Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Jan 11, 2010

How to appreciate, love and respect our (ageing) body!


Body Beautiful VII-(Concluded)

Ageing phenomena and How to appreciate, love and respect our (ageing) body!

Imagine an earthly paradise high in the mountains where men and women live amid spectacular scenery and never grow old. 

In this Utopian setting some wise monks safeguard the finest aspects of the world's culture while renouncing its violence and materialism. This is the Shangri-La that writer James Hilton conceived in his novel "Lost Horizon," in 1933.
At that time, he was writing for a world that had just gone through the senseless slaughter of World War I and was experiencing economic collapse and mass unemployment following the Wall Street crash of 1929. 

It was also a time of the emerging dictators and rising militarism of Hitler and Mussolini, with the prospect of an even greater war on the horizon. No wonder audiences took so readily to an escapist fantasy about a lost world of peace, civilization and beauty.

Many expeditions actually set out in the Himalayan mountain ranges looking for the fabled Shangri-La, even though it was only a fictional place dreamed up by Mr. Hilton. His description of the people living at Shangri-La as being nearly immortal, living years beyond their normal lifespan and only slowly aging in appearance, created an almost religious devotion toward finding such a place. "Lost Horizon" became an instant bestseller and was turned into a successful movie. The appeal of Shangri-La was so strong that even the US president, Roosevelt, used the name for his country retreat, subsequently renamed and what we now know as Camp David.

Can there be such a Garden of Eden?


TIME International published an article more than 50 years ago titled: RUSSIA: Ageless in Eden in its issue dated 28th March, 1949. It wrote:” Summer snows rest eternally on the high, craggy peaks of the Russian Caucasus mountains where …….. the Caucasian tradition has it, the Garden of Eden was located, and there, as in Author James Hilton's mythical Tibetan valley of Shangri-La, native tribesmen live an incredibly long time. Ages well over 100 are commonplace in the Caucasus, a land of mixed nationalities which include gypsies from India, Turks, pure-blooded Semites, Finns, Mongolians and Negroes from Africa. ……. Local legends say that the Abkhasians are endowed with a beauty that must one day prove their undoing, but from the Caucasus last week came news that one of the handsomest of them all was still doing fine. Mamsir Kiut was a boy of 17 when Napoleon marched on Moscow. In the village of Kindig, he took time off from tending his chickens and pruning his vines, to pose in turban-like bashlyk for a 154th birthday portrait.

Shangri-la or no Shangri-la, the concept of "beauty" has always remained an illusive and much debated subject. Many philosophers and scholars claimed to have understood and tried to explain what makes something beautiful. .....  The Ancient Greeks first introduced the definition of beauty as something that produces pleasant sensations. In those days the keyword to beauty was proportion. Symmetry and harmony, being least likely to cause perceptive uneasiness, were recognized as inherently attractive to the human eye. This concept remained almost undisputed widely accepted for centuries to come.  So much so, in many African languages, there is no separate word for Beauty, although objects and artifacts are highly decorated.

In the essay The Concept of Beauty - A Closer Look, published in April, 2007, Edward Raver wrote:“ Edward RaverPublished Content: 130

From the earliest times, indeed from the times when primitive communication among humans held the ability to describe the things around them, the concept of beauty, if not the word itself, has likely existed; perhaps the bright blue sky or fragrant flowers sparked in the mind of primitive  humans the realization that some things were just more desirable to the senses than others. ……..

To be sure, there are some things that are considered the very embodiment of beauty within nature, whether it be the aforementioned blueness of the sky or the flowers and the trees- the handiwork of nature can usually be universally agreed to hold some element of beauty to one extent or another; likewise, there are attributes of the human form which would be universally accepted as being beautiful, which is to say that they possess elements of beauty (Lane). “

Not remaining content with what the Mother Nature has given, the man undertook another pursuit: Reshaping the nature:
Human race has always exploited what the nature has given. To quote Felipe Fernandez-Armesto: “ .. the idea of challenging nature  - effectively,  waging war on other species, reshaping the earth, re-modeling the environment, re-crafting the ecosystems to suit human use, and match human imaginations – was one of the great revolutionary ideas of history.” If this is true for earth, ecology and environment, it is also true for human body. 

Again, armed with mathematics, geometry and aesthetics,  it was but natural to find some natural endowments -  in a female  body  -out of proportion right form the beginning - or with the advancement of age.
Deepak Chopra writes in his book, "Grow Younger, Live Longer" that "  ...The average life span of a human being during the Roman Empire was twenty-eight years.,.... at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was forty-nine years in the Western world and now a baby born in America has a life expectancy of almost seventy-four years". 
Most certainly and obviously, outside the  fabled Shangri-la,  the women ought  to take more and more pains to remain attractive and beautiful with their advancing age and longevity!

