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Age

In Heart of the Matter, Don Henley wrote “the more I know, the less I understand.”

In Say Hey, Michael Franti sings “the more I see, the less I know.”

As she was healing from breast cancer, I wrote to a friend that I felt like I really became an adult when I stopped knowing what the hell is going on.

The longer I’m on the planet, the more I feel the mystery of everything. My mind has no way of grappling with the deep, dark mysteries that are all around me. All I can really do is stay present and dance with whatever unfolds.

There is no figuring out the mystery. There is only Mystery Dancing.

 

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sjm cute hat“The most dangerous thing you can do is sit still.” ~ Debbie Rosas, co-founder of The Nia Technique

Your body is designed to move. Allow its full range of motion — at the sweet spot between challenge and healing — to keep it healthy.

Your mind is designed to move. Allow it to learn and explore with curiosity to keep it healthy.

Your emotions are designed to move. Allow yourself to feel them fully and let them go.

Your spirit is a unique expression of the divine. Full range of motion in the other realms allows the spirit of precious you to fly.

Dad & SJ in baby pool

 (photo of me and my father in July 1966 that delights me no end)

When he was bed-ridden with a herniated disc and sciatic pain, my husband Frank had a sincerely narrow range of motion. He could slowly get up and down off the couch but if he dropped his book on the floor, forget it.  That book might as well have been on another planet. All his movements were pulled in toward his center. Even his spine curled in on itself.

After more than a month of inactivity, he started physical therapy.  At first, he could only do a few repetitions of the smallest of movements: drawing his chin down and back, pulling his scapulae together, engaging his abdominal muscles. As he’s healed, he’s increased not only how much he can do but how far he can reach and stride — his range of motion — as well.

* * *

Think about the range of motion of someone using this chair.
Enough said.

* * *

Frank and I got smart phones a while back. After years with our standard cell phones, I did not know what to do with this new contraption that didn’t even come with an instruction manual. I set that gul-darned thing on the coffee table and glared at it every time I walked by.

* * *

My beloved mother-in-law, Helen, is in her early 80s. She embraces new technology like a teenager. She has an iPad and voice recognition software and her cell phone is patched into the dashboard of her car. Her mind is youthfully courageous and engaged as she fearlessly embraces the new gadgets that I eye warily for weeks. She can also give you a serious smack-down in Pinochle, Whist, Bridge, and just about any card game you know.

* * *

A friend tells a story of her father who died recently at the age of 89. Just a week before his death he was talking excitedly with a colleague about the book he was going to write. Not the next book, but the one after that. It would have been his 37th.

* * *

A friend’s mother-in-law gets pedicures not because she loves the warm bubbly foot bath, or the pampering of a foot massage, or even how her toes look. She gets pedicures because she can’t reach her toes.

* * *

In my circle of friends, this summer has been a rocky one. Just in my little corner of the world, the past few months have included two abdominal surgeries to remove tumors, a herniated disc with a side of sciatic pain and shoulder bursitis, deaths of four fathers, a cancer diagnosis, the death of an old colleague, relationship collapses, custody disputes, and an accidental death on a mountain bike trail. Some moments, I can actually feel my heart breaking.  From my little perch on the world this summer, I stretched my emotional wings to let in plenty of fear, grief, sadness, disappointment, and anger.

At the same time, though, in my same circle there has been a wedding, sweet birthday celebrations, generous meals offered, lots of laughter, kindnesses given and received. As I have leaned into the painful events, my capacity for gratitude, pleasure, generosity, compassion, wonder, and especially love has increased in equal measure.

secret to youth 92_year_old_woman doing yoga

The secret to youth. I just may have figured it out. Seriously: The Secret to Youth. And this is not just The Secret to Physical Youth (although that, too) but The Secret to Holistic Youth ~ body, mind, emotions and spirit.

The Secret to Youth is range of motion.

It’s easy to find lots of information about how eating more plant foods and exercising and doing crossword puzzles will help you stay young. I have no real quarrel with them but these kind of recommendations are missing an important magic ingredient: range of motion

Increasing youthfulness is about expanding range of motion in all realms. Spend a day with a kid and you will observe range of motion by the truck load: up and down off the floor, moving fast and slow and big and small, curiosity, learning and investigation, laughter and frustration and tears. Kids are all over the place.

