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Joy–How to Achieve It

Sarah

The Book of Joy is a conversation between the Dalai Lama (Buddhist) who is exiled in India but continues to be the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people  and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Christian) who lives in South Africa and was a crusader against apartheid and worked for justice and reconciliation in that country.  Both men are over 80.

Among other things the book enumerates eight pillars of joy.  Four are of the mind:  perspective, humility, humor and acceptance, and four are of the heart:  forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.  At the end of the book are a list of joy practices.  A couple of practices that I find helpful are (1) stating my intention for the day and (2) recalling three things for which I’m grateful every day.

Stating my intention for the day does’t mean listing my chores, errands and appointments for that day.  It could be something like, “Today is will I will be listen and engage  with every person I encounter.” Or “Today I will treat everyone with kindness and genuine interest”.  “Today I will be less judgmental and critical”.–You can see what I need help with!

At the end of the day it’s helpful to think of at least three things for which you’re thankful.  Those things could include a conversation you had, a meal you enjoyed, a sunset you witnessed, a book you read.  The list is endless.

Both the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop agree that the joy killer is “self regard”.  Focus on self, self interest, selfishness, self promotion,  me,me,me attitude is counterproductive.  Attaining, achieving, acquiring as a means of finding joy is pointless and ultimately leaves us feeling empty.

A quote from the book at the end of their time together tells us, “the more we turn away from our self-regard to wipe away the tears from the eyes of another, the more–incredibly–we are able to bear, to heal and to transcend our own suffering.  This was their true secret to joy.”

 

Volunteering–Good for Your Health?

Sarah

Everyday Health reports that most of us know that if we eat our fruit and veggies, exercise often, and avoid smoking, we have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives. But you may not know that regularly giving to others should perhaps be added to that healthy checklist.  Volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22 percent reduction in the risk of dying.  Wow!  That’s impressive!  With those benefits there should be no shortage of volunteers.

Studies show that for those who are 55 or older these benefits are particularly remarkable. Perhaps those of us in that age group are often retired or experiencing the “empty nest” syndrome.  We can begin to doubt our self worth and question our purpose, slipping into a habit of putting entirely too much focus on self. Boooring, tiresome (and unhealthy) for ourselves and for those around us!

Research indicates that benefits are optimized when you volunteer in a minimum of two endeavors.  There are so many opportunities that finding two places in which to serve should be quite easy:  in schools, in programs that serve the needy, in arts organizations, in your church, in neighborhood projects or clubs.  The list goes on and on.  What are your interests or passions?  Your time and your talent can make a real difference in the life of an individual and in the life of your community.

If you want to live a longer, happier, and healthier life, take all the usual precautions and then … take the challenge.  Get out there and share your time with those who need it. Where do I sign up?

 

 

Simple Pleasures

Sleeping cats

Sarah 

Evenings, I love them!  A good CD playing, a glass of wine, a cozy fire burning and a cat or two (or three) to keep you company.  What could be better?  I recently got a pick-up load of wood from a reliable source so I’m set for the winter.  I try to gather a little kindling and lay the firewood early in the day so that all I have to do is stuff a little newspaper below the logs and strike a match to get the fire started.    It’s such a pleasure to return from working or from yoga practice to this inviting retreat.

I also love a good cup of coffee or tea in the morning.   Someone gave me a can of Polar Bear tea which is a holiday blend of black tea with cranberries and spices.  I’ll try it tomorrow morning.  Hope it tastes as good as it smells!

According to the Bible, when King Solomon ruled over all of Israel his people lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree.  That’s about the sum of my aspirations–to live in safety under my fig tree.  I’m just glad my fig tree has a fireplace!`

 

Ugh! Count Me Out.

Sarah

One of our readers commented that we wrote about things that we like but didn’t include activities that we don’t like. She listed several things that she enjoys and several that she doesn’t enjoy. That led me to consider what I don’t like or enjoy:
I don’t like competitive events that feature loud vehicles: I have no desire to attend the Indy 500, a nascar race or a tractor pull, but I would like to attend the Kentucky Derby—in a fabulous hat!

I don’t like eating out just for the sake of eating out. I detest paying for a huge portion of poorly prepared or tasteless food—or a small portion either for that matter.

I know many will disagree with this, but I don’t like birds or fish in the house. It seems sort of cruel to me to keep a bird who can fly caged and a fish who can swim the ocean or river contained in a tank.

I don’t like clutter. (I believe this is a trait I inherited from our mother.) Piles of paper, knick knacks, trinkets, collections of figurines, stacks of old movies or paper backs drive me crazy! I’m in two book clubs which means I’m accumulating books.– I’m about to make a donation to the library!

Finally I don’t like oversized things: furniture (Have you seen those chairs, usually with an ottoman, that are almost as large as a love seat?), vegetables (We’re going to eat them not enter them in the county fair!), clothes (rarely flattering) and vehicles (How do you park those monsters?)

Luckily for me all of the above are easily avoided. What’s on your list?

Good Vibrations

Sarah

We all know that sound is a form of energy. When we think of sound, we often think of music. We are now able to measure the effects rhythms and tones have on our heart rate, our breathing, our brain waves, our immune cells and even our DNA. Wow! What am I listening to?

