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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

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

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

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!

We Are Still Evolving: “May You Live in Interesting Times!”

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!

Balanced life

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.”

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.