality. What is the ‘truth’ for one person may not be relevant at all for another person, yet with regard to the ideas of aging and illness, we seem to agree with each other for we rarely step out of the main paradigm altogether.
To avoid looking for the real cause of decline with age, we prefer to believe in an invisible force that somehow and gradually programs our life to deteriorate according to a numbering system (from years 1-100…). It seems too far fetched for us to accept the idea that we may be causing the aging process ourselves. Do we perhaps give ourselves the (unconscious) permission to age because this lets us off the hook to take responsibility for our own life and that of other people?
Who Ages, Who Doesn’t?
The mind/body connection is at work as long as we live. This is also true in the case of aging. If you believe that your biological age is 60 today because you have had 60 birthdays and that you are soon ready for your pension, then you are likely to be in the process of adjusting your biological age to your psychological one. This means that your biological organism may soon be as old as you believe it should be. When you become aware of the regular automatic ‘servicing’ that renews your body (each year 98 percent of the atoms of your body are turned over) and you are not afraid of aging either, you will find it difficult to age in the negative sense of the word.
People in poor relationships or those living in social isolation, those who create stress and worry in their lives, whose lifestyle (overeating, alcohol, tobacco, drugs etc.) is unnatural, or who have no purpose in life, age fast. Those who put themselves first in everything are also known to be prone to accelerated aging. People who suddenly lose their purpose in life are known to age and die very quickly.
By contrast, individuals who care about their health, who often think how they can be of help to others and the world, and who are in a secure and loving relationship, are known to halt the aging process and maintain their youthfulness. According to research studies, those who meditate regularly at least twice a day for 15-20 minutes can reduce their biological age by 12-15 years within five years. Similar results have been demonstrated among those practicing other forms of relaxation as well as yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Kung etc.
Locusts, too, have a physical body, yet they can live forever if nobody kills them. Their secret is that they change their bodies once a day. We, too, replace our proteins, which are the building blocks of our cells, within 2-10 days. Why should we age, when our ‘replacements’ are as good as the old ones? Locusts do not suffer from stress in their lives, nor do they smoke, watch television, and eat more than they need or count their years of age. What about redwood trees? They can live from 6,000-10,000 years. Trees have no reason to believe that aging is a necessary part of their life.
We believe, however, that it must be different with us humans. It is true; we are not trees or locusts. Yet there is no rational, scientific reason to show that aging is a natural part of human evolution. Even the science of aging has not yet come up with a consistent theory that could explain why we age. Aging should not be confused with death. Nobody dies from old age but from other reasons such as accidents or illness. Aging is usually equated with a loss of vigor, physical strength and mental abilities. Accordingly, everyone who grows in age should be suffering from such or similar debilities. Yet this defies the reality of thousands of old people around the world who remain in good health throughout their lives.
Most people who live very long lives come from the Himalayas, the state of Georgia in the former Soviet Union, The Hunza mountains, Japan, the high Andes and other regions of the world where our idea of aging has not yet penetrated. One of our ‘rules’ of aging suggests that that it is normal to experience a deterioration of your eyesight after the age of 40 or 45. Yet societies who live in such isolated regions of the world as the Abkhazian Mountains of Southern Russia have completely contrary experiences. They are certainly not less human than we are. Abkhazians have their senses of vision and hearing in perfect condition at almost any age. People a hundred and more years old are seen swimming in ice-cold streams and riding on horseback. The elders (70, 80 or more years old) from certain tribes in Northern Mexico can run up to 60 miles a day without any sign of fatigue or exhaustion; they even show lower heart rates after their marathons than before.
These people rarely die from a disease. When their time has come they know it, and without making much of a fuss they experience the end of their lives with a profound sense of peace, accomplishment and fulfillment. Because their social systems honor old age more than any other ‘achievement’ does, they don’t regard death as a form of punishment. For these people, advanced age is synonymous to maturity, wisdom, a wealth of experience and a good reason to become older faster.
For many women in Western societies, menopause represents a mid-life crisis. In some societies of the Far East menopause is very rare and some women are still fertile at age 70. On the other hand, if it occurs early it must not necessarily indicate a physical imbalance or progressed state of aging. Menopause can signal a new phase of living, when maturity, wisdom and love get a chance to reach unprecedented heights. If a woman is convinced that menopause is bad for her or if she is afraid of the mid-life changes, she may indeed experience it as one of the most difficult periods of her life.