My father lived to age 95. He was often asked for his advice on living a long and good life. Here are a few nuggets of the beautiful wisdom I garnered from the things my father taught me and lived.
The most frequent response I heard from my father in response to the question about living a healthy, long life was “Be positive.” What does that mean? Respond to every situation in life looking for the good. Look for the good in others and speak to that. Looking on the bright side will change your physiology and actually promotes health. So, backed by science, a good key to a long, healthy life is to be positive.
What ever else was happening around him, my father tried to respond with patience and kindness. My father was born in New York in 1915. When he was a little boy, he was swinging his feet while sitting on a bench and the old man sitting next to him on the bench snapped at him to sit still and stop banging on the bench. At that moment, as a little boy, he put himself on a trajectory of kindness. He decided right there to be nice. Being nice will always serve. Some may mistake kindness for weakness. Be kind anyway.
My father took vitamins and ate well. He also ate cookies regularly. He never overindulged, just a couple at a time. If he drank alcohol, it was one shot. The great Rambam was a doctor and a sage. He teaches moderation. My father walked the walk: Be moderate: enjoy what life has to offer without over doing.
After moving away from my parents’ home, whenever I came to visit my father would check to make sure my windshields were clean. He’d clean them if they weren’t. He taught me: keep your windows and the headlights of your car clean too; you’ll have better visibility. It’s safer to drive when you can see clearly. It’s a great metaphor for all of life. Keep your own perspective clear and you’ll see what’s happening around you more clearly.
Each one of those tips has served me well. I share them with you today, the anniversary of his passing, to lift our spirits a little bit, and in so doing, honor his memory.
It may seem like you're trying and trying to change things in your life but nothing's changing, nothing's moving. I am here to tell you my dear reader, that even if you don't see results right now, you are effecting change in your life.
Each small change you make will, over time, have a big impact.
If you eat at a fast food restaurant one time it's not really a big deal. But if you each fast food every day, you will gain weight. If you study a new language one time, you will not speak a new language. But if you study every day for a set time--even five minutes a day--you will learn to speak that new language. Same with exercise of course. If you exercise only one time, even for five hours, it will not have the same impact as exercising every day for 15 or 20 minutes.
The small changes you make in your life do have an impact even if you don't see it right away. So stay strong, be patient, and keep on making those little tweaks so that you are loving and living happier and healthier.
You really can do this!
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. ~James Arthur Baldwin
As painful as it might be, feeling the feelings that come up for you are important. There's an expression: "Let it flow, then let it go." There are processes that ask you to follow your feelings, name them, then just see what comes up next, and when you do that, eventually you come to a place that is clear of the negative emotions. When you allow for the feelings, you'll be in a better position it let them go.
While forgiving is a process that is for you and not even for the other person, it may be true that some things are unforgivable. So then what? The idea is can you set yourself free? Can you?
My father taught me one way he used to relax himself to sleep at night. He would go through the muscles of his body, tense a group of muscles, then release. Eventually he would fall asleep. When I am stressed one of my most effective exercises is listing what I am grateful for, from the tiniest to the biggest (if you're a regular here, you must know this by now!). Sometimes when I am so upset, I just write and write about the upset, or I rant and rave privately (so no one else can hear me). It's kind of like puking (yes, vomiting!). You don't feel great to begin with but you sure feel better to have the poison out.
Feeling hate has a price to pay and the longer you hold on to it, the more you stew in it, the more damage it will cause (this is NOT about revenge, do you hear me?!).
OK, so we're all human, I am not asking you to stuff the feelings. I am suggesting that you can put your focus and attention to the things in life that will BUILD you. Break the cycle and set yourself free!
Freedom involves the abandonment of hate,
because hate is the abdication of freedom.
It is the projection of our conflicts onto an external force
whom we can then blame,
but only at the cost of denying responsibility.
~Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks
Thanks to Morguefile.com and Anita Peppers for the photo
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Here's a letter from a reader and my reply...
Hi Aunt Laya,
I like your blog and how you are so willing to lend a helping hand. Wish there were more people like you.
Aunt Laya, I'm a loser. I haven't had a girlfriend in ages, I have to work a lousy jobs to make ends meet, my self-esteem is rock bottom. It's quite obvious God has cursed me for some reason, but I don't know why. As you can imagine, I'm not all that happy with God, and haven't been for quite some time.
You guessed it. I'm a pretty miserable human being. Have any advice for me?
Thank you for your time and I wish you the best.*
(*details tweaked for privacy)
Life can feel so hard. I’m glad you reached out to me because you know that I have a lot to say. I trust you wrote me because you are looking for encouragement and you came to the right place. The first question is: are you willing to make the changes that only you can make to create a life you love? Fasten your seat belt because I’m going to be direct—from my heart and intended to go directly to your heart.
Ever heard the definition of insanity? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you wrote to me, you are asking for advice on what you can do, actually, really do differently to make a change in your world. Here we go.
What you focus on expands.
Would you ever be so heartless as to call a child things like “loser or cursed”? You are counting on me to be honest with you right? Well, honestly, it’s not nice to call yourself names!
What if changing the way you speak (or write!) about yourself could change your life? I think it can. And while I’m being honest, I believe that there is a woman, or maybe more than one, who would be so grateful to have your loving heart in her life. But maybe you’re so busy being down on yourself that you haven’t the space to find her. I don’t mean to be hard on you, but I really want you to wake up and start to pay attention to the good and the gifts in your life!! Gifts? Yes! Good? Yes? You’ll see what you look for; I guarantee it. Can I give you an assignment? Would you write me back with a couple of lists?
List one: “Things I’m grateful for” (20 item minimum)
List two: “Things I’m proud to have accomplished” (10 item minimum)
These will not be graded; it’s the process and the focusing in a new direction that will serve you.
Rock bottom is a great place to be. You know why? Because it can only get better from here. I remember the time in my life that I felt I hit rock bottom. Remember being a kid and diving to the bottom of a swimming pool? Do you remember the feeling of pushing up from the bottom so you can get to the surface faster? I invite you to push off of that rock bottom in your life and allow yourself to rise. My goodness. I could get long winded here.
Did you see the movie Avatar? Remember the scene where the guy woke up in the Navi body for the first time and the sheer joy that he could move his legs?
We could wake up every morning with that kind of gratitude. So what if you changed your focus? What might happen in your life? Are you willing to experiment with this?
What if you changed the way you spoke about yourself and started to notice the good in you? What are the positive things you can say about yourself?
About your lousy jobs, here’s a short video with Zig Ziglar that might give you a new perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XC_Fkg0UIQ
Here’s one more thought for now: What if this self-doubt you are experiencing doesn’t even belong to you? What if it came from someone else’s irrational, battered belief system? What if you could “return to sender” and step into a life that is wonderful?
Things may not change all at once, but with consistent steps, over time, you can change the trajectory of your whole life and launch into a life you will love. What’s the first step you can take? I know you can do this. If you have the wisdom to write that letter in the first place, you have the wisdom and heart to let go of what isn’t working and fill yourself with gratitude and Grace.
Live the extraordinary life you deserve.
Aunt Laya inspires and encourages you to live the life you want for yourself! She'll tell you the truth, even when it's not always so easy to hear so that you can learn to handle the hard stuff of life and be your best, happiest self. Always with love and caring.