Manifesting Bliss in the New Middle Age
By Elizabeth Gilley, Chairperson, THE ELLE FOUNDATION, 2015
Baby boomers comprise the largest population cohort approaching old age ever experienced by our culture. For those of us born between 1946 and 1964, decades of practical life experience, in coping with hardship, while processing gain and loss, has resulted in a renewed self-acceptance and self-efficacy, tempered with resiliency and fortitude. This generation believes in itself, and having achieved
success in the larger culture, finds itself in the rather unique position of privilege, to reevaluate life’s meaning, personal direction, and ultimately change course, in choosing to recreate themselves with new authenticity.
A growing body of evidence based scientific research studies shows that spirituality is correlational to health, and mindfulness training is correlational to psychological wellbeing (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Jain, Shapiro, Swanick, Roesch, Mills, Bell, et al, 2007; Keng, Smoski, & Robbins, 2011). Mindfulness training has been found to help in the prevention of cognitive decline and the maintenance of cerebral cognitive executive function in the elderly (Fiocco & Mallya, 2013). Research in yoga shows high correlation of reduced stress and increased life satisfaction.
To facilitate wellbeing in advancing years, in the second act of life, spiritual and religious focus, and complementary alternative wellness practices provide a foundation for the advancement of years, which include increased health, happiness, and integrative cognitive, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Fruits of spiritual practice include self-acceptance, self-compassion, reduced stress and increased well-being (Huang, Chien, & Chung, 2013). Meditation’s ability to retrain thought can serve to alter biological and cognitive processes, while its’ imagery can facilitate the creation of new healing neural pathways. We can literally change our minds, changes our lives, change our thoughts, and change our brains. The concept of neuroplasticity tells us that while we cannot remove old, established engrained auto-pilot patterns of neurological response, we can certainly implement new healthy, neurological patterns with repetition. We can literally rewire our synaptic neural network, through intention and action.
In a technological age which has produced the mapping of the human genome, the blue print for human biological development, and to some degree psychological development, genetic testing may reveal whether or not we have the genes for disease. For centuries science has argued the influence of heredity versus environment. In The Biology of Belief, (Lipton, 2005), we discover that cellular environment can alter DNA. Having the genetic predisposition for disease is the “nature” portion of influence, however, life experience, and environmental influence (nurture) also affect development. What does this mean? And how does this affect us, we may ask? The discussion may lead us in a circle, arguing the merits of either side. But is our perspective accurate? Or is it, perhaps, too narrow and limited? Might we be omitting another important factor, in human development, the spirit, the soul, the transpersonal essence of who we are, our very consciousness? How do intention and meditative focus affect our ability to manifest peace, joy, happiness, or bliss?
Mental management and mastery become more likely with the advancement of years, when we eventually learn to get out of our own way. It is not only possible to age well but to thrive in one’s later years, to achieve sustained happiness and peace of mind, and live an empowered focused life. Well-being encompasses and transcends the physical and psychological. Psycho-spiritual well-being involves a re-orientation that goes beyond just a mere change of perspective, beyond socio-emotional influence, to a realm of expansion of perspective, where one realizes an increased awareness of universal life as a single entity and our place within this totality. Spiritual well-being encompasses coming back to center, to truth, to love, to what we have always known on some level, a tuning in to awareness, rather than a tuning out.
Living deeply, encompasses stillness, and a lack of striving. It is a core commitment to self, to others, to growth to wellness, and to excellence. The new Middle Age ushers in a calm satisfaction gained from survival of challenge, the sum of cumulative life experience, and the development of spiritual resilience, and fortitude. The new Middle Age affords the opportunity to thrive, and enjoy increased life satisfaction, improved longevity and the incentive to give back, to pay forward, and to focus attention and energies towards altruistic transpersonal goals, which contribute to the globalization of higher ideals.
Brown, K. W. & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in
psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, pp. 822-848.
Fiocco, A. J. & Mallya, S. (2104). The importance of cultivating mindfulness for cognitive and
emotional well-being in late life. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary &
Alternative Medicine 2015, 20, 35-40.
[In this study of elders who have cultivated mindfulness, Fiocco and Mallya used self-assessment tests: the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), the Quality of Life Scale (QOLS), the Stress Assessment Inventory (StressScan) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and found that mindfulness correlates with mental and cognitive well-being, to conclude that mindfulness is helpful in maintaining cognitive function and offsetting cognitive decline. There is negative correlation with reduced stress health disorders.]
Gallegos, A., Hoerger, M., Talbot, N., Krasner, M., Knight, J., Moynihan, J., Duberstein, P. (2013). Toward
identifying the effects of the specific components of mindfulness-based stress reduction on biologic and emotional outcomes among older adults. Journal Alternative Complementary Medicine, 2013, Feb. 5. [Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and mindfulness based yoga have been proven to improve immunity by increasing the growth factor concentrations and/or ratios.]
Huang, F. J., Chien, D. K., Chung, U. L. (2013). Effects of Hatha Yoga on stress in middle aged women. Journal of
Nursing Research, 21(1), 59-66.
Jain, S., Shapiro, S., Swanch, S., Roesch, S., Mills, P., Bell, I. et al. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of
mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: Effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 11-21.
Keng, S., Smoski, M., & Robbins, C. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical
Studies. Clinical Psycholtherapy, 31, 1041-1056.
Lipton, B. (2005). The biology of belief: Unleashing the power of consciousness, matter & miracles. Hay House.
(THE ABOVE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY: Elizabeth Gilley, Chairperson, THE ELLE FOUNDATION, 2015, AND DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE BELIEFS OF THE PORT OF PALM BEACH POST, AND/OR IT’S AFFILIATES.)