I. Am. A. Modern. Elder. …on becoming at mid-life and beyond

We formed a community. Last week, we eighteen gathered by the ocean, whales and stingrays joining us. We were led in meditation connecting us to Earth, wind, stars, sand, all the elements of nature, and the magic began. The Modern Elder Academy, or MEA, as we now call it, is a week-long quest in Mexico created by Chip Conley to share his own search for meaning in his second half of life. According to Forbes, “At age 26, he founded Joie de Vivre Hospitality and turned it into the second largest boutique hotel brand in the U.S. He sold his company in 2010 when he was 50. He felt a bit adrift, unsure of what to do with his energy and ambition. Then he got a call from a young entrepreneur named Brian Chesky who had founded a home-sharing start-up called Airbnb.” After serving as Strategic Advisor for Hospitality and Strategy there, he wanted to share his rewarding experience as a “mentern”, being both a mentor to his young colleagues and an intern, learning the tech world from them. In his book, Wisdom at Work, he shares the qualities people middle age and beyond can bring to those younger such as emotional intelligence. The Academy creates a mid-life rite of passage to help people redefine their value as “elders” and heed a call to share their gifts with the world.

 

Finishing up breakfast, that first morning and every morning thereafter, a song (Hallelujah was the first one) reverberated throughout the buildings, the resort, a musical call to Mecca, time to gather. Ingenious in its tightly designed structure, right out of the starting block we got down and raw, sharing negative soul-destructing beliefs about ourselves with our new “compadres”. We then wrote and purged them in a ceremonious burning. That was the start of a week of authenticity, reconstructing ourselves. Not by ourselves, we did this together through honest, revealing sharing of our worries, our sorrows, our hopes, our dreams.

 

We began redefining who we are, who we want to be. We entered a liminal space,“…the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ ” We dug up what we have mastered over a lifetime, passions and skills to share with the world. We opened our mindsets to skills we may have forgotten or neglected to learn like collaboration, listening with focus and empathy, inclusivity and fostering intergenerational relationships. We aspired to learn the art of appreciative inquiry, opening up to not knowing, wondering and asking of the institutions and people around us what is possible. We committed to creating a “what’s next”.

 

Swaddled in the beauty of the surroundings, the warmth of the Mexican staff and fed by morning meditations/yoga by the ocean, we ate beautiful, nutritious food lovingly presented over candid conversations about how we ended up in this place in Mexico and in life. The discomfort melted away as we began wondering about the possibilities ahead in this next phase of life, dare we call it elderhood? We tried improv, surf lessons, rock balancing, and Shaman sessions to open up ourselves further. We were coddled with hugs, massages, sensory pleasures like ocean breezes, colorful arty décor, flowing architecture, beaming faces, laughter, so much laughter, art, bread making, bread eating, and music. We danced in the evening to music as a release, we danced to music to celebrate ourselves as a community, we danced together to music to smile.

 

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We became a community. We created a positive connection and are now wired together invisibly to a bigger community of MEA graduates. It feels the opposite of what I remember learning in college, about urban sprawl moving in concentric circles away from big cities, into the isolation of suburbia. This is a scattering, much less symmetrical but equally as big. Profoundly needed by a wounded society. Connections. For the good. A call to right action. A coming together of people from dispirit backgrounds from varied geographic locations. We have been given the opportunity to use what we’ve gained to spread love to people, to see their inner essence, respect our differences, to make an offering, celebrate the bravery of putting oneself out there, exposing our tenderness, our rawness. So, whether you share our crazy journey (did I mention there was a Shaman involved?) or are carried by a different flow of love and spirituality, isn’t this what we’re all hoping for, yearning for? Unconditional acceptance, a little love and a commitment to building our communities and world with a noble purpose?

 

#ModernElderAcademy, #MEA, #elder, #mid-life, #what’snext

Best Version of Me I Can Be

Old story. Gained weight over holidays. Eating in way that does not make me wake up feeling my best. Trying to eat better. Healthier meals, I think? Damn, still having these late evening cravings. Three nights in a row, ice cream, popcorn, then a bowl of cereal. (In my defense, I DID NOT purchase the ice cream or the cereal, trigger foods for me, so could I help it if I ate them?) Woke up with epiphany. I. NEED. MORE. VEGETABLES. My body is crying out with cravings that feel like only carbs can satisfy but I know from experience, it’s crying out for nutrients that have been missing in my diet. Not enough IMG_1488vegetables. So, brunch today is a gigantic serving of them. It helped that yesterday I had prepped this big container of cut up veggies of all kinds.

