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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

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

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

Spare Me: Paralyzing Fear and Knowledge of Who I Really Am

My mostly unconscious prayer all these years has been spare me.

Spare me from the knowledge of who I really am. Because at some deep level it terrifies me. Who am I? Face the fear, the terror. I am that I am. Why am I afraid? Why am I afraid of unity consciousness? Part of me wants it more than anything. I think Jesus must have been terrified at times. I know Martin Luther King was: “Lord spare me from paralyzing fear” was his prayer. Let that be my new prayer rather than spare me from the knowledge of who I am. He didn’t ask to be spared from fear. He asked to be spared from paralyzing fear. Everyone is afraid at times. I believe he asked to be spared from the fear that would stop him in his tracks from doing what he needed to do.

spare me from knowing who I am and paralyzing fearHow is this related to the fear of knowing who I really am?

I think it’s because knowing who I really am is inseparable from doing what I need to do. Is doing the way into being, or is being the way into doing: chicken or egg? No matter. It’s back to doing and being inseparable at unity consciousness. No wonder I am scared in this time of Trump. But spare me from paralyzing fear, that I may embrace what I need to do as that becomes more and more apparent in the fierce, unsparing light of deeper and deeper love.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Why Psychotherapy Is Undervalued in Integral

Shadow Work and meditation are methodologies in Ken Wilber‘s quadrant I, and shadow work is also a methodology in quadrants 2 and 3 (His AQAL map). Both meditation and shadow work help maximize the function of the human brain, and both methodologies deal with “stuck” places in the brain and in human consciousness. Integral Life Practice recognizes the importance of 3-2-1 shadow work as a methodology that was not available to most of humanity prior to the last century. However, neither was psychotherapy.

individual vs. relationalThe difference between psychotherapy and shadow work is that shadow work is primarily done by the individual – by HIM OR HERSELF – while psychotherapy is always RELATIONAL. With psychotherapy, you recognize that you need someone else to help you with your growth process; that at some places in your growth process towards more adult functioning and integral consciousness, you CAN’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN!

This, we believe, is a shadow of integral. It is too often hyper-individual reflecting the masculine bias of most of its proponents for intra-psychic methodologies and downplays or undervalues the relational or feminine component of what is often required to transcend and include in quadrants 1 and 2; that is, a quadrant 1 and 2 inter-psychic methodology, integral psychotherapy.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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

Worlds Apart: When We Are Not in Curiosity, We Probably Are in Judgment

A few months ago, our daughter Danielle left her new cell phone in a dressing room, and it was stolen.

Adios, phone. Fugetaboutit. We’ll never see that again.

But Suzanne decides she wants to go to the police and report a stolen phone. So I tell her, “are you kidding?” Furthermore, she wants me to go with her to make the report. I can not imagine a bigger waste of time, as I am certain the police will do absolutely nothing after taking her report. So she hijacks me on our way home from a movie and drives Danielle and me to a police station, totally against my will and me complaining all the way, refusing to be of any help at all to her as she reports a stolen cell phone to the Denver police.

We were worlds apart on this one.

She was really angry with me the rest of that night until we talked the next day. She felt unsupported and deserted by me, and I felt dismissed and ignored by her. Finally, out of curiosity, I asked her why was it important to go to the police when they probably would not do anything except take a report and file it away? She said she didn’t know whether they would do anything or not, but it was important to her to go with Danielle and me to file a report so that Danielle could experience us taking what action we could rather than doing nothing. Danielle completely agreed with her and shared that it was also important to her that we went to the police.

Fotolia_66748363_XSThank God for curiosity. Someone said to me recently “when we are not in curiosity, we probably are in judgment.” It finally made sense to me why it was important to Suzanne to go to the police.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has the power to heal relationships. And as it turns out – a month after we filed the police report, Danielle got her phone back!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

What Does Love Ask Of Me Today? Be Moved, Be Motivated From Love

As I finished meditating this morning and was about to jump up and start moving compulsively into activity, I felt this imperative, this need, to be still, to be quiet, to listen . . . I felt both stirred and peaceful.

A queer, strange, peaceful, disquieting grace.
Don’t move yet, please don’t move.
So I didn’t move for many minutes . . .

hands and heartAt last, I asked myself what does love ask of me today?

To be moved, to be motivated from love, rather than fear or obligation or the past or the opinion of others.

I needed to sit still a little more.

To respond from love.
To move from love.
To act from love
.

I write this in love, from love of You and all of you this morning.
You shall love Me with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, with your whole soul and others as your Self.
Love your Self and love others as your Self. All others every where. No exceptions. Peace.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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

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