By Marjorie Horne
We all realize that the cycle of life is a process of aging. We are facing an ever-increasing number of years after retirement age. Do you think about what you are going to do with the gift of this added life span?
A new understanding, a new paradigm shift for many people of the boomer generation and beyond is a desire to focus on the fact that there is great potential for continuing emotional and spiritual growth in life’s later chapters. The concept of conscious eldering focuses less on what we want to do or can no longer do as we age, but more on who we want to be. It holds a desire to infuse whatever we do and whatever we experience with joy, peace, meaning and service. Eldering calls on us to do the inner exploration and inner work that can keep us thriving through all the circumstances that can present during our aging-life journey.
We can perhaps learn best from watching those we know who are aging. In my work, I get to talk with and be around many people who are in the twilight of their years and I see living examples of the paths that we can choose: Radiant elder whose wisdom lifts the spirits of those around them with optimism and joy or, an older person who lives in regret and resentment, radiating bitterness and negativity to the individuals that must come into their sphere. Yes, the aging process does seem to bring out either the best or the worst in people. Do you think about which of these two examples you wish to become in your future?
Carl Jung expresses our potential in this way: “A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own….” Being conscious in terms of eldering means being aware of who we really are, of our authentic emotions, talents, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses — coming into the realization of what all of our experiences and what we learned during our middle years was really for. Are we not meant to utilize all that wisdom in its totality perhaps in a new, undiscovered way that takes sitting with all the pieces of the puzzle, the positive and the negative to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others?
We cannot move fully from who we have been into the elder we can become without letting go of that which will not support us on this journey. We all have culturally instilled attitudes and beliefs about life and aging that are disempowering. Facing our own prejudices is often a mystery that can take us by surprise as we find ourselves in the changing aspects of growing older. It takes some truth telling and an actual mourning must be faced as our youth is left behind. Embracing the emotional wave of that letting go is a moment of acceptance that can only happen if we open willingly to it. I see myself that I do not feel the same at sixty-six that I did at sixty-five. I do not have the same energy reserves, the same ability to multi-task and yes, the same ability to remember things that used to come so easily. If I hold back my feelings about this, I feel some despair. Allowing it, feeling it and embracing it is part of the inner work of eldering. Sometimes it is quite difficult work, but it also can be the very type of commitment that will allow us to stay engaged, dynamic and healthy as the years pass by. Opening to eldering incorporates true, effective surrender and that means cultivating a deep trust that leads us to cultivating the trait of resilience. A resilient spirit gives us greater hope, compassion and connection with others. It is integral to determining our happiness in elderhood.
Some days I struggle too with staying the course. Having mighty companions around me is tremendously supportive if I choose to reach out, because wisdom work is easier when joining with others of like mind. If you wish to connect with me and other aspiring elders, please call or email me for details on an upcoming two-day weekend workshop I will facilitate on Oct. 28 and 29 called Opening to Eldering: Cultivating A Resilient Spirit.
Marjorie Horne is a Conscious Aging Workshop Facilitator and host of the Engaging in Aging Radio Show on AM1150 Sundays at 9 a.m. Contact her at 250-863-9577 or firstname.lastname@example.org