Slow The Aging Process with This Surprising Technique
Do you find yourself often reliving the past? Maybe going back to difficult conversations, but this time coming up with clever and incisive responses?
Maybe you torture yourself by constantly revisiting painful episodes, feeling unable to exorcise them from your mind?
There might be a period of your life when you felt particularly successful or powerful, and now you find yourself replaying moments from that time, or telling people about who you once were.
It’s easy to slip into any or all of these. However—you might want to think twice next time you begin to drift into this pattern.
Because frequent dwelling on the past—even on positive memories—can actually accelerate the aging process!
Now, when I say ‘positive memories,’ I’m not talking about occasionally sharing some nostalgia with loved ones while viewing photos of a treasured vacation. I mean a regular habit of looking back on times when it seemed like things were better than they are now.
Yep—accelerates the aging process.
I’m not just pulling this out of nowhere. IT comes from one of the leading spiritual teachers of our time.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I am only now finally getting around to reading The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle.
Despite the fact that it occupied a prominent place of honor on the shelves of my store for at least five years after its publication, despite it being one of the ‘highly recommended’ books on our list during my coach training, despite countless friends and colleagues raving about it, and despite owning my own copy for over a decade…. Somehow I just never could get past the first few pages of Tolle’s somewhat pedantic writing style.
I mean I was pretty sure I’d heard it all already.
I guess I wasn’t quite ready or willing to be present.
It’s so funny, because now that it’s Divine Timing for me to receive this, I’m not bothered at all by the writing style. And … it’s a whole book, for heaven’s sake! I have NOT already heard it all!
I’m drinking up the reminders, and practicing presence as often as I can.
Which, of course isn’t that often.
Those moments of presence are fleeting at best. My busy mind has always much preferred planning the future. Or catching up on what’s going on with everyone else.
Now I have an extra incentive, I am quite motivated to slow the aging process. And I notice I actually do feel younger when I’m fully in the moment.
More and more, instead of feeling like a drag, or boring, there’s a wonder, a curiosity, an excitement with the experiment with actually occupying my body even in the boring or painful moments.
And, I’m fascinated by Tolle’s explanation of the ‘pain body,’ and super excited about the potential of Matrix Reimprinting for helping to diminish or even dissolve the pain body.
But what really jumped out at me was his take on what happens in our bodies when the past takes up a great deal of our attention. I‘d always thought that the ‘problem’ with being in the past rather than the present was in reliving all the old pain. But Tolle says that even when your mind is preoccupied with the great things you’ve achieved, ‘you are not only reinforcing a false sense of self but also helping to accelerate your body’s aging process by creating an accumulation of past in your psyche.”
He invites us to verify this for ourselves by observing those around us who have a strong tendency to hold on to the past. Now THAT’S an interesting experiment.
Set an intention today to notice when you mentally go into the past. And, if you can, gently redirect your thoughts and body experience to the present.
It just may pay off in a more resilient and healthy body—whatever your age!
I love how you take yourself lightly, describing in a very entertaining way, how you finally came to read The Power of Now.
I’m thinking about my own ageing–I’m 51 now–and, inspired by Ram Dass, want to do it consciously. He said that we Westerners are so overcome by what happens to our bodies that we are totally unprepared for the “real” tasks of ageing. As I consider this, I yearn for inspiration to age well, to live, age and die gloriously and fully. So when I read that he encourages slowing the ageing process, and when I read an implied association between ageing and feeling like a drag or boring, I feel sad. I’m yearning for inspiration on my path.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What comes up when you read this? I’d love to advance my thinking through discussion!
Shulamit, thank you for this thoughtful response. I am a believer in embracing what is.. .which means feeling okay with whatever age our bodies have progressed to. At the same time, I think that there is a dominant cultural narrative that we climb, peak, and then decline at certain ages. Especially in the case of our bodies. I’m interested in challenging that narrative, and in questioning if it’s indeed ‘inevitable’ that we can expect our quality of life to decline, and that we can expect various health challenges simply because of the amount of years that have passed.
