The world lost a beautiful soul on February 21, 2020 when Tao Porchon-Lynch passed away peacefully at the age of 101. Tao Portion-Lynch had become a Superhero and role model in my eyes over the last couple years. She has become my benchmark of a life well-lived. I believe I'm in good company, as I don't think I'm the only person to look at Tao and profess: "I want to be like Tao when I grow up."
I've rarely seen another person exemplify her level of pure joy, presence, peace, wisdom, grace, and vitality. I never met Tao in person. In fact, last year I told my husband I wanted to go to New York to take a yoga class with her. It wasn't a lesson on yoga asanas I was looking for, but the life wisdom and grace I was hoping to receive by being in her presence. Unfortunately, that wish landed on my "Someday list" instead of my "Today List." Of course, it's always easy to prop someone up on a pedestal if we only know them in our mind, but I choose to keep her on that pedestal as a symbol of what I strive to be and how I wish to feel.
I first came across Tao Porchon-Lynch indirectly though listening to Dr. Peter Attia's The Drive podcast. Peter is obsessively focused on longevity, with a singular goal of living to be a "kick-ass 100-year old". His studies focus on reverse-engineering the aging process so that he can make choices today that will optimize for vitality, health, and mobility when he's older. I share Peter's goal of becoming a kick-ass 100-year old and started doing my own research on what that looked like to me. My curiosity led me down every imaginable rabbit-hole of biohacking tips and tricks. But the real gem that came out of that research was discovering Tao. She was the exact opposite of the biohacking road to longevity. Tao was just pure love and joy.
The minute I saw a photo of this adorable, joy-filled centenarian yogi sitting in lotus pose, I had to know more. As my very curious (okay, maybe obsessive) brain has a tendency to do, I then spent the next 12 hours reading about this woman and watching every bit of content I could find on her. She fascinated me. It was like a volt of electricity went though my body and I felt an instant desire to be connected to this woman and her energy. That's what/who I want to be when I grow up.
So who was Tao Porchon-Lynch, a woman who has been referred to as a "Real Life Forrest Gump"? She was most well-known for being a 101-year old yoga Master and teacher, teaching yoga classes in New York, as well as retreats across the globe. She began practicing yoga in India in 1926 and was eventually recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world's oldest yoga instructor (that was when she was 93!) At a young age, she marched for social justice alongside Mahatma Gandhi, a friend of her Uncle. She was also an actress, model, entrepreneur, wine aficionado, and author. She took up ballroom dancing at age 87 and eventually began winning dancing titles, with dance partners who were in their 20s and trying to keep up with Tao.
While all of Tao's accomplishments are impressive, it was the way she truly lived her life mantra that really captivated me. Her personal mantra was "There is nothing you cannot do." She said "Dance and don't procrastinate. Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today." And she seemed to genuinely live that mantra with an effortless grace and presence. She exemplifies a full life with no boundaries. She had seemingly replaced all limiting beliefs about aging with a zest for living a vibrant and healthy life. She is my model for what a kick-ass 100-year old really looks like. She's also my model for how to live as a kick-ass 42 year old. Tao's spirit transcended age.
Tao was recognized for her physical feats through dancing and yoga, but her real beauty was her spiritual Presence. She radiated love, joy, abundance, and possibility. In her 2014 Ted Talk "There's Nothing You Cannot Do", she said, "there is nothing you cannot do. For nothing is impossible if you tune in to the creator of life. I don't want to pray into the atmosphere. I want to feel that if there is a Creator of life, it's right inside of me. And as I listen to my heart beat, I'm listening to the Oneness in the whole Universe, the Eternal Energy. And then I can prove the reason why I'm on this Earth and the task I want to do, to try and feel that Oneness with everyone." She called this "the dance of life" during a panel with the Dalai Lama at the Peace Education Summit in 2011. (Here's a video clip of Tao at the summit)
When I learned that Tao had peacefully passed away, I was a little disappointed that I procrastinated with a "someday" instead of seizing an opportunity to practice yoga with this beautiful woman in person. However, my immediate thought was about the story she tells of a six-year old little girl asking her what she was going to do when she retired. Tao's response was "I'm not going to retire. I'm just going to dance my way off to another planet." I believe Tao will continue to share her wisdom, joy, and grace with the world through those she made an impact on, even though she may have danced her way off to another planet. She will continue to be a hero to me.