Mindful Aging by Andrea Brandt

I’ve been thinking a lot about topics related to what I’d call “Healthy Living for Seniors,” which includes nutrition, exercise, positive attitude, and mindfulness. Frankly, I was spinning in circles, so I was particularly pleased to receive a copy of the new book Mindful Aging from PESI Publishing & Media and NetGalley in return for my honest review. The author, Andrea Brandt, a therapist in the Los Angeles area, says she has “… discovered that body-oriented therapy is the most effective treatment available today for people who seek to bring their inner world and external world into harmony…” I expected the book to expand on her thoughts about how a mindset she calls ‘realistic positivity can help the reader interested in incorporating mindfulness to their aging process.

The blurb for the book promised to help me “throw out the old stereotypes about getting older and move toward the welcoming new evidence that your future is alive with possibility, providing steps to thrive today and into your golden years…” with “…tools to help …embrace a new mindset and blaze a new trail …fueled by passion, purpose, and creativity.” Since it also said it was full of tools and exercises, I was hooked, but wary with high expectations.

Some of the chapter headings were particularly intriguing, including topics such as “letting go” (of things that aren’t working), “finding joy,” “expressing your creativity,” and “developing your spiritual side.” Each of the chapters includes the personal life stories of real people to expand on the topic, and then (best of all!) she provides strategies and worksheet exercises to help guide the reader toward a more mindful aging process.

Included along the way are ways to cope with loss, embrace our mortality, deal with anger and/or negative thinking (all of which resonated with me), and become more positive in general.

I found that including the stories and the exercises in each chapter was especially helpful. I’ve read a fair amount on the various topics covered in Mindful Aging, and some of the people wrote in a very “woo-woo” way (too much even for someone from Santa Cruz). This isn’t the case with Dr. Brandt – her style is accessible and the readability is excellent. Five stars.

 

Mindfulness On the Go Cards by Jan Chozen Bays

Like many others, in the past when I had thought of mindfulness and meditation, what came to mind was the Transcendental Meditation of the 60s or, if not that exactly, possibly extremely long periods of silence  sitting in an uncomfortable (or, for many of us, impossible) position. When I spent time at the Tassajara Zen Center I had seen the residents on their way to and from sitting, and heard their tinkling bells at o-dark-thirty every morning. That kind of confirmed for me that meditation wasn’t something that I could do. Plus, there is that mind-you-can’t-shut-off thing that I had going on…

More recently, I have realized that mindfulness is more about being in the moment and experiencing life fully, moment by moment. As the author of the Mindfulness On the Go Cards I received for review defines it, “Mindfulness is deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you and within you—in your body, heart, and mind Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment.” I have read a few books on the subject, and have tried exercises to foster the ability to BE, but it seems like I am someone who can’t quite get there. I mean, I want to be someone who meditates, I just don’t want to do the work of actually meditating.

This set of cards developed by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, a pediatrician and Zen teacher, sounded intriguing, and thanks to Shambhala Publications and NetGalley, I received it in return for my honest review.

The idea is that there are 52 cards, each with an exercise or meditation practice that the author has used in her teaching and found helpful for students who are getting into mindfulness.

The author suggests selecting one card each week for a year. Each card has three components: first is a description of the practice to be followed during that week, followed by some of the possible insights that might come out during the week, and finally a brief statement designed to sum up the exercise and inspire the student to continue the practice.

Some examples of the topics are:

  • Each time the phone rings, take three breaths before answering
  • When eating, just eat
  • Listen like a sponge
  • Resolving to pay a compliment each day

The idea is that small moments of awareness such as these will become second nature and promote a naturally mindful life.

Frankly, I love this idea. I don’t want to wait to review this because I want to get started, and so I have ordered a set of the cards. TBH, the digital version I received is a bit of a challenge because the topic is displayed clearly, but the sections with the possible insights one might receive is very faint and difficult to read. The third section (the summing up/inspiration section) is displayed in italics and is very clear. I expect the physical cards to be much easier to use.

It’s a simple idea, and having looked through all the topics am hoping that the result will be a more conscious way of being in the moment, without having to pretzel myself into a lotus position or get up in the dark for early practice in sitting. As Dr. Bays says, I want to “learn to be present with things just as they are.” I give this idea and these cards five stars!