An article in the publication AdultSpan Journal tells us, “a focus on meaning and purpose provides a positive, optimistic perspective that is counter to disempowering views of aging based on losses and deficits.” For many years, gerontologists and sociologists have believed that having purpose and meaning in later life is a key to longevity and health. To see how true this is, observe the difference between the ways in which two mature individuals cope with retirement. One leaves her full-time job and dives into volunteer work, painting, church work, and travel. She feels useful and energized and meets new people. The other person leaves his job and plays golf. This grows boring, so he sits and watches television. His mind slows. He becomes isolated and angry. Which person do you think lives longer and better?
Purpose is essential to life. The purpose project at the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota validates this idea: A sense of purpose and meaning give us the will to live. With it, you are practically indomitable; time becomes meaningless as you cherish each moment. Without it, well, you’re just taking up space.
Now that you have begun to discover the kind of person you want to become, you are free to begin discovering your life’s purpose based on your clearer perceptions of who you are and who you can become. You will use your revitalized brain to find your true potential as an entrepreneur, creator, grandparent, healer — whatever you want to be. So ask yourself, what are your goals? Some questions to get you started:
- What have I always wanted to do?
- What is my passion in life?
- Do I feel fulfilled?
- What do I value most in life?
- What do I see as the meaning of my life?
- What would I like to achieve in the next ten years?
- What would I like my legacy to be?
The meaning of your life is up to you. What an opportunity! So think about what fires your passions. Think about what you could do every day for the next twenty years without ever becoming bored. Then make it happen. Your brain, now fully awakened, has the ability to change your world and the world around you.
Meditation for Life
Meditation is a very powerful tool for brain mastering. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in cultures throughout the world. Some meditate by altering their thoughts; others use breathing or muscle relaxation. Some cultures use psychoactive substances to aid their meditation; others rely on hunger or sleep deprivation. But the goal of all meditation is the same: to quiet the conscious mind.
As intellectual beings, we create and receive a nonstop stream of information from our brains and the world around us. This “noise” overwhelms our brains and minds so that we cannot hear the voices within us. Meditation stills the flow of conscious thought — analysis, questioning, and self-talk — and simply lets the mind be. This activates other parts of our brains and allows us to begin perceiving things in a different way.
Meditation requires training, especially for Western minds, which are so immersed in the empirical. In the West, we are taught to distrust what our intuition tells us. But more ancient societies know that often meditation and self-awareness are powerful ways to learn about life, the cosmos, and the self. A blend of Western scientific knowledge and ancient wisdom is the ideal way to gain understanding. Meditation is a wonderful place to begin, but it is also a practice that takes time and patience. It is worth your time to find a teacher or mentor who can help you build a meditative skill set.
There are two basic types of meditation. In concentrative meditation, the meditator focuses the mind on the breath and uses a mantra or sound in order to shut out all other stimuli. In mindful meditation, the meditator opens the mind to all sensation but thinks about none of them; he or she merely experiences. There are hundreds of subcategories of meditation; let your mind and spirit guide you to the method that is right for you.
This article is excerpted from Ilchi Lee and Jessie Jones’ book “In Full Bloom: A Brain Education Guide for Successful Aging.”