I like to imagine the positive implications of a world in which we grew young instead of old. How we currently age is tied up in the socialization processes into which we are born. We are assigned phases of life: birth, adolescence, adulthood, old age, and death. Within those phases, we are prescribed to follow certain psychological, emotional, physical, and financial milestones each step of the way. We blindly follow this consumptive path, and if we veer off it or it doesn’t work for us, we are ostracized not only by others but, even worse, by ourself. It doesn’t have to be this way.
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH EXISTS WITHIN Photo Gallery
Imagine if when we were born people told us stories about how we would grow young instead of “preparing” us for the fact that we would someday grow old, decay (in a prescribed home for the aged), and die (and, with death and dying in our culture comes the connotation of something very far from beauty). It’s as if, from the very beginning, life and time are framed as a curse, rather than the blessing they really are. How nonsensical is that?! The trickle-down effects of thinking differently and shifting our focus from growing old to growing young are monumental. If we are able to make this seismic shift in perception and relinquish the idea that we are solely chronologically aging, we will also shed all of the biases that come along with our ideas about aging. As things stand now, the aging process has been commoditized. Growing old is the bait, and we have bitten into it hook, line, and sinker. Aging and our resulting attempts to ward it off with “antiaging” products and procedures has become a self-fulfilling prophecy of decay, instead of a glorious celebration of the full life we are born to live.
In his blog Growing Young, anthropologist Ashley Montagu has identified twenty-seven behavioral needs of human beings that, when developed and nurtured throughout an entire lifetime, enable us to “hold youth” rather than growing old. To satisfy these needs, we need to exercise them indefinitely (in other words, they need to be sustainable there’s that word again!). These needs must
become something we engender throughout our lifetime, rather than things we only experience as children, then later eschew because they aren’t sanctioned “adultlike” behaviors.
Of these twenty-seven needs, Montagu states that the “humanizing need,” love, stands at the center of all others. And that is one of the huge keys to this Slow Beauty philosophy we’re talking about: exercising the most radical, extreme, deep, profound, compassionate love for ourself. Maybe you weren’t loved the way you needed to be loved in childhood, or perhaps you aren’t experiencing love the way you need to right this very moment. Here I offer you an intimate, personal practice of self-care that, when put into action, will connect you with and give you a better understanding of the ways in which you need to be loved and most vital of all how you need to love yourself. No matter how overwhelming it may seem to even begin to crack that code of what your needs are right now, soon you will understand not only what they are, but also how to satisfy them. Before long, you will reflect this same love that you’re giving yourself back into the world and into your relationships. Guess what happens then? That love comes full circle, and is reflected back at you, creating an incredibly gorgeous cycle.
Perhaps you’re intrigued you really, really want it but you’re still a bit overwhelmed? Here’s some more good news for you: The greatest gift, of being human is that we are always becoming. So, no matter what age we are chronologically, we still have the opportunity to cultivate within ourself these human needs that Montagu speaks of. And not only that, but we have the opportunity to deeply experience them This is both a very spiritual concept, and the end result of a sequence of biological occurrences. As Montagu himself put it:
Konrad Lorenz, the German ethologist, writing in 1950, maintained that by far the more important features in the investigation of human evolution are not physical but behavioral. He drew heavily on the ideas of the German sociologist Arnold Gehlen, who recognized as early as 1940 that the unique human trait is that of remaining in an unending state of development. The specialty of human beings is non-specialization; humans have remained free to change as change is required by whatever environment they encounter; they are able to develop special traits to meet special needs. Lorenz holds that these traits are behavioral as well as physical.*
Throughout this blog we will engage in exercises, rituals, recipes, and thinking that will help us tap into Montagu’s twenty-seven basic human needs, many of which we have neglected due to the biases of the environments in which we have been raised or find ourself in now. We will nurture these needs and integrate them into our mind, body, and spirit so that they may support our beautiful becoming.
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