We should be just beginning to live when the first half of life has passed. The storms and passions of youth have subsided, succeeded by a more or less even tempo of maturity and the conservative use of our forces. That is the period of life Browning so aptly described when he wrote:
Grow old along with me.
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which
The first was made.
As the diligent student is happily expectant on the last day of school, so also at the second half of life should we find ourselves in fuller possession of our faculties and talents, zestful for new worlds to conquer, and eager to pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned.
Instead, all about us we see broken bodies, disillusioned and confused slants on life, and spiritual floundering. Life is, for most people, a great disappointment. Before forty, everything seems rosy and full of promise, but after forty most people’s bodies begin to change. People complain, “I’m no longer the person I was in my youth.”
Aging starts with the mind
Why do some elderly people remain youthful and others not? Why are some young people already old? Diet and exercise play a part, but aging starts primarily with the mind.
The mind, by constant worries, grows old quickly and makes the body look old and unhealthy. Boredom and dissatisfaction with life have a similar effect. Many people, after forty, think they have exhausted all of life’s joys.
Others fall into the habit of thinking they know exactly how things ought to be. They identify happiness with fixity instead of accepting life’s natural flow. Everything they do is predictable. Even the melodies they whistle or sing are the same—year in and year out. They become in time what I call “psychological antiques”—wanting nothing moved, nothing changed, nothing even improved. Stability is their concept of permanence.
In America one finds many elderly people who have remained youthful. The American temperament is marked by qualities that make for mental youthfulness—active thinking, openness to new ideas, and a love of experimentation. Americans have the consciousness that everything is possible. Of all the people in the Western hemisphere, they are the most spiritually curious — one grows younger seeking Truth.
A world of solace
Reading good books will keep you mentally youthful. If you are worried, grieved, or bored, good books offer a world of solace. They keep your mind busy and your intellect exercised, protecting you from idle thoughts that create boredom and dissatisfaction. Good books are your best silent friends.
Always read with full attention and always try to assimilate what you read. Through assimilation and thoughtful reflection on what you have read, you will be able to garner wisdom from the great minds of all ages and make it your own. Only go to movies or plays occasionally, and then only to see the best spiritual movies or plays. Unlike good books, most movies and plays fail to stimulate the mind.
You can also overcome negative tendencies such as worry and boredom by serving God through others. Tender to mankind the highest service which your talent and training afford. Through service you automatically divert potentially self-serving energy toward the development of good tendencies.
Importance of mental stability
Mental stability is the foundation of lasting mental youthfulness. A smile that cannot be extinguished by any financial, social, or physical trials helps to keep the body looking young.
To be able to cheerfully experience health and disease, including sudden intense pain (while always seeking a remedy), financial reverses, and the loss of friends and loved ones is the way to attain mental stability. This comes through meditation.
Meditation: the best rejuvenator
Meditation is the best way to keep the mind and body rejuvenated. The soul, by meditation, rises above its identification with the body and beholds itself as a pure image of Spirit. It develops eternal mental youthfulness as it grows indifferent to the illusive consciousness of past and future.
By feeling the ocean of immortal Bliss-God underlying the changeable waves of past and present life experiences, the soul finds perpetual rejuvenation in body and mind. When not meditating, constantly tell yourself inwardly: “I am the Infinite, which has become the body. The body as a manifestation of Spirit is the ever-youthful Spirit.”
Excerpted from Praecepta Lessons, 1934, 1938; and The Essence of Self-Realization.