Today, there is a growing movement centered on being aware of, and staying with, the present moment. It is called mindfulness. Each time I hear the term, it reminds me that as a child, whenever I was going to a party or a friend’s house, my mother said, “Be sure to mind your manners.” She was telling me to pay attention to my behavior. Remember to be polite. Be aware of how you act. Mindfulness is simply an extension of what my mother was expecting from me. It’s paying attention to what is happening in your surroundings and within you at the present moment. It is staying with your current experience including all your sensory perceptions and emotions. It is remembering to stay present instead of letting your mind wander off into the past or future. It is being aware. I call it living consciously. While this concept has been around for centuries and is steeped in the Buddhist practice of meditation, it serves a real purpose in our stress filled, frenetic modern world. If we stay present, instead of mind-spinning about the past, which is non-changeable or the future, which has yet to unfold itself, we can eliminate much of the stress we, ourselves, create in our lives.
I first heard of mindfulness a year ago when I was taking the Dynamic Aging Program at Furman University. We touched on the subject as it relates to aging. While most people start out believing retirement will be stress free as they leave the workplace behind, they soon find there is stress in retirement. We just encounter different stressors from what stressed us while working. Instead of deadlines, office politics and not enough time for family or ourselves retirement stressors may include health concerns, finances, 24/7 with our spouse or significant other or too many requests to volunteer for organizations. Once I understood the concept and practice of mindfulness, I also realized I had flirted with the idea for years. During my most hectic years of working, being a wife and mother, volunteering in the community, I knew I either had to stop dancing as fast as I could or go down in flames. I chose to slow dance, become more focused on what was important to me and stop trying to be super woman. In a nutshell, I chose to become more choosy. As a result I stopped being a leaf in the wind, buffeted by other people and self-imposed commitments. I stopped living unconsciously. I started living fully awake and aware of what I was doing and why. I became more mindful.
Last Friday I took a mindfulness seminar at Furman. Our coach, Brenda Verdone (www.ANewGreenville.com), is an energetic and engaging woman who takes mindfulness beyond meditation and into our everyday lives. The two-hour session was interactive as we explored how to use mindfulness in our daily activities to ward off stress, restore health and well-being, and create a balanced life style. While I am already practicing much of what Brenda taught us, I also learned a few things. We started out learning how to breath. That’s right – breath. How to inhale a breathe so the air reached all the way down to our diaphragm. With hands on our bellies, we then exhaled fully and slowly, counting the seconds, and paused, which is natural, before taking the next breathe. We do this involuntarily right? Perhaps when we are calm but what about when we are stressed? The old flight or fright goblin causes quick, shallow breaths taken in and let out of the lungs in such a hurry we don’t get enough oxygen to our other organs. Sometimes we may be so stressed we do this unconsciously, unaware that we are robbing our bodies of much needed oxygen. Quite some time ago my doctor told me that most of the people in hospitals are there because of stress, which causes inflammation to the body and leads to various diseases. We are so stressed out in our fast-paced world that we are killing ourselves!
Besides how to breath with awareness of our bodies, Brenda went on to talk about relationships, recreation, communication and even mindful eating, drinking water and posture. You may remember I took up mindful eating with the assistance of the My Fitness Pal APP in order to lose 18 pounds. It took me about 30 days to form my new eating habit, which made a huge change in my health, most notably avoiding diabetes. The APP helped me to eat mindfully, to be aware of what I put in my mouth as well as when, where and why I was eating. Being mindful in all aspects of your life can provide immeasurable benefits as we age. Brenda laid out six areas of life along with some questions to ask yourself about each area. I’m sharing this with you here. Exploring each area and answering the questions will help create a balanced, harmonious lifestyle. Honesty with yourself, of course, is necessary. Ditto for taking action.
AREAS OF LIFE
Spiritual – Peace of Mind
Relationships with Family and Friends
CRITICAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Do I feel satisfied in this area of my life?
Is this area in balance with all others, or is it too much or not enough?
Is this an area I’m equipped to handle myself or do I need someone to guide me? (i.e. clergy, teacher, holistic wellness consultant, interpersonal relations counselor, financial advisor, trainer/instructor)
Where would I like to be in this area one year from now?
What do I need to get or do in order to move forward in this area?
When am I going to do it?
