It is in our DNA to sense how long we can live
November 14, 2010, 12:00 pm
By Guy J Ale, President Lifespan Seminar, Keynote speaker at Java World Congress- ICT for Sustainable Development, Colombo 2010
Obesity is becoming the most prevalent public health problem in industrialized nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in a study published in Paris on September 23, 2010. "If recent trends continue, projections suggest that more than 2 out of 3 people will be overweight or obese in at least some OECD countries within the next 10 years," according to the study, Obesity and the Economics of Prevention.
What is to be done? What can each of us contribute to understanding personal health, fitness, and optimal living? I find myself to be at fifty in the best physical and mental conditions I have ever been, without the use of drugs, pills, or enhancements of any kind. So my job, as the president of Lifespan Seminar, is to use this opportunity as a meeting across this page, as it were, to show you, dear reader, what I see in my life, which is a structure of life-affirming choices that enable me to be the best version of myself at this age.
What does it mean to be the best version of oneself? Our bodies change – I used to run regularly distances of ten to fifteen kilometres. And then I developed osteoarthritis in my left hip, so I can no longer run. But I can do other activities – swimming, stretching, and walking as much as possible. This also means designing my lifestyle in such manner that I get to exercise as much as I can, moving away from sedentary habits and building my daily routines with healthful choices.
I have known how long I can live for the past eighteen years. To address scepticism head-on, this is not a fact but a potential, something that might come true if I make the right decisions. I believe that if I keep making the correct choices in my life, I can live another fifty-two years. I have lived with this notion since 1992, and the more I live it the more I believe it. I have initially struggled with it, mistrusted it, researched it, gradually accepted it, understood it, finally came to rely on it, and now I teach what I’ve learned.
Another thing that must be said at the outset is that this mental, spiritual, and physical quest has never been for me a means of self-aggrandizement or self-congratulation, but an undertaking of self-analysis, curiosity, and faith. I am not the source of this power, but am rather accessing this power at its source. What is the source? The Mind at Large, the order underlying all things in the universe.
The ecologist and theologian Thomas Berry writes in his book, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future, published in 1999:
"History is governed by those overarching movements that give shape and meaning to life by relating the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe. Creating such a movement might be called the Great Work of a people…. The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.
The Great Work before us … is not a role that we have chosen. It is a role given to us, beyond any consultation with ourselves. We are, as it were, thrown into existence with a challenge and a role that is beyond any personal choice. We did not choose. We were chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historical task. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfil our assigned role." 
We can’t select our epiphanies. By their nature, they originate outside of us, in the Infinite Mind, and lodge themselves in individual psyches at particular periods in human development. It is no accident why certain perceptions enter the subconscious at a specific time. As we will discuss further along in this article, there exists in the universe an evolution of consciousness which points to a pattern of continuous revelation.
Java World Congress is taking place at a significant point in time. It is the end of the first decade, the end of the beginning of the new millennium. Granted, these are only numbers on a page, but in our collective consciousness they carry deep symbolic meanings. For example, the wedding chapels in Las Vegas, Nevada, were overbooked months in advance by couples wanting their marriage licences to be stamped with the date 10-10-10. We are still at the gates of the twenty-first century, of a fresh beginning of a period of a thousand years.
In his ground-breaking book, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Richard Tarnas, the founding director of the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies, analyses and compares the convergences of scientific breakthroughs in history. The book seeks and well succeeds in pointing to an essential order suffusing the movement of all celestial bodies, of which we humans are one form. It demonstrates patterns of alignments of planets in which profound shifts in evolution occur, in a mutually connected and dependent manner. For our purpose we will list a table of convergences of major scientific discoveries and intellectual revolutions, among them the discoveries of Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei in 1609-10, that supported the heliocentric theory and laid the foundations for the Copernican revolution; Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858, of the theory of evolution; Sigmund Freud and Max Planck in 1900, in psychoanalysis and quantum theory, respectively; and Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and their colleagues at the Solvay Congress in 1927, who solidified the quantum physics revolution begun by Planck twenty-seven years earlier.(table 1)
Next convergence(The above list is only a partial chronology, and between the major events mentioned there were other convergences which fall outside the focus of the current article.) 
