It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
All the methods to prevent or reverse aging begin with the same assumption: aging is universal. It happens to everyone. But that isn’t strictly true. The only processes that age are rooted in time. Your mind has thoughts, your cells in your body undergo thousands of changes per second, and even your genes, which are permanent, trigger all kinds of activities that are temporary. This whole structure rooted in time will age.
But a very important part of you doesn’t age, and it is this part where anti-aging has a much greater chance than most people, including 99% of experts on aging, know. The part of you that is not rooted in time includes the following:
Your ability to experience
None of these things can be measured or quantified, but this doesn’t make them less real. A newborn baby and the oldest living person share these timeless qualities. The essential problem that keeps us from remaining ageless, is that no one told us we could be ageless. But centuries ago, in every wisdom tradition, it was noticed that part of us is already timeless. This is undeniable. It took another insight to totally transform someone’s life. This was the insight that everything is rooted in the timeless—not just some part of you but the whole you.
With this insight in hand, you can initiate your own anti-aging program by shifting your entire perspective, I think of this as awakening your being, because your new perspective goes all the way down to fundamental reality, which is your being. In other words, this is about who you are, not what you do.
Awakened Being: Seven Steps
Each step leads to awakened being in the most important aspects of your life “in here,” where experiences happen. Your aim in each areas is always the same, to shift from a life rooted in time, where aging is inevitable, to a life rooted in the timeless, which never ages.
Let’s take each step one at a time. As I outline them, notice that the word “aging” never arises. That’s because as soon as your mind entertains the concept of aging, you make yourself a prisoner of time, the very thing that makes aging inevitable and painful.
Be in simple awareness
The first step is the most important, because it tells you how to approach what we call awareness or consciousness—the simple realization that you are here and now. In modern life people turn their backs on simple awareness, preferring to overload their consciousness with thoughts, desires, worries, distractions, and other forms of mental activity. This universal habit has existed for a very long time and has only increased.
Mental activity can lead to good or bad outcomes, but this masks a common denominator. All mental activity, while it is occurring, disconnects you from your source in being. Your awareness gets wrapped up in thinking, like a child fascinated by playing with a toy. If you told a child that it could do nothing all day but play with toys, the result would be exhausting and a waste of consciousness. Consciousness is a precious resource.
It is the only resource you have that is actually your source. So being in touch with your awareness is like always having a source of pure water. Simple awareness is your mind’s default. It is a state of open, quiet, undisturbed, centered consciousness.
Perceive without judgment. Interpret without an agenda
Once you are calm, open, and centered, which is how everyone is when the mind isn’t interfering, there are things to do. Being here now isn’t passive, like a rock sitting in the sun. It is a starting point for the next possible action or thought for you to take. You might not realize it, but the next thing you do is almost always the same as your past actions, because of old habits. You perceive something, and then you interpret it.
Your next perception can be fresh, new, and open to all kinds of possibilities—this is conscious perception. Or your next perception can simply repeat what you already think you know—this is unconscious perception. Habits and conditioning are powerful. They are the course of least resistance. Look at a restaurant menu, and your conditioning tells you immediately what you like and what you don’t. There’s some wiggle room for trying a new dish, but the rest is unconscious.
By repeating the past, automatic, unconscious choices, you continue to dull your perception. Imagine already knowing what you like and dislike on the menu of life. Countless people find themselves in exactly that situation. Unwittingly they are carrying out an agenda, which is to defend their status quo in life by not allowing for much to change. Understandably this makes change fearful. But when you live in simple awareness, you drop your agenda and your fear. This too is the default position of the mind before we interjected agendas.
Encourage intuition and insight
Agendas are mental constructs on a large scale. They give you a direction for your family and work life, for your ambitions and hopes, and for your need to defend yourself. But big things like agendas grow from small things, in this case from daily thoughts and perceptions. Every perception is a seed. Therefore, you want to grow the seeds that will bear fruit and flowers, not the seeds that mechanically add to your old agendas.
Your mind is just as capable of insight and intuition as it is of repetitive thoughts. Here are the seeds you want to encourage, because insight is fresh and intuition comes from a deeper level than thought. Simple awareness allows insight and intuition to flow naturally, because awakened consciousness is flowing. There is no need to expand intuition into something mystical and magical. The true nature of both insight and intuition is simply your inner knowingness. Every time you say with regret, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that,” you have allowed your thinking to overrule your knowingness. When being is awakened, you stop override your inner knowingness—also known as your inner truth—and let it be your trusted guide.
Place a high value on positive emotions
We tell ourselves that we live in anxious, troubled times. But was there ever a period in history where anxiety and trouble didn’t exist? You can’t alter the fact that life in the world has always meant dealing with difficulties, pain and losses. Where you have a choice is in your response. Negative responses grow out of negative emotions that have built up a history inside you. Even if you are not subject to chronic anxiety or depression, your responses are chronic if they are based on your history.
You also have a history of positive emotions, but this doesn’t make them equal to negative emotions. Positive emotions are an opening for beautiful experiences, while negative emotions are a dead end. Fear freezes the mind. Joy awakens the mind. It is a perverse psychological trait that makes people believe that fear is useful—it isn’t. In much less than 1 percent of the time, the fight-or-flight response might save you from a threat. The rest of the time you are simply responding to stress, which is why most people are constantly in a low-level state of anxiety that erupts whenever something bad happens. And quite often the bad thing is happening remotely, on TV, in the news, or happening to someone who isn’t you.
