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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

The Historical Dismissal of Elders and the Emergence of Integral Elderhood

Traditional cultures valued elders for their wisdom, sometimes attributed to them because of their age, and sometimes because they really were wise.

Modernity, roughly beginning about 500 years ago, challenged this valuing of older people for many reasons. Elders were seen as holding things back and resisting the advances of science as new information and knowledge about the world and its inhabitants replaced the earlier mythical understandings of reality. Modernity had no patience for traditional world views and more often than not, subjected these views to ridicule and dismissal as well as the individuals who held them. Post modernity, beginning to take hold as a recognizable wave of development about 60 years ago, embraced more diversity, but because of its inherent allergy to any kind of hierarchy, including natural hierarchies, could not see the emergence of integral Elderhood, a developmental stage of growth transcending and including adulthood. Elderhood does not become apparent and is not easily recognizable until integral consciousness evolves out of post modernity for more and more individuals in the world. Gratefully, the contours of Elderhood as well as its significance are gradually becoming clearer.

The Historical Dismissal of Elders and the emergence of Integral Elderhood

One of the hallmarks of elders (and Elderhood) is their caring for and commitment to the youngers of this world. The World Elders, called together by Nelson Mandela, are exemplary in this regard. Because of their stature, as former leaders in their respective countries, they command respect for their positions and campaigns for the young people of this world. Senator Bernie Sanders is still attracting young people by the droves. He is an elder who the younger people in this country know in their hearts that he cares about them and they are deeply and widely responding to him. As more and more people like myself are “aging with care,” so to speak, Elderhood becomes more apparent as an evolutionary stage of development that is characterized by caring for others as deeply or even deeper than one cares for oneself. There is a zest for and a new meaning to life as one enters this stage. Unfortunately, it is not accessed by someone merely getting older. Doing your work of waking up, growing up and showing up is both necessary and extremely rewarding as this conscious stage of post-adult development, characterized by wisdom and compassion, becomes more and more visible and attainable!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Signs of Elderhood

Here are seven signs that you have reached Elderhood:

  1. Signs of ElderhoodYou recognize a profound and possibly prolonged shift out of adulthood. There is a change in consciousness internally where you recognize that you are not an adult any more in the way you were before. You are transcending and including adulthood. You are entering Elderhood.
  2. You care more about the “youngers” of this world than you do about yourself. This is not masochism or self hatred. It is an expansion of your ability to love others as well as yourself, especially the younger people coming up who are the future you will not live to see. As an Elder, you are future-oriented more than past or even present-oriented. Most older people tend to be more oriented to the past. As adults we tend to be more oriented to the present. Elders are more oriented to the future.
  3. You are deeply grateful for all you have been given and giving back is your work now.
  4. With great humility, you realize that you are now a Caretaker of this world and of all that are in this world. You are a lover of the generations coming up and a lover of the future. You appreciate your work and the love of others in the past that has helped you arrive at where you are now.
  5. You realize that there is now a path to Elderhood that you and others can follow. It is not a clear path yet, and there are lots of sand traps along the way, but it not reserved for the very few or for saints who are beyond us. It wasn’t as visible for our parents and grandparents for whom basic survival was usually more of the order of the day. The path is clearer now if you choose to walk it.
  6. You realize that part of your work now is to make the way clearer. You have embarked on the journeys of Growing Up, Cleaning Up and Waking Up in adulthood and have entered Elderhood able to Show Up clearer than ever before. You live as best you can for the good of this world.
  7. You are very aware of the challenges of aging even as you embrace the growth into this emerging stage of development.You are willing to live the miracle of your own ongoing evolution in the face of your individual undeniable entropy!

Welcome to Elderhood!

Happy Holidays

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

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

The Passion and Purpose of Conscious Eldering: Addressing Challenges and Impacting Our Culture

If you think of people over 50 as seniors, then all Elders are seniors, but not all seniors are Elders.

generationsThe Elders of Colorado are conscious seniors, mostly over 65, who dedicate themselves to service to the world and to the younger generations that are coming after them. There is lots of information for and about seniors. and sadly very little about Elders. We take our inspiration in part from The Elders, a group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, dedicated to working for world peace and service to the “youngers” of the world, especially those who are most in need of their support. The Colorado Elders mostly live and work locally in service to the youngers in our world.

Mary, Rick and I are getting excited about creating a conscious, nurturing elder group that would elicit discussion and support the work that each member is doing about which they are passionate and purposeful involving Eldering in their lives. We would most likely not be involved in the same projects. Our overall goal would be to provide each member a place where their work is valued and encouraged by one another and can be supported and critiqued in a nurturing environment whatever their Eldering work happens to be. I would like to see us address the challenges that each of us face being Elders in a culture that mostly does not value what we do.