Will Java World Congress result in important discoveries, resolutions, or understandings that will benefit the world? That is up to each of us individually to answer. The aim of this article is to present a structure of wellness and balance in a person’s life, which will give them a new perspective on healthy living, and thus will enable them to live the longest life their particular genes will allow, while existing in this duration in the most vital and enjoyable manner. Let us begin.
1.1 Inception of the insight
In 1992 I was living in New York City and working as an executive at a retail firm. I ran
regularly several times a week and found these jogs to be the best meditation sessions: the body is engaged in a routine and familiar activity – the lungs are pumping, the legs are kicking – so the mind is free to visit beautiful places. I have always gotten the brightest ideas on these meditation runs. So one day a thought came along, as they do, somewhere from the crossings of the subconscious and the infinite. A number appeared – 102 years. Frankly, I didn’t pay much attention to this at that time, just went about my business, but the following day it was still there, and the following week, and the following month. This is where I got worried.
1.2 Personal struggle
What was I going to do with this strange notion? What was I supposed to think? It scared me
very much. I felt I couldn’t tell it to anyone – they would laugh at me, they would think I was hallucinating, or that I thought too much of myself, or that it was the kind of notion that you get when you had one too many glasses of liquor.
Was this some kind of cosmic joke, to set me up for ridicule and derision? And where does this idea fit in one’s life anyway? What does it mean? Do you now not mind how you behave, what you eat, how you treat your body and your soul, because you think you can live to be 102, so who cares? Following these insecurities and anxieties, came another one – what if somebody shoots you?
This period lasted several years, all deep within, battling, brewing, conflicting. But you go about your life, and you come to have faith. You try not to lose your sense of wonder, that private quiet instinct that says, Why the heck not? Is it frightening? I’ve dealt with darker thoughts. I am not afraid of this. And moreover, one day the bottom fell from under that fear of being shot at random – a new articulation appeared and it made perfect sense, everything fell into place: If I am not killed prematurely, I will live to be 102.
That is, within the domain over which I have control, my own behaviour, I think that I have the tools to last in this body for that duration. Beyond this I have no control, and what happens is the universe’s will.
1.3 Acceptance and beginning of research
I acquiesced in the idea: let’s see what happens, let the galaxies align in their proper positions. I will continue my life, now gradually with the new perspective of – if it were to happen, what would it mean in practical terms: what would I have to think? How would I have to behave and conduct myself? How would I have to breathe? Exercise? Eat? And what not to eat? I have never denied myself any kind of food, I enjoy everything in right proportions.
Dear reader, I am a thoroughly pragmatic person. For me an idea is just that until it is proven in reality. It also has to make sense, be valid, feasible, understandable, and applicable in everyday life. The scientific foundation of this new perception follows shortly below. But first, let’s sharpen our focus and rearticulate precisely the topic of this article – We can sense our optimal duration in life and realize it. Here are the elementary conclusions I’ve drawn from living with and researching this subject for the past eighteen years -
=Faith is an essential component in acquiring this new skill, but this is faith based on clear understanding of oneself, and of how the world operates.
=Do you know that this will happen? No. The nature of "knowing" is that we can’t know what hasn’t happened yet, but if it were to happen, this is how it would – through what we think, and how we act.
=It is the quality and not the quantity of life that counts.
=Human life expectancy is increasing at an average rate of two years per decade. The longest verified human life on record is 122.4 years. Within these known boundaries, any number we can reasonably conceive in accordance with our mental and physical states is valid.
=Our bodies are machines for living, with innate equilibrium and an instinct for self-restoration.
=Conducting Lifespan Seminars has shown us that the best way to communicate this idea in a manner that participants can use is to describe the development that took place inside me and let this process trigger similar insights in their psyches.
