Live long … Die strong

600_Untitled-1Recent research finds that the average life expectancy of Indian men and women has increased by 7 and 10 years respectively. But, it’s not yet time to celebrate. Not until longevity embraces good health naturally. For, the same study poignantly points out that most people spend the extra years in pain, weakness, being bed-ridden and dependent on care-givers. We have to change our circumstances and add health and grace to our years. As the TV commercial goes: “We are worth it.”

Pause to prepare: For this change to occur, let knowledge be our guiding star; faith in our capabilities, our strength; and healing practices, our chosen path. Let our awareness and good intentions grow into bright twin flames where they burn our internal dross to fragrant ash. Let us stop focusing solely on anti-aging concepts and instead ring in a wider vision of enlightened living. Let our life-force flow freely and bring back vigour and vitality to our body, mind and spirit. Now, together, let’s build on this blueprint….

Know your health asset: One of the most heartening discoveries is that our DNA — which reigns in and rules our cells — is sturdy and immune to wear and tear. Astonishingly intelligent, its ability to heal, repair, renew our cells and manufacture new ones when required never diminishes. Moreover, it powers on totally oblivious to the passage of time defined as ‘aging.’

You might have heard about the archaeological team which discovered in its digs a vessel of wheat grains in a pyramid in Egypt. The team sowed and watered them and voila! within a week, these two-thousand-year-old seeds sprouted!

That’s the DNA we have in our cells — a positive powerhouse with a phenomenal memory.

With so much going for us, why then do we fall ill and deteriorate? Well, our cells respond according to the memories we sow in them. Sow healthy memories and we rejoice in lifelong wellness. Unfortunately, almost every one of us has willy-nilly sown unhealthy memories of fear, guilt, anger, resentment, revenge, jealousy, condemnation, even beliefs like “Suffering and sorrow are part of life,” and “We all grow old and frail, fall sick and die some day.”

How easily we give in to these negative, health- opposing emotions! Over the years, their toxicity forms a kind of metaphysical barrier between the DNA and the cells. However, valiantly the DNA sends messages to heal, the toxic vapour disallows the cell-receptors from receiving them. As the cells weaken, they are unable to perform even the basic tasks of producing health-building proteins. At some point, the cells become incapable of absorbing nutrients from foods and medicines. And begins our decline….

It’s time to reverse this trend. To ride astride the prevention-is-better-than-cure and the enlightenment-is-transformative frequencies. To live as enlightened humans. The great Buddhist leader, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Mindfulness, the capacity to be here, to witness deeply everything that happens in the present moment, is the beginning of enlightenment.” And the beginning of great health.

Being present: The easiest way to be in the present moment is through exercise. The body is always here. It anchors the emotional, wandering mind. And you discipline the wayward mind by deeply observing the physical exercise you are doing.

In the first exercise, sit comfortably, let the mind enjoy the beautiful music of the body. The body’s music is its rhythmic breath. As you inhale through your nostrils, swell your stomach out. As you exhale through your mouth, draw your stomach in. Think rhythmically with the breath, “Calm … ease. Smile … release. Present moment … healing moment.” Engage the mind with these meaningful words. When the mind is with the body, it is fully in the present, undisturbed.

Breathe 10 times. Each day, increase to 20…30… until you feel a joyous hush in your mind. Remember: the enlightened one neither strains nor strives. The process is simply experienced — from tumult to healing peace, from darkness to wondrous light, from sleep to a gentle aliveness….

For the second exercise, please stand up. Face the wall, heels flat on the floor, arms straight down. Make the right hand crawl on its fingers up the wall until the arm is straight. Crawl down. Repeat with the left hand. End with both hands crawling up and down together. Crawl six times. Your spine straightens and strengthens, neck, back, hip-joints, thighs ease. All aches — potential or present — in these regions crawl away. Think, “I surrender all blocks and conflicts in this stretch and allow the vital energy to flow freely through my being.” When the mind stops struggling, you become centred in your own serene stability.

The third exercise rejuvenates. Stand with legs apart, arms at sides. Raise both hands to the ceiling, then lower until they are a little behind you — 30 times. Breathe normally, consciously. Think, “I calm my heart, rhythmise my lungs and ease my digestion.” Bonus: If you’ve not slept well, this great stretch of the trees freshens.

Do these three exercises daily and you will find your mind calming … clearing … contemplating … Affirm at every opportunity this beautiful wisdom, “My mind rests in peace, floats in fearlessness and forgiveness, basks in acceptance and harmony, soars in gratitude, celebrates in love.” You’ll be surprised how effectively this personal memorandum makes you hold your tongue where you’d normally lash out sarcastically or pass a cutting judgement both of which dispel harmony. As you soften your responses, you’ll find yourself to be a still reservoir of goodwill and a moving river of energy. And yes, during low energy phases or trials, don’t give in to irritation or fear, instead gear up, knowing the low phase will pass. At such times, rely on the steadfast rock of discipline rather than on the shifting sands of emotions.

A beautiful story goes: a protestor took a silent stand against the overbearing behaviour of the USA by showing up at the gates of the nation’s military school. Asked, “What makes you think your single little candle will have any effect on the government? They’ve always been bullies,” the protestor replied, “I’m not worried about changing them. I don’t want my country to change me.”

Yes, don’t allow general acts of violence, aggression and intolerance get into you. Hold up your candle of good health and continue to send healing memories into your cells. It’s not just about dying in peace tomorrow but living in bliss today.

(The writers are authors of the book Fitness for Life.)

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