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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

Prolonging Adulthood – The Prime of Life

Prolonging Adulthood - The Prime of LifeIt is very understandable and very tempting to want to prolong adulthood as long as possible. After all, adulthood is the “prime of life!”

Who wouldn’t want to remain in the prime of life as long as possible?
Who wants to look forward to growing older and older and then old age and death?

Given our modern sensibilities and enculturation this makes perfect sense. Without a vision and understanding of the meaning and value of Elderhood, and especially our place or home in this evolving space, the future can look bleak indeed.

Adulthood and all that goes with it IS the prime of life. Prime is from the Latin “primus” or first. For many reasons and for most people in the world, there has been no “secundus, no gracious, zestful second, no Elderhood,” a stage of life that for all of its challenges is even better! This, on the surface, is an outrageous statement to many people. Because as it becomes clearer, Elderhood transcends and includes the arguably best of Adulthood (the growing up, waking up, and cleaning up that is the important work of adulthood), and allows us to become wiser, more loving and more compassionate for ourselves and for all others, who in Elderhood by the way, are no longer “others.” They are us, all of us.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Integral Parenting: An Outgrowth of Our Personal Conscious Evolution

What is integral parenting?

Integral parenting is an evolutionary, developmental consciousness and skill set that empowers adults to connect and relate to themselves and children from wisdom and compassion. It is a way of parenting that is different in many respects from traditional parenting. It is an outgrowth of our personal conscious evolution, as well as the growing awareness of human rights in Western society and culture. It is not helicopter parenting or laissez-faire parenting.

It is characterized from the beginning by deep consistent involvement of all parties with one another. It really begins with the parents being committed to their own awakening and growth, as well as cooperating with the nature of the child, which, in turn, leads to deeper and deeper connection with each person. Instead of exercising power over the child, the parents develop power with the child; this is essential. Power struggles are greatly reduced because one-up power is no longer in practice. Neither are children falsely empowered in integral parenting. Influence goes in all directions and love, practiced by the parents from the outset, is the motivating force. It’s not about getting kids to cooperate. It’s about parents modeling same-as power at first with each other and teaching this way of being powerful with others, rather than having power over others.

Fotolia_62440904_XSEach person’s needs are important; each person is enough, and they matter in spite of their limitations and imperfections.

Integral parenting is person-centered rather than child-centered or parent-centered. Initially, the focus is primarily on the needs of the child(ren), although not exclusively, with gradually developing respect for each person in the family and extending to others outside of the family.

All-inclusive respect is one of the cornerstones of integral parenting. This includes respecting oneself as well as others. This is extremely important for parents (frequently mothers) who may tend to forget their own needs in parenting their child. The needs of the child are always taken into account, yet not exclusively. Children gradually learn to take others’ needs into account as well as their own because this is what is modeled by their parents. They learn to become both assertive and considerate of others.

What does power look like in integral parenting?
It is power with one another, rather than over one another, and at the same time, recognizes and respects natural hierarchies and differential statuses. This means that parents and children have influence with one another and allow themselves to be influenced. Each person’s status in the family is acknowledged, honored and respected. Essentially, power in the family is the power of love rather than fear. Integral parenting acknowledges natural hierarchies, i.e. the different statuses of various family members with corresponding rights and duties, privileges and responsibilities, depending on age and capability of each member. No member of the family is more important or less important than any other.

Integral parenting is parenting from a deeply adult place rather than from wounded or adapted child. Attempting to parent from wounded child is extremely dysfunctional, and children suffer deeply when parents are barely older emotionally than the children. More common is parenting from adapted child – usually either in mostly unconscious conformity or rebellion to how we were parented. Unfortunately, children parented from adapted child are not really seen and responded to for who they are and are becoming. Integral parenting requires adults to do their own work of waking up and growing up, so that they can be responsive to their child as well as to their own needs.

In closing, the structures of integral parenting are gradually emerging in the consciousness of adults who are evolving their own integral development. Parenting from wisdom and compassion is a hallmark of spiritual intelligence in adults who choose this way of life. None of us are perfect at this. We do have the ability to become more and more skillful, more and more grown up in our lives, even as we support our children’s growth and development.

