The Geezer’s Guide to Mindful Bumbershooting and Longer Telomeres

I’ve been talking to my medical students and residents about mindfulness lately and my wife just alerted me to a new article about how mindfulness meditation may optimize the length of telomeres, those tiny structures at the ends of our chromosomes. There is still some controversy about whether or not behavioral or psychological factors can alter their length or change telomerase, the enzyme “…that can protect and rebuild telomeres,” according to the article. There is a postdoc researcher in the psychiatry department at UCSF involved in research in this area. The thought is that wear and tear on telomeres can speed up the aging process (or “ageing” process if you’re into the British spelling).

I’m a geezer psychiatrist, so naturally I’m interested in the topic. Given the stress of my job as a general hospital psychiatric consultant, I suppose my telomeres have all but shrunk to the point of vanishing.

I have found one way to practice mindfulness in real life. A week or so ago, I dropped my umbrella and, to my astonishment, on impact, the handle popped off and shot straight out like a bullet into my closet door, causing a loud “ker-thunk!”

If anyone had been in the way, I’m sure the impact might have caused an injury. I’ve never had an umbrella behave that way before. Ever since then, I’ve been very mindful about how I grab it, and absolutely mindful about where I point the handle end.

Dr. Amos and Mindful Bumbershooting

Dr. Amos and Mindful Bumbershooting


Until that day, I’d never given a second thought to how often I point my bumbershoot handle at very sensitive areas of my body. I lay it down very gingerly now, extremely mindful of its weaponized nature.

I can feel each and every one of my telomeres even as I think about it. When I grab my umbrella now, I handle it like old-time liquid nitroglycerin. I hold it firmly and consider how and where to turn the business end of it.

I think this may be a better way for me to practice mindfulness because it’s very difficult and painful for me to sit cross-legged, much less adopt the lotus pose. I always end up with numb legs and feet followed by that annoying pins-and-needles sensation and an inability to walk for a couple of minutes without falling down.

If I can’t lengthen my knee and hip joints, how can I lengthen my telomeres, prevent getting older, grow younger, and do some bungy jumping–you know, really live in the moment?

Well, the obvious answer is mindful bumbershooting. Of course it will take some practice. Everyone knows you can’t get anywhere with meditation unless you practice.


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