=Insight = seeing inside.
=We strive for certainties but are obliged to operate within the structure of calculated risks and prudent hopes. All life consists of making best choices out of less-than-perfect data. However, we know the basics:
- It’s better not to smoke
- It’s better not to be overweight
- It’s better not to have addictions
- It’s better to be physically and mentally active
* The most important participant in our overall wellbeing is not our doctor, or nutritionist, or fitness coach, or consultant, but ourselves. You and I. Our strength lies in understanding that the freedom and responsibility for our health are in our hands.
2 Historical context
Timeline of the universe (approximate numbers)
15 billion years ago – big bang, release of matter and energy
4.6 billion years ago – the Earth forms from stellar ash. We humans, who are the offspring of
these forces, are made of the same building blocks of energy and matter of which the planets and stars are made. We move through space with the other celestial bodies. The spirit and intelligence that animate them also animate us
300 million years ago – our ancestors diverge from bird species, come down from trees
7 million years ago – hominids branch away from chimpanzees; bipedalism evolves
4.4 million years ago – earliest hominid skeleton "Ardi", a 120 cm female, found in Ethiopia
1530 CE – Copernicus completes "On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres" which
introduces the awareness that the Earth is not the centre of the universe but revolves around the Sun
The inherent information in our genes is much older than our present bodies – millions of years, and some of it billions of years old – as old as life in the universe. The psychologist and philosopher William James wrote, "Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special kind of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different… No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded."
If we allow ourselves to look at this idea from a fresh perspective we can see that it really is no such big deal – in the future, sensing how long we can live will be as mundane as sensing if we’re hungry or not. Once shifts in consciousness occur, they come to be regarded as ordinary. Readers over the age of forty might marvel at the technological innovations of laptops, iPhones, and movie downloads, but for teenagers this is the only reality they’ve known – for them this is normal. So it is with every novel information: at some point it becomes standard.
Let us play a little mind game. Let us travel back in time to England in the year 1532. Let’s make you a very important person – you are a member of the court of King Henry VIII, you are well-respected and well-informed, and people seek your opinion on worldly matters. One day a courier arrives at court with the news that a scientist named Nicolaus Copernicus says that the Earth is not at the centre of the world, but somehow spins around the Sun. Ridiculous. Who will believe this? Hang the heretic, or better torture him until he recants. And you at this time are not an ignorant person, you are just convinced that this news is nonsense. Who can blame you? Think of the shift of consciousness that bizarre information required. We thought that all the planets and the stars revolved around us. Day was day, and night was night. The stars were above in heaven, and the Sun rose and set, and the Moon came on after darkness, and there was order in the world.
We have only travelled 500 years back. Let’s jump back 5000, let’s look around, what do we see? Rough life, very different from ours. Now let’s jump forward 10000 years. All this, and much more is the canvas of our imagination, of the inherent information stored in our genes.
I believe that the ability to sense the amount of energy our bodies contain is a latent capacity in us, currently unknown, as the introduction of fire, the invention of flying, and the discovery of radio waves were before we revealed them. Isn’t it logical to think that there are other attributes we possess of which we are not yet aware?
Latent – dictionary definition:
1. Hidden: existing in an underdeveloped or unexpressed form
2. (biology) Dormant: undeveloped but able to develop normally under suitable conditions
3. (psychoanalysis) Present but unexpressed: present in the unconscious but not consciously expressed
2.1 Evolution of consciousness
Consciousness in the universe has been developing for the past 15 billion years since the big bang. We, the carriers of this consciousness, are at the present stage of evolution, and have not reached our final form. The awareness of our duration is a natural step in our future progress.
