One of the concerns ‘older’ people share with us is how important it is to keep our health. Hypochondriacs aside, the majority of us still hear and believe that the older we get, the more difficult maintaining good health will be. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if we lose our health, we lose most—or all—of our other options. I confess I am not a health expert: the latest developments in nutrition, dieting and exercise are not my key concerns. Yet I am healthy and, while I could be more fit, I am told I am somewhere in the normal range.
When it comes to health, I acknowledge there are numerous events, accidents, and externally caused diseases that can destroy the best of intentions. However, I believe a great deal of declining health (physical and mental) is actually a function of ‘giving up’, becoming resigned and becoming less active. Like that classic car locked in the garage or the boat left in perpetual dry dock, the mind and body will simply atrophy if not maintained and used regularly.
Be warned: entropy and neglect always win in the end.
The easiest way to maintain ourselves—our mind, body and spirit—is to keep playing at the game of life no matter what. It’s when we participate, engage and stay enrolled in all that life has to offer that we can enroll others to play with us. Staying ‘in the world’ instead of retreating into an ego-defined inner landscape, one that may be mentally gratifying but which is actually a state of denial with respect to the reality of our feelings and physical well-being, offers us possibilities for growth, contribution, love and fulfillment.
I said in another blog that the ego doesn’t age and that it exists in denial of its own mortality. This denial is a survival mechanism. As a consequence, the ego also doesn’t accept responsibility for real choices or for the consequences of persistent self-destructive patterns. The bottom line: the ego could care less if we deteriorate and will resist participating in healthy activities and habits whenever possible on the basis that they are unnecessary. Ask anyone who has confronted jogging at 6 a.m. on a cold winter’s morning.
As a maxim, I suggest health is generally a function of participation. Participation means to ‘be a part of something more than ourselves’. It means drawing energy and aliveness from outside our ego-space and being present to the infinite universe of possibilities. Even if we become disabled or have a disease, how we experience these circumstances of our physical well-being (whether we suffer or accept them) will be a function of how we relate to the world.
Participation isn’t a prescription or even an empirically defensible proposition. It is a human practice, one that recognizes our capacity to choose and to create our reality, including our physical and mental well-being. As long as we are choosing to participate, we are never victims of our circumstances.
By the way, I am now beginning to take exercise a bit more seriously.