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Elderhood and Community

I think it is at the stage of Elderhood that the paucity of community in our lives is felt the strongest. Elders know that we cannot fully live alone, and that the nuclear family structure as “the realm of the sacred” as one writer referred to it, is an emotionally impoverished holdover from the relatively recent past. It is a product of the great experiment of modernity and was not supplanted by the variety of postmodern experiments from the 1960s onward. “Unrelated people living together” was mostly zoned out of existence by neighborhood groups and zoning boards with a decided preference for two adults with or without children occupying thousands of square feet in single family dwellings! The nuclear family, invented to serve the needs of all-consuming capitalism, has succeeded admirably in eradicating or severely weakening traditional bulwarks of community, including the extended family and church communities as well as many secular forms of association that people enjoyed in the slightly more distant past.

integration

The reality is that neither traditionals nor the modernists nor the hippies could successfully evolve the communities that are needed today, although each of these earlier stages of consciousness has something to offer, especially with regard to their core values. Traditional cultures knew that we cannot survive without depending on one another. They could not see that the tribal proscriptions against outsiders unfortunately locked people in and out from the wider world. The modern nuclear family offered more flexibility of movement for small families as well as the ability to take a world-centric view of the needs of others. Unfortunately, the unbridled capitalism of modernity sanctioned extreme competitiveness and inequality. Post-modern consciousness went even further in valuing diversity and inclusiveness, but did not have the “chicken wire,” the scaffolding, the natural hierarchy necessary for community to develop beyond isolated experiments.
Thus, elders today see the need to develop new “integral” forms of community that include the positive elements offered by each of the preceding worldview’s forms of community and offer wider, higher and deeper perspectives that can enable communities and the individuals who participate in them to thrive and grow at ever-expanding levels.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A Letter to the Younger Progressives from the Elders

There are three ways to approach the mystery of the divine.
The first practice is prayer.
The second is meditation.
And the third and most important is conversation.”
Rumi

Dear Youngers,

We are so glad, so grateful for all of you and for all that you do! You are deeply inspired by one of us as we are inspired by you. I am Bernie Sanders’s age and went to school in Brooklyn and ran track the same years he did. More importantly, he never gave up on taking action on his deeply held human values; neither did I, and neither did many of us of his generation. And now, more than ever, we need each other, the Elders and the Youngers of this world. Let us begin a powerful, loving and essential conversation about working together for a better world.

A Letter to the Younger Progressives from the Elders
It is not always easy for Youngers and Elders to have meaningful conversations. In many ways, we inhabit different life-worlds. The tasks and challenges we face in our daily lives are “ages” apart. And too often we do not deeply respect one another. Ageism is a reality in our times as is a terrible and callous disregard for the needs of the young. Even though we share progressive values, that in itself is not enough. We need to bring our different skills and different kinds of wisdom together to bring into existence the better world we seek.

We need you, and you need us to bring about a better world! As Elders and not just older people, we are future-oriented and care more about you, our Youngers, than we do about ourselves! In our long lives, some of us have done a lot of work to become Elders and not fossils. We are growing into Elderhood even as you are growing into Adulthood. Elderhood, probably beginning around fifty five or sixty, is an amazing and wonderful place, not at all clearly seen by the culture at this time and gradually being embraced by a small but growing number of older people. It offers great hope not only to those who embark on this journey, but also to a world starving for authentic wisdom. As it is challenging for you to become adults, it is often daunting for us to become elders. But what we have in common is a willingness to keep growing, a concern for the betterment of this world and a realization of the importance of our ongoing conversations across the artificial divide that no longer has the power to separate us.

Thank you.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

An Aging Elder: Choose to Enter Conscious Elderhood

I woke up this morning with more aches than a porcupine has quills! My knee, back and shoulder were all seeing who could scream the loudest for my brain’s distracted attention.

Aging and Elderhood, encroaching personal entropy and joyful evolving consciousness!
What a juxtaposition!

While I am extremely grateful for entering conscious Elderhood, I am very aware that my body is slowly running down. I was talking to a friend about running recently and he said, “the older I get, the faster I was.” So true. I was reading recently that the best hope for the world was that more and more people worldwide were living past 50. However, it has also been noted that civilization often advances one death at a time. Enough already – I’m confusing me!

