People growing older who are keen to sustain their capacities may use the phrase: “use it or lose it”. The phrase suggests that we need to be exercise whatever physical or mental functioning that we have, or expect it to waste away. The way I understand this is that if we have the capacity to learn, then we should exercise this capacity as much as we can, at each and every stage of life, including the later and stages. It is in our awareness and responsibility for our own health and wellbeing, but also as a participant in our society – illness plays a huge community social burden as well as a personal and family one, and in gratitude and free self-expression of what is possible in our lives.
Pursuing “new edges” is recommended as a way of pushing back aging processes, and a brand new edge, requires us to learn something from scratch: having the humility to face a new task with innocence, openness and the willingness to participate and probably fail time and time again until we develop new capacities. The phrase compels us to “get in” and “have a go” at things we have never even contemplated attempting previously. It usually points to active pursuits, such as various kinds of exercise, sports/games or playing an instrument, or intellectual challenges such as learning an instrument or studying something new. There may well be truth in the phrase, but what the phrase points towards, I think is more significant and far reaching for people of all ages.
In music and imagery therapy, we participate with the whole of our beings as we listen with undivided attention to carefully selected instrumental (usually “classical” music). The way in which we prepare for the listening is via a kind of meditation, or relaxation/induction. We let go of our normal thoughts and concerns and we invite our bodies to rest in a comfortable, supported reclining position. If we have never tried to be still and drop our habitual ways of thinking and acting, this is like experiencing completely foreign territory. This practice of dropping our attention to the outside world and bringing it inward acts like a launching place for the journey with the music: the more deeply we can empty ourselves of what we know about selves, the freer we are to listen and respond to the unfolding music. We’re actually “losing it” by emptying ourselves of our usual thinking patterns and concepts and what we know about ourselves and our lives in order to “use it” our full capacity of listening and responding wholistically (body/mind and spirit).
For those who are willing to experience “the new” in this way and continue the open and receptive state into music listening, being moved by the listening in feeling and imagination, instantly life is experienced in new ways. We are beginning to “use” what is possible for our whole being. New terrain experienced in each moment seed the development of new capacities and coping. In music and imagery we exercise receptivity and responsiveness in a profound way. Rather than actively “doing” something new we get to pay attention to all of the ways we are naturally moved, and “be” someone new.