I recently had the opportunity to ask a 95 year-old woman in the most amazing health and soundness of mind the secret to her longevity. What she told made me pause in awe and think about my own orientation towards life. I’m sharing it with you today because I believe it serves as timeless wisdom for us all.
The pleasure to talk with this feisty, outgoing woman with a huge smile was afforded to me last weekend. She struck up a conversation with me for nearly 30 minutes standing in a line; her slender, fit presence showing no sign of fatigue or discomfort. I was dumbfounded to hear she was approaching her 95th birthday, as she didn’t look a day over 75.
After several rounds of life stories and lessons, I was hooked by her charisma and had to ask her the obvious question.
“What is the secret to your longevity and youthfulness?”
She smiled even wider and her eyes lit up like glowing fireflies as she leaned over as if to whisper a secret to me.
“You know, it is pretty simple,” she began. “I use Clinique moisturizer every day,” she laughed as if taunting me.
“No, really, that’s not the secret,” she continued.
“The secret is that I am so full of joy every single day no matter what.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, grasping for more definition or prescription.
She went on.
“You see, no matter what I do, I find joy in it. When I wash my windows, and I still wash them myself you know, I find joy in making them sparkle. I don’t think about anything else except for how sparkly I am making them look. When I cooked dinner for my husband when he was alive, I would smell the food cooking and taste the sauces and find so much joy in making the food. I’d use crystal glasses and fine china and our meal was a joyful experience. When I talk to you now, I find joy in getting to know you and learn something new from our conversation. Every moment is so joyous. I am filled with joy from everything everywhere. That’s what I mean.”
Her wise words have played back in my head all week.
This single encounter has had me think about all of the techniques and methods that we are being bombarded with about how to “be present” and “be mindful” and “live in the moment”. We have created an entire industry devoted to reminding us to breathe and enjoy the moment, almost making it seem like a hip trend and a pop cultural band wagon to join.
Yet this woman wasn’t practicing any techniques or reminding herself to do anything. She was purely embodying being fully present in every moment of her life. She was fully experiencing everything she was doing without yearning to be doing something else or being somewhere else. Every moment was filling her with joy.
How often do you allow yourself to fully experience whatever you are doing, without wanting to get somewhere, achieve something, or be somewhere else? How often do you fully experience and take pleasure in what is right in front of you?
What would happen if we approached everything we were doing and everything we were experiencing with our full curiosity, attention, and passion?
I wonder what would happen if we stopped pushing so hard to chase joy, and let it fill us like it did this wise woman I spoke to?
Are you willing to try and find out?