An Aging ElderI think it is no longer enough to just get older, even though it’s true that old age is not for sissies! We also can choose to become Elders, and our journey to Elderhood begins in adulthood. I have written about Signs of Elderhood in an earlier post. If you want to become an elder, you have to begin to wake up, grow up and clean up in adulthood. Briefly, cleaning up, in addition to eating healthier and exercising more, usually involves embracing some form of depth work in psychotherapy to heal wounds from the past. Waking up means realizing you need to move beyond religious dogma and become a seeker of what IS and your true nature. Growing up means a willingness to recognize and move through actual developmental stages that we have become aware of in the last hundred years. This work may be very challenging as you transcend and include the mainstays of your culture. All of this is necessary to be able to show up as an Elder and not just an old person.

Gratefully, when you choose to enter conscious Elderhood, there is more to life than aches and pains.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Thank You for Everything – Really? Everything?

In these disturbing times, what is most calming to me is to thank You for EVERYTHING.

Who is this You I am thanking? The Divinity, evolution, Spirit- in – Action? You go by many names. And thank You for everything? Really? Everything? The total picture of all there is?

Yes.

Thank You for Everything - Really? Everything?Try it. “Thank You for everything.”

All of the good and all of the bad?

Yes.

Thank You for the total picture of all that is. Can I trust You that much? Do I have to thank you for Trump? Thank you for everything. Don’t make me do it! Thank You for everything. For the horrors of war? For the suffering of children? For my ability to reason, will, feel and act? For our ability together to make things better for everyone?

Yes.

Thank you for everything, all of the “good” and all of the “bad.” EVERYTHING.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

RRC and Integral Consciousness: Bringing New Life and Energy to the Practice of Psychotherapy

The coming together of Integral consciousness and psychotherapy in many ways is a “marriage born in heaven.” The four of us, Mary, John, Roz and Howie, are very experienced psychotherapists practicing successfully for many years. We realize we had been moving toward this integral identity long before we had a name for it! Rather than attach to one approach to psychotherapy, we have always chosen to integrate the best of different schools into our work with individuals and couples. Not so much being eclectic as studying and practicing different approaches in depth. Sometimes we would do this over many years until we acquired mastery or at least expertise in a particular area, thus continuing to expand and deepen in our lives and work. We embrace the awesome reality of evolution in consciousness and culture, as well as in the physical world as part and parcel of our integral understanding and development.

RRC and Integral Consciousness: Bringing New Life and Energy to the Practice of PsychotherapyOne of the most significant outcomes of practicing psychotherapy in an integral context is the growth in consciousness in the psychotherapist. As the psychotherapist is able to hold more integrally informed perspectives, their internal experience of the moments of psychotherapy deepens and expands. The “holding environment” with individuals and couples gradually becomes more loving and whole. Transformation (changes in levels or stages of development) as well as translation (expanded understanding and change in presenting situations or issues) becomes possible sooner. The therapist is able to see more of reality and help clients to do so as well.

At the Center for Integral Psychotherapy in Denver as part of the Relationship Resource Center, while we have been around forever, we also continue to evolve. As we embrace evolution in consciousness and culture, we both transcend and include older as well as current ways of viewing psychotherapy in our world. We are deeply grounded in many approaches to psychotherapy, benefiting greatly from our many years of experience and practice. To this we introduce the novelty of a new stage of development. This Integral stage, which is emerging out of modern and post modern consciousness, is beginning to bring new life and energy to the practice of psychotherapy. We are already experiencing this vital energy in our lives and our work and want to continue to share this with all of you.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Happy Holidays

We are sharing this with a holiday wish that our divided country can find a way through our culture wars.

We Are Still Evolving – Welcome to your place in history!