Now think of an elderly person you know – not necessarily someone who has lived the most years, but someone who is acutely feeling their years. As people age, they tend to stop getting on the floor and they keep their movements close to the body. They may become less interested in learning new things and less open-minded about change or new ideas. Often expressiveness is reigned in so they don’t laugh too loud or cry in front of anybody or get too excited about anything.

Aging embodies contraction. Youth embodies expansiveness. No matter your age or your health situation, you can always endeavor to expand your range of motion. Find the edge between challenge and healing, and you’ll find the place that increases your range of motion and by extension, your youthfulness.

act your age red and purpleSo far (since Sunday), 50 is just fine! Oddly, at 50 I am far younger than I ever was when I was, well, younger. It seems that every year, I am a little less anxious, a little more courageous. Over time, I’ve become less attached to other people’s opinions and more willing to wear silly pants. I’m figuring that at this rate, I’ll be downright infantile by the time I’m taking my last breath. Heaven knows what I’ll be wearing.

Here is the music from a week of Act Your Age as well as the Jenny Joseph poem I read and intend to live by. Except for the spitting, not sure I’ll ever get the hang of that.

Dance on. Shine on.
Susan sig

Monday, Aug 4, 2014, 1045am ~ Act Your Age

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss
Nourah 6:51 Makyo
Dubuasca (with Michael Kang) 6:55 Bassnectar
Smokey Quartz 6:59 Shakatura
Praise You 5:22 Fatboy Slim
What I Be 4:45 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Drop It Low 3:45 Kat DeLuna
Shady Esperanto & The Young Hearts 3:03 Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers
Fly 3:33 Bart Hafeman
The Remedy (I Won’t Worry) 4:16 Jason Mraz
Drive 3:53 Incubus
Giuseppe Tornatore Suite: Malena (Main theme) 4:22 Ennio Morricone, Yo-Yo Ma & Roma Sinfonietta

Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014, 9am ~ Act Your Age

Healing Senses 8:27 Parijat
Marisi 6:33 Cantoma
Something To Believe In 4:44 Parachute
Just Say Yes 4:41 Snow Patrol
Right Here Right Now 5:57 Fatboy Slim
One Billion Hands 4:05 Lourds Lane
Old 2:20 Paul Simon
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
I Can’t Get Next To You 3:09 Annie Lennox
Colour In My Name (Featuring Precise) 6:08 Spiral System
Grow Old with Me 2:31 The Postal Service
Bach: Cello Suite #4 In E Flat, BWV 1010 – 1. Sarabande 5:03 Yo-Yo Ma

Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014, 1055am ~ Act Your Age

Helpless 4:15 K.D. Lang
Souvenir 5:39 Kaledj feat. Neko
Hero Dead And Gone (Discotheque Mix) 4:55 De-Phazz
Qalanderi 6:55 Cheb I Sabbah
I Know What I Know 3:13 Paul Simon
Oye Como Va (Latin/Trance Mix) 4:17 Celia Cruz
Old 2:20 Paul Simon
Hey Hey Hey 3:47 Michael Franti & Spearhead
Fill Her Up 5:39 Sting
(The Return of) Point of No Return 5:01 NU SHOOZ Orchestra
Gandhi/Buddha 3:28 Cheryl Wheeler
Hallelujah (feat. Charlie Sexton) 4:16 Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris
Intro 1:44 Ishq

Thursday, Aug 7, 2014, 9am ~ Act Your Age

Passing Through 5:17 Bob Holroyd
A Different Space 8:43 Bob Holroyd
Takshaka 10:42 Makayo
Drumming Up a Storm 5:59 Bob Holroyd
African Drug [Original Tribal Mix] 6:02 Bob Holroyd
Samb Adagio 5:58 Safri Duo
Denmark 5:07 Chemical Brothers
The Sheer Weight of Memory 5:28 Bob Holroyd
Dark Waters 4:35 Bob Holroyd
Lavender Hill 4:33 Lex van Someren

