Mindful Monkey.

Health, Happiness and Age


Inspiration can come from many sources and if a story can lift the spirits, I am all for it. A story about a 100 year old man appeared in the media (Guardian 20.10.11). He is Fauja Singh who, at 100, has recently run a full marathon (and he did not come last!). He was setting out to beat the record of the previous oldest man completing a marathon, a 98 year old Greek athlete. Yet, it is not so much the running but what Mr Singh said about his attitude towards life in general that caught my attention.
Firstly, he said something many people who may be struggling to achieve what is important to them need to hear:

“That anything worth doing is going to be difficult”.

Running 26 miles certainly takes some doing. However, so many things people set out to achieve require staying power. What if the secret is to keep going while reminding oneself that perhaps things don’t always need to be easy? Maybe difficult is OK. There is an idea that often people gave up on a project or their dream without realising just how close they came to a breakthrough. (A little known documentary called “Three feet from Gold”( Click here for a trailer) may have this as a theme. It interviews many people who have achieved success but the focus is on how they coped with the tough times. It is easy to be happy when things are going to plan. The film (and book) sets out to look at how they kept going in the face of adversity. Many of them insist it would have been easy to quit but somehow they kept going until a breakthrough happened. This struck me as important in such tough economic times.
What Mr Singh said also was that he leads a simple life, eating when he feels hungry but never so that he feels too full. While he has chosen running as the focus in his life that gives him a sense of peace and “keeps the engine going” many people will find other things that matter to them enough that it provides a deep sense of purpose. That greater sense of purpose can help us through tough times. Perhaps a sense of purpose and intention can help us attract the things we need. For Mr Singh, his trainer works with him for free, a sports company sponsors him and he mostly gives his money away. All kinds of people are interested in getting to know him. What is also refreshing is that here we have a far better idea as to what constitutes getting older. I leave you with another of his quotes:

“I don’t stress, you never hear of anyone dying of happiness”

Being open to what you are not looking for…

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I was recently given a prescription for Penicillin for a throat infection and was reminded of the fascinating history of this medicine. Still in use today it was the first substance that ushered in the modern era of antibiotics that have saved countless lives. Before these drugs people would die from what we might regard as relatively minor infections. Said to have been discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928; he was studying some bacterial cultures and found that one had got accidentally contaminated with a mould. He noticed that the mould seemed to be inhibiting bacterial growth and further investigation led to the identification and extraction of Penicillin.

Usually when things go mouldy they get thrown into the bin; it was serendipitous that he noticed the significance of the space around the mould where the bacteria were not growing. The history of discovery is littered with stories like this one; this is just one example of how being able to look at things our perceptual filters set a bit wider can let us see something important.

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