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Why Longevity As An Art?

I was stimulated to extend my research by consulting many other authors who, directly or indirectly, have addressed the topic and shared their experience on the fascinating theme of longevity. An ambitious project has thus taken shape: to create a practical program, within the reach of all those who are willing to invest time and energy in taking charge of their life, in order to move towards old age with more consciousness and peace, making aging a long, healthy and happy phase of one's life.

Our society, lacking good models for getting older, has associated heavy layers of prejudice with the word "elderliness".(1) Instead, in societies where old age is accepted as part of the social structure, the elderly remain extremely vigorous. Great value is given to reaching your Autumn years, therefore each year is a growing reason for respect. The expectation we have inherited, according to which the body must deteriorate with time, together with the belief that we are destined to grow old, create the biological phenomenon called aging. "People grow old and die because they see others grow old and die".(2) People become old, when they lose the essence of life, the ability to be flexible and to transform themselves. The biggest threat to life is to have nothing to live for.

First of all, we must first learn to love our body and allow it to be free to give, to receive, without shyness, because being shy means being afraid. Words have the power to program awareness, so passively accepting the negative connotations associated with the word "old" must be avoided. In this regard, Deepak Chopra writes,

There is a huge difference between saying "I'm too tired to do that job" and "I'm too old."(3)

Instead of believing that our body decays with time, we must nurture the certainty that our body is new at all times. In the Tao Te Ching we can read:

All things flexible and fluid have a tendency to grow, all things rigid and blocked will wither and die.

New knowledge, new skills, new ways of observing the world make sure that body and mind continue their growth. The unused parts of the body are atrophied and wither with time. Moreover, inactivity leads to depression. Regular exercises are enough to prevent depression. Anyone practicing physical exercise at any age will benefit from it in terms of strength, endurance and muscle mass.(4)

As in every aspect of life, the key lies in balance. Exercise must be balanced by rest. By consciously using one's awareness, highly beneficial results are obtained. We can therefore develop our intention to improve our physical and mental functions every day, and get in touch with our basic needs, love, understanding, encouragement, support. Many people maintain intellectual and creative faculties even in their old age and many of these abilities reach full maturity in the last years of life. The idea that too much mental work is bad for the brain is to be dispelled. The most significant goal worth living for is to reach one's full potential.

Life must be a process of continuous transformation, not a decline, therefore in it there is the full potential of boundless growth. It is certainly realistic to expect to survive with intact intelligence and memory. It is the individual, not the age, which makes the difference.

Human development can be extended into old age with the highest states of awareness, such as wisdom. Wisdom consists of what you are, not what you do. Deepak Chopra lists ten points, as practical ideals to which we can direct our daily action. I will mention them briefly below, referring the reader to the text of his book, which I highly recommend (7)

  1. Be aware of your body.
  2. Live in the present moment. Totally accept what may come.
  3. Embrace silence and find time for meditation.
  4. Relinquish your need for external approval.
  5. When you find yourself reacting with anger, be aware you are struggling with yourself.
  6. Out there reflects your reality in here. What you most hate is what you most deny.
  7. Shed the burden of judgment. Remember that every person you forgive adds to your self-love.
  8. Don't contaminate your body with toxins: either food, drink, or toxic emotions.
  9. Replace fear-motivated behavior with love-motivated behavior. Fear is the product of memory, which dwells in the past.
  10. Understand that the physical world is just a mirror of a deeper intelligence. Living in balance and purity is the highest good for you and the Earth.

Life is a creative deed. The last years of life should be the moment of wholeness. The circle closes and the purpose of life is accomplished.

Vittorio, October 10th, 2007


NOTES:

(1) See Deepak Chopra Pag 140. See also my article "Elogio della vecchiaia".
(2) ibid.
(3) ibid. pg 139
(4) ibid. pg 125
(5) ibid. pg 99
(6) ibid. pg 253
(7) ibid. pg 263