I added tons of veggies to an omelet.

 

 

Ate the whole thing and feeling pretty, pretty good.

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Will see how it goes later tonight.  Recommitting to a path towards being my best version of myself, in many more ways than just physically, but it starts, for me, with what I’m putting into my body.

 

How Much Adult Life Do You Have Ahead of You and Who Will You Be?

According to Chip Conley, who calls himself a Modern Elder, “It’s proven that shifting to a positive perspective on aging can add 7.5 years to our lives…”. How? By living a life with purpose.  So how much adult life do you think you have ahead of you and, as Mary Oliver asks, “…what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mr. Conley hosts a mid-life Wisdom School, Modern Elder Academy, to help answer this question. Forbes calls it the “The Cool School for Midlifers“.

Instead of feeling less reverent with age, he’s about helping people use their wisdom to do something meaningful with their elderhood, he tells in his recent Ted Talk in Marin County, California. Part of doing so involves societal shifts for stereotypes of older adults. He posits that research shows that with each passing decade life gets better and better, at odds with society’s narrative of aging, that you’re just going to get decrepit and die. We haven’t, as a rule, looked forward to “old-hood”, but it’s time we do! As we move through the journey of the decades, getting older, he says, is more than just deterioration of the body. At the same time we are in the process of turning into something else, of blossoming. Where earlier in life we nursed our ego now is time to get in touch with our souls. We’re living longer and have a greater desire to have meaning in our life. Middlescence, says Conway, prepares us for aging as adolescence prepares young people for adulthood.

Coach and author Barbara Waxman says Middlescence [noun], pronounced middle-essence, is, “A transitional period, between the ages of about 45 and 65, marked by an increased desire to find or create greater meaning in one’s life. Often accompanied by physical, social, and economic changes, it is a turning point from which adults continue to develop and grow. A life stage created by increased longevity patterns in the 21st century.”

Margaret Manning, Sixty and Me blogger, is someone who has found meaning in connecting with others creating a huge virtual community of older women. When people compliment her for what’s she’s doing at “her age”, it feels like people are surprised she is attractive, vital, employed and a contributor to society. She wants to change that stereotype.  People are living longer, are better educated, and are leading healthier lives; Margaret Manning is redefining aging through her vibrant example.

So how do we prepare for the next stage of life, this elderhood? In his book, The Second Mountain, David Brooks describes the path of moving from “first mountain” stage of life, a self-centered period of acquisition of material goods, building career and financial security, to the “second mountain” stage of finding work with purpose or meaning for a cause greater than ourself.

These three sages agree that building community and helping each other is one essential ingredient of finding greater happiness within and outside of oneself. In a society and time where personal achievement and accomplishment are highly prized and a decline in morals is prevalent, Brooks’ book gives inspiration and hope from his examples of people living spiritually and morally committed lives and, most importantly,  interconnected with others.

 

CHANGE YOUR HABITS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Chances are there is some behavior you’d like to change relating to exercise, weight loss, sleep, money, productivity or relationships. “If we change our habits, we change our lives”…claims author Gretchen Rubin in her book Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of the Happiness Project, graduated from Yale Law School, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, then quit a lucrative career in law to write, it turns out, about happiness. In her second book, she decided to expand her research to delve into habits because she found peoples’ happiness to be closely tied to them.

From informal research with friends and family on changing habits, Rubin was struck by what works for some gets the opposite results, even resistance, with others. She says we all face “outer” expectations (meeting deadlines, etc.) as well as “inner” expectations (exercise regularly, etc.). To describe how people respond to expectations, Rubin developed a framework defining four distinct groups within which most people fall, The Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers or Rebels with the idea that understanding yourself will help you shape habits and strategies that work for you.

Here’s a brief description of the Tendencies:

  • Upholder – meets BOTH inner and outer expectations, is good at keeping commitments, following a schedule, keeping New Years resolutions
  • Obliger – meets outer expectations but RESISTS inner expectations, will meet obligations to colleagues, family, friends but has difficulty self-motivating and sticking with it without outside accountability
  • Rebel – resists BOTH inner and outer expectations, likes freedom and choice, doesn’t like to follow routines, resists habits but will work towards goals in own, unique way
  • Questioner – meets inner expectations but RESISTS outer expectations, is motivated by reason and logic, may need to do own research before buying in

If you’d like to figure out your own Tendency, take this quiz:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3163256/Gretchen-Rubin-s-Quiz-The-Four-Tendencies-Fall2016

Better Than Before covers a wide range of topics relating to habits. Here’s a summary of some of the points she makes.

