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Friday, June 25, 2010

Life As A Spiritual Practice

When I get in to discussions of spirituality and aging I have been at a loss to find the words to explain my belief that my spiritual practice has more to do with being authentic than the amount of meditating, praying, etc I perform. For me, there is no more powerful feeling of connection to my higher power than living a purpose filled life that aligns with my values and passion.

I recently rediscovered a little book (Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson) and the following quote that describes what is true for me. I share it here in hopes that it assists on your journey.

"If you're not fully alive, then you're not being who you were born to be or living the life you were meant to live. If you're not living the life you are meant to live, then you're not doing on this earth what you're intended to do- you're failing to take part in the unfolding drama of infinite good, which is the spirit of God"

Each of us has a very special way to connect with our universal source...and it is through recognizing and polishing our uniqueness and offering it to the world through our life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Human Development and Aging

Our attitudes about longevity and aging mirror the conflicting montage of beliefs and ideas we have about the subject. This is wonderful, isn't it? Aging in the modern world is not just one thing or way of being it is many practices. There is no "right" way to age! But, perhaps there is one theme that will allow us to think about the aging process differently....Developmental Aging.

Developmental Aging, as geriatric physician William Thomas says, is the concept that allows us to see the aging process and old age specifically as part of the "ongoing miracle of human development". The fetus becomes the newborn, the infant becomes the girl, the girl becomes the mother, the mother becomes the grandmother, the grandmother becomes the elder in her community.

Each stage of life requires a different set of skills, knowledge and way of being. The question is are we willing to acknowledge this set of acquired attributes in old age as worthy and positive or are we going to be stuck with the view that aging is a disease and must be thwarted at every turn.

If we fully engage in our own intentional aging process we gain clearer insight, acceptance and respect for the human condition. Isn't that what we all secretly want!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This One Hurts

I couldn't take my gaze away from the images. The dense black cloud moving out and rising continuously. The tally meter shows more than fifty million gallons already released in to the Gulf of Mexico with no end in sight. Twenty gallons every second for what now is sixty days.

I have to wonder what recommendations a coastal fisherman would have made years ago when British Petroleum first wanted to drill for oil in deep water off the coast of Louisiana? I wonder what a true "Elder" would have said when told that the valve that was supposed to shut off the flow in the event of a break had never actually worked in practice?

I hope that we learn from yet another environmental catastrophe that our decision making process for these type of things is dysfunctional when we only look at the revenue and balance sheets as our source if information.

If ever there was a need in the world for elder wisdom it is now! As we look to worldwide deep water oil wells, increased nuclear power proliferation, and renewed toxic strip mining for materials to make batteries for our electronics, where are the voices of wisdom and compassion? The voices to speak up for the environment and the human species? It is not enough to speak up after a catastrophic occurrence...voices need to be heard at the other end of the process...the beginning.

This one really hurts!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Does Gerontology Really Serve Us??

Is the field of gerontology really serving humankind? Does it really assist us in understanding ourselves or the life process? Does it even study the important things about the aging process? I ask this because what I'm seeing is alarming.

With an apparent lust for all things related to the biology of aging we continue to get scholarly studies with a never ending array of facts about how we can be more active, eat better, practice your memory skills, work out, stop worrying, think harder, and develop new relationships. Don't get me wrong, those are all important to a long and vigorous life. But, is that all there is?

This singular focus on biology leads to a huge bias that leads most professionals in the field to treat aging as if it were a disease, something, if not terrible, at least unfortunate and certainly something to be avoided wherever possible. It's as if all we see are the 3Ds; dysfunction, decay and death. Where are the studies about the psychology of aging? The life-long opportunities for development and humanist studies?

The science of aging is young. Gerontology is "new in its methods and youthful in its hopes and outlook; its researchers tend to be young." Psychologist James Hillman goes on to say that youthfulness studying aging will naturally view the related issues through the lens of youth. If this is true about Gerontology (and I suspect it is), won't its research be skewed against anything that does not look like youth as the pinnacle of human development?

Aging is not just a physical process, though. And this is my point. It also is a process of finding meaning, purpose, character and self-improvement throughout the life-course. Where are the studies about these parts of aging? Where are the studies that go beyond the model of aging as a disease? Its as if our gerontologists have given up and settled for the easy stuff...monitoring the "disease". Where are the studies of the aging human body as a source of insight, courage, grace, honor, humor and character.

It's as if we use the idea of death, the natural end point of biology, as a reason to give up on any other study, observations or even conversations about the aging process. Without these we just continue to perpetuate fear and ignorance about aging and "oldness". For if aging is just a disease we are all certainly terminal and we can stop studying!