This is our evolutionary journey together in the awesome adventure of conscious, integral parenting.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
and
Suzanne Mariner,
Certified Executive and Life Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist

Spiritual Eldering: A Deep Commitment to be of Service to the Youngers

Perhaps as never before, it is essential that those of us who are Elders, and not just Olders, be present to this world.

If we have done our work up until now, if we have eaten heartily (yes, take ye and eat) and drunk deeply of the “wisdom wells” available to us, we are more awake and more truly adult than ever before in our lives. Now we must be willing to show up.

At RRC, we are Elders who have a deep commitment to be of service to the Youngers of this world. We realize we must serve this world in whatever ways that we can. We realize that we are food for the future, hopefully a better future for ALL that we will not live to see. We are laying down structures of this future that cries out longingly for the very best that we can offer. We must be nurturing, enlivening food and not junk food.

couple and daughterIntegral Spiritual Eldering is one way to describe our evolution. Integral because this is an emerging stage of human development that includes, and is friendly to, all of the earlier stages.

Spiritual, rather than religious, transcending the older structures and deeply grounded in many. Eldering, because I choose to live mainly to serve the Youngers of this world and to learn whatever I can with them. Elders are needed as never before; sadly, at a time when older people are often shunted aside, or worse, see themselves as irrelevant and having nothing to contribute.

By the way, it’s not that we Elders are God’s gift to humanity (actually, we are, just not exclusively). It’s that we are willing to work together with younger people to bring about a better world, a better future.

No one and no group has a monopoly on compassion and wisdom.

Some important changes may only come about when some older people who hold onto power over other people die. We are all going to pass out of this world, Elders probably sooner than others. I, for one, choose to bless, to nurture this future that I will not be around to see. I choose to trust this incredible, awesome Universe Story that includes and has given birth to all of humanity and to all sentient life.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Some Things You Only Need To Think About

Sometimes I think I ought to be more concerned about talking people out of stuff, but since I have never seen that work, and I have never had to talk someone out of jumping off a roof or a bridge, I think that ship has probably sailed.

As far as I  can tell, trying to talk people out of their feelings or behaviors usually just makes them dig their heels in harder.

thinking and understandingA number of years ago, when my son was still a teen and  had recently engaged in some risky behavior, I did give him a piece of unsolicited advice. I said, ‘”I know at your age you think you need to try everything, but there are some things you only need to think about.”

I remember he looked like he was taken aback about what I just said, and he kind of nodded and smiled.

Maybe he was thinking his old man did know some thing after all, or maybe he was thinking a little harder about his next adventure. Whatever. I was more than a little pleased with myself.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Into The Wild: How to Successfully Venture the Road to Step Family Relationships

In his excellent book, INTO THE WILD, John Krakauer tells the true story of a young man who ventures into the wilderness of Alaska woefully unprepared. He didn’t even have a map of the terrain that might have saved his life.

This is unfortunately the situation of many, if not most, stepfamilies starting out. They embark on this amazing and daunting adventure of stepfamily life without guidance or even a map!

The statistics on the breakup of new families that think they have to go it alone and are not coached represent a national tragedy. One out of two new stepfamilies break up within the first two years. In contrast, stepfamilies that are coached and supported have an excellent survival rate. The Stepfamily Association of New York reports an 85% success rate with families that seek out coaching and counseling.

With this in mind, the Relationship Resource Center of Denver wants you to be aware of its ongoing commitment to stepfamilies. For many years we have helped parents and stepparents recognize and resolve the difficult status issues that are part and parcel of stepfamily formation and are not addressed even in the current literature on stepfamilies. (We plan to remedy this soon by publishing our work on status issues). We are breaking new ground in counseling stepfamilies and are excited to share our knowledge and experience with you.

journeyIt is important to realize that most stepfamilies starting out have little or no idea of what they are getting into, and they can really benefit from counseling and coaching. Many people who are stuck in pain because they have been floundering and become lost in this difficult territory, possibly for years, can also use wise and compassionate stepfamily counseling. We encourage you to let us be your experienced and caring guides on your stepfamily journey.

It can be very helpful to remember, you are not crazy, even if living in a stepfamily makes you feel like you are at times!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Loving Impermanence: Witness What is Going on Both Within and Around us

The reality of the impermanence of things is challenging for most of us.

I came home from a walk the other day and found myself very happy and delighted going from room to room in our home. Truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder because our house is aging and many parts of it are in need of repair. Come to think of it, not unlike myself.

