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I once had an interesting experience. I was living in a peaceful atmosphere on the shores of a lake surrounded by the mountains of inland British Columbia (not the majestic Rockies). One of the projects I took up at the time was to work my way through the book by Betty Edwards, “Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain”. I did not have any great skill in drawing, so was more than reluctant to ask anyone to sit while I drew them as badly as I knew I would. Instead, I rigged up a couple of mirrors so that I could see my own face at the prescribed angles and drew it over and over, through a series of weeks until I finished the book. The collection of drawings were very interesting – they went from an unrecognizable childish caricature to a very recognizable self portrait. However, what was most interesting was the inner turmoil that this exercise created within myself. Gazing so intently into the mirrors night after night brought me face-to-face with the truth that although I was then 45 years old, my self perception was that I hadn’t aged since the age of 35. The drawings proved that concept to be completely erroneous. Until I was able to accept this truth, I had some very difficult days. A friend helped me to understand that losing my youthful appearance was not the end of the world, by asking what the difference between my 35 year-old face and my 45 year-old face was. The answer was that my 45 year-old face was much softer and kinder. Since then, I have not been impressed by ads for various beauty aids that promise an eternal youthful appearance. I have earned the lines and puckers in my face, and I defy anyone who wants to remove them, even photographically.
Twenty years after that shattering experience, I recognize that I still don’t like to look into mirrors much. I don’t like to acknowledge that the aging process continues in my life. Yet, the fact remains that last year, overnight, I suddenly became a senior citizen simply by virtue of celebrating my 65th birthday. The fact is that I have some days that are less “peppy” than others, that parts of my body announce their presence through twinges or cramps or numbness. At times my mind knows what it wants to say but forgets the precise word or name of it, sending me throughout the house to find the object so I can use the right word. As much as growing older scares me, the reality of my situation faces me every day. Here I hasten to say that I’m not afraid of dying. I sat with a friend the day she died several years ago, her greatest gift to me. She died peacefully in spite of the pain her cancer produced during that last day in a loving atmosphere created by a few loved ones. My fear is created by seeing elders shuffling about with aids such as canes or walkers, or the need to use wheelchairs - or worse - are in nursing homes numbed by drugs to allow the staff to complete their duties with a minimum of interruption.
At the same time, I bless my stars that I have lived my life in the way that I have. The five years I spent in a yoga ashram helped my body to become quite flexible, and I touch my toes very easily even though I don’t generally do regular stretching. My body reminds me more often now that I need to return to my yoga practice for practical reasons. Following the BTD for the past 7 years has helped me to overcome a great many little things that have helped me to be much more energetic and lively today than I would have been if I had continued eating the way I was. Right now today, I am strong (I carry my groceries home from the market in my backpack every week without undue strain), I am intelligent, I am lively and I am reasonably healthy with a low blood pressure count and a strong heart. When I occasionally visit my doctor I am shocked to see the suffering of the people (often younger than me) who are waiting to see him, and he usually tells me with a smile that I will live to be 90 or more. May the rest of my life be a blessing for others around me!
P.S. I’ve had two wonderful responses to the question of how to stay awake without using coffee. Thanks to both contributors. The first is to take a capsule or two of Vitamin B5. The second is an exercise, as follows, in the words of the contributor: “Stand up. Make both hands into fists and raise them up to eye level and slightly in front of your face. Your thumbs should be down and your knuckles of each hand facing each other. Begin pumping your fists rapidly up and down/out and in towards your face as though you were shaking something to stir it up. Let your head and neck muscles remain loose (ie. don't let yourself tense up). This is so easy to demonstate and so hard to describe, I've just discovered. Do this for 30 seconds. It really does work. I've done it single-handed while driving that last stretch late at night.”