I have always found it interesting that we are available to the status in other cultures of the wise elder. If we stumble across the archetype while watching a film where the indigenous Chief is dispensing wisdom we open ourselves to their words, the values and their status as those who have cultivated a lifetime of experience and need not fight to be heard within their own community.
I have found the same to be true about religion. When I speak to people of the tradition that they were brought up in they are often dismissive if not hostile. It is , they say, the cause of much misery in the world. However, if I speak instead of the mystic tradition of the Sufis with their trance dancing, the meditative practice of the solitary monk or the eight thousand faces of the divine in the Bhagavad Gita, there is a softening. At times even a reverence.
We have taken to calling those who are in the autumn of their lives, Seniors. The word rings hollow for me. It is devoid of respect and places them in a chronological cubby-hole that finds it’s best expression in retirement villages marketing, government programs and assorted discounts at the drugstore, transit line or movie house. It is a com-modified representation of who we are at a certain point in the consumer timeline. Much like the label taxpayer, it reduces us to economic units of transaction. Taxpayers, and seniors are customers with rights, citizens or elders are people with rights as well as duties and obligations.
If you take duties and obligations away from us as we age, we are left with very little except fear of marginalization as our buying power diminishes. Elders take time to reflect, and from the swirl of life gravitate to a point of stillness from which wisdom and legacy can grow. Let’s look , not to the exotic other for an aging road map. Let us look within.
Mark Zuckerberg once declared that “young people are smarter.” He was 22 at the time. He later apologized. Too bad he hadn’t heard about the inventor profiled below before he made that ‘precocious statement.
The More people I talk to the more I realize that issues of Ageing and Sageing are top of mind, almost regardless of age. It seems so often that we have taken the second part of life to be a path that grows darker as we approach it. That all that is worthwhile is young, full of potential and eternal. What I hope to spark is a different conversation, a different way of looking at our life span. Through workshops and the book that I am writing I want to take us from the fear of ageing to the harvesting of our wisdom. To Sageing. We are living ,on average, longer than any society in human history. How can we cultivate the field of our time here. I have been giving talks and scheduling workshops in the greater Toronto area and I’m acutely aware of the need for us to start this conversation. To take us from thinking of Seniors, queuing up for discounts at the drugstore, to Elders who can mentor, create legacy projects and engage us all in a deeper appreciation of life. If you know of any group that might have me come out to speak, please let me know through this website, www.kavanah.ca or my Kavanah Facebook page-https://www.facebook.com/KavanahWisdomSchool/
Around North America the work of bringing dignity and purpose to becoming elders is in play. Here’s a succinct description of what one of the founders of the movement, Reb Zalman Shacter-Shalomi from Sageing International.
Sage-ing as a Spiritual Practice
I spent the morning (Sept. 10) with a lovely group of about 40 people at Temple Sinai in Toronto. My talk was on Ageing and Sageing. I shared some of the wisdom of Stephen Jenkinson, author of Die Wise, Ram Dass the American guru who has written so beautifully about how we might see our autumn years as an opportunity to turn away from ego and towards a deeper spiritual and wisdom infused life and of course from Rabbi Zalman Shacter-Shalomi z”l. I offered some spiritual exercises from his Ageing and Sageing writings.
We have within us great wisdom. I believe we must cultivate and honour that wisdom in ourselves before others can benefit from it. If you are interested in having me come and speak to your group I would be glad to discuss.My new project, Kavanah is evolving in to a spiritual fitness program. If you’re holy muscles are feeling a bit flabby I have a few tips on how to get your soul in shape.