The Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth
By Gord Riddell & Kathy Ryndak
Flipping through the listing pages of the latest TV magazine, there are listings after listings for makeover shows. Extreme makeovers for your home, extreme makeovers for your body including surgeries, ambush makeovers where you are made over whether you want to or not. These are what they call reality shows. Then there are talk shows focusing on redesigning house and body, many of these are also in the realm of reality shows. Their popularity is obvious as more and more of these shows continue to appear from network to cable. Not to mention the abundance of magazines showing us how we are supposed to look, what size our waist and chest should be and what our homes must look like.
While some shows may be amusing, some horrifying and others educational, one wonders what kind of messages these shows are sending to us. There may be a number of messages but the ones that pop to mind immediately are: no matter how you look you can be improved upon, how you look now is just not good enough, it is not okay to age and as long as you look good on the outside including both your body and your home then you will feel better and you will live happily ever after.
The saddest element conveyed is the emphasis on our externals. We must have the right hair colour, the right look, the right body type. If we do not have the right body type, then surgery can correct it and make you better. A little nip, a big tuck, look 10 or more years younger and magically we will be fine. As we watch these shows or leaf through the magazines and we buy into this message that we too can be new and improved, we cannot help but walk away feeling less than others or not good enough. The message infers that unless we have this perfect appearance we will not be happy nor will we be lovable.
As the first of the Baby Boom Generation is now beginning to enter their retirement years and many of us are firmly ensconced in middle age, we basically have the media screaming at us that it is not okay to age. It is especially not okay to age gracefully along side Mother Nature. We must intervene and fix the outside so we do not appear to be aging as fast as our chronology may suggest. Even the corporate culture is geared to being young. If you are middle aged and graced with graying hair, it is strongly suggested to dye it, if you are actively seeking another position. The aging process in our society is so discounted that our elders are deemed to have no worth and their collective wisdom is no match for the culture of the young. As we watch the TV show or the magazine telling us how we should be, perhaps a wave of envy sweeps through your body reinforcing that you just are not measuring up. In Catholicism, they talk of the seven deadly sins like lust, sloth, pride, envy etc. At least all the other so called sins give the person some level of pleasure, all except envy, as it will continually cause pain since its message is: you are not enough.
This level of focus on the external is really underlining how distorted our value systems have become. While looking good may make us feel better it is truly a short term solution to a basic unhappiness within ourselves. The only true way to feel good and look good is to go below the surface and explore who we are and what we are passionate about. True,it is much easier to dye our hair or paint a room to get a lift but the longer term inner work is much more fulfilling than a short term lift. Inner work is thought to be scary, messy and overwhelming. This is not true. Inner work can start from the simplest of things like opening up your heart to people and being of service. The ability to freely give and receive of our self will open up a myriad of possibilities as to how we experience the world around us.
Simple things like deep breathing, walking in nature and really seeing the beauty of this planet, listening to others, without an agenda or script, allowing you to connect and appreciate that other person, are all starting points. Being kind and gentle with your self, nourishing your body and spirit appropriately, doing what is basically referred to as healthy things. Stop comparing yourself to others and entering into an attitude of gratitude. In other words, be thankful for who you are and what you have in this world. Shift your focus on to what you have and away from what you don't have. The more energy you put into what you do not have the more of it you will attract. This may sound awkward but we attract to us that which we focus our attention on, that is a basic law of the universe. So focusing on what you have will attract more of the same and then some.
The late Pope John Paul refused to hide from the world his advancing age and disabilities, intentionally showing us that these are all a normal part of the human journey. He attempted to help us have permission to age gracefully. When you look into the eyes of an elder and see through their eyes the spirit of a life well lived, you can feel their unique energy flowing out to you. Their energy comes from within and flows outward; it is not the other way around. A pretty, well preserved faade does not mean it will flow inwards. Our obsession with staying young and at some level believing we may be the one to beat death is becoming our societal distortion. More and more advertising targets the youthful while we make plans to somehow mask the forward march of time and the changes that come with it.
If there is any real fountain of youth, it lies within. It lies with the soul and the energy of our very own spirit. It embraces the phases of our life and gracefully surrenders itself to the true nature of the human journey. It does not mask or pretend that change does not occur but rather embraces those changes and prepares for the next chapter. It is all inside of us and much easier to tap into than you may ever have imagined. An unknown writer said:
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, WOW! What a Ride!" Are you ready to turn off that TV and Buckle up?