While this may strike some of you as more New Age nonsense, which has come and gone over the last several decades, it is one tool for getting your retirement life on track. Mindfulness is by no means a cure-all for everything which may ail you. But, it is my personal experience that balancing out all aspects of your life can create a feeling of harmony thus removing a good deal of stress. Being mindful of what you are doing, why you are doing it and where the benefit is to you, will help you crystallize your retirement purpose. This can lead you to a happier, more fulfilling retirement lifestyle. If you have not given mindfulness a try, now is the time. Let me know if it helps! Or, even if it doesn’t.
Thank you for another thoughtful post. I would expand the area of physical health to include emotional and mental health. Certainly, aspects of emotional/mental health are encompassed in the other five areas of life but I find that, too often, people don’t pay enough attention to emotions or to mental health to avoid boredom, anxiety, or depression. I love the suggested questions and will experiment with them, especially as I am currently on a quest to manage time in retirement more effectively!
Good Morning,Good post…this topic is all the rage around SMA…workshops everywhere…. I’m reminded how glad and grateful I am to continue to study and learn from reading Eddy’s primary work Science and Health….”We must realize the ability of mental might to off-set human misconceptions and to replace them with the life which is spiritual, not material.” So, I wander around SMA being grateful for the harmony that is present and the good that unfolds each step I take….this instant! Adelante! p
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2015 13:37:04 +0000 To: email@example.com
Excellent post! It is so right on target for many of us. Some retirees I know are walking around (or sitting around) in a fog, with no attempt to reflect on their behavior or thoughts, wasting their days, unaware of how great life could be if they became aware/mindful in the ways you describe. Thanks for writing about the seminar you took last week, and especially for listing the important questions you listed that we should ask ourselves. I appreciate this post very much!
I continue to be amazed at how similar my retirement experiences are with yours ( I think we retired at the same time.) I was reflecting on how much more aware of the world I am becoming through my various endeavors. e.g. I recently joined a photography meetup group and on our walk this weekend, while we were taking pictures of various features downtown that I used to walk by every day at work, I noticed things I never realized were there before! I am beginning to realize how much of life I used to skim over because I was so caught up in the rat race!
p.s. I just started reading a fascinating book called “Photography and the Art of Seeing”, by Freeman Patterson which guides you into really seeing/experiencing the world differently.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and journey. Its a good touchstone as I sometimes get anxious that I am getting to into myself as I drift further away from my old life (and discover how much I like it.)
Just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog and the articles you provide always seem on target. I’m quickly approaching retirement, possibly next year, and although I should be financially ok I’m concerned about using my time productively. How does someone who worked for 50 years suddenly stop working? I’m sure it’ll be fun for awhile but, over time, what will happen? Your blog gives me some insight into options and opportunities in retirement. Specifically the blog about college classes through OLLI was really eye opening! I never knew that existed. But after a quick call to my local university I received a catalog with an impressive list of classes to include improving poker skills, photography, creative writing, etc. Very exciting and very helpful. Thank you and keep them coming.
Thank you Mike and I will do my best to keep them coming. While we leave the work place behind when we retire, we have an opportunity in retirement to choose to do other types of work. I write, draw and garden, all things which I enjoy immensely and don’t seem like work to me. As you explore in retirement or as you are doing in pre-retirement, take the opportunity to be open to all ideas and look for opportunities to try new things. You will find your niche and then your retirement will take on fresh meaning, not as a stopping point but as a starting point. I’m so glad you found an OLLI near you! It is a great way to try new things and make some friends. Best wishes. K
Another great post! When I had a life-threatening illness at age 50, it forced me to learn how to be present in the present. There was a golden period about two years out from my diagnosis when I felt I had achieved a balance of planning for the future as though I might have one while living every day as though I would not. As my cancer-free years extended, however, I started to fall back into old bad habits. Retirement has provided an opportunity to live more mindfully, taking time to savor everyday pleasures and being choosy about which causes and opportunities I want to focus my energy on.
Hello Jean – several cancer survivors have told me they had a similar experience. One man described it as the entire world stopping when he heard his diagnosis. He went on to say how he became very aware of everything around him in the moment and he recognized, as never before, what was truly important in his life. A life-threatening illness seems to create a heightened awareness. I am so glad to hear how your retirement has provided the opportunity to return to living more mindfully. Retirement truly is an opportunity to re-visit many things we forgot about along the way.
Great post! Thanks!
It must be the day for this Kathy. I posted on our blog just today on this process, using a handy tool – The Wheel of Life.