Monthly Archives: March 2017

Feeling Uncertain After 60? Live the Questions

Sit and Think – or Live the Question?

There are times when I just don’t know.

What to do for the best? What to do at all? Which path to follow? How to make a bit of progress? How to get done what I want to get done, but can’t seem to start, or continue?

I’ve tried having a good think.

Writing down the pros and cons.

Asking a friend.

Setting a deadline.

I’m not convinced any of these work, though they might help shift the ideas along. But they seldom deliver answers.

This week, mulling over the questions of how to find out where I want to go with Beyond 60, and how to get there, I was given a timely reminder of a beautiful piece of wisdom written by early 20th-century Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, in his book: Letters to a Young Poet. Rilke wrote:

…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Notice the wording. It isn’t ‘Live With the Questions’ – which carries a note of resignation ‘I suppose I’ll just have to live with this uncertainty’, and a sense of giving up on finding an answer. It is Live the Questions.

What an interesting idea. How do I go about living my questions? I simply do my best to  inhabit them, examine them with curiosity, keep them in mind when reading, tie them to a string and let them float, sip them in my glass of wine, take them along on a walk, relax under a blanket with them, give them my attention and my intention, and at the same time leave them to drift gently in the background.

Above all, I don’t fret over them. Let them be. As poet Mary Oliver says, ‘Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.’

The one thing that put me off Rilke’s words was the implication that answers might not emerge until ‘some distant day’. At Beyond 60, I’m not so keen on waiting that goes on into the distance.

But strangely, I’ve found that answers bubble up naturally and sometimes very swiftly, if I live the questions, without prodding them.

Have you tried living a question? What happened? Please leave a comment below.

Finding Time To Blog After 60

Time starts behaving very strangely when the familiar old constraints of job and family weaken their grasp or disappear entirely.

It is more than easy to drift through the days, mooching round the garden, turning out drawers, fiddling about on the computer, seeing friends, reading in the morning – I know, outrageous – and so, time sifts away.

It is an incredible privilege to be able to drift through the days for the first time ever since I was packed off to infants’ school aged 4. All those years under the cosh of the timetables, working hours, deadlines and routines.

It’s time to break free.

But to create Beyond 60 and do it well needs time, not drifty time, but focussed creative time.

I want to do it. The idea fires me up. Yet time is slippery, and elusive.

Here’s how I’ve managed to grab hold of a bit, and use it to make something happen.

The 10-minute trick
Snip out a 10-minute segment. Set a timer. Give that 10 minutes full attention and go like the clappers until ‘Brrring!’ – time to stop, but I nearly always keep going. And if I don’t, well, even 10 minutes is worth doing.

Use the right label
When I call my blog ‘work’, I feel ill. Seriously, my chest feels tight, I sit rubbing my forehead saying ‘ergh…’ and I do not feel at all well.

When I think of it as messing about with my blog, doodling with a few ideas because I feel like it – then it’s smiles all the way and a couple of hours gone by, and I walk away saying, ‘that was FUN!’.

Drop the deadlines
I’ve got a blog vision but there’s no rush to get there. One step at a time is all it needs. Keep doing it and don’t give up. But no self-flagellation, please. An hour here and there is ample.

Stop should-ing on myself
When the gremlin voices point out that I ‘should’ be: posting more often, conquering WordPress, making it look prettier etc et-flaming-cetera I offer them a two-word response, and get back to playing.

Experiment with resistance
Whenever I think I can’t be arsed, it’s too much work, no one will read it and so maybe I won’t do it – that’s the time to dance with resistance, play with it, tease it – do anything that’s light and fun to overcome it and use it to catapult me into something new and different.

I love these little tricks because they feel radical and completely opposite to the way I used to work, when work was what I did. And they make blogging feel exciting and fun.

Brrring! There goes the timer.

But before I go, do any of these ideas appeal to you? Have you any tips to help find time for precious creative projects? Please leave a comment below.

Living Dangerously Beyond 60

Egg-diving illustration © Clare Nesbitt

I watched Dr Bill Thomas, a great mover and shaker in the field of creative ageing, talking on the remarkable Growing Bolder website the other night, on how to change the way you view ageing.

