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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

Our Evolutionary Journey: A Sacred Space Necessary for Fostering Conscious Community

I am grateful to Harville and Helen Hendrix for their guidance over many years, and their reflections on our evolutionary journey as we wake up and grow up in our lives.

They were focusing on couples in relationship when they stated that the unconscious agenda of each person in a committed adult relationship was to finish childhood and attain full aliveness. The more each one began to consciously cooperate with this unconscious evolutionary agenda, the more they could have the relationship of their dreams rather than their nightmares. Wow! That’s quite a mouthful!

we spaceIn the Salon of the Happy Misfits, we move beyond the committed couple evolutionary journey and look more broadly at what can evolve when adults come together intentionally in larger groups in what we are calling, following Ken Wilbur, an “integral we space.” The Integral Living Room gatherings, which I have helped co-create in Boulder, have been pioneering this investigation for several years now. I would like to re-frame Harville’s statement above with respect to an “integral we space.”

First of all, we are not talking about intimate couples. We are talking about a group space where seekers who have done a lot of their own work and have healed most of their childhood wounds come together to support one another in their ongoing conscious evolution and participate, in some almost infinitesimal way, in the ongoing evolution of the universe. Second, couples can participate in this larger space. They may add their perspectives to the gathering, especially as they are evolving toward an integral relationship among themselves and are open to an expanding evolutionary setting and process in the larger “we space” being co-created by all of the participants.

In our culture, committed couple hood is often considered, consciously or not, to be THE realm of the sacred. In reality, it is only ONE realm of the sacred, the one probably best suited for growing an intimate couple relationship and raising children. An “integral we space” is also a sacred space necessary for fostering conscious community and evolving structures of consciousness that will be the underpinnings, and the foundation of a better future for humanity and all sentient beings. We invite you to join us in the Salon of the Happy Misfits as we continue to evolve together.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

When My Heart and My Head Agree: A Small “Angel” Investor

Among other hats that I sometimes wear, I am a small angel investor (emphasis on small).

I read about the so-called “Angels” who invest in start-ups in Silicon Valley, and I decided that instead of investing for profit, I would invest in people and small neighborhood start-ups for the purpose of supporting others, community building and sharing the modest wealth that I enjoy.

head and heartWhat I do is very simple. I always carry a $100.00 dollar bill in my wallet, and when my heart and my head say yes, I give this away and replace it with another one as soon as possible, so the new bill is available for giving away when my heart and my head agree again.

Sometimes weeks may pass and sometimes months between conjunctions, and in the meantime, I feel rich carrying this bill that I am free to give away at any time.

Several times over the past years, I have given it to myself, feeling very grateful to be able to do so.

I love wearing my angel hat and investing in worthy causes!

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

How We Inadvertently Project Our Feelings On Our Significant Other

Not too long ago, a friend called us and kindly offered us cuttings and plants from her garden. She said just come, pick them up and take all you want; they are sitting on my front porch.

So I went over and gratefully took a big bunch. I took them home, happy as a clam. I proudly showed them to my wife who proceeded to tell me: “You were a little piggy, weren’t you?” Crestfallen, I went out to the garden with my plants, now beating myself up with “You were a little piggy, a little piggy.”

Suddenly, I stopped myself.

two people facing each otherWait a minute! I remembered that I’M ENOUGH AND I MATTER, even if I was a little piggy (which I wasn’t). I felt much better.

I went back to the house and reminded Suzanne that our friend said we could take all the plants we wanted, and I didn’t like being called a little piggy. She apologized and said,”Maybe just a little, little piggy,” and I chased her around the house, both of us laughing.

Later she admitted that if she had taken the plants, she would have maybe felt like a piggy, and maybe, just maybe, she was projecting on me.


By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Integral Living Room: Sharing an Integral and Evolutionary Vision

I recently attended “The Integral Living Room,” an event held in Boulder and sponsored by The Integral Life Institute, itself a spin off of the life work of Ken Wilber. I have studied Ken’s work for many years, and I believe that he is truly a national treasure, much like Joseph Campbell. Ken’s “Magnum Opus,” Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, changed my life, and I am deeply grateful.

The event in Boulder was attended by a hundred people from many countries around the world. I felt like it was an incredible luxury to be there – in many ways, at a leading edge of consciousness development about the evolving WE spaces that we are all a part of.

I was able to reflect on our work at RRC and appreciate how we are evolving integral psychotherapy in our daily lives. I have shared what I know of Ken’s integral model or, more accurately, his integral “map” over the last fifteen years, and I believe it has been useful in many ways in our development both individually and in evolving our group practice together.

living roomThe Integral Living Room will convene again in Boulder over Memorial weekend in 2014. It is an elite group to which everyone is welcome. You can check it out at and see if it calls to you.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Detachment Without Indifference: Two Realizations About This Important Concept

As a young man, I never had much use for or understanding of the notion of detachment.

To be detached seemed callous and uncaring to me, and disconnected from others and the world around me.

ideaTwo realizations have helped me come to a better understanding of this important concept.

The first is realizing that in embarking on any endeavor, It helps greatly if we can detach from the outcome. Like it or not, we are usually not in control of how things turn out. We are only in charge of doing the best job that we can and using the most skillful means available to us to accomplish our goals. It’s not that we don’t care about the outcome. We just need to learn to let go of attachment to the outcomes because mostly we don’t have control over them.

The second is that being detached doesn’t mean that I’m indifferent to what’s happening to others. The “serenity prayer” from AA is helpful here: Give me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference. There is a paradox here. The more securely I am attached to others, the more I can detach from outcomes. It seems that my strong loving connection with others is what allows me, helps me, to let go of fear and control.

Love is letting go of fear, and love is what lets me let go of fear.

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

Don’t Take the Payoff: Developing Compassion for Ourselves

Harville Hendrix, one of my mentors, once remarked that self hatred, or a lack of compassion for oneself, is so deeply entrenched for most people that moving to a true love of oneself is extremely difficult. It follows that compassion for others will be equally challenging if we consciously or unconsciously hate ourselves at a deep level. We may hold this contempt for self because, no matter how hard we try, we can not change behaviors that we KNOW are destructive to ourselves or to our relationships.

A little known secret about developing compassion for ourselves is what I refer to as “refusing to take the payoff.”

Here is what I mean.

When we beat ourselves up for “screwing up yet again,” whatever the ugly behavior might be, we are actually reinforcing that behavior rather than changing it. Beating ourselves up actually “feeds the beast” (the detested behavior) rather than eliminating it! The way it works is that beating ourselves up for our bad behavior keeps the negative loop going and reinforces and sets up the next round of the same behavior we want to change. Punishing ourselves is the “payoff.”change blvd and same old street

When we decline to beat ourselves up, we refuse to take the payoff and act more compassionately toward ourselves. It’s not that we are condoning the problem behavior. It’s just that we are no longer willing to punish ourselves, and therefore are less likely to punish others.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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