Marlon and I recently read a blog on “12 Rules of Life” written by someone who had turned 45. Her 12 Rules reminded me to reflect on what my rules would be at 60, as she implied that her view at 45 would be shared by those over 45. I didn’t share her views for the most part, especially her eighth grade experiences of being mean, cynical and dismissive. I didn’t agree that once you’re 45, you no longer have an opportunity to learn, grow and expand your consciousness. So, I also embraced the opportunity her experiences presented to ponder what my own “12 Rules of Life” would be.
First of all, at 45, the “building years of your life” are not over, as the 12 Rules blog set forth: that’s not “pretty much what you are going to be.” You always have an opportunity to grow new wings and fly. I went to seminary after the age of 45.
I published my first book after 45.
I started a ministry after 45.
I started a practice of heavy weight-lifting after 45.
I held my first jazz vesper after 45.
I traveled to Ghana and visited South Africa for my first safari after 45.
I performed my first wedding ceremony after 45.
I learned to paint after 45.
I ordained my husband after 45.
After 45, you can learn a musical instrument, return to school, take up a new hobby. You can remember new words, remember where you’ve left your keys and even become healthier and more fit. You can even learn to do pull-ups. Most importantly, you can change your consciousness and manifest your good with a completely new mindset.
At 60, here are the 12 rules that have brought me this far and/or those that will take me to the next level.
- Meditate Daily. The science is clear that meditation provides better mental, physical and spiritual health. From a spiritual perspective, meditation is the most powerful prayer that there is. I say that we can go to the altar asking for nothing because we have all that we need, which means in the silence, the universe knows what we have need of before we even ask. By the practice of silence, listening in the stillness without judgment, we connect with pure love, the peace and compassion that is everywhere present. We also create better synergy to be in harmony with our purpose, the higher good that brought us to this life experience, to do the work that we were called to do. My daily meditation blog is a testament to my commitment to stop periodically and go into the silence.
- Love one another. The Bible can be written in one word: love. If we love one another, there would be no room for malfeasance, no necessity to have any other rules, laws or commandments because everything that we do would resonate with the highest good of everyone and everything. This is not romantic love but the compassion we should all have for one another despite our differences. We are all pure love, in this existence to love each other without ceasing. Love is the most healing, restorative energy that there is. Take a day or just a moment and send love to others. What we give, we receive.
- Step Outside of Your Box. The most exciting place to be is the unknown. The unknown is where we create courageously, innovate without limitation, and learn beyond the boundaries that we impose on ourselves. Outside the box is where we engage cultures, conventions and norms that are different than our own to open and be receptive to new ideas, to amazing solutions and synergistic change. As my Howard University finance professor taught me, the only risk-free investment is a guaranteed loss. Stepping outside of the box gives us the agility to take risks and the energy to do more than we have ever dreamed of. This rule means to dream without limit. Our dreams should never cease at a certain age. We are the endless opportunities that we co-create.
- Be Generous. My mother often says that I am extraordinarily generous. Generosity is a place where compassion lives in my soul. If I can give you something to make you feel great, I generally do so. This doesn’t mean that I am open to being used or taken advantage of: I am not and do not surround myself with people who are narcissistic, selfish, mean-spirited, or stingy. For me, the latter is toxic energy. From a young age, I realized that the most important thing that we can give is a smile, eye contact, a thank you, well-wishes, a compliment, a hello, or just a hug. Generosity also supports forgiveness. For giving to another makes us whole. When we forgive, we are liberated from the shackles of negativity and are reborn with new enthusiasm, commitment and trust. Even if you feel as though you have nothing, you always have something to give. And here’s the thing: whatever you give comes back, not necessarily from the person to whom you’ve given but from the energy of generosity that you’ve created.
- Exercise Daily. As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to the gym. I’m not just saying that, it’s the truth. I like to start my day by going to the gym. Moving keeps me healthier and makes me feel good. Exercising is also fun. It’s the play that revitalizes the soul. And do what you enjoy. I have never liked spinning so I don’t waste time doing it, even though it apparently benefits many. I love weight-lifting, which feels good to me and helped me change my body more than once. I love cardio which relaxes me. I love yoga which stretches me. Doing these movements consistently is beneficial to my body, mind and soul. There are also interesting people in the gym. In NYC where I live, I even see movie stars. I mean, hey, it’s kinda cool if James Bond is working out right next to you, regardless of your Bond Girl status.
- Eat whole foods. Gratefully, I love whole foods, and they love me. In truth, they love all of us. By whole foods, I mean vegetables, fruits, lean meat, nothing that is processed. Processing takes the life out of our foods, and we need to eat life in order to sustain it. When I limit my in-take of processed food, extra weight drops away easily, and I feel better, stronger, and more youthful. I’ve been vegan, but it wasn’t a healthy experience for me because I ate processed vegan food. The most important thing is that we eat the earth and replenish our bodies with the purest energy we can mindfully ingest and bless.
This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy treats during the holidays. As one of my fellow gym rats says, “one day of cheating won’t interfere with your goals anymore than one day of eating broccoli will help you accomplish them.”
