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.
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!
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.
One 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
Here are seven signs that you have reached Elderhood:
Welcome to Elderhood!
Well, folks, evolution has just taken an interesting turn! Interesting in the sense of the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times!” Many of our clients, and we ourselves, are experiencing deep grief about what seems about to happen to our country and to our world. While we must allow ourselves, and each other, to feel all the intense emotions that come with grief – shock and denial, sadness, anger, fear, depression (despair?) – we also must look for ways to move gradually toward acceptance and going forward with love and strength.
We must remember, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, the arc of evolution is long – and it bends toward beauty, truth and goodness. We also can remind ourselves that periods of devolution are intrinsic to evolution. Cynthia Bourgeault, an Anglican priest and evolutionary teacher, tells us, “Events which, viewed at the wrong scale (i.e. too close up), look like devastating upheavals may actually prove to be relatively minor systemic adjustments.” There is a story about Henry Kissinger asking Chou En Lai what he thought of the French Revolution. His reply was, “Too soon to tell!”
Nonetheless, people can hardly be faulted if, at this time, they view this election as something akin to Armageddon! We want to share with you some perspectives that have been helpful to us in finding some balance and hope in this time.
First, we offer you a brief video with the possibly shocking title: “Why I Am Happy Trump Won!” We hope you find it as enlightening and encouraging as we have.
In addition, we want to suggest to you some thoughts as to how we might respond to this election from the perspective of Evolutionary Spirituality.
Cultural Evolution – Evolutionary Spirituality
Over the next months, as we discover more resources for finding balance and hope, we will post them on our blog. Check it out!
For those who are wondering, “But what can I DO right now?” we recommend the ideas for contributing to the evolution of our world that we shared in our last issue.
We also invite you to join our monthly Salon meetings where we will focus on how an evolutionary perspective on current affairs can help us meet the challenges of these difficult times.
In conclusion, we offer this from Rev. Bourgeault:
“… it is our calling to use our heads and hearts … to look at what is needed now and how we might collaborate (in) creating new possibilities in our world … Let us go forward. There is work to be done: prayer, joy, courage, and strength are deeply needed. And we do know the way there. This is Wisdom’s hour.”
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.
… every time your pulse quickens with the thought of a more beautiful, more truthful, more ethical world tomorrow;
… 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;
… every time you reach out for a future that is even just a little more Whole than the one today;
… 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;
… 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.