It’s Never Too Late To Meditate

NOT in the slow lane, YET
The blog is about living life after 70 with joy, resilience, and purpose. NOT in the slow lane, YET is a source of positive, helpful advice encouraging people to set and achieve goals and find joy in life. The blog will cover personal experiences and thoughts and concerns. Topics of blogs will be health, retirement, fashion, travel, and living in continuing care retirement communities. The blogs will be short and appear at least once a month on my website or by email if you choose. Come walk with me.

It is never too late to meditate:

Block: paper silhouette

I told my mother when she was one hundred she was lucky she did not have to learn new phones, watches, or anything technical. In retrospect, I would not tell anyone they are too old to do something. Sorry mom.   It is never too late to learn how to paint, play piano, or learn chess or a lot of other things. Yes, there are sometimes physical impediments that limit what we can do. I have a hand tremor which makes painting a straight line difficult.  Wavy lines are much more interesting.  Oil crayons help me to draw a straighter line when needed. There are usually ways to work around limitations.   Learning new skills keeps my mind sharp, boosts my feelings of self-worth, and improves my cognitive functioning (as far as I know).  I encourage my life-long curiosity.   I used to believe if you tried learning a skill and failed, the next time it would work.  “If at first you do not succeed, try, try again,” goes the adage.  No. At my age, if at first you fail, find someone who knows how to do it. Time is short.  That is my background in  learning meditation.  

I failed “Relaxation” 101

It was at least five degrees below zero and dark as midnight at 7:30 in the morning in Madison, Wisconsin.  I left  Elizabeth Waters Dorm jumping over two-foot snowbanks on my way to class a mile away at  Lathrop Hall, the University of Wisconsin  women’s gymnasium.  It was in the mid-1950’s.    I dumped my snowy boots at the classroom door  and laid down on the floor to begin my first experience with “Relaxation.”   I was supposed to shut my eyes,  breathe softly, and relax.  My feet were blocks of ice.  I was shivering,  hungry, and my muscles were twanging from the run.    A teacher was suddenly kneeling next to me.  She lifted one of my arms and let it fall. “RELAX!” she scolded.  My arm was supposed to be as pliant as a noodle. It  was as stiff as a board. I was angry.  I am an early morning person. I woke up full of energy and  power to slay dragons. How stupid I was to schedule this class at  dawn.   The purpose of relaxation was, well, to relax and  feel good all over.   I never learned to relax.  I was lucky that it was a pass/fail class.  I  showed up and passed  but failed relaxation. 

I did not give up on it although it took many years for me to try again.    There were many times in my long life when meditation would have been useful.   About 10 years ago, I decided to try to control my stress and persistent worry when my husband developed vascular dementia with behavioral disturbances.   I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to change his behavior.  Mostly using reasoning which, of course, was useless.   I knew that,  but I persisted.  I ended up losing weight, having sleep problems and fell into a constant state of anxiety.  Medication only gave me facial tremors.  I would have to solve the “me” problem.  I kept reminding myself, “ I, not events, have the power to make  unhappiness or happiness.”    More was needed. Along with substituting useless thoughts of restoring my husband, I decided to walk at least an hour a day with controlled breathing. I already walked but I  would be paying attention to breathing.   I knew I had my work cut out for me.  I really identified with “Monkey Mind,”  a yoga term meaning mind chatter.  Picture a monkey jumping from tree to tree.  That was my mind.  So, I walked every day and  re-directed thoughts of changing my husband.  I kept working on paying attention to my breathing.  I should also have paid attention to where I was going because I fell, my eyes shut as I was concentrating on being in the present.  Substituting useless thoughts for helpful ones  meant just agreeing with my husband’s irrationalities.  That and freeing my mind from its chatter at least part of the day helped me get better.  It helped get my husband in a better state.  

An  octogenarian, I am still in a learning mode on meditation.  I am taking a meditation class from a yoga instructor in our senior living Wellness Center.  My goal  is to make meditation a part of my daily life…not to cure myself or anyone else but to make me healthier.    I am learning that I can use the practice of controlled breathing to make my life better.  I help  myself become present and aware.  Time is precious to an octogenarian.  I do not scold myself for losing attention.  I wrap my arms lovingly  around myself and am thankful I can return to the present. I want to make it a habit. I am sitting for 8 minutes daily, practicing controlled breathing, and letting little thought bubbles float through my mind to my “hi” and “goodbye.”  I return to being present and being thankful for each day.  Could life be better?