My friend Geraldine recently celebrated her 83rd birthday.  I phoned to congratulate her on reaching this milestone. In the past, she has invited her friends for a morning tea to celebrate this annual event, but having recently moved to a new senior residence she has abandoned this routine. We resorted to having a chat on the phone.

Catching up

We were discussing our friendship of the past 40 odd years.  We met many years ago at an Easter camp that was run by our local hiking club.  We travelled together to the Alps on a two week hiking tour in Austria.   We reminisced about the many local trails we had hiked together.  We had spent a month in Israel, where we participated in special volunteer program.   In this program, people living in the diaspora can spend three weeks on an Israeli Army Base getting to know the country and its people.   Simultaneously they work as temporary members of the Israeli Defence Force, thus playing a small part in the country’s security.

Changing Technology

Geraldine was telling me that despite the fact that she is considered one of the most technologically sophisticated in her Residential Home she was really put out when visiting her son in America.   She does her own internet banking, and regularly uses an ATM.  However she was unable to begin to master the new systems she found in the States when she visited her son last year.  She expressed her feelings of unfairness.  She wanted to put a new app on her 5 year old ipad but was unable to download the software to her out of date device.  Her laptop of 10 years is unable to cope with the latest upgrades.  “It’s not fair,” she proclaimed, “How do they expect people like me to manage if they keep changing these things?”

Into the Future

If this is how an 83 year old is feeling in 2019, then how are people of a similar age going to feel 30 years from now?  By that time, technology will be changing even faster than today.  Each year the speed of change in the field of communications is accelerated.  I feel that people who are about to retire need to retain their capacity to keep up with the ever changing demands of technology.  Senior people need to maintain a positive attitude to learning new concepts.    The should be aware that our previous skills sets will not equip us for the future environment.

And, Another Friend

I was chatting to another friend who is a retired librarian.  She has a wide knowledge of literature and has been a leader in her local book club for many years.  When I saw Maria recently, I asked her what she was finding interesting in the contemporary world of literature.   I enquired whether she was enjoying an author whom I admire. “Oh yes,” of course,” she responded when I questioned her on the work of Yuval Noah Harari, “I have read all his books, although I did find his second one Homo Deus somewhat challenging.”  I decided to follow up with, “And, do you maybe read the blogs of Maria Popova.  She is someone whose work I respect. She has the ability to synthesise knowledge on such a wide range of contemporary psychological and philosophical issues.”   “No,” she said, somewhat condescendingly, “I do not have enough time to read blogs.”   “Oh dear,” I thought, “It is clear we have some different values regarding the source of useful information.”

The Implications

I see an interesting parallel.   Some people live in a country and never learn the primary official language of their adopted home.   Then, others have a negative attitude toward technological change.

We are not all going to be using all the opportunities presented by social media, or all the potential apps which are available for download.  However, I do consider it a disadvantage to cut oneself off from the reading of all the personal, anecdotal, and contemporary perspectives to be discovered by reading blogs.

My Potential Contribution

I am working hard to develop an online course specifically targeting people nearing their retirement.  I plan to share some of the habits I have been practising for most of my life.

Physical well-being

Not just the benefits of daily and ongoing exercise, but the necessity of developing a routine that includes both walking and more robust activities.  I believe potential retirees need to continue to learn new skills.  They should continuously set themselves everyday cognitive challenges.   They need to be in a position to take advantages of the fresh possibilities which become available.

Cognitive well-being

An awareness of the many ways to keep the mind active will become critically relevant.  Watching passive entertainment on the TV screen or playing games on the phone do not qualify.

Emotional well-being

Furthermore, I believe an ability to practice the techniques of mindfulness and meditation have become a pre-requisite for maintaining emotional equilibrium. These skills assist us in processing new experiences, objectively and healthily.   Allow us to develop our emotional resilience.

My hope

I hope you will be following me as I develop my online course and share my life experiences.   I aim to retain my curiosity as an octogenarian who remains intrigued by the up-to-the-minute opportunities which become available day by day.

