By Joan Moran
Birthdays come around once a year whether you like them or not. Some people simply don't acknowledge their birthday, others purposely forget them, and still others reflect on the special gifts the year has produced--people, places, and things that have enriched and enlightened life.
I'm one of the people who celebrate my birthday, but I don't especially want to acknowledge the chronological number. This year I'm turning 70, a number I never thought I would get to, a number that used to represent a slow physical and mental decline. Surprisingly, I will joyfully turn 70 this month.
I've given plenty of thought to the way I lived my life and to the legacy I want to leave to my two sons, five grandchildren, one brother, and many supportive friends. My decisions have been mindfully directed toward balance, fulfilling my needs and passion while honoring my loved ones. Behind the emotional lens of these choices, I have always been aware that, as my father said to me, "You've always been a bohemian, Joanie."
Bohemian or beatnik, these are my five tips for conscious, graceful aging:
Make a conscious decision to free your spirit.
Lately, people who know me have asked how I lived such an incredible life and how I keep on going like the ever-ready battery. I feel like I'm 19 years old; I feel like I can still dance the tango into the night, and that there are endless possibilities and opportunities yet to explore. It has been my experience that when I take charge of my life and make decisions that are correct for me, my life is balanced and happiness abounds. This leads to a spirit that is free because I am not weighted down with negative emotions or thoughts that I should have done something differently. Whatever your age, I suggest freeing your spirit and experiencing the natural unfolding of your life without censorship. You never know the entire journey until you experience it.
Have you ever noticed that when someone asks you to do something the first inclination is to say no? You say no before yes out of fear of the unknown. The theory behind this is you can't know everything that's going to happen so you don't take any chance. After all, it might end badly. I'm not willing to live that way. I operate in the positive zone--even the negatives are positives because you can always turn the negative into a positive. I said yes to yoga, I said yes to learning Argentine tango. I make it a practice to always say yes to yoga teachers who ask me to teach a class for them when they can't, I say yes to my sons and my grandchildren. "Hey, mom, do you want to buy a computer for the boys?" YES! Yes brings me happiness and yes brings me gifts of the heart.
Wake up with a plan every day.
Life is about how you create each day. A myriad of stimuli surround you. It can be confusing and ambiguous. Your response to choices is important because it determines the quality of your day. So make a plan every morning to set your intentions: do the most important thing first-exercise, journal, make coffee, read the New York Times. If you make no choices, you'll undoubtedly get stuck in the quicksand of life. Living a fully engaging and passionate life means making plans to carry out the ideas and activities that bring you joy.
Partake in daily exercise.
Way before gym memberships and aerobic classes, I exercised. My mother was my role model. Exercise was part of her daily routine into her nineties. Every day that I teach yoga, take a walk, or pick up my 7 pound weights, I think of my mother. The terms of your life are as follows: you have a body, a mind, and a spirit (breath) and these three components are valuable gifts that should be honored daily. Aging gracefully is only possible if you take care of your body and participate in the preservation of your muscles and organs and every other nook and cranny of your being. I recommend daily walking and stretching because they are both meditative practices that will free the mind and reduce stress.
I know very well you have heard this mantra over and over again. But human nature is lazy and our senses respond mostly to what is sweeter and fatter. Put your mind in gear and partake in the whole foods--leafy greens, fruits, whole grains and leave out fatty foods, white flour and sugar. You'll live longer and smarter and feel like a million dollars. There is no such thing as dieting. There is only eating healthy.
Your life is a reflection of how you choose to respond to whatever comes your way. It is no different as we age. Nothing outside yourself will make you age consciously and gracefully. Aging is simple: be present, set priorities, and never fear the challenges.
Joan Moran is a keynote speaker, commanding the stage with her delightful humor, raw energy, and wealth of life experiences. She is an expert on wellness and is passionate about addressing the problems of mental inertia. A yoga instructor, Moran is the author is "Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer." Visit her at www.joanfrancesmoran.com.