Self-Love & the Beauty of Aging
The moment you are born, you are changing. Growing. And yes, aging. As energy shifts and swirls, the cells in your body continually reinvent themselves. Babies age at a rapid pace. And that's fine because tiny teeth and peach fuzz are awfully cute on them. But it doesn't seem so adorable decades later as gray hair sprouts like weeds and wrinkles crease formerly smooth skin. When it comes to getting older, the media uses nature to play upon fears (especially women). Humans are likened to flowers, lush in bloom for a while, until a certain age hits… Then it's time to retire to the compost heap and fade off into invisibility.
Sure, you can dog paddle against the current for a while and “combat the signs of aging,” as those ubiquitous ads preach. After all, the promise of capturing eternal youth in a bottle is big business. According to marketwatch, the anti-aging market is expected to reach 271 billion dollars by 2024. To put that in an eerie perspective, the earth's population is only about 7.7 billion. If aging is natural and always occurring, then isn't the concept of “anti-aging” implausible? Instead of feeling good about yourself, believing that your face and body ought to remain frozen only creates a defensive attitude towards what you see in the mirror; this attachment keeps you tethered to the past, unable to experience each miraculous moment.
How does aging fit in with mindfulness, healthy living and self-love? Performer, Winona Ryder, once said, “I've been embracing aging. I always have, since I was a kid. When you're the kid on the set for so long, you just, like, daydream about being older.” One thing is clear, whether you are 22 or 82, without self-acceptance your unique beauty won't have the chance to shine through. Wouldn't it be more optimistic and realistic to aspire to be increasingly healthy, and self-aware as years pass? Especially, considering that time affords you the opportunity to shed insecurities, gain insights, and linger on the things you care about. In time, as you learn from experiences, relationships deepen, and your capacity to love and pleasure intensifies.
Being open and grounded in the present gives way to spontaneity. Discoveries have the chance to reveal themselves. So dare to go deeper... look beyond the surface, to the essence of quiet beauty lurking within others. Search for kind eyes, and a warm inviting smile. At the beguiling age of 91, model Daphne Selfe proves that “younger isn’t always hotter,” and maturity holds its own brand of allure. Daphne isn't the only model on the other side of 60 either; here's a list of 9 senior models, the youngest in the bunch being 69. Glowy skin. Balanced energy. The ability to laugh with ease. Feeling good and looking good go together like dark chocolate and sea salt. After all, what's more appealing than radiating health, confidence, and a playful sense of humor?
Since healthy = beautiful, enjoying the aging process means you don’t wait for your body to break down and call for help; instead, you nurture it with loving self-care, and keep it ever resilient. Over the years, different health concerns naturally arise. These changes make regular wellness habits increasingly important. Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn PhD, and Psychologist Elissa Epel, write in their bestselling book, "The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer," about the correlation between aging, disease and the length of the tips of certain chromosomes called telomeres. Interestingly, specific lifestyle changes, such as exercise, mindfulness practices, and holistic foods, can keep your cells healthier longer, offering youthful benefits. In their book, Blackburn and Epel site a study which “found that people who tend to focus their minds more on what they are currently doing have longer telomeres than people whose minds tend to wander more. Other studies find that taking a class that offers training in mindfulness or meditation is linked to improved telomere maintenance." So along with a solar system of reasons why meditation and mindfulness are worthy of dedication, there's evidence they may also slow down the speed of aging.
It would be impossible to talk about aging without mentioning the G-word. No, it's not gorgeous (well, kind of). It's gratitude. To give thanks for each new day, hour, moment, when there are those who don't have the privilege of experiencing them, is to cherish what you truly have. And feel lucky. Even though life itself is temporary, it doesn't expire like moldy yogurt at X age... It continues opening, with forward momentum. In the words of Yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch, '“When I wake up in the morning, I look up at the sun and say, “This is going to be the best day of my life. And it will be. It always is.” At 101 years young, Tao is the world's most senior Yoga teacher. From Tao's perspective, time does not imply retirement. It signifies sharing lifelong gifts with those fortunate enough to be able to practice with her. Tao began teaching Yoga as a teenager; in this video she talks about the importance of the breath, and embracing each new day with an open heart-centered attitude. Tao's self-love and yogic perspective allow her playful creative spirit to flourish with time.
Learning to drive. Your very first kiss... Firsts are filled with newness and astonishment. With awareness, they never stop occurring. Different stages of life bring their own firsts, along with fresh realizations and memories. As people live longer, concepts of aging ought to shift with the changing times. 30 may be the new 20, and 50 the new 40. But in the 19th Century the life expectancy was roughly 40. Let that sit for a while... Today people like Tao are living well past their eighties, nineties and beyond. There's real freedom in being true to who you are. It defines that much tossed around word: authenticity. And what is aging, but change in action. Growing older is an opportunity to widen your scope and learn from past experiences. So release any feelings of shame and/or expectations attached to what you think you should have accomplished by a specific age. Look to your creativity. Explore what brings you joy. Embrace your curiosity. Give yourself freedom to explore all that interests you. Only through an attitude of loving kindness and compassion towards yourself and others, can you appreciate the gift of your days, hours, minutes.