- Be a good friend. By the time you are 60, you are probably blessed with a few good friends. Mine have taught me how to be fully present, how to sacrifice my own convenience, how to keep a secret, how to give my best, how to be considerate, how to celebrate another. I love a good friend, which is how I know it’s important to be one.
- Listen deeply. One of my millennial friends is one of the best listeners I know. I try to remember what she does when I am listening to someone else share. She listens without her own agenda in mind. She’s patient and never interrupts. You feel as though she genuinely wants to hear what you have to say. Listening alone is a spiritual exercise. Listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone. They know that they are valued. We realize that we have given them our best. Sometimes we do listening dyads: exercises where you take turns listening to another person and switch. The listening portion is timed. We need to increase the timing so that we press against our own impatience and learn to be fully present for someone else.
- Share Your Story. I used to be embarrassed by my story of growing up in a housing project in a single parent home in the inner city of Detroit. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but we had spiritual, creative and soul-filled things and experiences. We always enjoyed museums, libraries, parks, and telling our stories over and over to each other. We read the classics, both African American and other classics: Black Boy, Native Son, The Souls of Black Folks, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, The Invisible Man, Go Tell It On the Mountain, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Sherlock Holmes, and so many others long before we reached junior high school. We were all creative. We all wrote. We all drew. We all dreamed, aspired, and were students of the Spirit. It took me years to realize that my story of success and strength would inspire and encourage others. Stories build bridges of community, sharing, hope, and resilience, giving us more capacity to be welcoming and inclusive.
- Take Self-Care Breaks Daily. It took my friend Dr. Jay Morris, who is over the Yale Center for Excellence, a life coach and theologian, to tell me that I needed to take care of me. We have to take care of ourselves daily by cultivating micro-resilience habits like meditation, exercise, devotions, getting sufficient sleep, reading, getting massages, going to places like Kripalu or on other spiritual retreats, traveling, cooking, spending time with loved ones, doing whatever we love to do. When we do, we return to whatever our daily routine is with greater compassion, reflection, ideas, and resilience. I encourage my team to take the time that they need, which gives them the space to restore, and learn, and grow independently but also more compassionately.
- Drink Lots of Water. We know that we need water, but we don’t drink it. I hear folks saying they don’t like water; they don’t drink water, and they drink other things instead. Water is not just good for us; it is vital to our good health. F. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries For Water: You’re Not Sick; You’re Thirsty (www.watercure.com), treated more than 3,000 peptic ulcer patients with water alone and discovered that disease responds to water by itself. Chronic dehydration is the root cause of most major degenerative diseases of the human body. Without the right amount of water to wash the acidic waste of metabolism, chaos results in our bodily functions, causing pain, Alzheimer’s, stress, tumors, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, and other ailments. These ailments can actually be healed with water. The only thing that I generally drink is water because I’m always trying to make sure that I get in a sufficient amount a day.
- Be Thankful. Gratitude is where the 45-year-old author and I agreed. Giving thanks is one of the most powerful things we can give because it not only blesses the giver but also gives back to us with spontaneous blessings. Gratitude also heals us. We are better because we aligned ourselves with the positive flow of being appreciative. This is hard science. Gratitude reduces a number of toxic emotions, like jealousy, resentment, frustration, regret, loneliness, and even depression. Being grateful makes us healthier and happier. Scientists say that a daily practice of gratitude, like keeping a gratitude journal, boosters our immune system, reduces aches and pains, lowers our blood pressure, increases our exercise regime, results in higher levels of positive emotions, makes us more alert, alive, and awake, gives us more joy and pleasure, allows us to sleep better, results in more optimism and happiness, helps us be more generous, compassionate, and forgiving.
These Rules of Life could be written in a number of ways, but these are the rules that more readily come to mind for my own life. Age 60 is a good benchmark for me to take stock because I’ve been through so many changes since 45, but all of them have been a blessing. I’ve learned what has made the most difference is not merely surviving challenges but using them as a catalyst to be my best self.
Unlike the 12 Rules author, I’ve never been “middle-aged”: what is that? Like the kids that we’ve watched age in the documentary series Seven-Up, my personality has remained the same. At the age of seven, I skipped right over first to second grade and diligently practiced cursive writing to catch up with my classmates: who knew that it would become a lost art 50 years later. At the age of 14, I claimed writing, speaking and reading as my passions, which have never changed.
At 21, I graduated from Howard and moved to L.A. ; at 28, I’d gotten a Masters and a Juris Doctor and had been married and living in NYC for a few years as a corporate litigator; at 35, I tried to maintain the status quo, mentoring others and acquiring things until I realized status quo meant stuck.
At 42, I began working diligently on the dreams I had discarded.
Getting rid of the old.
Claiming the new.
By 60, I can easily write my own rules, and ask :”what resonates for you?”
As my book God is a Brown Girl Too says, “you will graduate from the accelerated program of being certain who you are, of knowing your true value, of accepting all of you.”