We’re incredible organisms. With proper care, our bodies and minds can last for a century or more. Just what constitutes “proper care” is up for debate, but over the past couple months I’ve presented what I consider to be the most valuable factors based on years of exploring the subject of longevity. So far we’ve covered the following: (1) Love life and live for the present (2) Work, stretch, and relax all parts of yourself (3) Dance with consciousness (4) Reduce media consumption (5) Pay attention to your breathing (6) Eat less (7) Prioritize community and service (8) Exchange love and touch (9) Optimize your sleep (10) Laugh more (11) Keep your heart open (12) Simplify (13) Go with the Flow / Don’t Resist (14) Be One with Nature.
I’ve got three more for you today and a final three next week. I’d rather not give you too much to digest in each of these articles (at the beginning, I only introduced a single idea each week) but if I didn’t start packing them in, this series would take half a year! Onward.
#15: Keep Growing.
One sure sign that something is alive is that it’s growing. So if you keep growing you’ll stay vital. Make a point of learning new things. Notice that you’re less set in your ways than you may think. Psychologist Dan Gilbert has demonstrated this in his studies: people tend to think they’ve gotten all their growing and changing over with, that they’ve “arrived.” But when they look back years later, they see that they continued to change. Why not embrace it? Develop a “growth mindset” (see Carol Dweck’s work for tips). See yourself as able to improve, able to heal, able to learn, able to expand.
A key impetus to growth is discomfort. Be willing to get uncomfortable. Choose growth over comfort. Try new things. New foods, new sexual positions, new haircuts, new clothes, new dance moves, new friends, new places. Try being uncomfortable. What happens when you don’t fill the silence with small talk? What happens when you let yourself get hotter or colder than you’d prefer? Studies show that always existing in a narrow “thermo-neutral” zone between the mid-60s to mid-70s makes it too easy on our bodies. Our metabolism slows down and we tend to gain weight. Get uncomfortable in other ways. Step out of your box. Have real conversations. Share your feelings. Become your best self. And remember that there’s always room for improvement.
#16: Know Your Pain Body.
There’s a part of virtually all of us that craves pain and feeds on it. Eckhart Tolle calls it our “pain body,” and writes extensively about it in his book, A New Earth, which I highly recommend. If you don’t like the term “pain body,” think of it as simply an addiction to conflict and pain – our own and others’. Or consider it a mechanism by which the ego strengthens itself and stays in charge.
Having witnessed people generating conflict all our lives, pain often becomes insidiously woven into our deepest beliefs. We often believe that suffering builds character, that pain is the fuel of creativity, that anything worth pursuing will cause us pain, that conflict makes life interesting . . . or that a lack of pain is boring. Thus, during periods of peace, spiritual expansion, and relationship harmony we may find ourselves suddenly seeking drama, pushing our partner’s buttons, craving something self-destructive, or looking for reasons to get pissed-off.
When you start paying attention to your pain body you stand to reclaim a lot of your life force. Notice the part of you that wants to fight, likes suffering, wants tragedy and catastrophe. Don’t believe it? Why do you think people get stuck in ruts for months, years, decades? What prompts you to read the news?
Notice how it goes dormant after a good “feeding” and then wakes up again. Learning how it operates through you. Call it out: “This is just my pain body acting through me” and choose something better instead. As soon as you choose to rise above it – to honor something more important than this age-old illusion of war with reality – you remember the truth, you remember your power, and that pain-seeking energy is transformed and given back to you to catalyze your awakening.
#17: Invite the Spiritual Dimension into Your Life
When I use the term “awakening,” I mean waking up from the dream that what you are is “just” the human whose life you’re living, limited by a heavy pile of beliefs and identities.
Welcoming the spiritual dimension into your life means being open to a source of insight, magic, power, clarity, and a connection with everything and everyone. It doesn’t need to be in the form of organized religion if that doesn’t appeal to you. All that matters is that you say to the universe (AKA God, Dao, Spirit, Goddess, Highest Self, Buddha, Divine Love, Source), “I want you in my life.”
Then choose to make space for Spirit throughout every day. Whatever you’re about to do, say, “Let’s do this together.” The more you prioritize this, the more tangible and reliable it will be for you. It’s that simple. Even if it doesn’t make you live longer, you’ll likely be more at peace with your death whenever it comes.
What do you think of these ideas? Are you aware of your pain body? Do you have a spiritual practice? How does it enhance your life? Share your thoughts with our community.