For now, we will continue to meet on the second Monday of each month at 10am at the Eggshell in Cherry Creek.

Join us with your Eldering passion and energy!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The New Cathedrals: Awaken Awe and Inspire Us

It is significant that Dr. Victor Weisskopf, the former director of CERN, recently likened the monumental efforts of the world scientific community to build the Large Hadron Collider to the earlier efforts of humanity to build the great gothic cathedrals of Europe.

universeThe same spirit that led us to build spires that reached to the heavens is leading us to inquire into the smallest particles of all that exists.

While it’s not likely that we will fall on our knees to acknowledge the apparent discovery at CERN of the Higgs-Boson particle, sometimes referred to as the “god particle,” there is certainly reason to celebrate this amazing achievement. The great cathedrals and the great colliders have this in common.

They hopefully awaken awe in us and inspire us to not only reach for the stars but also to strive to understand, as much as we can, what everything in this awesome universe is all about.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Shadow Realities: Wolf Men, Blood Suckers and the Walking Dead

It’s Halloween – zombies, vampires and werewolves walk the streets of our cities in frightening array. However, in the popular culture of today, especially among many teens, they have far more than a seasonal presence. The Twilight series and TV shows such as The Walking Dead and Teen Wolf immediately come to mind.

shadows

So what is this fascination all about?

In part, I think these shows highlight some of the shadow sides of our culture. Vampires invite us to look at the blood sucking greed of much of this society. Werewolves may represent the unchecked rage and violence that many people, especially women, often endure. And as for zombies, too many people are “walking dead,” living their lives without meaning or purpose.

Even if partially or mostly unconscious, our young people are often both fascinated and excited by programs that highlight shadow realities. They will probably always be popular with teens. They present a side of our world that most adults would rather not think about but which young people feel they must come to terms with in some manner as they approach adulthood. Sometimes I watch The Walking Dead or Teen Wolf with my teen aged daughter, and usually she is willing to talk with me about her thoughts and reactions afterward.

Not a bad deal for either of us.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Getting In Touch With Our Feelings: Men vs.Women

I have written about how men are often out of touch with their needs, wants and feelings, and how this underlies taking entitled positions as well as other problems they may experience in relationships. Initially in counseling, they may have a great deal of denial about the significance or even the existence of traumatic experiences in their life, especially when they were very young, even infants.

If a man is willing to consider even the possibility of unresolved childhood trauma but can not feel it, he may be willing to hear me when I share with him that I am feeling his pain in a conversation we are having. He may be willing for me to reflect his pain back to him, thereby validating the importance of his getting in touch with his packed away feelings as an opening into his heart.

man and woman embracingWomen often do this unconsciously for men that they love, but since they do it unconsciously, they may not insist that a man then feel his own pain, and instead take his unresolved stuff on as their responsibility to feel and to manage for him. A man may then stay unconscious and continue to act out his painful feelings and early trauma in ways that are destructive to himself and others.

The bottom line here is that we may compassionately feel another’s pain and unconscious feelings, but we can not do their work for them. Paraphrasing something Carl Jung once said: “Enlightenment is not just about basking in the light. It’s about making the dark conscious.”

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Key Component to a Successful Professional Working Relationship

It has been over forty years now that Mary Simon, Howie Lambert and I have been working together. In 1973, I joined Mary and Howie at Gilpin House, a community mental health center that was an outreach of Denver General Hospital. We formed strong bonds in the ensuing years that would lead to our forming Enrichment Resources and later, with Roz Cantrell, The Relationship Resource Center, a wonderful coming together of therapists and clients.

joined handsI think the core psychotherapists have stayed deeply connected with one another for so long, longer indeed than most marriages, in part because we are committed to telling the truth with love to one another on an ongoing basis. This is the essential condition for evolutionary or integral love to grow. What integral love means is that we work to transcend and include personal love and invite and give feedback to one another to recognize, integrate, and move beyond our ego and personality structures.

This demands that we challenge each other to delve even deeper than what our ongoing commitment to professional growth and development requires. The nearest equivalent I know is the Buddhist “sangha,” although we do not come together in any specifically religious context. Our connection at its deepest level might be called psychospiritual in nature, and we work to support our own evolution, as well as the others that we come in contact with, in our lives and in our practice.

The Relationship Resource Center is an amazing place to live and work. I am deeply grateful for what we have created and delighted to be part of its ongoing evolution. The wonderful and challenging practice of what I am calling integral love demands that we continue to grow and show up more and more in our lives. It is immensely helpful to have a context like RRC that supports this essential development in each of us.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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