Robin Sharma, in his best selling fable "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" mentions of Julian's (the main character's from the Western world) first encounter with the “ageless monks of India" , namely the sages of Sivana  and their youthfulness: 
".. Julian had never seen a man quite like this one. Though he was  at least his own age, there were very  striking features of this person which left Julian mesmerized and caused him to stop and stare for what seemed like and eternity. His eyes were catlike and so penetrating that Julian was forced to look away. His olive -complexioned skin was supple and smooth. His body looked strong and powerful. And though the man's hands gave away the fact that he was not young, he radiated such an abundance of youthfulness and vitality that  Julian felt hypnotized by what appeared before him, much like the child watching the magician at his first magic show...... His serenity and peace made him appear angelic in nature, enlightened in substance'" He later on agrees to take Julian into their " private world,  and share (their) collected knowledge for filling (Julian's) life with more joy, strength and purpose".  

Some random thoughts about beauty are worth a glance:

In one study reported by Times of India on 12th Dec, 2009  under the heading :"Look Good, Work Less?" , it says :"...  According to a Synovate survey on beauty, 55 per cent people in India and Brazil believe that good looking people ( in an office ) can get away with less work. ... It quotes theatre-person Aamir Raza Hussain. admitting   I mean, if I had a pretty secretary who made a thousand spelling mistakes per page, I’d be more likely to explain things to her gently. If she were short, fat and ugly, however.. .” . So, the charm does work, more often than not! And what is wrong if females encash that weapon!
In a news report titled " Does beauty need enhancement?" the Times of India dated 22nd April 2009 plays a different note :" Celebrity photographer Daboo Ratnani says lots of Indian actresses can easily go without make-up.

“Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Madhuri Dixit Nene can come for a shoot just after they’ve woken up and still look stunning,” he says…… 

 Model coordinator Nayanika Chatterjee says that natural beauty goes beyond just being able to look great without  make-up.There are people who, whether you look at them with or without make-up, have something so characteristic and beautiful about them. Beauty is what they are; they can’t escape it,” she says.......Make-up artiste Corey Walia adds attitude, a sparkling smile and twinkling eyes to the list.

"It's official: Good-looks leave you happier!" is the title of Times of India of 23rd Dec, 2009 news report: It says "...Attractive people tend to have more social relationships and therefore an increased sense of psychological well being, reveals a new study.  The study led by University Georgia and the University of Kansas researchers suggests that the impact of our attractiveness on our social lives depends on the social environment where we live. ....In urban areas, individuals experience a high level of social choice, and associating with attractive people is one of those choices. .... In rural areas, relationships are less about choice and more about who is already living in the community. .... "  

In her book " Notes on the Need for Beauty -An Intimate Look at an Essential Quality, author  J. Ruth Gendler invites us to reclaim and celebrate the often misunderstood quality of beauty as one of the most profound and essential forces in our lives. In this book, she presents 74 qualities--including Pleasure, Anger, Terror, Beauty, and Change as everyday characters who live among us. Both personal and impersonal, the Qualities convey a variety of human emotions in a simple and entertaining manner; readers are inspired to reflect on their own qualities and communicate their feelings with new clarity.

She writes: When I was a little girl, I made up a story about the store where they sell Qualities. More like a trading post or library than a department store or supermarket, we could go to the store where they sell Qualities to taste, try on, and sample various qualities. From time to time as a teenager I made notes about the factory where they manufacture facts and the image warehouse where they store belief systems.
Note here how she expresses herself : “ The Qualities seem to exist in a community of their own, apart from us, and simultaneously, they are very familiar, a part of our everyday world. I imagine that the Qualities live together in a (single)  town--Courage lives on the same block as Fear. Faith and Doubt are in the same apartment building; Despair hangs out in the basement. However, I don't want to emphasize the Town of Qualities too much because it implies that the Qualities are separate from us, and they seem to be both in and around us. Reading the Qualities aloud brings them to life; even the same Qualities change subtly in response to the moods and needs of the people listening”.
This thought , i.e. people holding  unforgiving negative thoughts about their bodies and comparing them unfavourably with others can often become a sickness, of which one must cure himself or herself to achieve mental and physical well-being. I was looking for a remedy and stumbled upon very valuable tips. Here they are:  