Michael Murphy, Co-Founder of the Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, California, writes in his seminal book, The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature, "The discoveries of modern science give us new perspectives on the world and our human capacities. Our planet has been revealed in a new light, not as a static or cyclical world, but as an arena in which graduation upon graduation of species have occurred for several hundred million years. This stupendous advance suggests that humans might develop further. Evolution to date is a supreme inescapable gesture, pointing toward a mysterious future for living forms, leading us to suppose it could continue through further eons. Indeed, it has even exceeded its established laws and patterns. Because evolution has gone beyond its own bounds before – as, for example, when life arose from inorganic matter and human kind from its primate ancestors – and because we harbour transformative capacities such as those described in this book, it is not unreasonable to think that, despite our many liabilities, further progress, even a new kind of evolution, might be available to us. The universe itself, as revealed to us by modern science, invites us to open our imagination and correlate our sense of human possibilities with evolution’s dynamism." 
And elsewhere in the book he writes, "Modern philosophers such as Hegel and Bergson have emphasized the idea that new levels of consciousness appear in the course of human history, like other emergent properties of the universe. Even if they have roots in eternal or pre-existing orders of existence, new kinds of knowing have become manifest for the first time on earth (italicization in the original) in particular societies and individuals, then spread to others by education or example." 
We explain at Lifespan Seminar that every living organism has an Optimal Duration of Existence. Whales who live 80 years, and shrews who live 2, both have approximately one billion and a half heartbeats in a lifetime. In our workshops, we help participants with guided meditation, breathing, and active-listening techniques to locate the sense of their duration in themselves, and also teach them the skills and habits that will enable them to make that potential a reality – a healthy mind in a healthy body.
3 Everyday application
Since each person has a given amount of heartbeats in a lifetime, it remains to each of us to determine how we manage and distribute them across the entire length of our existence.
- Do we shorten that amount by overeating and thus putting undue stress on our hearts, causing hypertension, diabetes, and other diseases?
- Do we smoke and thus harm our lungs and heart passages?
- Do we drink excessively and thus damage the equilibrium of mind/body/spirit?
- Do we neglect to exercise our body and thus let it deteriorate?
- Do we not mind what we eat – fast food, empty calories, predominantly fried and processed items, without variety of fruits and vegetables?
- Our bodies are well-designed machines for living, but if we abuse them we short-circuit the underlying harmony on which they thrive.
- Metabolism means the process by which food is converted into the energy and products needed to sustain life. Simply put, what we eat becomes our body. Do we supply our body with junk, as in "junk food", or do we nourish it with meals full of nutrients?
The good news is that the future is open – we don’t have to carry forward bad habits only because we have done them in the past.
- The greatest advantage that Lifespan philosophy provides for me is clarity of vision – I see a structure in my life, a scaffolding put on the time allotted to me on Earth. I see a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it is up to me to fill that space with meaningful actions. Psychologist Erich Fromm said, "Our task is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity." This echoes back to the above-mentioned realization that within the domain over which I have control, my own behaviour, I believe that I have the tools to last in this body for 102 years.
- Would you drive long distance without knowing how much gas is in your tank? You could if you really wanted to. But would you not have more control over your vehicle and your destination if you knew how far you could go safely with the amount of fuel available to you? What is right for a long distance trip is all the more relevant to a passage through life. We can drive blindly without the knowledge of our resources, or we can attain mastery over our destiny by understanding and managing our energy.
- The framework that Lifespan system puts on my life also helps me deal with stress, anxieties, and other everyday challenges. Stress and anxieties are not eliminated – there’s no escaping the blues of life – but in this structure, they are reduced and managed. When I’m faced with a real vexing problem I approach it from the perspective of my overall duration in life, which gives me a sense of balance and a healthy distance – on your larger journey through existence this is where you are at present – Pace yourself.
- This also means that I can regulate my breath, with the same vision in sight – when I’m in a tight spot I can tell myself, OK, nothing harmful will happen to you because you have a long way to go – Keep breathing, in and out, free and steady, everything is well.
- Life is precious because it is finite. This philosophy leads to living it fully and fills it with meaning - Out of the big void of uncertainty I carve for myself a framework of consciousness – This is how long I can exist in this world – and I support that decision with everyday choices.
