Zen Mastery

Stress management plays a significant role in my Aging in Reverse protocol. The better I handle it, the better it is for my overall well-being. Becoming a Zen Master would be the most preferable outcome. And no, it doesn’t mean I plan to pack my bags and head to Tibet, seeking enlightenment through meditation in a remote cave atop a hard-to-reach mountain. All I wanted was to find a better balance within myself and the world around me, bring more clarity into my life, and enhance my focus, productivity, and resilience against getting easily upset. My goal was to complain less and smile more. In other words, to lead a life with less stress. So, in my understanding of mastering Zen, a Zen Master is someone skilled at managing stress. They don’t get too worked up about past events or overly worried about the future. Instead, they navigate through stressful situations with calmness and grace.
I tried. For many years, I gave it my best but failed again and again. I could not manage stress with calmness and grace. Even when calm and collected on the surface, I often experienced a hurricane inside. I was a stress-handling failure. Not exactly the Zen Master material. 

Then, I stumbled upon a TED talk where an emergency room doctor explained that not every stressor requires the same level of reaction. That was an actual “aha” moment for me.


In the past, I didn’t distinguish between various stressors. If a situation was stressful, I reacted to it. There are instances where an immediate reaction is crucial (it could save your life). However, many situations that trigger intense reactions don’t deserve such heightened intensity.

I discovered the importance of not reacting equally strongly to all stressors. Instead, I learned to mentally scale them from 1 to 10, with 1 signifying something minor and 10 representing a significantly major stressor (I developed this concept based on the ER triage priority level approach). This simple classification of stressors makes a huge difference for me. If I mark something as 2 or 3, I don’t even bother to react. Next months will be an excellent time to practice this approach as a part of daily yoga challenge. I encourage you to try it too. 

You look great for your weight.

Once, I received an unusual compliment that left me pondering. Somebody said, “You look great for your weight.” Taken aback, I thought, “My weight?” However, I soon realized that I had misheard them. The actual compliment was, “You look great for your age.”

This encounter made me question why “looking good for your age” doesn’t feel like a genuine compliment but more like an accusation. While I’m proud of my age, looking good shouldn’t be tied to it. You wouldn’t tell a baby, “You look good for being 6 months old,” or a twenty-something, “You look great for 25.” So, why should age be used as a qualifier for compliments?

Perhaps, a more effective and genuine way to compliment someone is by leaving age out of the equation altogether. When someone says, “You look great” or “You look fantastic,” the compliment becomes universally appealing and inclusive, regardless of age. This approach celebrates individual beauty and confidence without unnecessary comparisons to age-related norms.

So, when someone compliments you with “You look good for your age,” how do you take it? 

Which Frog Are You?

In the end of July, I visited to a friend living in Brookline, MA, during her birthday month. To celebrate and catch up, I invited my friend, whom I’ll call Greta, to a restaurant. As our orders arrived at the table, I took out my phone to snap pictures of the food. “This is for my July challenge,” I explained to Greta. “I have to share pictures of my meals with our Facebook group every day.”

Greta seemed puzzled, so I elaborated, “I created the 12 Months Younger program, where we embark on 12 monthly challenges to develop healthy habits. Each month, we focus on one aspect of self-improvement. In May, it was all about walking 10,000 steps. For June, it was staying hydrated and tracking our daily water intake. And now, in July, the challenge is to eat at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You should give it a try!”

To my surprise, my friend responded with unexpected skepticism, “Tania, this is silly. Why bother with all of this? I eat what I want, and I’m doing fine. Sure, I’ve gained some weight over the years, but it’s just a natural part of aging. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Her dismissive attitude caught me off guard, and I couldn’t help but respond, “Nothing you can do about it? That’s not entirely true! While we can’t stop aging altogether, we can certainly influence the rate at which it occurs.”

Greta remained adamant, countering, “It’s all nonsense. All efforts to slow down aging are pointless.”

I disagreed, saying, “Maybe you can’t halt the process entirely, but you can certainly make a significant difference in how you age.” Despite our long conversation, I couldn’t change Greta’s mind. We remain on opposite sides of what is possible in the Age of New Beginnings (a term I discuss in detail in my upcoming book “Over 50 and Fabulous”).

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered such discussions with skeptics who doubted the potential for a vibrant life after the age of 50. Nonetheless, I remain steadfast in my beliefs. I see myself as the optimistic frog in the tale of two frogs trapped in a jar of milk. While the pessimistic frog gave up and drowned, I prefer to keep striving, just like the optimistic frog who turned the milk into cream and saved herself. To me, it’s all about embracing the possibilities and making the most of every moment. Yes, it also involves modifying your life by adding healthy routines and eliminating unhealthy habits.

So, which frog are you? Are you the one who embraces change, embraces possibilities, and takes charge of your own well-being, or are you the one who gives in to doubt and allows the currents of life to sweep you away?