The alternative involves reversing the picture, putting your priority on positive emotions. You have to value joy, empathy, compassion, wonder, and awe in order to have the experiences that create these emotions. Once you actually value positive emotions for their real worth, your inner emotional life can shift dramatically.
Trust your true self. Distrust your self-image
Without giving it much thought, we all have multiple selves, and we switch one self off when another self fits the situation better. This happens automatically, but if you pause and give these different selves a name, you’d recognize your work self, social self, family self, intimate self, and so on. You know without a doubt to put on your work self in front of your boss and your family self in front of your children.
Yet all of these are not your true self. That’s because your various selves are mind-made. They build up a self-image that is adaptable to the situation you find yourself in. Everyone spends a huge amount of time protecting their self-image. It is there to make you look good in front of other people, to defend yourself from looking afraid, to minimize the occasions when you feel embarrassed or inferior.
Your self-image, with all the selves it contains, is a thin veneer, always subject to potential threats. Beneath it lies neediness and insecurity. But by focusing on our self-image, you miss something deeper: your true self. Your true self exists in simple awareness. It is who you are when you are simply being yourself, without an agenda or need.
At some level everyone simply wants to be themselves, but this intention is blocked. Personal history creates this block, because very early in life we all learned to present a face to the world that would be socially workable. In fact, being yourself is feared in many situations; it is even called “giving yourself away.” As soon as you show others your true self, you don’t have the protection of all those other selves that have proved so necessary.
In simple awareness you realize that all that protective gear wasn’t necessary. It was never that effective to being with. There is no need to look (or feel) big, important, smart, secure, and socially attractive once you see that the root of your need is insecurity. Being in touch with your true self is the default position of your awareness when you stop needing a self-image. Then you can be yourself in the most satisfying, joyous, and productive ways.
Let existence make more decisions
Although simple awareness sounds attractive, some people might think that it means becoming mindless and passive. “Simple” does have those connotations. But here a major mistake is being made. The thinking mind, which has had everything its own way all your life, believes that there is no other way to live. Life presents endless choices, and without the thinking mind constantly on the job, how are you to prevent all kinds of bad choices from hurting you?
If you actually started to be in simple awareness, you’d immediately recognize that existence can take care of itself. This is not an opinion, belief, or article of faith. Right now you are doing nothing to keep trillions of cells operating perfectly, processing thousands of chemical process involving tens of thousands of proteins swirling through each cell seemingly like dust in a storm.
What makes your cells orderly instead of chaotic is that the appearance of a random storm is deceptive. Cells seize order out of chaos through their invisible creative intelligence. Existence, as far as your cells are concerned, knows what it is doing. Certainly, you cannot take over the task of creating and maintaining your cells. You trust their creative intelligence without knowing that this is what you are doing every second of your life.
How much else can existence do on its own? This question, which almost no one asks, opens up the greatest and most joyous project in anyone’s life: Letting existence make your choices for you. Awareness is active in a deeper way than the mind can ever know, or imitate. Awareness flows in a stream of creative intelligence. Flow with it, and your life will be far more fulfilling and effortless. “going with the flow” has become a popular axiom, but to be truly fulfilling, this must not mean “Sit back and let life happen.” Instead, the practice of simple awareness brings you closer to the source of creative intelligence, which lies nowhere but in your consciousness.
Use your memories. Don’t let your memories use you
You have been deceived by your memories your entire life. They have been using you in all kinds of ways, supposedly so that you will be happier and better off. The whole apparatus of the ego is responsible for telling you that your past should be heeded: Don’t repeat your mistakes, failures, humiliations, traumas, and bad experiences in general.
The deception in this scheme lies with the fact that letting your memories use you reinforces those bad experiences; it doesn’t protect you from repeating them. You wind up being trapped in the sort of constricted awareness that is always vigilant, self-defensive, and on the lookout to avoid risks, threats, and worst-case scenarios.
Once you are tied to your past, constricted awareness is inevitable while expanded awareness is impossible. Yet only expanded awareness makes life joyful, creative, evolutionary, and fulfilling. You can turn the tables by using your memories instead of letting them use you. In essence, you have forgotten simple awareness, your true self, and the possibilities opened by creative intelligence. That’s why awakening your being is a remembering: You remember what reality actually is and where you belong in the scheme of things.
In other words, you need to use your memories, not of old events in the past, but of a primal state of being. Nothing you have ever done has damaged this primal state of being. It sleeps inside you, waiting to be awakened. Knowing that this is your ultimate goal is the decisive turning point, far more important than any action you take. Recover your primal being, and actins take care of themselves.
Yet ultimately we must return to the topic of aging, which is where this discussion began. I have placed aging inside the prison of time and offered a way out, by escaping the prison of time. This doesn’t preclude all the future discoveries that are bound to be made in the field of anti-aging. There are going to be breakthroughs that will allow us to alter the mistakes at the genetic level that are connected with the aging process. No one is denying this or encouraging you to ignore such possibilities.
Yet no new drug, vaccine, or genetic manipulation will awaken your being. Aging occurs at the junction of consciousness and the physical world. Place your allegiance on the physical world, and you ae voluntarily stepping into the prison of time and closing the door behind you. Place your allegiance on consciousness, and you are taking steps to escape the prison of time, simply by realizing that the jail cell was never locked in the first place. This is the only realization you need, and it is there awaiting you once you awaken your being.
Reprinted from San Francisco Chronicle with permission
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