The Zen of Longevity, Part 2:
5 Steps to Living Longer
In Part 1 of The Zen of Longevity, I spoke about DAILY BALANCE through a positive attitude as the key to living longer and feeling better NOW! Let’s now get more specific into the detail of using these secrets of natural balance to increase our longevity.
Real change in your life is difficult. We just don’t have a switch to turn things off and on. It’s actually more complicated than that. We ultimately have millions of switches in our brain that turn off and on. They’re called neurons. In order to achieve real change in neurons, they need to be turned on and off in harmony along an entire extended circuit. We call this the neuro-associative mechanism and change in the brain takes place through a process called neuroplasitcity.
Recent studies have found that MINDFULNESS is a powerful precursor in the process of neuroplasitcity. And that is what produces lasting change! So we now have rediscovered a real tool to make change in our life, a tool that the ancient masters have known about for thousands of years…
Balancing Your Social Environment
Any tool is more effective if used in a supportive environment. An important aspect to real change is adjusting your social environment, which plays a significant role in staying mentally fit. Take eating habits, for instance. If you surround yourself with like-minded, healthy eaters, then it’s much easier to stay on track with good eating habits. And likewise, if you are not keeping company with FIT-minded friends, you can easily fall into less healthy lifestyle patterns. While there is no right or wrong, there is just a matter of fit or unfit.
Balance is effected by the social environment, as well as by using the proper tools—like mindfulness. And, balance can be achieved through using the tool of mindfulness as it helps us stay focused and in the moment. Most importantly, mindfulness helps you realize that you are NOT your thoughts, which then can affect change rapidly. One method of therapy used by practicing therapists is called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. MBCT teaches us to accept thoughts and feelings without trying to negate them or push them out of our awareness. We learn to stop battling with ourselves through a process of acceptance.
I developed a simple Zen exercise I call W.A.M. The three letters represent a process which involves Watching, Accepting, and Modifying your thoughts and feelings. It’s very effective in changing behavior when part of a balanced mental fitness program, like mindfulness (for more details of W.A.M., click here).
5 Steps to Balance Your Life Using
We have learned that balance, social environment, and attitude are all key to being mentally fit. Balance is a subtle thing. We can be out of balance and not know it because our ego defends against admitting to a problem we may have. Mindfulness is important because it helps us realize when the ego is defending and when reality is really reality and not a self-created illusion—the ego’s specialty.
Let’s look at some examples:
If you are overweight, you tell yourselves, “I’m just fine. It’s my body type,” or “I’m doing really good compared to other people I see.” If we drink too much, “I don’t drink that much compared to some people I know,” or you can use Willie Nelson’s line, “There are a lot more drunks than there are old doctors, so I guess we better have another round.” If we don’t exercise…well, there are a hundred excuses and we all know them very well. And if we are too stressed out and anxious, we tell ourselves, “Everyone is stressed out these days,” or “It’s only for a little while, I’ll be fine later.”
Once we get past our ego-defended coping mechanisms (link to http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/coping/coping.htm) and see what is really in front of us, we can then develop the adaptive competent attitude of the centurions. The attitude of the centurions that I spoke about in Part 1 is about daily balance through using these vital 5 steps to longevity:
- Develop Strong Coping Mechanisms: Using Adaptive Competence in a positive way to QUICKLY solve problems and overcome obstacles.
- Balance Type A Behaviors: balancing force with others and dealing with inner stress.
- Develop Compassion and Gratitude for Living: Enjoying the act of giving and helping.
- Manage Negative Thoughts by Staying Focused: Using mindfulness, we learn that thoughts are ONLY thoughts—they have no power. Use the practice of W.A.M. for changing negative thoughts and feelings, click here.
- Find a DAILY Happy Thought: Learning to give thanks or be happy about something everyday.
A Balanced Mind is a Focused Mind
In Step 4 above, we can use mindfulness to help the mind from wandering into negative territory, which can cause worry, depression, anxiety, and guilt.
In an interesting study, Harvard psychologists found that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. They found that we are happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. We are most balanced when we are mindful of what we are doing—when we are thinking of the moment and not the past or the future:
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
“Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them: contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all. Indeed, mind-wandering appears to be the human brain’s default mode of operation.”
Balanced People Don’t Get Cancer
While there is no guarantee that doing anything different will make you live longer, there is one guarantee I can make: you will certainly feel better NOW and enjoy this moment of life much more—which is all we really have. We have this moment! Balancing is important throughout the day! It could even mean the difference in getting cancer or not.
Dr. Nick Gonzalez is a physician focused on alternative cancer treatment using a three-part nutritional approach. Located in New York City, he’s had remarkable success treating patients with some of the most lethal forms of cancer conventional medicine cannot effectively address.
… Then there are balanced people that do well with a variety of foods, both plant foods and animal products, but they don’t tend to get cancer. Cancer tends to occur on the extremes, in the extreme vegetarians … or in the extreme meat eaters, who tend to be too alkaline. Balanced people don’t tend to get cancer too much.
Until Next Time…
Next time I will discuss Part 3 of The Zen of Longevity which focuses on four things we need to be doing daily in our lives to help us live longer and healthier. In the meantime, stay mentally fit and create daily balance in your life.
Paul Harrison AIA
aka Master Nomi
Architect, Author, Creator of the Zen Advantage Program™ (ZAP)