  • You might need to change a bad habit (going to bed late) before you develop a good habit (exercising in the morning). Habits in the areas of sleep, movement, eating and drinking right, and uncluttering are foundational for well being and reinforce each other, so if you want to lose weight, for example, you may need to get enough sleep to have energy to change the way you prepare food and eat. Exercise boosts energy and mood and helps you sleep better. Alcohol interferes with inhibitions and disrupts sleep. A favorite saying of Gretchen’s is, “Outer order, inner calm” – she advocates reducing clutter to help foster a sense of self-command. It might surprise you to know that making your bed is considered by many sources, including this book, as a definitive way to improve your own self discipline and well being.
  • Monitoring behavior can be a powerful way to promote change. For example, studies have shown we tend to underestimate what we eat and overestimate how much we exercise. Logging our food intake or writing our exercise minutes on a calendar is often motivation for change. A related activity is accountability, being held accountable to an outside source. Examples are weigh-ins at Weight Watchers, meeting a friend at the gym to workout. The simple act of scheduling habits on your calendar, like times to workout, eat meals, can reinforce behavior. If you want to lose weight, do you allow time in your day for shopping, meal prep and eating to avoid having to grab convenience foods and eat on the run?
  • Sometimes we can be struck by what Rubin calls a Lightning Bolt, an action that results in a sudden habit change. Watching a documentary like Food, Inc. could change your relationship with meat forever.
  • Important to know about yourself, are you an abstainer or moderator? Abstainers find it easier to give up something altogether, like strictly following a diet plan, than by allowing deviations. There is no sense of deprivation when the issue is off the table totally. By contrast, moderators may feel heightened deprivation from a restricted diet; an occasional indulgence might strengthen their resolve to continue healthy eating.
  • Changing one’s environment is helpful, such as packing your gym bag the night before, cleaning out temptations from your home or creating storage space to help keep organized. Move the candy jar off your desk at work.
  • Lastly, stumbling blocks are everywhere. It helps to have a strategy ahead of time for tempting situations. Develop “If…then” scenarios, “If this happens then I will______”. Rubin describes the biggest enemy, a variety of types of Loop-hole thinking, arguments for why we should be excused from following a good habit, why we should make an exception such as… I deserve a day off. I’ve lost weight so I deserve a reward, etc.

Hopefully this will help you think about your habits and consider changing some to improve your life! To learn more you can read the book, Better Than Before, follow Gretchen Rubin’s blog, or listen to her weekly podcast (links below).

Blog: https://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/tag/blog/

Podcast: Happier with Gretchen Rubin: http://gretchenrubin.com/podcast/

Body Fat Measurement Tool…the Mirror!

 

There’s many ways to measure body fat with varying degrees of accuracy  but all involve some type of specialized equipment. If you don’t have calipers, scales, or a submersion pool, here’s an at-home way to estimate your body fat percentage using the mirror!

 


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These pictures come for the website Built Lean. Follow this link for an excellent article on the topic.

http://www.builtlean.com/2012/09/24/body-fat-percentage-men-women/

 

Cycling – Warm Up and Stretching Exercises

Warming up before riding gets your body ready for the effort it’s about to exert. The idea is to gently move one’s joints through all their ranges of motion. Afterwards, stretching when your muscles are warmed up is aimed at mobility as well as stretching muscles out to avoid poor muscle function or imbalances. These warm ups came from the LIVESTRONG web site…I put them all on one powerpoint slide for easy access.

If you’d like a PDF of these for your phone, email me: fitforrestofyourlife@gmail.com.

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Here’s the link to the original livestrong site: http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1010730-stretches-before-biking/#slide=11

 

 

Out of shape at 61, Fit at 90!

90 years old. His workout? 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups and 2919 steps! Cardio and strength training combined! After retirement at age 61, over the years he took up jogging, calisthenics, and hitting the local Larkspur stairs.  Not only has he become a fit senior, he’s become somewhat of a folk hero in his community along the way. It’s never too late to get in shape!

 

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Link to the Marin Independent Journal article.

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