Growing Older and Liking It
There's no doubt about it: America today is dominated
by a culture of youth. The entertainment industry, Madison Avenue and our adulation of all things innovative conspire to make
us feel diminished as we age.
Yet not all cultures are like this. "In the Vedic tradition, as in all traditional societies, elderly people are considered
to be an asset to society, and are given many opportunities to share their experiences and advice with younger generations,"
says The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians.
This is a healthier situation for the elderly, who are nourished by the respect of their family and society. It's also
healthier for the growing children, who benefit from the advice of those who are more experienced.
"One way children learn to respect their elders is by listening to Vedic stories, says The Council. "For example, in the epic story Ramayana, Lord Rama, who is the divine
in human form, seeks out the elderly saints and asks for their blessings and advice when he is exiled to the forest for 14
Even today in India, whenever someone is going on a journey, they follow the tradition of the Ramayana and touch the feet
of the elders in the family to receive their blessings.
"This is the kind of social support, social healing that the elderly enjoy in a traditional society," explains The Council. "They are considered the guardians of the family and the
Drawing on these traditions, The Council offers
several ways to enjoy growing old in America.
Live with Your Family
If society is always reminding you that you are growing old, that is called social aging, and it can impact your health
negatively. Yet if you feel useful and are an integral part of your grandchildren's upbringing, that can help counteract social
"Some older people think that they should just live alone to avoid problems with their children or grandchildren, and to
preserve their energy," says The Council. "While
this might be better for cellular aging, it is unhealthy in a social and psychological sense. You can't buy the value of love.
The loving vibrations from grandchildren support and nourish the older person."
Noting that many elderly Americans spend their days in front of the TV, he advises, "Don't mistake the people you see on
TV with real friends, real family, real grandchildren. It's your own friends, your own family that will provide you with a
more happy, blissful life."
While children need to cultivate respect for their elders, the parents need to cultivate unconditional forgiveness. Ayurvedic
texts describe the nature of an elderly person who deserves great respect: one who is positive in their thinking, who practices
the saatvic habits known as Behavioral Rasayanas, and is forgiving."
"If your child or grandchild has done something wrong, that doesn't mean that you should penalize them," says The Council. "A famous verse from the great teacher Shankara says that
even if a son is a bad son to his mother, the mother cannot be a bad mother to the son. This is an ideal for all parents to
follow--to always have a loving, accepting attitude toward their children.
This kind of attitude will have a nourishing affect not only on the child but on the elderly person. If you are thinking
negative thoughts, it damages the coordination between dhi, dhriti and smriti.
"Even if the child doesn't ask for your advice, or doesn't follow your advice, you can pray for them and love them unconditionally,"
says The Council. "To give something, you first
need to forgive."
Protect Your Memory
In order to share your memories and experiences with your children and granchildren, you need to preserve your ability
to remember. To keep the coordination between dhi, dhriti and smriti (acquisition, retention and recall) healthy, it's important
to avoid the buildup of ama.
Because the Vata time of life begins around age 60, the digestion becomes less reliable and the chances of creating ama
are greater. So you must take care to eat Vata-pacifying foods that are light, warm, nutritious and nourishing. To avoid ama,
stay away from preserved, canned, dead or frozen foods. A diet of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains such
as quinoa and amaranth, and light dairy products are intelligent foods that create ojas and help maintain the memory.
For a healthy mind, The Council recommends
nourishing foods such as walnuts, raw coconut chutney, milk-mango shake, and milk-date shake, because these enhance ojas.
Turmeric is a common spice that has been found to reduce the onset of Alzheimer's.
Exercise and Massage
To balance Vata dosha, keep a regular ayurvedic routine. Go to bed before ten, rise before six, eat your main meal at noon,
and eat three freshly cooked meals at regular times every day. Practicing Transcendental Meditation® is essential for managing
stress, enhancing the coordination between dhi, dhriti and smriti, and calming Vata. Doing Surya Namaskara (Salutes to the
Sun) and Yoga Asanas regularly helps keep the mind and body free of ama.
"Abhyanga (ayurvedic oil massage) is one of the best Vata-pacifying tips," says The Council. He recommends Rejuvenation Oil for Men or Women.
Finally, it's healthier to think young. Even if you are chronologically aging, if your perception is that you are still
young, that perception will slow down the aging process, and you will look and feel younger.
"Many times people are not eating healthy foods, are feeling fatigued and toxic, and they blame it on age," notes The Council. "If you follow the ayurvedic guidelines
for diet and daily routine, detoxify seasonally, and take rasayanas, which are anti-aging, there's no reason to feel any negative
effects of growing older. It can be the best time of your life, when you enjoy your achievements and feel more fulfilled."
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