I’m looking out at horses standing in the pasture. No, they are not at the farm in Rocky Mount. They are at my farm in Hillsborough. I am going through a divorce, and they are the first group that has come to live with me. Life is pretty crappy and hard right now, not just mentally but especially physically, but as I stand here, I am in awe of the beauty of it all. The pasture slopes downhill and is surrounded by woods through which I can see more of my hay fields. Despite the trials of daily life, I feel happy, blessed.
The next day, I catch the end of a Diane Rehm show about mindfulness and the power of thought. The day after that I listen to the show in its entirety: an interview with Ellen Langer, a Harvard professor who writes about mindfulness in a new book. She did a study years ago where she took a group of old men and isolated them for five days and turned back time. They only watched movies from a certain era and basically lived as they had in the past. When they emerged from the study, they were reinvigorated and stronger, with eyesight and hearing improved, and they looked younger. It was the power of their minds that gave them that strength. (I was also delighted to hear her describe this group as such old men that she actually wondered if they would make it through the five days, and here was the kicker: she said they were not like now, when 60 is the new 40. Does that make me 45?)
She also talked about how anger and despair can be so physically debilitating and how most of the things we struggle against aren’t true tragedies but merely inconveniences. If we can bring ourselves to a neutral place, we will feel so much better and be able to see more clearly ways to handle our demons. I have always been one to be thankful for dodging those bullets I didn’t even realize were there. Maybe I dodged a bullet by leaving my husband. No, make that a full speeding train, but that conversation is for another time.
I encourage everyone to hear Ellen Langer tell it herself. Here is the link: