Since the beginning of human existence, the experience of growing older has been met with resistance and uncertainty. The process of aging is a constant reminder of impermanence and the eternal evolution that is ever unfolding in each nook and cranny of the universe, including within us.
Change is not something that humans are programmed to easily accept, especially in western society. More often, we cling to the past while holding a false belief that aging will bring us to a lesser place.
Qi Gong can help us to reframe our minds around aging. Instead of grasping to hold onto an earlier version of ourselves, the practice can allow us to move gracefully into each new phase that life brings us.
Ironically, by learning how to find acceptance and flow with ourselves and the world, we actually stay more youthful and full of life longer. In fact, Qi Gong is often referred to as “the art of preventing disease and prolonging life.”
Unlike some external, image-driven “solutions” to aging, Qi Gong helps us to work with the true source of personal change and transformation. When we’re able to really tap into our deepest needs and give our beings what is truly important, we can experience greater health, energy, and joy as we enter our wisest years.
Reframing how we view aging allows us to welcome its many gifts. While western society sometimes epitomizes youth as the sole essence of desirability, ancient Chinese sages held a much different view. For them, growing older was a highly cherished and respected process, as it allows humans to cultivate immense wisdom that can only be gained with years.
The merging of childlike joy and elder wisdom was regarded so highly that the name Lao Tzu, which was given to the author of the Tao Te Ching, means “old wise child.” Essentially, ancient Chinese Qi Gong practitioners viewed aging not as a negative thing, but as one of life’s most desirable experiences, right up there with childlike playfulness.
There are many choices, behaviors, and routines that help people to stay healthy and young at heart while still embracing the gifts of growing older. Below, we’ve decided to share six important habits to help with this process.
1. Spend time in nature
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, we view nature as a powerful source of Qi. Each element has its own special energy to share with us. By immersing ourselves in nature’s beauty, our entire being is able to absorb its wonderful, nourishing qualities.
Most people can innately feel nature’s healing qualities when they step into a natural environment. Fresh air, the sounds of wind, the flow of water, and the majestic presence of rocks and mountains all speak to us in ways that no man-made creation could ever come close to. Nature is perfectly in tune with the balance of the universe, and that wisdom is felt and learned by humans when we truly pay attention to it.
Spending time in nature can take many forms. Hiking through a forest, walking along the beach, skiing in the mountains, or sitting peacefully by a stream are all great ways to connect with its universal language.
Nature also has a way of helping us release any stress we’ve been carrying. Just as we can take in the qualities around, the earth can also absorb the energies that we’re ready to let go of. The mutually beneficial exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between humans and trees is an example of this process happening on a physical level, but it is also occurring energetically as well.
Making it a habit to spend time in nature each day or week is a great step toward aging with grace.
2. Eat food that grows from the earth
There are so many different opinions about what kind of diet is best for health and longevity. In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, we don’t believe that there is any single diet that is best for every person. Rather, since we’re all unique, each person has different dietary needs. In one of our previous blog posts, we talked about how to use the wisdom of the Five Elements to guide our dietary decisions.
One diet suggestion that does apply to everyone is: try to eat foods that grow from the earth.
Simply put, the human body appreciates fruits and vegetables more than it likes heavily processed foods. If you can’t find monosodium glutamate or propyl gallate growing in nature, then they probably don’t belong in your body.
Eating natural foods that are free of chemicals is a great way to provide your body with the nourishment it needs without giving it toxic energy. There are so many delicious and nutritious recipes that utilize the earth’s abundant gifts. Making healthy eating a part of your daily habits can go a long way to helping you maintain youthful, vibrant energy as you grow older.
3. Get good sleep
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, we talk a lot about maintaining balance in our lives. Getting consistent, restful sleep is a critical part of cultivating a healthy symbiotic relationship between our Yin and Yang energies.
Being active during the day is a reflection of Yang energy moving within us. Sleep, on the other hand, reflects our most Yin state of being. Complete surrender and relaxation is an essential part of getting recharged and ready for the day.
Sleep doesn’t just help us feel more alive and energized during our waking hours, it also plays a critical role in many of the body’s core functions. Consistent and sufficient sleep is a key ingredient to staying physically healthy, emotionally stable, and mentally aware, all of which are important when it comes to aging with grace. The best way to ensure good sleep is to set a consistent bedtime.
4. Spend time with loved ones
Numerous research and studies have shown that spending time with loved ones is positively correlated with health, happiness, and longevity. We all long to be cared for, and creating joyful experiences with those we care about goes a long way to improve our overall well-being.
Positive experiences with loved ones helps to elevate our ‘heart Qi’ and sends nourishing, healing energy throughout our body. Having fun may feel good, but it also helps to heal all parts of our being. If we can combine time with loved ones with being in nature, for example, the healing effects can be synergetic.
5. Serve others
Being of service helps us to connect to our truest purpose and is both good for others and deeply nourishing to ourselves.
Service is one of the greatest forms of self-care. When we’re able to give from a place of abundance, we can experience a profound feeling of alignment with the universe and acceptance with ourselves. This energy channels through us and delivers nourishment to all parts of our body.
There are many different ways to serve and each of us has the task of finding the ways that work best for ourselves. Integrating service into our work is perhaps one of the most important decisions we can make, but there are also limitless other ways to share with the world as well.
6. Enjoy a variety of movements and exercises
Staying physically active is an important part of keeping the energy flowing within us. Also, doing a variety of different kinds of movements helps to ensure that all parts of the body receive attention and cultivation.
Of course, Qi Gong is a practice that integrates many physical and energetic exercises to help us add not just years to our life, but life to our years.
This video shows Lee sharing more about the wonderful benefits of Qi Gong, as well as a few powerful practices for cultivating youthful energy and vitality.
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Written by Ian Drogin