The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum
Slow down. Breathe. Move. Relax. Get in touch with your body and mind. Give your spirit the energy it needs to develop and flourish.

Become acquainted with the gentle, flowing movements of Chinese Tai Chi, the deep, relaxed stretching of Shanti Yoga, and the philosophies of Zen meditation, Quigong and the Tao. Attend a "spirituality and aging" session during a "Complete Seminar on Intelligent Aging," an extension of the USD Elderlaw Outreach program.

In preparation, rank yourself on a scale of one (lowest) to 10 (highest) regarding the state of your (a) physical health, (b) mental clarity, and (c) spiritual peace.

"The older you are the harder you must work at staying young," observed a lean, well-preserved 69-year-old who had foregone her morning Tai Chi session to join our discussion about life near the chronological edge.

She rated her physical health an eight, mental clarity a nine, and spiritual peace, a six. The majority found themselves hovering around the mid-range on physical health and mental clarity, but wide disparities were reported in their spiritual self-assessment.

I placed my physical health at nine, mental clarity at eight and holding steady, and spirituality at three-something, but improving. I attribute such improvement to a daily 5 to 6 a.m. self-constructed regimen of Chi-Kung, pilates, ki-kou and Shanti yoga, interrupted by scores of "tonglen"-inspired sit-ups. Forward crunches send forth happiness to others. Backward crunches extract their sadness.

It's all about integrating body, mind and spirit through breathing exercises, meditation, focused quietism and conscious living. These techniques are thousands of years old, but are now being discovered by pockets of the allopathic medical community. Last week the popular press published a report about "breath therapy" being as effective as physical therapy for the relief of back pain.

About the same time a regional newspaper published an article proclaiming the benefits of "stretching," contending that the anti-aging benefits of stretching had gone largely unnoticed until the 1990s. The ancient yogis would be disappointed to have been so forgotten. Breathe deeply. Stretch the entire body. Enjoy the moment. Manifest the spirit through a calm, clear mind. Age intelligently.

(Pro bono legal information, advice and limited representation is available to persons 55 and older through the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895; mmyers@usd.edu)

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