At this point, you probably all know about Tao Porchon-Lynch: she is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, at 94, the oldest living yoga teacher. She has been a yogi for 86 years (!), and became a teacher at 73.
Ever since Yogadork reminded us of her accomplishments a few months ago, this idea of a lifelong practice has been obsessing us. We are fascinated by people who are inquisitive about the world, and have an intense desire to know, no matter their age. Tao Porchon-Lynch doing yoga for so many years is certainly inspirational, but so are the countless other older people whose lifelong practices include language learning, reading, traveling, ballroom dancing, bird-watching or becoming versed the art of ikebana. We have long thought that curiosity is the true fountain of youth! It is neither Botox nor a steady diet of green juice, but curiosity that nourishes a healthy and creative longevity. To have a thirst for trying new things, for sending tiny mental Mars rovers to the seams of your understanding, is to be deeply engaged in a process of discovery—of the self and of our shared experience on this planet.
Watch this video of B.K.S. Iyengar doing yoga at 59. Is he not out of this world (and yet thoroughly IN IT)? Do you not wish to have this kind of strength and resilience at 59? Anyone who can rock those shorts after 40 gets at least six pranams from us.
Given how happy it makes us to see and know so many enthusiastic and active seniors (we need to come up with a better name, by the way), and how optimistic it makes us about “old” age, you can imagine our disappointment when we read this opinion piece yesterday in the New York Times. Published in a section of the newspaper designed for Baby Boomers called “Booming: Living Through the Middle Ages,” the article is one Boomer’s list of things she will stop aspiring to do once she turns 58. While we are certain the journalist’s intentions were humorous, we found the underlying cynicism of her “I’m done trying” tone epically sad.
We were on the verge of writing a rebuttal when we decided to check out the Comments section first. For some, the piece resonated; for others, not so much. One person wrote “Perhaps there is a fine line between self-acceptance and desiring to learn new things or meet new challenges? (…) if you don’t have things that you still want to learn or accomplish, doesn’t that get boring?” Yet another wrote “At 85, you may find yourself disappointed. Accepting limits means a steadily decreasing range of things you can do.” And our favorite comment of all: “This writer sounds done and… well… at 60 I don’t want to be done!” Yes! Yes! Yes!
Perhaps it is easy for us to dismiss the writer’s glibness because we don’t know what it’s like to be approaching 58. We keep trying to see the humor in her (real or alleged) failures, but we can’t because I keep hearing Tao Porchon-Lynch’s voice, saying “I don’t want to know what I won’t be able to do, because I don’t believe it.” The minute you stop indulging self-limiting beliefs about yourself and your abilities (this includes learning a new language and, yes, reading Middlemarch even), is the minute you forge a future of endless possibilities and growth.