His message was simple, and his final piece of advice really struck me. He said, ‘Live dangerously,  because the mortality rate is 100%. And you have a chance now to live more dangerously than you ever lived before.’

That was it.

I kept thinking about that statement. Live Dangerously. What does it mean? Bungee jumping? Egg-diving? Aren’t there other ways, not involving broken limbs, that I – that you – could live dangerously as we get older?

While that was on my mind,  I read blogger Mark Manson on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***

I use asterisks, as I’m not ready to use four-letter words on my blog, but Manson, described by the Huffington Post as, ‘…incredibly inspiring, deeply philosophical and extremely clever’, uses the undoctored profanity  as a way into an exploration into the importance of choosing what’s really important in our lives, and what isn’t.

He made me laugh, a lot.

He also made me think.

He says that throughout our lives, we give a f*** about far too many things. At Beyond 60, these could include cat-sick on the carpet; missing an episode of Desert Island Discs;  running out of Earl Grey teabags, or gin.

But in truth, these trivial items are really not worth giving a f*** about. And, says Manson,  there are only so many f***s you can give in a lifetime, so you’d better choose them carefully, because: ‘Developing the ability to control and manage the f***s you give is the essence of strength and integrity.’

And also, I’d say, the key to living a more dangerous and fulfilling life.

So back to Dr Bill and the question, how to live dangerously?

It’s about taking risks, emotional risks, and you can do it by embracing the things you truly give a f*** about and giving them your all.

Me, I give a f*** for talking, writing and blogging about what matters, like the fact that time is of the essence, because death is not so far away for any of us;  that retirement can leave an exciting and at the same time terrifying void in our lives; and that there’s this chance here, right now, to have an adventure, push ourselves, move out of what’s comfortable, and into what scares us.

Yes, do it kindly, one small step at a time. But do just f***ing do it.

What steps could you take, to live dangerously? Please leave a comment in the box – let’s be dangerous together!

What Does Your Heart Need?

Sometimes, meditation needs a focus.

It’s all very well to sit and count the breath. That can be calming, and lead to greater understanding of what’s going on in your mind.

But other times, it doesn’t feel like quite enough.

I was introduced to a very simple but deep meditation while I was on a Stillness Retreat organised by Psychologies magazine and Now Events, a week or two ago, and it’s one I’ve come back to several times already.

The session was led by Dr Tamara Russell, a mindfulness expert. Seated in a circle, the group relaxed deeply, our eyes closed, breathing deeply, and gently. It was the end of the day, in dim light, with an air of peace in the room.

And then Tamara asked the question:

“Heart – what do you need?”

I’m not sure that I’ve ever spoken directly to my heart before. I’ve asked myself – my Self – what I want or need – but that’s a sure way to kickstart the brain into problem-solving and get caught up in more head-talk, with its litany of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’.

This was different. If you think of the heart as more than the organ that works tirelessly to keep you alive, but also as the seat of your emotional essence, then it makes sense to go there to find out what’s needed to nurture you from moment to moment. Now, when I tap into what my heart needs, the answer is often as simple as ‘time’, ‘space’ or ‘rest’.

Here’s how to try it for yourself.

Heart Meditation

Find a spot where you can be undisturbed for a little while. Make yourself comfortable, sitting on a chair or on the floor.

Keep your posture upright and alert, but relaxed.

Take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Gently close your eyes, and let your breathing return to normal.

Focus on your heart. Imagine it as a ball of light, radiating warmth and life through your body.

If you like, put your right hand over your heart.

When you’re ready, ask the question:

“Heart – what do you need?”

Allow some time, and see what arises.

If you notice your mind wandering off into thought, bring it back gently to your heart.

Ask the question again, if you wish.

“Heart – what do you need?”

Don’t push for an answer, or worry if nothing seems to happen. Trust that your heart will make its needs known to you, in its own way.

When you’re ready, open your eyes.

Use this meditation now and again, whenever you want let go of living in your head – and let your heart have a say.

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