We live in bodies on this earthly plane, so certain physical manifestations occur as the years pass. But perhaps it is not necessary to experience the amount of aches, pains and diseases that have come to be expected. And of course there are many examples of people who have lived well into their 90s and beyond with sound minds and fairly flexible bodies.
So when I use the words ‘slow the aging process’, I’m not trying to deny that aging exists or that we should somehow stop or slow it—but more in the spirit of your own beautiful words: “to age well, live and die gloriously.” I love that!
You might enjoy Christiane Northrup’s latest books, “Goddesses Never Age.” She is an MD who challenges this narrative that aging is a decline.
Thanks for you comment. Let’s continue this conversation!
Hmm, I know where you are coming from, but I also think there’s more to it than this. In my book Spirited Ageing I talk about scooping up the past in order to bring it into the present, e.g. reviving an old passion. With dementia patients, joining them in their positive memories of the past has been proven to help with ‘contented dementia’ as one author calls it.
Staying present and mindful however is a great strategy, not just for ageing but also for living at any age.
Yes Juliet, I agree that there’s a lot more to it than this short blog post addresses. There have been studies that show that positive physiological changes can occur with subjects who are living and experiencing life they way they did a few decades ago. So, I do agree with you that experiencing positive memories can produce positive results.
Honestly, I”m still chewing on all of this. I think there is a balance, a fine line even, between revisiting the positive memories, reviving passion, etc, and wallowing or over-dwelling in the past at the expense of experiencing the present.
All of this makes me think a few sequels to this post might be in order!
Always welcome calls to be present and practice mindfulness, Sarah. To add another angle to the conversation around revisiting the past, I want to share something by David Whyte. I read it a week or so ago–in it, he talks about nostalgia in a way I find particularly intriguing (and different):
“NOSTALGIA is the arriving waveform of a dynamic past, newly remembered and about to be re-imagined by a mind and a body at last ready to come to terms with what actually might have occurred. Nostalgia subverts the present by its overwhelming physical connection to a place in which we lived, to a time in which we lived or to a person or people with whom we lived, making us wonder, in the meeting of past and present, if the intervening years ever occurred. Nostalgia can feel like an indulgence, a sickness, an inundation by forces beyond us, but strangely, forces that have also lived with us and within us, all along.
Nostalgia is not indulgence. Nostalgia tells us we are in the presence of imminent revelation, about to break through present structures held together by the way we not have remembered deeply enough: something we thought we understood but that we are now about to understand more fully, something already lived but not fully lived, something that was important, but something to which we did not grant importance enough; issuing not from our future but from something already experienced; something now wanting to be lived again, at the depth to which we were first invited, but which we originally refused.” (David Whyte, From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words)
Nostalgia is not an immersion in the past, nostalgia is the first annunciation that the past as we know it is coming to an end.”
Dana, thank you so much for sharing this enriching addition to this discussion from one of my favorite poets and writers! This really resonates with me, thinking about nostagia as another way to ‘rewrite our stories’ into ones that serve us more fully. Understanding more fully the true beauty of the experiences that formed who we are today.
This sort of nostalgia is surely a different mental process than circling around and around painful past experiences again and again. I also think there’s a distinction between the nostalgia Whyte is discussing and the ‘wishing to be back in a better past’ that I believe Tolle is talking about. Although, I do want to reflect on this some more.
It’s an interesting balance… mindful presence along with revisiting our pasts in a more mindful and fruitful manner.
What a rich discussion this is! Dana, I love the words from David Whyte and ‘nostalgia is the first annunciation that the past as we know it is coming to an end.’
I think that’s what I was reaching for when thinking how going back into the past can be a way of infusing the present with more energy. For example, I have been rediscovering some of the magic of childhood recently, now in my 70s.
What’s emerging from this discussion is the difference between wallowing and being revitalised.