Thursday, April 01, 2010

Anti-aging, a beginning discussion, with some personal history stuff

Anti-Aging: What the heck?

What is “aging?”

Obviously, the calendar year keeps moving along and we can only say we are so many “years old,” and this number keeps growing. Fine, but while that happens is it necessary….

• to become more restricted and “creaky” in our body?

• to increase accidents and illnesses?

• to cut ourselves off from new ideas and activities?

• to live in something like a “rut” of established patterns of what we do, who we
associate with, and worst of all, the “thoughts” in our mind?

• to become more limited in our vocal range?

• to no longer skip, hop, jump or run?

• to have habits so deep we don’t even know they are habits?

• to be annoyed by and shy of the “new?”

• in general to narrow the range of movement and thought and feeling and activity to a tight and unchanging range?

The answer is obviously no. No we don’t have to narrow in. No we don’t have to get creaky.

But, even among people who are excited by the new in ideas and the arts, there is often the idea of the body getting more and more “clunky,” if not worse, unless one is willing to engage in endless and strenuous exercise and discipline.

This, luckily, is not so.

I’m a fairly good case study for this. Here’s me, at the top of the page, at 63, doing what I couldn’t at 43. In fact at 43, I could not walk down a wooded hillside where my son and I were camping without his help. My knees were hurting and not functioning that much.

One knee is still in pain in certain positions, but I can do stuff I wouldn’t have imagined back in the wee young days of my forties.

Changing my diet helped.

Doing tai chi helped.

Discovering again Feldenkrais in my 50’s made the huge difference, though. I had gone to Feldenkrais group movement classes in my 30’s and 40’s, often to great benefit, but by my 50’s, “good enough,” as a sort of steady undoing seemed my lot. I was active, even spending a few hours a day creating the 3 acre public garden that became the Sonoma Garden Park, but when I started up yoga in my 50’s, I kept it up as an exercise in doing something I was “bad” at. Lots of pain. Not much gain.

Then, one weekend, I attended a workshop with my yoga teacher girlfriend, where we did 3 movement lessons a day for two days in a row. The girlfriend, who could do almost anything “movement-wise,” felt as if her whole brain had shifted and woken up. I felt, hurrah!, as if I were ten years old again.

Needless to say, when I discovered this weekend was a lead in to a 4 year training to become a Practitioner in the Feldenkrais Method®, I signed up. I discovered things about movement and learning and neck and eyes and ribs and pelvis and knees, yes knees, and feet that I hadn’t even known I’d been craving to relearn. I keep going to what seemed like the source of anti-aging, and though the process was far more complicated than any I’d ever encountered, the joy and delight in how I felt, the enjoyment in learning “thinking” again at a non-verbal level, the delight in so much time spent with other people, all of us present and attentive to ourselves in the moment, was wonderful. Also re-activated was my general enthusiasm to try the “unthinkable,” like running for city council in Sonoma.

Five years later, still hungry to learn, I enrolled in another 4 year program, this time with Anat Baniel. And guess who joined me? The son who’d had to help me down the hill. Anat is an amazing teacher, who some think has taken this work to a new level.
Whatever, this kept my “youth-ing” going, and in my sixties I came to abandoning my Sonoma life and taking an adventure around the country where I lived in Tucson, Arcata, Atlanta, and western Colorado (Gunnison), as well as Orcas Island, while meeting people, practicing my work (this Feldie/ Anat Baniel work, and the Work of Byron Katie, plus coaching in being present and in forgiveness.)

Alright, enough about me.

How could this help you? Whatever age you are, whether you feel like the idea of “anti-aging” and vitality or not, these two methods, Feldenkrais and Anat Baniel can help all of us in all these ways, and more:

• By giving us, over and over, gentle and learnable nonverbal problems to solve (thus skipping all the mental humdrum we’ve accumulated at any age), we reactivate our brains to the learning mode.

• By creating “problems” and helping us discover not one, but a whole range of “solutions,” we begin to learn again about the joy of learning and it’s centrality to our well being.

• By working in the range of ease, and less effort (babies have very little muscle), and slowly, and with attention, we start to re-experience life at the level when we were all pretty much a genius: when as a baby, we went from blob, to rolling over, and sitting, and GI Joe lizard crawling and “normal” crawling, and walking and talking. All actions of immense complexity, that we learned by making lots of “mistakes,” which just means going down pathways were the learning is “this doesn’t work.” This is sweet territory to which to return.

• By creating movement patterns, in movement lessons, where DISCOVERY is everything and “Doing it Right,” is learned to be a dead end, we tap into the learner/ explorer/ discovered in us every night when we dream those crazy dreams.

• By the emphasis on staying with pleasure in our learning, and the pattern of doing something many times, but each time with pleasure and awareness in a different part of ourselves, we activate the joy in life that is our birthright

• By acting and resting and acting and resting over and over in an atmosphere of presence and ease, we come to another aspect of our “real selves,” the one who lives and thrives in the present.

• Learning is fun. Moving in new ways is fun. Fun breeds fun, and in an atmosphere of exploring and discovering and being present, we heighten our sense of fun as something easy and available, not an activity when we use a lot of substances and blow off a lot of steam.

• The process of learning and learning and learning retunes us to a life of vitality, and we somehow rediscover patterns of movement that are easy and pleasurable, patterns of thinking that are easy and pleasurable, and if we are lucky, even patterns of feeling that are easy and pleasurable. And then we are a bit ruined to the falling apart and creaky world of normal “aging,” and find ourselves in the world of learning, and being present and vitality and “anti-aging.”


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