Part of me definitely wants to keep things the way they are, even if they are in reality changing all the time.

individual observing surroundingsIn order to love impermanence and not just be freaked out by the impermanence of things, I think we need to be able to at least step back from time to time and just witness what is going on around us. Witnessing our lives, our home, our possessions and the world around us allows us to become a little more detached from that which we have no control over anyway. Being detached doesn’t mean we have to become indifferent. I was able to be detached and delighted by my surroundings at the same time.

We can practice and develop our ability to witness what is going on both within and around us and in doing so hopefully increase our peace of mind.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Retirement Entitlement: An Entitlement vs. A Right

An entitlement to retire, for most men, is one of the last vestiges of “guy school” indoctrination that comes up in their lives.

Men certainly have the right to retire; it’s just that they are not entitled to do so.

An entitlement, remember, is a right that I claim that in effect cancels or overrides the rights of significant others in my life. It may be more or less conscious as in “Of course I have that right, and who are you to question me?” or something that I just take for granted and sail along my merry way oblivious to the needs or rights of others.

Note of warning to entitlement holders:
For every hour of entitlement you take, you get about an hour and a half of resentment coming your way in return. Watch out guys! The light you think you see at the end of this tunnel may be a train!

Hopefully, more and more men are realizing that retirement, even if they can afford to retire in this economy, may not be all that it was cracked up to be. As with most things in life, it depends.

work or retire

My desire to retire came upon me like a powerful itch. I needed to scratch it for a while to discover that retiring didn’t make sense for me or for my family, even though I felt entitled to retire.

I realized that it made sense to me to work about half time and continue my counseling practice with individuals and couples and to write more.

I have dodged the retirement entitlement bullet and choose to do the work that I love and that serves, to the best of my ability, this amazing, awesome world.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Do You Use Comfort Food to Medicate Pain?

Just about everybody loves comfort food. (What do you mean, “Just about everybody?” EVERYBODY man!)

The problem with comfort food is its potentially addictive and destructive nature when comfort food is used to medicate pain. And we live in a society where there is a lot of pain to medicate, especially if you are the wrong class (lower or disappearing middle) or the wrong race (African-American or Latino) or especially combined with these, the wrong gender (female).

Comfort foodEver notice how relatively cheap sugar is? And French fries? So yes, I’m talking about comfort food and fat. One way of looking at body fat is that it is roughly proportional to the amount of entitlement and discounting you have to put up with in order to get through the day. In other words, the class and race you are part of. You don’t see a lot of overweight wealthy people these days, in case you haven’t noticed.

Now unlike Mayor Bloomberg in New York City, I am not advocating that we take people’s Big Gulps away from them or stop Wendy’s and other chains from “Biggie Sizing” it. I would advocate that we address the real pain that many people, especially the poor and underprivileged in this country, experience and medicate with comfort food. Instead of trying to pry the comfort food away, let’s work to change the underlying conditions that lead people to de-value their health in their more fundamental struggle for survival.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Dead Stop: An Extremely Useful Action

Not long ago, I came home from work tired and hungry, and my wife hadn’t started dinner yet, even though I thought it was her turn to cook. I began to complain and rag on her. And I kept at it while she was fixing the meal. Our 15-year-old daughter was doing her homework at the dining room table. Finally my wife said, “Are you just going to keep complaining?” I was about to answer in the affirmative when my daughter looked at me and said, “Stop, Dad!”

stop signI stopped dead in my tracks. A dead stop.

(By way of information: a dead stop can be an extremely useful action, especially when you are heading for a precipice!)

I realized I had been behaving offensively; I apologized to my wife, and she apologized for getting a late start on the meal.

But that wasn’t all.

A little later, I told my daughter that I had an appreciation for her (she loves appreciations). I told her how grateful I was that she felt safe to call me on my behavior. I told her how glad I was that she spoke up to me when she didn’t like what I was doing. And I told her that I had this powerful realization that she would always be willing to speak up in situations when she needed to do so, and I was so very proud of her.

By the way, complaining, besides being whining and offensive, is not an effective strategy for getting one’s needs met. As far as I can tell, I didn’t get my dinner one minute sooner, and I am very thankful that my wife is not a person who likes to throw things.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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