Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Three Ways to be a Spontaneous and Supremely Satisfied Senior Citizen

1.  Be Here Now

          One of the most popular sayings of many centered people is “be here now.” This phrase is the title of the influential book by Ram Dass, published in 1971, where he talks about yoga, spirituality and meditation during his travels through India. 

          To me, this phrase has always meant focusing on what is before me and keeping my attention on that which is happening at the moment in order to bring more of the experience into my life. 

          Eating is a perfect example of being here now. I always get more out of an eating experience if I pay attention to how the food looks and smells and what it feels and tastes like in my mouth. Haven’t we all had meals where we can’t even remember having consumed it? What a waste of calories! 

          Every spontaneous senior citizen is capable of being here now.

2. Take Charge of Your Own Happiness

          Who better than you knows exactly the thing that will make you happy at any given moment? All the other stuff is like trying to tell someone the exact place to scratch an itch on your back: “to the left, now up a little, no, not there, to the other left, etc., etc.” It can be hit or miss. 

          Take a moment to tap into that thing that will move you from a negative space to a more positive, uplifting place. For me, it’s listening to a beautiful classical piece of music. It shifts me from angst quite swiftly into calm. Another thing for me is to pet my cat, Kali. The feel of her silken fur and how she leans into me evaporates any anger or frustration almost immediately.

          If you wait for others to make you happy, you’re a leaf in the wind with no direction of your own. You’re at the will of another who may not have your happiness on their agenda.

3.  Ommmmmmm

          Commit to being completely supportive of others, whether you agree with their choices or not. This can be a huge challenge
when what others may be doing, you’re just sure, is not in their best interest. Sometimes being supportive means just listening. Avoid all vitriolic behavior that says, “I’m not on your side.” If you feel this way, keep it to yourself. What good does it do to share it anyway?

          Lots of my friends say they just can’t stand by and watch someone do harm to themselves. It is my belief, however, that change never comes from others berating us or constantly pointing out the error of our ways. The old axiom “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink” is true. Sometimes the best you can do is to be there if they fall.

          These three ways to be a spontaneous and supremely satisfied senior citizen are just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of ways. What are yours?

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015


          From the time I was about 4 until around 9 years of age it felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath when I focused on taking one. The more I paid attention to it, the more difficult it became. The dynamics of my household at the time were that my mother was a stay-at-home mom, my dad a major in the Air Force, and my pretty sister, who was three years older than me, had an active scholastic and social existence that I measured myself against constantly.

My 'Condition'

          My ‘breathing condition’ drove my family crazy, particularly my mother. As a result of this breathing ‘problem’ I required a lot of her attention. She was the one who tried to soothe me, who took me to the doctors repeatedly for EKGs to prove that my lungs and heart were just fine, and she was the one who slapped me out of frustration when the problem continued. I needed her attention because in this dynamic family, for whatever reason, I didn’t feel like I was enough. 

          At the time we all were totally ignorant about why this might be happening to me, and I don’t know what changed - either physically or emotionally - to eventually make it stop happening. I do know, however, even to this day, when I’m stressed I can sometimes still feel like I can’t take a deep breath.

Being Enough

          Learning to know you’re enough starts early in childhood. Many who feel like they never quite live up to the expectations of their parents grow into a lifetime of putting their own needs and desires behind those of others. This happened to me.

          As a wise adult, it is our opportunity to remind others, especially younger children that they matter just the way they are and that they bring so many special gifts into the world. We can do this by listening to them with rapt attention, by bursting into a bright smile when they enter the room, by letting them do things their way – without interference – and by encouraging them when their results don’t measure up to their own expectations or the expectations of others.

The Gift of Making Others Feel Worthy

          Making others feel like they are worthy and enough is a tremendous gift that is priceless. Remember what it feels like to have someone acknowledge your tasks or merely your presence alone. If you yourself or someone you know feels less than, focusing on the positive is a good place to start to change. Time spent on appreciating compliments as opposed to wallowing in negative criticism is an indication of how we value ourselves. 

          Have you always felt like you were enough? If not, what did you do to reverse the emotional tide? How much time do you allow yourself to luxuriate in a compliment?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Can You Say "No"?

        It’s why I whine and moan from time to time about being overwhelmed. It’s why I sweep through a week’s worth of my calendar and cancel anything that isn’t critical. It’s why I keep my office door closed at home, keeping out those who love and just want to support me.

