If one looks at the whole spectrum of Japanese immigrants in California, there was one subgroup who continued to have low rates of heart disease that correlated with diet or cholesterol levels in their blood. These were males who retained strong ties to Japanese culture despite their having moved to America. What kept they continued to share in the consciousness of traditional Japan, which is a form of extended mind that cannot help but have phsysiological effects.
Along the same lines, studies of auto workers laid off during hard times in Michigan have revealed that those men who felt strong support from family, relatives, and friends were less likely to develop physical or mental symptoms.
Social support is a complex phenomenon, covering all the interactions of language, customs, family structure, and social tradition that bind people together; social binding takes place at the level of mind. You perceive that another person is like you and you believe he sees you the same way. What you share is a larger self, an interconnected psyche that is as sensitive and intricate as an individual psyche.
Hundreds of books have been written about the aging process on the assumption that growing old is something that happens to people. Now, however, we are seeing that it is something that social conditioning taught our bodies to do.
This is an extremely important distinction. If aging is something thatís happening to you, then basically youíre a victim; but if aging is something you learned, youíre in a position to unlearn the behavior thatís making you age, adopt new beliefs, and be guided into new opportunities.
Our inherited expectation that the body must wear out over time, coupled with deep beliefs that we are fated to suffer, grow old, and die, creates the biological phenomenon we call aging. Despite the thousands of hours of old tapes that program our responses, we continue to live because awareness finds new ways to flow.
Adapted from Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1998).