We've earned our reputation as a society obsessed with youth. We battle against losing our looks and capabilities--and the sensual pleasures that accompany them. But in Eastern philosophical systems like Buddhism, Taoism, and the Vedic traditions of India, longevity is viewed as a meaningful goal in a spiritual life.
"Taoists believe you cannot have strong spirit without strong body," says acupuncturist Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., co-director of the Tao of Wellness clinic in Santa Monica, Calif. "When the physical being suffers, the spiritual being suffers."
Staying in the best possible shape gives us more time and energy to reach spiritual enlightenment, and fulfill life's mission--"to do the work we're here to do," as American-born Buddhist Lama Surya Das puts it. The twin goals of spirit and service depend on a physical body that retains its youthful ability for as long as possible. Surya Das compares the body to an automobile: "I'm not in love with my car, but I care for it so it functions properly and can bring me where I need to go."
The longer the body serves the soul in this way, the more we can achieve. "Enlightenment, or perfecting oneself, is a daunting t task," says Uma Laura Rose, Ph.D., an Athens, Ga.-based teacher who studied Transcendental Meditation in India with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. "The goal is to live a long life because it takes a long time to perfect oneself. The ultimate spiritual purpose of longevity is to reflect the divine." In this light, battling the ravages of aging isn't vain or selfish; it's a noble and sacred goal that serves the spiritual evolution of the self as well as the world.
In Eastern traditions, Ni notes, medicines are rooted in spirituality. Therefore, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tibetan medicine, and Ayurveda all offer multifaceted prescriptions for longevity. Though the techniques vary, there are six common attributes for youthfulness at any age: energy, peace of mind, awareness, harmony, stability, and suppleness. Turn the page to discover how to cultivate these in your life.
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