Saturday, August 7, 2010

Audacious Aging

I just finished reading a marvelous book titled Audacious Aging, a collection of 30 essays by a fascinating group of contributors, including Larry Dossey, Jean Houston, Joan Borysenko, Gene Cohen, Gloria Steinem and Andrew Weil.

I have been recommending the book to everyone over 50 I meet, and I will continue to do that, because it represents one of the broadest and most exciting expressions of the depth and power of aging I have read. That's partly because of the diversity of perspectives, and the fields that are included.

Deepak Chopra urges us to wake up from the "hypnosis of social conditioning" and look at aging in a fresh, open way, including the spiritual dimensions which are timeless and ageless.

Ram Dass points out that aging is one of our society's last taboos, and reflects on how sad it is when people in trying to maintain youth pit themselves against time and natural law, and how market-driven images of aging are designed to make us feel as if aging is some kind of failure. Ram Dass says what I deeply believe to be true. "If the situation is going to change, of course it will be because we, the aging, work to change it...As older people we will have to initiate the change by freeing ourselves of this culture's bias, and remember the unique things we bring to the table."

Gloria Steinem notes in relationship to changing perceptions of aging," We may not have maps for this new country, but other movements can give us a compass." Yes!

Changing prevalent social views and prejudices about aging is only one of the themes here, though. This book is an incredible bouyant, expansive look at the potential for change and depth in many areas, including mind/body, health and medicine, diet and exercise, wellness through healing old traumas, potential for changing one's DNA, potent civic participation, the value of living in community as we age, and "going into the forest"--the power of stillness and the inner life.

Aging is audacious naturally, Patch Adams MD writes. Both Rabbi Zalman Schachter and dancer Gabrielle Roth start their essays the same way: "Aging is inevitable. Audacious aging is a choice."
There is such delightful, revelatory writing in this book. I enjoyed Dominick Dunne's essay I Want to Drop Dead on the Tarmac and Norman Shealy's contribution Every Thought is a Prayer. I just choose these rather arbitrarily, because I found 80% of the essays thoroughly fascinating and the other 20% very interesting, but maybe stuff I already know about, especially in the areas of mind/body and healing. Great material!

I haven't even mentioned the rich entries of some of the lesser-known contributors, which are stunning in their perspectives and implications. This is an inspiring, potent book, a real guide as we move into the authenticity and authority age naturally presents. When older adults let go of "the badly tailored suit of an outdated identity" as Ram Dass styles our cultural bias against aging, we are empowered to take these later years as an opportunity to share the wisdom of our lived experience. This book is a beacon for that journey.

Highly recommended. Many exclamation points. Must-read!

I know I will be re-reading these essays many times. And I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the book once you have read it yourself. Check out the website, www.audaciousaging. com and order your copy!

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