          I can have a really tough time saying “no.” I can say “no” to a stranger or a more anonymous request than I can to really close friends or family.

The Need to Get Sick

          My latest trick is to agree to something and then back out later when others have just gotten used to the fact that I’ll be there, that I’ll take care of it, or that they can count on me. And, if I can’t gracefully extricate myself from a commitment it seems I wind up getting sick:  “Oh, my cold is so bad, and I don’t want to infect everyone so I have to bow out.”

          This doesn’t happen often; I do have healthy boundaries for the most part about saying "no" but it seems there’s always an awkward situation that surprises me, and I find myself sputtering about with excuses instead of just saying “No, I’m not able to help you this time.” 

Some Suggestions

          Recently I checked out some good suggestions for saying "no" gracefully to anyone … even to a close friend or esteemed colleague. Some of the suggestions include:

          -Don’t put it off. Waiting several days to say “no” 

               to any request will only make it more difficult. 
               People who need something from you won’t 
               forget about their request, so jump on it then they 
               can look to others for assistance.

         -Avoid using excuses like “I’m just swamped,” or 
               “I’ve been sick,” or “I have to work,” (or have 
               to do something else at that time) unless they 
               are true.

         -Make your reason for saying “no” brief and then 
               be quiet. More blubbering with added excuses 
               and laments will not make it easier for you or 
               more believable to them. Just repeat your short 
               reason and then zip it. You don’t really need 
               an excuse anyway. Either you can or you can’t 
               and that’s the bottom line.

         -If you can genuinely make an alternative offer, 
               do so. Like "I am happy to do it next week if 
               it helps."

          In general, not jerking people around when they've asked you for something is always the best policy, but it doesn't always go smoothly. What happens when the person who needs you gets upset? As I've said so many times in previous posts, I try to learn from my mistakes and then move on. Also, I always try to remember that a person who gets angry when I say "no, sorry," might not be the true friend I thought s/he was.

          Practice makes perfect, so keep at it!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Letter From Jail

      On April 12, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. participated in a peaceful protest march in defiance of a court injunction banning demonstrations there. King was arrested and jailed. While there, he replied in his now famous Letter from Birmingham Jail to white clergy who stated they were opposed to segregation but were upset by “outsiders” like King stirring up trouble in the Birmingham community. He addresses their concerns and criticisms in this emotional letter. 
          Next Sunday is the 52nd anniversary of this event, and I took time this past week to reread his direct response. He begins by explaining that he isn’t an outsider who has come to cause trouble but rather was invited to Birmingham by an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). King also provides a moral reason for coming to Birmingham to battle injustice. He believes “all communities and states” are interdependent and that he wants to work for justice anywhere injustice is being practiced. Dr. King in turn criticizes the white clergy for only focusing on the protestors without equally being critical of the racist causes of the injustice that is being protested.

I Learned Something

          I’ve never really understood the purpose of peaceful protest marches, and it wasn’t until I heard King’s explanation in this letter from jail that I began to finally get it. His explanation for the power of protest marches is that they create a “crisis” and “tension” of sorts and that negotiations can’t happen without that upset, which forces unwilling parties to negotiate, hopefully in good faith. I see what he meant. I finally get it!

          While the letter goes on to respond to the numerous racist and one-sided remarks made by the white clergy, I drifted off in my thoughts to questions that continue to rise in my consciousness as I age. Why are we still not “there” with regard to equal rights? Why is the abyss still so wide and deep? Has there been any real progress during my life to feel we are making headway?

          I’d love to see a unification and an amalgamation of all the peoples of the world who are excluded or ridiculed or bullied and chastised … in my lifetime. Sounds like Pollyanna? It doesn’t matter how it sounds.

What to Do

          I believe the best thing I can do is live my life as a mirror of how I want the world to be…to not shut people out because they are different or their beliefs and ideals are different or because they live differently than I do. If I can accept someone in my own circle of family and friends who believes differently, worships differently, raises their children differently or follows a different path to joy, I can do that for someone across town or across the world.

          I see many senior citizens looking to the younger generation to make the needed changes. But we are all leaders, aren’t we? Regardless of our age, there is much work to be done.

          It has been said we're living in post-racial America. This is just not true. Each and everyone of us is still part of the problem as well as part of the solution. Your "peaceful protest" counts.

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