 

O800 444 426 is the number to dial.   It is the international phone number for South African residents which allows them to communicate free of charge with Apple Support on a telephonic land line

The Problem

I had landed myself in a situation in which Apple had deducted hundreds of rand per month from my credit card.   Many email complaints yielded no response.  Things were getting out of hand. I decided to confront the issue first thing in the morning; the time my energy levels are at their peak!

My Weekly Visit

It was a Tuesday, the day on which I entertain my seven-year-old granddaughter.   We share many regular activities, including baking cookies, playing snakes and ladders as well as ball and racket games, participating in creative crafting activities, going to the park and attending the local gym where Mishka loves to swim.   But on this particular afternoon, I needed a rest and was meeting some resistance when requesting a half hour to lie down and close my eyes.  I decided to throw my principles to the wind and downloaded the app Colorfy onto my iPad.  This would keep Mishka entertained for half an hour.   A little bribery sometimes needs to be resorted to in order for me to have some brief ‘time-out!’

An App with Conditions

The app offered a free seven-day trial, and monthly payments were required after the trial period.   I made an irrevocable effort to delete the app within the required time and was quite certain I fulfilled this task.    Notwithstanding the fact  I had activated the deletion process, I noted a number of emails in my inbox from Apple.  Checking on my bank statement the relevant deductions had been made.    By the time I had totally absorbed this information, I had three instalments taken off my account.  Something definitely needed to be done about this.

Whilst I had ticked the box on the email in which I was invited to complain, no response had been received from Apple.  I had tried various techniques of making contact with them over the internet, without success.   I visited the local Apple shop and was offered a phone number for free international land line calls.

The Solution

The first thing I did this morning was to spend 45 minutes in consultation with two different Apple consultants in order to sort the matter out.   Living in South Africa I am familiar with a less than perfect service when speaking on the phone at a ‘help desk’, so I was pleasantly surprised with the professionalism and friendliness of the Apple representatives.

Working with Vicki

After identifying myself, Vicki told me that we could work together on our iPads and she would send me a message so that I could grant permission for our devices to work together.   Unfortunately, I did not receive this message so we had to work out an alternative methodology.   Some further problems with passwords slowed us down but ultimately Vicki ascertained that I did not have a subscription for Colorfy recorded on my account.   So she would have to put me through to Accounts.

Working with Yuki

A further delay of five minutes and Yuki came on the line to assist me.   I was fascinated by Yuki’s accent but did not feel it was appropriate to ask her any personal questions when the purpose of my call was to request a reversal of the funds which had been taken from my account as well as a cancellation of my subscriptions.

Yuki did eventually sort out my problem.   She reassured me that not only would my account be debited but my subscription would be cancelled.   In addition, she would email me information about how to cancel subscriptions on my iPad to ensure that I would not have this problem in the future.   I was fascinated to find that Yuki is a Pilipino – hence my difficulty in understanding her accent!

And, the Conclusion

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about Apple.   During this investigation, I determined that there was no subscription recorded, yet I had three deductions from my bank statement.  When Yuki asked me how much had been deducted from my account, she accepted my word for the amount.  It appeared to me that she did not verify the amount I quoted as she hastily announced she had made arrangements for the repayment.

My main aim had been achieved.   I was promised a repayment as well as the termination of my subscription.   It was just a pity that I needed to expend so much time and effort to achieve this solution to a situation which should not have occurred in the first place!

 

 

 

The increasing popularity and awareness of the Practice of Mindfulness in the Western World during the past decade, has been so phenomenal, that some sceptical observers have been calling it somewhat sardonically MacMindfulness!

My first memory of being impressed by the potential of the Practice of Mindfulness was when I read about research that was being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, some 25 years ago.   It was when the first efforts were made to derive scientific evidence for this phenomenon using long term meditators as the subjects.  Matthieu Ricard was chosen as the perfect candidate to Meditate on Compassion in an MRI machine.   Practising Compassion or Metta is a pivotal mindfulness practice derived from the Buddhist tradition.    He was the ideal subject for this early attempt at obtaining scientific evidence on Mindfulness, as he was well on his way to receiving a Nobel Prize for his research in microbiology when he decided to leave his career at a Parisian research centre and immerse himself in Buddhist Philosophy and Meditation in the East.

