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These 10 men have transformed their bodies after the age of 50 and prove age is just a number

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Aging happens to everyone, whether we like it or not growing old is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean that our quality of life has to go down! Eating healthy, staying active, and taking care of yourself emotionally and spiritually can help anyone to make their golden years their best years. And when you feel good,... View Article

Read the full story here: These 10 men have transformed their bodies after the age of 50 and prove age is just a number

I woke up at 40

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There’ll be times when you’re walking down the street and you’ll see two twenty-somethings with legs all the way to Lithuania, and that paradoxically world-weary manner of girls who have the world ahead of them. This being North London they are indeed from Lithuania. You shoot them an appreciative glance. A bit of envy maybe, but nothing deep. All you have to do is remember what they have ahead of them: adoration yes but also the insecurity of youth, the men you longed for and never understood when they hurt you, but mostly the constant jostling for your place in the world; that nagging feeling that you had to be at the centre of everything because if you weren’t you simply didn’t exist. Sure you looked great in a scrap of white broderie anglaise and bare legs but it was accessorised with insecurity and anxiety about what other people thought of you.  Because you were not even sure what you thought of you. "You don't appreciate yourself," said my mother. I now find myself saying that to my niece who is eighteen and gorgeous. She looks at me utterly perplexed as if to say "What is there to appreciate?" And I realise it's hard for her, like it was for me: she has no idea who she is.  Youth may be a gift but it's also one hell of a messy experiment if you do it right.

At some point, if you have examined and thought about life and its randomness, you will stop wishing you were six inches taller/had blonde hair/had larger breasts/had smaller breasts/had a perfect nose. It just doesn't matter to you because you're involved in life. And you become magnetic to people because they sense it.  You have hotter sex, spirited conversations and fun, the kind of fun you have when you really don't give a damn. You don’t need to be the life and soul of the party; attention becomes something that matters more in private with close friends. You still look at and admire youthful beauty but you don’t spend time wishing you were that person: Charlotte Rampling once said that now when she sees a young, pretty girl attracting the eyes of every male around, she thinks, “that used to happen to me.” She said it not in a regretful way but simply as fact, as you imagine a woman of her demeanour might. It's done. Now move on.

In terms of relationships it's fascinating. I encounter men who find women their own age troublesome, challenging and Not Young.  This is an ancient setting for men, possibly it is literally set in stone and there's no point fretting it.  Some do it because they can and it makes them feel good, others  because they fear their own mortality and that's where I think women have an advantage with the ageing process: our bodies go through changes constantly and gradually.  We are adaptable creatures and we do just that so that by the time we're forty-five we're not fretting when that six pack no longer appears.  We know our breasts left level one a long time ago and for the most part, except for the days when we're in the grip of our inferior, we just get on with it.

For men it can be a smooth run until their mid-30s when they are struck by the stark realization of a beer belly, love handles and then at some point during a routine visit, their doctor looks at their cholesterol readings and asks, "Do you want to see your kids grow up?" They overreact. They take up marathon running, a mistress or buy a Porsche. Or all of the above. It's not such a shock for a woman to see stretch marks and a thicker waist. We adjust to those things and we evolve our style while investing time in our knowledge. I rarely wish for the past though I might smile at photographs of myself in lycra minis and think "Well I rocked that," I don't want to wear them. All the smart ladies I know focus on being their best in every possible way. They take the extraordinary amount of self-knowledge they have plus what they know about the world and they use it.  It's the ultimate freedom to realise you have all these resources and also scary because you know it's time to take the biggest shot at life you've ever taken. Your forties and fifties are in many ways the most radical period of your life I think.

So while ‘youth is beauty, anything else is not worth considering’ is the broad media/social agenda, I refuse to be infected by it because I've finally found me. I went through my twenties and thirties doing things because they were there, not consciously. I hid a lot of me, especially emotions. It's taken me around 25 years to get to the point where I say to someone, "Actually this is how I feel. Take it or leave it." Looking my best still matters but that doesn't mean looking 'young'. What matters now is being me and having these wonderful friends I have now, who are there for life and they know me.

This is the point I was meant to reach and if I wish for anything it's that I'd reached this place of relative peace (also known as I don't give a fuck) before. But it only comes with age and in my case it took me until my forties to even locate that place. I feel like I know what I am and what I want. I've also noticed that coincides with the world opening up in ways I never imagined.