In " The Little book of Letting Go", the well-known author Hugh Prather ( you guessed it right – same author who wrote the famous book "Notes to Myself")  says beautifully :
“ It is curious that no one questions  the thought that we can love, care for, and identify with flowers, trees, birds, and other little creatures of the garden. …. No one questions blessing a house and feeling  blessed in return. In fact many people have house blessing  ceremonies and give “ house-warming” gifts. But the body, our most immediate and constant habitat, is some how different.
It is so different that most of us are in constant battle with our hair, teeth, skin, toenail, fat cells, the length of our nose, and our overall height, shape and age. These battles become more fearsome the deeper into the body we look:  pesky sinuses, misbehaving bowels, falling arches, painful backs, unreliable knees, and achy joints. Then of course, there are life and death struggles with our vital organs, immune systems, nervous systems and blood chemistry. I could go on but it becomes a horror story.
In short,  most people fear and distrust their body, feel betrayed by it  and at times hate it. In typical fashion, our solution is to ignore this relationship and simply allow our hidden fears and resentments to fester.
This is not necessary. We can let go of disturbing body thoughts just as we  can other disturbing thoughts, and we must do this if we are ever to know our peaceful mind. May be you have seen people come to peace with their bodies as they were dying, but why wait until then?”

He then goes on to give a practical solution about how to do it:
“A.  Take-off your clothes and stand in front of a mirror, a full length one if possible.
Notice how hard it is just to do this much. What are your emotions?  Fear of what you will see? Guilt? Embarrassment? ......Most of us have got ourselves into such a mental mess  that just looking at the body is this big an issue. A little child will follow this suggestion without hesitation. …..

B. Beginning with the top of your head, next go to your forehead, then your eyebrows, your eyes, and so on, through to your toes. First stare at your hair (or bald head) and continue staring until your mind becomes quiet. ( If it helps, you might say something like, ‘This is simply hair. It’s the hair I have today. I don’t have the hair I had ten years ago. Most people have hair. This happens to be mine).  As you stare, be aware of any judgments, anxieties, bad associations or any other negative beliefs or questions you have about your hair. Speak them aloud if this will help identify the thoughts. 

C. Then say to yourself, ‘These are my thoughts. Do I want to carry around all these thoughts around my hair?’
D. Repeat B and C with the other parts of the body.
E. having now uncovered the disturbing and separating thoughts about your body, starting again at the top of your head and going down your body as before, call on your thoughts of gratitude and appreciation about each part you look at. (‘Thank you,  hair, for keeping me warm, for putting up with my curses and sighs, for patiently tolerating all the chemicals I dump on you….’ ‘Thank you, forehead, for protecting my brain , for showing concern or surprise as needed…’ ‘Thank you, eyebrows, for keeping the water out of my eyes, for giving me that certain, heavy-browed look…,)
You want to sincerely see how much your body has undergone for you; how in so many ways it has been a good friend; how innocent it is of the genes it inherited, the climate it has endured, the accidents it has sustained, and all the other external forces like gravitation and sun rays that changed it in ways it could not help. It means you no harm. It has done the best it could. …… If a garden or house can reflect back the warmth, certainly the body can as well.
F. resolve now that from this time on, you will treat your body gently, talk to it kindly, and above all, think of it happily.
And finally, to conclude the series of posts titled “Body beautiful” here is  a wonderful, must-read article, a first person account of one of the first high fashion models to become known as Super Models.
(Supermodel- as we know - are highly-paid, élite fashion models who usually has a worldwide reputation. They usually work for top fashion designers and labels. They have multimillion dollar contracts, endorsements and campaigns).

She is Laura Krauss Calenberg,  who began her career in Paris nearly more than 20  years ago. She has graced the covers and the runways of the most prestigious fashion magazines and shows in the world. She has worked with the leading fashion designers including Armani, Christian Dior, and Channel in over 22 countries around the world.

Laura has written a best-selling book, "Beauty From the Inside Out," a comprehensive beauty guide for young women focusing on inner beauty as well as outer beauty .

Here, she discusses the pitfalls of building a life on physical appearance rather than inner beauty.
( Read full article at : © Laura Krauss Calenberg at
Being on the covers of top European fashion magazines was no longer a dream for me but reality. I could hardly believe it! All I ever wanted was to be in magazines, earn lots of money, and travel all over the world. The struggle to make ends meet was finally over. Now I could wine and dine in Paris, my new home, and toast fame and fortune. After all, isn't that what life is all about?

Focus on Physical Appearance

What is your idea of beauty?  What would you change about yourself if you could? When I began my career with Christian Dior in Paris at age 19, my idea of beauty was what others thought about me. If people approved of me and wanted to book me for a modeling job, then I concluded that I must be pretty. My logic was that if I was successful and working then I must be beautiful. It was a dangerous thought-pattern because I was placing my self-esteem in the hands of others and what they thought about me.
Another way that I determined beauty was by association. I was working with some of the most beautiful women in the world who were appearing in the most popular magazines. Since they were my friends and peers, then I thought, surely I'm just as beautiful.

