Elevated Existence Magazine interviewed Jane Fonda about her new book “Prime Time” for the September 2011 issue cover story. In the book, she reveals new research, along with personal stories, to help others live a healthy, long and fulfilling life.
Below is an excerpt from our interview where Fonda spoke about how a positive outlook is an essential component to aging, and how she finally learned to meditate at age 70!
Elevated Existence: You dedicated a chapter of “Prime Time” to positivity as an essential component to aging – why do you believe it is easier to remain positive as we age, and what are the best ways to do so?
Jane Fonda: Positivity is a word I learned from gerontologists, or scientists who study aging. They have discovered that older people, starting around 50 years, tend to be happier, less anxious and less hostile. This is based on extensive research of hundreds of thousands of people. No one can explain absolutely why this is so, but scientists postulate that it is an important developmental shift.
There are so many what-ifs in the lives of younger people, whereas we elders are armed with a long backward look – in other words, this has happened before. We have the accumulation of perspective. We’ve ‘been there, done that.’ We have experienced mishaps, crisis and hardships, and survived. We know what we need and what is no longer necessary in our lives and so can let go of a lot of ‘stuff.’ We know where the tiger is lurking in the brush. We don’t have to keep going back and checking. The ‘this too shall pass’ wisdom is difficult for younger people to grasp, but we’ve been through it and we know. We are more apt to turn lemons into lemonade instead of making mountains out of molehills. We may lose our eyesight, but we can gain insight.
Of course, none of this is a given. There are those for whom aging is very challenging, and they are defined by the problems that can attend these later years. What I have attempted in “Prime Time” is to paint a picture – with stories and facts and ideas – of how, if we are intentional about it, we can use these years to become who we were meant to be all along. This becomes especially important now because we live so much longer than our grandparents did . . . 34 years on average. An entire adult lifetime has been added. We need to learn how to live it fully and with grace and wisdom.
Elevated Existence: In the book, you explain how you started mindfulness meditation at age 70 after attending a silent retreat at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. What made you take the course, and how has it changed you and your life?
Jane Fonda: I’ve known for a long time that meditation would help be become centered and less nervous, but I never could do it. As I was 2 weeks away from turning 70, I found the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico near my ranch. Roshi Joan Halifax is the abbott of the center. It is unusual for a woman to be a Zen priest, and she is a profound woman who also happens to be an anthropologist by training and an activist. She told me that for the first 8 days of December – right before my birthday – they have a Rohatsu Sesshin, a silent meditation retreat that celebrates the enlightenment of the Buddha. I signed up and, although it was challenging to still my mind (as it is for everyone, including, I’m told, Buddha himself), I experienced what it feels like and its benefits and I have continued with it.
In Prime Time I have written in depth about my experience during those 8 days and give a complete guide to mindfulness meditation. Meditation helps me focus, become clear and calm. Frankly, I never thought I’d be able to achieve this.
Be sure to check out what else is in our September 2011 issue! For the complete article featuring Jane Fonda, you can subscribe, purchase the single digital issue or purchase the single print issue to be mailed to your home. Find out more here!