The title of youngest/prettiest in the room is gone for good, but that's always gone anyway. It can't last.  But sexy, smart, sorted, funny, clever, these are the qualities that improve in the phase they quaintly call mid-life, but I just call my time. It's all up for grabs.

Psychotherapy Without Soul Can Fuck You UP

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Without an appreciation of the soul’s radical desires, psychotherapy can interfere with psychological and spiritual maturation and promote a non-imaginative normality that merely supports people to be better-adapted cogs in a toxic industrial culture’

Bill Plotkin

There is a marvellous moment in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships by the pioneering Buddhist psychotherapist John Welwood when a client finally hits the ground of infinite possibility. The truth is, she says, that right now I am a completely fucked up human being and cannot be otherwise. This revelation was no doubt preceded - as it is for many of us - by years of therapy and workshops, potions and pills. From that moment of crystalline authenticity doors began to open as she sank into the richness of her own being without judgment or concept.

One of the cavernous blind spots that snag the seeker lies in the poisoned nature of the ground in which she seeks healing. Without the soul as companion too many therapies are simply confounded by what is presented. How can that which is devised within the confines of ‘toxic industrial culture’ – that which fails to incorporate blessings and curses, ancestral hand-me-down wounds and individual karma – bring cure to what ails?

Again and again I have seen clients struggling under the weight of a geis, or what I call conditions on the soul, failed, inevitably, by systems that don’t get them, don’t want them and finally throw up their hands in confused failure offering another diagnosis by way of compensation and to save professional face.

Soul sickness does not respond to that which is soulless. It does not seek a fix, although the personality which accompanies it will. It cannot be touched by much in this world. For what has taken root in a human being, what has found a home there, is both incurable and a reflection of what is not right in contemporary culture. This sickness comes from being separated from the beauty that has been lost and which the soul now desires as a matter of urgency. The individual holds both the illness and the answer for that which lies outside the Self.

It is almost that after the soul’s journey over many lifetimes the pressure builds to a point where only death or breakthrough matter. It has to be one or the other. Nothing else will do. I am either going to find the beauty within or I will return to it in the Otherworld, the realm of the ancestors. The mood is pressing and the initiatory circumstances both more terrifying and exciting.

In Zen, it is said that the nature of dilemma is like having a red-hot coal stuck in the throat. It can neither go down nor out. You can neither cough it up nor swallow it. This stuckness or impasse is common in both individuals and society, and as Jung said it represents a preparatory period before significant breakthrough, even an evolutionary leap.

We are too quick to want to get out of this wasteland. In these days of sound bites, quick fixes and instant communication the thought that the soul might have its own agenda and desires is abhorrent. That it might want you to grow sicker and sicker until you are beyond human aid is unpalatable. This is where insight into the mythological level of life is critical. Without understanding and accepting the soul’s need for slowness and to sink into its own depths it is too easy to think a life is no longer worth living.

But the soul is calling you down, deeper than you would go on your own, farther than seems necessary to the conscious mind that only wants to ‘get on’. It takes a long time and much flailing about looking for ways out of our dilemma before accepting, like the client above, that perhaps there is no cure, at least none that we can see. If you study mythological tales, this image of the fall from grace, the wasteland, and the kingdom once abundant now in ruins is everywhere. And it is a necessary part of being alive.

For the sickness pulls us down into territories of great learning, a brush with death, and strips us of all we have known thus far until all that is left is the vision with which we were born and which has been forgotten. ‘The only way to treat the condition,’ says mythologist Michael Meade is to get everything out of the way and allow the sickness to speak for itself. It can only be heard when all the possible cures have been eliminated and its incurability has been admitted. The soul sickness needs permission to be the strange story that it declares itself to be.’

The only way at such times is to understand we have ingested soul sickness, that it is purposeful and contains great gifts, and to go further into it. In other words we have to follow where the sickness leads and where it leads is often to a threshold we don’t even want to see let alone cross.

In modern times, I see this happen most often in relationships. Everywhere I turn I hear people stuck on the horns of dilemma: should I stay or should I go?; I love him but I’m not in love with him; I just don’t feel anything any more. As soul, that feelings of passionate aliveness, most often enters us in western culture through our romances, small wonder that is where we will feel its absence.