Another way I assured myself was by the men I attracted. Since I had lots of handsome, intelligent, successful men pursuing me, I thought I was beautiful. I was popular and had a lot of friends, too. And as my success grew and people recognized me, it was very easy to get invited to all kinds of parties and go wherever I wanted. So I must be beautiful if I have all these friends and get to go to all these places.
As a result, I became an egotistical, self-centered person living a very self-centered life. Most of my time was spent on me and being concerned about myself. "Me," "myself" and "I" were my three favorite words. My entire life was focused on my physical appearance... my weight and my hair and my clothing and my overall attractiveness.
I once was on a two-month modeling job in Japan. Every day people were assigned to do everything for me, even tie my shoes. When I got dressed, there was someone to hold my dress and coat. They had three people to do one person's job. It all fed my self-centeredness and feeling of self-importance.

Pitfalls of Physical Appearance

I also became a workaholic. I worked seven days a week because I knew nothing was guaranteed -- I could be out of work the next day. My looks could be gone anytime, so I had to take every job. I would work in Germany during the day and then fly to Paris in the evening to work and then go back to Germany in the morning. I was afraid of losing it all and had to hold on to it at any cost. So I would take any and every job I could.

The result was that I became exhausted and sick. I fainted one day in the middle of a shoot and injured my knee. I was laid up in bed for the first time in my career. Not being able to work was the most frightening experience I'd ever had, because even if it was for only two weeks it meant I was missing all the pret-a-porter (fashion shows) that I'd just been fitted for. I had to cancel fourteen shows. I was crushed.
But one day as I lay there bedridden and unable to work, I began to reflect on my life and question my values and ideas about beauty and what kind of person I had become within.
I realized that my views of beauty were inadequate. I knew for example, that my looks were going to change. My covers and my "tear sheets" (my pictures that I tear out of magazines) became out-of-date very quickly. I had worked so hard to get those photos in magazines and my agency wanted to take them out of my portfolio within six months because everything was out of style! I was constantly trying to keep up.
I also discovered that making a lot of money at a young age was great, but I found that the responsibility of managing it was overwhelming. It also made me question why people were really attracted to me. If I looked different or did something different or had less money, would my boyfriend still love me for who I am?
All these questions and doubts were hitting me when I was still at the peak of my career. I realized the shallowness of it all and began to feel very empty inside. After acquiring all I thought I wanted, I realized something was still missing. All the success and attention I received didn't fill the emptiness I felt deep within.
What had happened? Where were my priorities? Who or what was I living for?

Insecurity of Physical Appearance

It occurred to me that I had been building my life on things that weren't secure. It was built on what the culture thought or my boyfriend thought or how much money I made or how popular I was. I realized I was building my life on sand.
I reflected back to a time in Indiana where I grew up when a significant event had taken place in my life. "Searching for love in all the wrong places," as the song goes, actually did me some good when a classmate invited me to a concert at her church. I accepted because half of the teen group were boys, and the church was very large, so I knew this could be fun. ………… That night I prayed a short prayer asking Christ to forgive me and change me. I told Him that I would live for Him and serve Him with my life. I invited Him to come into my life to begin a relationship with me.
So there I sat in Paris years later, reflecting on that special event, wondering how I got to such a point in my life where life had lost its true meaning. I realized that I had neglected my relationship with God and chosen my own direction. No wonder I felt so empty! So, I asked God to forgive me for living for myself and the approval of others. And I said to Him: "Please change me and show me what real beauty is."
The first thing that God showed me was the danger of vanity. I had struggled with that for a long time. In America, $20 billion is spent annually on cosmetics; $300 million on cosmetic surgery; $33 billion on dietary products. This illustrates how much time and money we spend on our physical appearance. Vanity is not beautiful.
Related to that was my habit of comparing myself with the looks of other women. Jealousy is another problem I've had to work on. I've had to learn to be secure in who and what I am and how God has made me, knowing that He loves me no matter what I look like or how I act.
Insecurity is not beautiful. It makes it difficult to have and be a friend. And you put a lot of expectations on others to compliment you and make you feel good.

Definition of Beauty - True Beauty

What is beauty? It is not physical appearance. It's what's found inside, what's in your heart. Humility is beautiful, although it's not popular in my business. Security and self-esteem are beautiful. And knowing God personally brings beauty, because knowing He loves you and accepts you brings security and self-esteem to your life. That enables you to be free to accept and love yourself and your shortcomings.
…………. I can tell you that Jesus Christ has changed my life, and I will never regret the decision I made to follow Him.”
So, that was Laura, perhaps speaking on behalf of many of us…

As I sign off the post, a beautiful song, rendered by Jonny Diaz – titled “More Beautiful You” flashes in the mind. Here are its first stanzas.

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine
Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight her body isn’t fake
And she’s always felt overweight

Well little girl fourteen! I wish that you could see
That beauty is within your heart
And you were made with such care your skin your body and your hair
Are perfect just the way they are 

There could never be a more beautiful you
don’t buy the lies disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you!