The (Real) Secret to Staying Young

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” ~Benjamin Franklin

You know them well.

They pop out of every magazine you open and every billboard you drive by: skinny sixteen year-old models with blemish- and wrinkle-free skin staring blankly back at you. Like they own the place or something.

If you don’t have their complexion and shape you probably wince the same way I do when you see them splattered on that advertising campaign. Youth is where it’s at in the twenty first century.  We’re told it’s desirable and that we should want it—and inevitably, many of us do.

On any given weekday you will find perfectly sane women trampling each other to get to wildly over-priced beauty-products (read: the same ones advertised on that billboard you drove by earlier) at our handy local beauty store.

Then we head on over to the gym where we run, lift weights, and cycle ourselves till within an inch of our lives before jetting off home to soak our faces in that New!Magic!Serum! (read: fetuses liquidized with rat tails and just a dash of pigs foot and perfume to cover it all up).

And rinse and repeat.

Inevitably, one sunny morning just before your (please insert) birthday, you look into the mirror and see a line cracking down like the crater of doom from the corner of your eye towards your slightly saggy cheek.

Don’t hyperventilate.  I’m here to deliver the good news:

You don’t really want to be young again!

You might as well wish you were Santa Claus or Oprah. It’s never going to happen. Besides, you had to sit through puberty and all that to get where you are now, and I’m guessing you’re probably quite happy to be here.

You might enjoy the notion of being youthful instead, because that’s a completely different thing, you see. In fact, that’s something you can actually achieve.

Youth refers to how you look; it’s a reference to your body. Youthfulness is a reference to your life energy—a much nicer thing to strive for than your long lost (sorry) youth.

My Pilates teacher, Fiona du Plooy says that she can tell your “real” age by how flexible your spine is: If your can still bend it, flex it, and roll it, if it’s still malleable and fluid, you’re doing OK.  (Whether you’re 20 or 70, this is a realistic goal we can all try to attain!)

I agree with Fiona, but from the viewpoint of my own modality. Youth is something that’s present in your eyes. It’s a way of being in the world, of interacting with it and placing yourself in it.

It’s something you can see in a person’s energy rather than their skin—a liveliness and interest in their environment that regenerates itself.

If you want to stay youthful, you don’t need to go under the knife. Heck, you don’t even have to leave the house. You just need to sustain these three simple-yet-much-more-magical-than-rat-tail-things.

1. Play

(Otherwise known as that thing you used to do in your youth.)

Play means you’re having fun. It’s the polar opposite of work. Somewhere on the path to getting a career and “growing up” we forget that.

What does it mean to play with something?

  • To engage
  • in a light-hearted way
  • to discover and explore
  • without expectation
  • or being invested in an outcome.

All of my favorite spiritual teachers have a cunning sense of humor about life and bring it into their teachings as well.

Do you do anything fun with your time?

When’s the last time you discovered or did something new? When did you do something without trying to get some kind of end result from it, just for kicks?

If you’re drawing a blank, it’s time to sign up for that scuba diving course or join a local knitting group once a week. Remember: Fun is the process. It has nothing to do with the outcome. Play. Discover. Explore.

Never, ever take yourself too seriously. To ensure long lasting happiness, make this is your primary way of interacting with the world.

2. Desire

Desire has become a dirty word in our society. It conjures up pictures of couples in a 1950’s movie clinging to each other with a look of desperation in their eyes. Desire has acquired a bit of a stink to it.

Which is a great pity.

Desire is the energy that propels us forward.

It makes us want to stick around to see what happens next. Even a monk who desires nothing is driven by a strong desire—to desire nothing and connect with his higher Self.

Nurture your desires. They serve as the canon which continuously launches you into life.

When you wake up in the morning ask yourself:  How can I satisfy one of my own desires today?

Even if you have a nine-to-five job, make sure that you do at least one thing everyday that you consciously chose to do because you enjoy it. It doesn’t need to be earth shattering. Take a long bubble bath, have coffee with a friend, or write a poem.

3. Malleability

Malleability is your ability to adapt, to change. Youthfulness requires you to be able to bend with life.

Case in point: Have you ever seen a baby fall over? Their soft little bodies are usually okay since they don’t absorb the impact, they embrace it. Their fluidity is their saving grace.

The older we get, the more rigid we tend to become in both our thoughts and bodies. Tension stiffens and leads to breakage. Like an old woman who refuses to change, rigidity about who and what you are leaves no room for exploration. It means you’re old.

When you’re no longer willing to leap blindly into the abyss of self-realization, if you’ve closed the doors on new possibilities, your life slowly starts to suffocate from lack of fresh energy and motivation.

Rigidity is a direct result of fear and presumption. Fear and presumption narrow your choices; they close you off to new possibilities and vitality. The more you indulge in these two emotions, the less chance you have of nourishing yourself with new adventures.

Take a risk every now and again. Step out of your box, even if it’s just a little step.

Youthfulness is about your vitality and spirit. Stop chasing after that sixteen year-old skin, embrace the wisdom that comes with age, and next time you drive by that billboard, smile.  Youth isn’t in your skin my friend.  It’s sitting in your bones.

Photo by johnlembo

About Anél Hamersma

Anél Hamersma is a Sangoma from South Africa. She offers bone divination, talks, or workshops relating to Self-Uncovery and Life Deconstruction. Visit her at www.inyourbones.com.

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