Friday, August 8, 2014, 9am ~ Act Your Age

Wish You Were Here 6:12 Bliss
Nourah 6:51 Makyo
Something To Believe In 4:44 Parachute
Just Say Yes 4:41 Snow Patrol
Praise You 5:22 Fatboy Slim
Start Wearing Purple 3:43 Gogol Bordello
U R The Answer 5:57 Stephen Bray/ Michael Beckwith
Samb Adagio 5:58 Safri Duo
Shady Esperanto & The Young Hearts 3:03 Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers
Friday I’m In Love (3:33) 3:33 The Cure
City Knows Your Name 4:59 Chris Coco
Bach: Cello Suite #4 In E Flat, BWV 1010 – 1. Sarabande 5:03 Yo-Yo Ma

Warning by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

NIA TRAINER, JULIE WYLIE, COMING TO CHARLOTTESVILLE

We’re excited to support a weekend of classes and workshops with Nia Trainer, Julie Wylie now scheduled for September and a Nia White Belt early in 2015. Events will include lots of things for everyBODY as well as for belts wanting to reconnect to the principles and practices. More info coming soon.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NIA?

For more information about Nia and this rich system of training and learning? Everything Nia is at http://www.nianow.com…

If you’re traveling or moving, you can find a teacher or classes wherever you’re going.

Interested in teaching or deepening your personal practice? Check out the Nia White Belt Training. There is one planned in Charlottesville (see above) and lots of other places, too.

2012-10-19 flash mobMy friend Kate and I led three flashmobs in Charlottesville (see them here and here and here).

Once we made a YouTube video of me doing the choreography in Kate’s kitchen so people could learn it and join in.

Someone commented that I looked stupid in my polka-dotted pants and I was too old to be dressing like that.

I must have had some of those voices in my head, since at first it hurt my feelings.

But then Kate turned off the comments on YouTube and I turned off the comments in my head.

What comments are you listening to?

IMG_3417“It takes a very long time to become young.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Today is my 50th birthday.

Damn. That number can make me want to put my head down.

But as a friend recently sang to his turning-50 wife (and the assembled celebrating masses), “we’re younger now than we’ll ever be.”

Depending on where you are on life’s continuum, you may have different responses to the number 50. Born more recently, and you might saying, “Well YEAH, you are OLD.” Or if you were born before me, you might say (as I do to myself when people bemoan turning 30 or 40), “Oh, pul-EASE. You are a babe. A mere child.” Or, if you, too were born in 1964, you might swallow solemnly and say, “Yeah. 50.”

I completely get all of those responses, since age, as it turns out, is mostly about perspective. It is my sincere hope that I will look back on this day, five or ten or twenty-five or even fifty years hence and think “Damn, I was so young in 2014!”

Better yet, what if I could think that right now?

Hazel is 84 years young and is living in the apartment in our basement. She wields a hoe like a demon and has whipped our weedy gardens into well-tended beauty. She still works several days a week “taking care of old people.” Hazel reminds me every day that the way we think of ourselves has a huge impact not just on our attitudes and perspectives, but on our physical body.

In more than three decades of research, Ellen Langer, has discovered that the way we think of ourselves has a powerful effect on our physical health. In her famous 1979 Counter-Clockwise study, she found that elderly men who acted as if they were twenty years younger for a week showed measurable improvements in their height, weight, gait, posture, vision, joint flexibility, and intelligence. They even looked younger.

Our youth-loving culture wants us to think that after we’ve lived a certain number of years, we should act and look and feel a certain way. Sometimes I find myself rejecting an outfit or an activity because I think I’m too old. When I notice this belief pop up, I take the opportunity to consider where that thought is coming from. Is that the voice of my parents or my children or a magazine? If I want to wear polka dotted pants or a two-piece bathing suit or my hair in pig tails, who is telling me I shouldn’t? According to whom am I too old?

Especially when see Hazel out in the garden or I recall Dr. Langer’s Counter-Clockwise study, I figure the younger I act, the younger I’ll be.

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