Ken Wilber is probably the best known and most prolific writer about the Integral/Evolutionary Worldview. In his latest book, he talks about how we can, in small but powerful ways, contribute to the process of evolution. We found the thoughts below quite inspiring and hope you will also.

heart-pulse

… every time your pulse quickens with the thought of a more beautiful, more truthful, more ethical world tomorrow;

globecircleofpeople

… every time you dream the dream of a more inclusive tomorrow, the dream of a more harmonious future, the dream of a more balanced and cherished Earth;

heartingreeninsky

… every time you reach out for a future that is even just a little more Whole than the one today;

baby

… every time you look into the eyes of a young child, perhaps even your own, and wish for them a future of greater love and compassion and concern, and see them smile in the radiant halo of that embracing tomorrow;

worldandicons

… every time you make a choice that is in favor of the betterment of humankind and all living beings in their entirety;

Every time, every single time, you do anything like any of those, you are yourself directly, immediately, and irrevocably … helping to develop a new, more expanded level of consciousness (what we call the Integral or Evolutionary Worldview) and contributing to the further evolution of the Universe.

We Are Still Evolving

Over the past few years, we have become very interested in the field of Integral Philosophy. Integral thought explores what we can learn by understanding more deeply the process of evolution, especially the evolution of consciousness and culture. This way of thinking about the world has expanded and deepened our work with individuals and couples. It has also given us a fresh and hopeful way to view what’s going on in our complex, and sometimes frightening world.

Many people we talk with say they find the TV news depressing and even offensive. In the interview below, Jeff Salzman, an Integral thinker from right here in Colorado, offers a more hopeful view. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Duty to Die: Concern for Others vs Prolonging Your Days

When Richard Lamm floated his “duty to die” remarks many years ago when he was Governor of Colorado, they went over like a lead balloon. At the time, I didn’t think much of them either. While I’m still not sure we have a duty to die, I think Colorado should enact Right to Die legislation similar to what currently exists in Oregon and Vermont.

I am an elder who recently celebrated his 74th birthday, and I am deeply grateful to have gotten this far in life reasonably healthy. That could change tomorrow. I have no desire to eat up my family’s resources lingering in a nursing home with a fatal illness.

right to die legislationMy right to die, and yours, is very different from what is traditionally considered suicide. Suicide is taking one’s life in despair or desperation in isolation.

The right to die is a right most often of elders who have a fatal illness, and who choose to die relationally and consciously, hopefully in the company of others, with their blessing and consent.

Maybe, just maybe, Lamm was right. Maybe we do have a duty to die at some point, rather than continue to devour the resources of a family and the planet, when our concern for others becomes more important than extending the days of our lives with the latest prolongations that medicine has to offer.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Our Evolutionary Journey: A Sacred Space Necessary for Fostering Conscious Community

I am grateful to Harville and Helen Hendrix for their guidance over many years, and their reflections on our evolutionary journey as we wake up and grow up in our lives.

They were focusing on couples in relationship when they stated that the unconscious agenda of each person in a committed adult relationship was to finish childhood and attain full aliveness. The more each one began to consciously cooperate with this unconscious evolutionary agenda, the more they could have the relationship of their dreams rather than their nightmares. Wow! That’s quite a mouthful!

we spaceIn the Salon of the Happy Misfits, we move beyond the committed couple evolutionary journey and look more broadly at what can evolve when adults come together intentionally in larger groups in what we are calling, following Ken Wilbur, an “integral we space.” The Integral Living Room gatherings, which I have helped co-create in Boulder, have been pioneering this investigation for several years now. I would like to re-frame Harville’s statement above with respect to an “integral we space.”

First of all, we are not talking about intimate couples. We are talking about a group space where seekers who have done a lot of their own work and have healed most of their childhood wounds come together to support one another in their ongoing conscious evolution and participate, in some almost infinitesimal way, in the ongoing evolution of the universe. Second, couples can participate in this larger space. They may add their perspectives to the gathering, especially as they are evolving toward an integral relationship among themselves and are open to an expanding evolutionary setting and process in the larger “we space” being co-created by all of the participants.

In our culture, committed couple hood is often considered, consciously or not, to be THE realm of the sacred. In reality, it is only ONE realm of the sacred, the one probably best suited for growing an intimate couple relationship and raising children. An “integral we space” is also a sacred space necessary for fostering conscious community and evolving structures of consciousness that will be the underpinnings, and the foundation of a better future for humanity and all sentient beings. We invite you to join us in the Salon of the Happy Misfits as we continue to evolve together.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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