Music has the ability to evoke memories of youth, special occasions and a shared past. My high school boy friend, who is very happily married, recently sent me a recording of Ray Charles singing I Can’t Stop Loving You. ( You know now, if you didn’t already, that I date to the early sixties.) My husband loved big band music. We played In the Mood at his funeral! Johnny Paycheck’s recording of Please Don’t Play A11, reminds me of a funny incident that I shared with someone very special. Any C&W twang makes me think of him.

Music can set a mood. What would you choose for a festive evening? Mariachi music at a wedding reception? What tunes are relaxing or soothing? Which are inspiring or uplifting? Music is an integral part of our holidays. Could we have Christmas without Silent Night? Can you attend a football game at your alma mater without singing the school fight song? Beethoven’s 5th symphony became known as the victory symphony during World War II. The BBC played the familiar first four notes of the symphony before every broadcast to Europe.

According to Brenda Stockdale, author of You Can Beat the Odds, numerous investigations have demonstrated music’s ability to enhance our well-being on multiple levels. She advises us to become aware of the sounds in our environment—background noise included—and the effect they have on our moods or heart rates. Of course, there are things that we can’t control; but there are plenty of opportunities to make a choice: The morning news might be minimized. Perhaps talk radio could be eliminated during your commute. While cooking dinner wouldn’t you rather listen to one of your favorite musical artists than a TV sitcom or police drama? Those that study these sorts of things recommend avoiding rap, heavy metal or techno recordings—unless you want to increase your arterial pressure. So, how about a Brahms lullaby as you drift off to sleep or the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun instead of your alarm? Sounds good to me!

A Few of My Favorite Things

Sarah

Here’s a challenging exercise: write down at least five things that you love to do (whether or not you actually do them) and five things that you do not enjoy doing.  The poser of this task suggests that one of the best ways of determining what you love is to notice what makes you lose track of time.

In her book You Can Beat the Odds Brenda Stockdale reports that in a study at the University of Texas over two thousand people were polled in a national survey that assessed general health, physical function and how they spent time.  They were asked about work, volunteer projects and whether they had an opportunity to learn new things or do something they really enjoyed.  Not surprisingly, the overwhelming finding was that creative activity—defined as non-routine, enjoyable, with built-in learning and problem solving possibilities—helped people stay healthier and live longer.  And this creative work can cause the body to appear nearly seven years younger than chronological age! Now that’s a motivating statistic!

So, what do you love to do?  I’ve been thinking about my list.  Like my sister, Susan, I love to entertain.  I love the preparation:  planning the menu, the cooking, setting the table, arranging flowers, lighting the candles.  I like to have everything done ahead of time so that my attention is on the guests. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it takes a little thought.

I also like to exercise.  I am my mother’s daughter!  She frequently extolled the virtues of exercise.  I have found yoga to be very challenging but beneficial, and I hate to see water aerobics classes come to end when the pool closes for the winter.

Music is another interest.  Regrettably I have no musical gifts, but I can appreciate those of others.  I particularly like familiar opera and classical pieces.  A glass of wine or two and great music make for a wonderful evening.

I must also acknowledge that I like writing.  This blogging experience has been so much fun for me.  I like writing, but I also like reading what Susan and Martha have written. Your comments are great too! I guess that means I enjoy reading which is true. I participate in two book clubs.  I often feel like there are so many literary treasures and so little time!

I think I’m already up to five things, but I can’t forget gardening. Admittedly, at this time of year in Texas the plants and I are ready for a dormant period. Where is that first cold snap?– But I’m also looking at fall bedding plants.

We all know that there are some activities that are unpleasant but unavoidable.  I guess the antidote is to spend as much time as possible doing the things that you love.  Have you started your list yet?

Something More

Flowers

Sarah

As women approaching the age of 70, we have written about the anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, supplements, fashion and make-up. We may have overlooked one important element.  Drinking!  (Just kidding.)  Let’s call it the mental/spiritual aspect of our lives and what we can do to enhance that area:

  •  Buy fresh flowers for your home. I love this one!
  • Visit a park or some other place where you can experience nature. Maybe you have the luxury of being able to  walk everyday in a beautiful place.
  • Take a break from the news.  Being uninformed can be a blessing!
  • Read an inspirational book.
  • Make a list of friends and acquaintances who make you feel happier, more alive, more optimistic. Spend time with those individuals. Does this mean avoiding those who evoke the opposite feelings?
  •  Try your hand at growing herbs, fruit or vegetables. My rosemary is still alive! I also have an orange and a lemon tree in pots. No fruit. Maybe next year.
  •  Take a moment to express gratitude for your food before meals.
  • Think of a piece of music that you find uplifting and listen to it: C&W, classic rock, opera, jazz? I have a new     Texas Tenors CD.
  • View a work of art, sculpture or architecture that you find beautiful.
  • Reconnect with someone with whom you’ve lost touch or from whom you are estranged.
  • Forgive someone who has hurt you or made you angry. Do this for yourself. The person you are forgiving my     have completely forgotten the offense.
  • Do something for someone else without expecting something in return.
  • If you don’t have a pet, consider getting one—from your local animal shelter.
  • Volunteer.
  • And finally, have an occasional glass of wine.

Exercise and diet are important, but these habits really make for a well lived life.