Early Research

With many thousands of hours of meditation under his belt, Matthieu subjected himself to the rigours of Meditating on Compassion in the MRI machine.   When reading the report of this trial, I learned that the graph paper was not big enough to record the information being received from its experimental subject. The graph actually went off the top of the page because of the intensity of the brain waves which were being recorded during the experimental sessions.   This information motivated me to find out more about the practice of Mindfulness and meditation.

An Opportunity

At that time I was involved in the study and practice of Eric Berne’s “I’m OK – You’re OK.”  This theory investigated how the early relationships set up in the family home influences our thought patterns, behaviour as well as our responses to social situations and cultural pressures during our lifetime.    It was my teacher of Berne’s theory who emailed me information about an eight week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.   Having reassured myself that the presenters of this course were well qualified I decided to take a leap of courage and immerse myself into this training.

The idea of needing to meditate for 45 minutes a day, every day for the next eight weeks was daunting, and I had to be constantly reminding myself of my impressions of the performance of Ricard in the MRI machine, to keep me motivated.   There was a significant dropout rate from the class, but I did manage to fulfil all the requirements of the course which included a 6 hour day of mindful silence.

I was satisfied with my handling of this early immersion into Mindfulness.   I had done the homework meditation practices, attended all the two hour sessions, learned about mindful eating and incorporating mindful moments in my daily routine.   However, I was not successful in motivating myself to perform the daily meditation practice on the cushion.    This was a cause of personal dissatisfaction.

Further Opportunity

However, it was about 6 months later that I received an announcement about a new two year diploma course that was being offered at Stellenbosch University Medical School on the Theory and Practice of Mindfulness.   The entrance qualification was a degree in Psychology or experience in an allied field.   I had the necessary qualifications but, “What chance has a woman in her mid-70s of being selected for this course” I pondered.

Very soon I had a phone call from Dr Simon Whitesman, the initiator of this program.   He interviewed me telephonically and I learned I had been successful in my application.   The course involved on-line study, the writing of essays, and 4 separate weeks of immersion into the experience of Mindful Meditation at local retreat centres.    Two years later I was the proud owner of a certificate stating my success in pursuing this Diploma Course.

It is a full six years ago that I completed this training, and I now have an established mindfulness practice.   The first thing I do after my early morning ablutions and getting dressed is 20 minutes ‘on the cushion.’   If I miss out for any reason, like having to be on the tennis court at 7am, then the whole day has a feeling of something missing or ‘ennui’.   I have mastered the art of meditation in many varying situations including the park, the queue at the bank or just taking a break in my writing schedule!  Additionally, I sometimes remember to take a pause for a few mindful breaths a couple of times a day just to bring me back into the present moment, and away from the tendency to think compulsively.

Positive Lifestyle Augmentation

It was indeed challenging when my somewhat sceptical daughter questioned me a couple of days ago, “Ma,” she said, “Do you feel that your daily practice of meditation has helped you?”

I took a deep breath and expressed myself as follows.   “Tanya, I feel that I can with good conscience tell you that this practice has been of value to me.   As you know, I moved into a Retirement Village two years ago.   This move took place just 6 weeks after I had major back surgery.   I needed to pack up my home, recover from the post-operative pain, and cope with all the practical details involved.   I managed to do that with some degree of equilibrium, and indeed hosted a meeting at my new home, just two days after taking occupation.  I feel that my training in Mindfulness helped me to cope with the stresses involved in making this change in my lifestyle.”

I continued, “You know about the negotiations I went through to have my two dogs living here with me.   You recall that management only wanted me to bring one dog, so I went through many painful negotiations with the committee to ensure that I was not separated from both Blanco and Freddy.”

And besides, I said to her, “You know about the various family pressures with which I have been involved so soon after moving.   I have managed to cope with these events while continuing to pursue my hobbies and my commitments to my groups who come for their monthly sessions of Conscious Ageing.”

“So in conclusion,” I announced, “yes, my daily practice of mindful meditation has assisted me in establishing an equilibrium which I do not believe I would have enjoyed without this training. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to add this area of knowledge and skill set, to my repertoire of acquired skills.   I can sincerely recommend the practices I have learned around Mindfulness and the knowledge I have acquired on the journey towards developing a regular daily practice.”