Is age in the mind? Now there’s a thought!

This blog, by Assistant District Manager, Melvyn Howe, first appeared in the “This Is” series.

© Glow Images – model used for illustrative purposes

Remember Hook, the 1991 box office hit, where the nasty and eponymously-equipped captain kidnaps the children of an adult and somewhat boring Peter Pan?

To rescue his offspring from the villain’s nefarious clutches our (at first) unlikely hero (Robin Williams) has to don some fairy dust (courtesy of Tinkerbell) and return to Neverland.

Once there he rediscovers his youthful spirit before successfully challenging his arch-rival and saving the youngsters.

I remember watching the film with my young son and enjoying his ooh’s and aah’s of wonder as the story unfolded.

One thing that really made an impression on me came during the scene aboard a plane when a still straight-laced Peter admonishes young son Jack (Charlie Korsmo) for his behaviour and demands: “When are you gonna stop acting like a child?”

The totally unfazed boy laughingly reminds his father: “I am a child.” He is then told to: “Grow up.”

But the only one who ends up growing is Peter – growing new in outlook.

To me the film’s message was obvious. It was not so much the tried and tested Hollywood recipe of “good versus evil…good wins” (welcome though that is). Instead it was the more subtle message that middle or old age need not be automatic no-go territory for childlike qualities such as purity, wonder, trust, innocence, simplicity and effervescent joy.

It prompted me to start examining my own views about “growing old”.

I was well into so-called middle-age at the time and had begun to find the question of advancing years frequently occupying thought.

Was I getting old? Would I soon start slowing down and begin to experience the litany of aches and pains all too frequently associated with encroaching senior citizenship?

Given society’s daily avalanche of youth-related messages, it wasn’t the most surprising mental default to have – that old age is a time of increasing decrepitude, when senior citizens can sometimes be regarded as a burden to family and ripe for nursing home residency.

Throw in a few fears about inadequate pensions and you have a very gloomy picture indeed!

How heartening then when the stereotyping is put out to pasture by rays of senior citizen sunlight.

Such an example is the inspiring Tao Porchon-Lync, who, at 93, is the world’s oldest yoga teacher, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

When an interviewer mentioned her confounding doctors by regaining all her flexibility after a hip replacement in her early eighties, she replied: “It is just a matter of putting your mind on it and you can do it…you have to live right now.”

During another interview she said: “I don’t want to know what I won’t be able to do because I don’t believe it”, adding she could not accept one doctor’s description of her as a “miracle”. She then explained: “It is not a miracle. Miracle only means to see that which is already inside of you.”

Just as thought-stirring is Fauja Singh who at 101 recently ran his eighth and last marathon (he started when he was 89!). Now “taking it easy” with 5 and 10k courses he spoke about his attitude to aging the day he became the oldest Olympic torch bearer.

“I don’t think of myself as old. So that is not an issue. Everyone does their bit and the moment I feel old that will be the end of it. So I refuse to believe in it,” he told one interviewer.

Refusing to believe in old age and thinking a miracle actually is perfectly normal might be regarded by some as, well, plain crazy.

Except these two people showed apparently impossible feats were achievable through their conviction that their thought determined their experience. And never any suggestion of a vitamin pill or an energy drink in sight while doing so!

Porchon-Lync’s view of a miracle and Singh’s approach to ageing resonate with what I have been learning over many decades in my own spiritual practice: namely that it can be better for our health to focus less on our age and more on what it means to be a creation of a God who timelessly crafts us all “in His image and likeness”.

Consequently, despite being just a few years from “retirement”, I still regularly work-out by weight-lifting at my local gym, sometimes matching – and occasionally exceeding – the lifts of those a third of my age.

While my experience may not be as unusual as the yoga teacher’s and marathon runner’s achievements I intend to follow their example that irrepressible joy and wonder of life are not the sole province of the young.

These youthful seniors have gone some way to proving the well-worn phrase “growing old” might be something of an oxymoron.

They have demonstrated that the only growing that makes any sense is growing new – new in spirit and, consequently, open to more health-filled experiences no matter how many trips we have taken around the sun.

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Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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One Comment on “Is age in the mind? Now there’s a thought!”

  1. January 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Reblogged this on Scientific Thoughts For Life.

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