- And finally, seeing this framework enables me to be the best version of myself at this age, as well as to see myself being that way thirty-five and forty-five years from now – a healthy 95-year old active and engaged in life. Granted, in a 95-year old body, but being the best version of that body at that time.
3.2 Anatomy of a case
Let’s narrow our focus and examine a single trying situation:
Here I am, at 6 o’clock in the morning, sitting in a traffic jam on my way to work –
Behind me is the upsetting argument my wife and I had before I left the house.
Ahead of me is what seems like a traffic accident that will make me late for work.
Below me is the mortgage payment due in two weeks about which I am really worried.
Above me is the lingering annoyance over the rude cashier who made my coffee earlier.
To the left is the declining health of my mother of which I learned on the phone yesterday.
And to the right is my own toothache that I hope does not develop into a full-blown problem.
What is the most life-affirming outcome of this situation? – Align the energies inside you with those outside so you can pass through the world with the least amount of friction. We can move forward with the perspective of the entirety of our journey, allowing that pain is an integral part of life, doing our best in each circumstance, and aiming to balance our inner and outer realms.
The only thing we can control is our own behaviour, but that’s plenty.
My aim with this article has been simple: that each reader takes away from it a clear awareness that the potential to sense our optimal lifespan exists, and that each of us can acquire the tools to realize it in our lives.
Richard Tarnas writes in Cosmos and Psyche, "There are many possible worlds, many possible meanings, living within us in potentia, moving through us, awaiting enactment. We are not just solitary separate subjects in a meaningless universe of objects upon which we can and must impose our egocentric will. Nor are we blank slates, empty vessels, condemned to playing out passively the implacable processes of the universe… Rather, we are miraculously self-reflective and autonomous yet embedded participants in a larger cosmic drama, each of us a creative nexus of action and imagination. Each is a self-responsible microcosm of the creative macrocosm, enacting a richly, complexly co-evolutionary unfolding of reality… It seems to me highly improbable that everything we identify within ourselves as specifically human suddenly appeared ex nihilo in the human being as an accidental and more or less absurd ontological singularity in the cosmos…. Is it not much more plausible that human nature, in all its creative multidimensional depths and heights, emerges from the very essence of the cosmos, and that the human spirit is the spirit of the cosmos itself as inflected through us and enacted by us? Is it not more likely that the human intelligence in all its creative brilliance is ultimately the cosmos’s intelligence expressing its creative brilliance? And that the human imagination is ultimately grounded in the cosmic imagination? And, finally, that this larger spirit, intelligence, and imagination all live within and act through the self-reflective human being who serves as a unique vessel and embodiment of the cosmos – creative, unpredictable, fallible, self-transcending, unfolding the whole, integral to the whole, perhaps even essential to the whole?" (All italicizations in the original) 
We are the conveyors of consciousness which permeates the world. Shedding light on the universe and pushing the envelope of knowledge, we have travelled 15 billion years back to what we scientifically call the big bang, and we aim to further comprehend what this universe is, and by extension who we are. November 2010 finds us at our present station. There is a long and bright future ahead. Nearer on the horizon, a new century and a new millennium. It is up to each of us to make of it what we wish. Evolution is happening through you and through me. The awareness of our duration gives us a better understanding of ourselves, and a deeper appreciation of life.
About the Author: Guy J. Ale is the President at Lifespan Seminar LLC. Lifespan Seminar’s mission is to educate and empower individuals and organizations reach their full potential by mastering the knowledge stored in our genes. For institutions, Lifespan system eliminates waste and streamlines effort by putting into place a framework of action. Lifespan takes account of the available resources the organization has at present, prioritize future goals, and lay out a plan of how to best use these resources to achieve those goals in a healthy working environment.
He is slated to deliver the Keynote address at the Java World Congress - www.javaworldcongress.org - Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 19 - 22, 2010
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