Engaging in Aging: Consider what really serves others

Kelowna senior columnist says having a great soul and caring for others leads to true happiness

By Marjorie Horne

I watched the movie Miracles from Heaven yesterday and it was a heart warming true story of an unexplainable miracle in one family’s life. Christy Beam, the mother of the very sick child portrayed in the movie, reflected that miracles are happening every day of our lives, we just so often miss them as our faith is challenged, particularly in a serious crisis, but also as we deal with smaller day to day challenges. Christy Beam witnessed the miracle of her young daughter being healed, defying all rational understanding by her medical team and in the process she had her faith in herself and the goodness of people and their quiet generosity renewed.

When someone is blessed with the wonder of a mind-boggling true miracle, it can generate a strong reminder of the power of embracing magnanimity in your life. Magnanimous comes from Latin magnus “great” and animus “soul,” so it literally describes someone who is big-hearted. It is often lived—in quiet, simple ways off the radar screen of most of the world. The person who daily endeavors to be a better spouse, parent, friend or the chooser of forgiveness when situations appear to call you to judgement, is truly seeking “greatness of the soul.”

Quite incredible power lies behind this one simple word! The opposite side of the coin is called pusillanimity, which means “smallness of soul.” This is when a person shies away from noble, arduous tasks because they can be very demanding and seek to stretch you beyond what you feel capable of. You settle instead for the path of least resistance, opting for whatever is easier. We all sometimes think that we are not capable of doing great things. We often lose the awareness that usually the people, the message and the support we need is presented to us in a myriad of forms to help us take each step forward. These are the many “little miracles” that Christy Beam describes at the end of the movie. She explains that as her anger and resentment, mainly towards God subsided, she was able to receive all of the many ways that she had been “held” throughout her family crisis by the undeniable, synchronistic events that were offered through loved ones and complete strangers. Sometimes, being magnanimous is simply a call to letting go and an invitation to practicing compassion towards oneself and others.

Dr. Cynda Ruston developed a model called G.R.A.C.E. for bringing compassion into your daily practice, sometimes in the most difficult of circumstances, and its five elements can support a new approach for each of us when you find yourself embroiled in pusillanimity.

They are to:

1. Gather your attention: Pause, breathe in, give yourself time to get grounded. Invite yourself to be present and embodied by sensing into a place of stability in your body. You can focus your attention on the breath, for example, or on a neutral part of the body, like the soles of your feet or your hands as they rest on each other. You can also bring your attention to a phrase or an object. You can use this moment of gathering your attention to interrupt your assumptions, expectations and judgements to allow yourself to relax and be present.

2. Recall your intention: Remember what your life is really about, that is to act with integrity and respect the integrity in all those whom you encounter. Remember that your intention is to help others and serve others and to open your heart to the world. This “touch-in” can happen in a moment. Your motivation keeps you on track, morally grounded, and connected to your highest values.

3. Attune by first checking in with yourself then whomever you are interacting with: First notice what’s going on in your own mind and body. Then, sense into the experience of whom you are with; sense into what the other person is saying, especially emotional cues: voice tone, body language. Sense without judgment. Open a space in which the encounter can unfold, in which you are present for whatever may arise, in yourself and in the other person. How you notice the other person, how you acknowledge the other person, how the other person notices you and acknowledges you…all constitute a kind of mutual exchange. The richer you make this mutual exchange, the more there is the capacity for unfolding.

4. Consider what will really serve the other person by being truly present and letting insights arise: As the encounter with the other person unfolds, notice what the other person might be offering in this moment. Draw on your expertise, knowledge, and experience, and at the same time, be open to seeing things in a fresh way. This is a diagnostic step, and as well, the insights you have may fall outside of a predictable category. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly. 5. Engage, enact ethically: Then end the interaction and allow for emergence of the next step appropriate to each situation.

Magnanimity holds its own magnificence, which is what we are each here to experience if we choose greatness.

Marjorie Horne is the host of the Engaging in Aging Radio Show every Sunday on AM1150 from 9 – 10am. 250-863-9577 or marjorie@caresmart.ca

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