People stay miserable within these dilemmas for years, for the sake of the children or a myriad of other sensible reasons. Yet soul is not interested in common sense or material security. It just keeps pressing in on you until you give it its due and it won’t let up until you do, ever. That does not mean the solution is to break with relationship. That may or may not be the case. It does mean you have to find a way to attend to your deeper life or get sicker.

In a sense, the more soul sickness you’ve imbibed the better equipped you are to heal what is within and without. In turning towards what is dark within the Self and the culture we increase the possibility of bringing some of the beauty trapped in the Otherworld back over the threshold. It is as if we have to risk death to step over and beyond ourselves, but what we bring back can alone illuminate that which has fallen into forgetful chaos.

Can I Embrace Death?

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I’ve just turned 49. I can hardly believe it. I feel young, often mischievous (close friends call me that) and alert in spirit, and yet, 49 is not considered young in body anymore and the evidence of age is becoming ever more apparent in my skin and around my eyes.

I’ve also noticed that as I’ve moved further into my forties, ageing, sickness and death have moved into my consciousness much more.

In March this year, I was forced to look ageing, illness and death straight in the eye with the death of my beloved aunt - a kind, patient and generous person (modest too) – aged 79. My aunt was like a second mum to my sister and I. She didn’t have a family of her own and was very much a part of our childhood, supporting my single mum and often holidaying with us.

During the last two years of her life she suffered unbearable emotional and physical pain, endured endless operations and was in and out of hospital. Despite a strong will to live, her body could not take any more.

I got a call from my mother just before Easter, saying that I needed to come. I was just about to go on a two-week retreat in the Scottish Highlands but I changed plans, booked a flight to Germany and went straight to hospital from the airport. I got to spend the final hours with her, witnessing her last breath just after 5am – something I’ll never forget. She was gone forever.

Death as we all know, is the one certainty we all share in life and yet it is something we find very uncomfortable to sit with, to talk about.

Can we find a way to turn towards that which many of us consider the most intolerable and painful experiences in life - ageing, sickness and death - with an open heart-mind? They are, after all, experiences that we all have to face - whether we want it or not.

Would we find it easier to talk about ageing and death if we learnt to relax into and accept that the life is a process, a continuous cycle of becoming and ceasing, embedded in a larger cosmic cycle of life and death.

Seeing my aunt’s suffering caused me enormous emotional pain. It also taught me a lot about myself. I discovered that the distress that I was experiencing came from not wanting to accept her suffering and from not knowing how to tolerate the unbearable. I wanted it my way; I wanted my aunt to be well again, I didn’t want her to suffer. I didn’t want to suffer seeing her suffering.

When I was able to see things as they were, when I was able to sit and see my aunt’s sick and decaying body, and the presence of her nearing death for what it was, I felt something in me relax and soften, which helped me to turn towards the experience with patience. I was then able to offer a loving attitude towards my own pain and discomfort in the midst of the unbearable.

Taking responsibility for one’s death

My aunt’s death was also a wakeup call for me to reflect on my own death and to begin to take responsibility for it.

My aunt had no will and this caused much difficulty for my family.

Shortly after my aunt’s death, I made an appointment with a solicitor to make a will. I asked two of my closest friends to become my executors. I asked another friend whether she would be willing to lead my memorial service. I decided to be simply buried in a green burial - to dissolve back into nature.

By taking responsibility for my death, I must face up to the fact that I too will die, that I too may suffer from sickness, that I too may need care, that I too will leave a life and affairs behind for others to deal with.

Taking responsibility for our own death is a tremendous gift to ourselves and to the people we leave behind.

Accepting the life/death cycle - turning towards what is intrinsic and inevitable in life, rather than pretending it doesn’t happen; to feel enriched and empowered by the cycle of life and death we are all born into.

seventysomething: Time Lapse

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Pile of photos

Today, I feel the need, I'm sure you understand, to retreat into a safe haven of my childhood. I used to love to sit on the blue carpet in the living room and rifle through the wide, shallow drawer at the bottom of the breakfront where photographs were casually tossed. This was before the iPhone, before digital files, when photos were both more and less important than they are now. Some black and whites were lovingly mounted with adhesive corners into leather-bound albums and labelled in my sister's hand...Susie 1947, mother and daddy behind the counter in the family antique store 1952.

Read the full story here: seventysomething: Time Lapse

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