Flexibility is an important key to healthy aging. A recent 77 year old reader recently commented about growing older, “The first thing that comes to mind is that barriers began to weaken and crumble. I am willing to think in new directions, to be open to new ideas, to be less defensive about what I consider to be right or wrong.” In other words, he was flexible.
When I asked a psychiatrist friend recently what he noticed about his clients around issues of aging, he replied that flexibility seemed to be the key to aging well. People who were able to adjust their attitude to changing circumstances did much better than those who had a more rigid or inflexible interpretation of their identity or their competencies.
Years ago I traveled around Japan with a cheerful Zen monk whose favorite English word was “flexible,” which he pronounced “fleckshible.” Whenever there was some travel issue, when we missed a train connection or the room in the sleeping car didn’t have enough beds, he would say with a big grin, “Zen mind is fleckshible, fleckshible.” Suzuki Roshi used to call this quality “soft mind.” He definitely had a soft mind; his whole presence was soft and supple. How can we cultivate that quality, whether we be 77 or 17? More on this later!