THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP – DECEMBER 2016
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. “NOT‑KNOWING” WISDOM
3. YOU SAY YOU WANT A RESOLUTION…
5. THIS YEAR’S LINKS
QUOTE OF THE WEEK – T.S. ELLIOT & ATUM O’KANE
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
“There’s no place to go… no thing to do… be here now…”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
New Year’s Greetings, Dear Friends…
For many 2016 has been a disturbing and difficult year in many ways. How might we elders be gentler with ourselves so we can better support others with less experience?
I think T.S. Elliot knew:
“…to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
For me, this remembering I am just as I should be and have always been. As natural and simple as this sounds, it’s taken all of my seventy-eight years to begin such “arriving” — and I have no idea how many more years, or lifetimes, may be needed for my “knowing.”
But that doesn’t really matter. Because just glimpsing the “knowing” lets me understand, as friend Atum O’Kane taught me years ago, “There’s no place to go, no thing to do…”
How different this way of being is from the pressures I felt growing up in, and being distracted by, the external world! It seemed to be so fascinating with it’s dramas and baubles, and I certainly chased mine. But the chasing never led me to peace of mind and truly caring for myself or others.
Back in 2003 a friend wrote me about a conundrum he felt stuck in…
“I have enough income to not work, and I’d like to not work, but it feels wrong to not work..”
For those of us raised with the Protestant Work Ethic, feeling guilty about not working just comes with the territory. I can’t begin to count how many times as a child I got imprinted with messages like:
“Good people work hard.”
“You play after your work is done.”
These imprintings (if actually lived out) would mean we continuously exhaust ourselves with work and never play (since we always can find more work to do). This is no way to live.
If you’re one of the many caught by this double-bind (or “Knot” as psychiatrist R.D. Laing so aptly named such insanity), all is not lost. But we can’t get out from under this nonsense by using our normal method of achievement which, of course, is “working” because this just compounds the problem. So what do we do?
We have to recognize how crazy we are to believe that the point of life is to work our butts off so “some day” we can finally “play.” Until we really understand that this is stupidity of the first rank, there’s little hope. (If you feel offended, you’re definitely on the right page). So how do you transform a mistaken belief that you’ve taken seriously all your life into the joke it really is? I find I have to combine three different approaches:
First, my rational mind and ego demand evidence that they’ve been mistaken all this time, and they’re not particularly receptive. In this case, finding out many historians believe the average workday before the Industrial Revolution was about three hours helped me greatly; I’d been misled to believe that people had worked their butts off forever. When I put this together with the observation that most very wealthy people (the source of the propaganda that we should work all the time) were themselves working less than three hours a day, my ego and rational mind felt played for suckers, and this was very helpful in getting their cooperation.
Second, developing a playful sense of humor and absurdity about the world helps immensely. Generally this has been easy and natural for me, but I’ve had enough periods of depression and righteousness to know how hard seeing the light side can be. My key to this humor is making fun of myself (I’ve always loved the saying..
I do think I’m funny, especially when I’m taking myself most seriously. It’s always blown my mind that humanity could believe evolution got to us and stopped — that we are the be-all and end-all of creation. Such self-centeredness is so extreme I can’t help but laugh at it’s absurdity, and this gives me a humorous perspective on my own significance.
Third, I turn to my gut (also called intuition, self-awareness or Divine Guidance) and check out how the situation “feels.” Doing this requires putting the noise of the world aside and going into stillness where truer voices can be heard. There are many ways of doing this – meditation, hiking, fishing, watching a sunset, etc. When I get into this quiet space, there’s “no place to go, no thing to do” and I can “know” what makes the most sense for me at this time.
It isn’t that I can change myself quickly, but I can see, and do, the things necessary to let the change evolve in me. An example of this was when in 2001 I “knew” I needed to give up my consulting work and create space, perhaps for three or four years, to let go of my Second Age identity so my Third Age self could emerge (it helped my rational mind and ego to recall this was just what Carl Jung did at a similar point in his life). I’m now about halfway through this process (I think), and even at this still uncertain point, I recommend it very highly.
So my advice is — work if you want to, and don’t work if you don’t want to — it’s your life and your call. If it matters to somebody else, that’s entirely their problem…
Now it’s the end of 2016, thirteen years after the exchange above took place, and it seems my Third Age self has grown into my Fourth Age self. Many of my earlier imprintings like needing to be “cool” or “popular” or “creative” or “successful” or “spiritual,” etc., etc., have been left by old roadsides and seldom interfere these days. What a blessing this sloughing off of obsolete beliefs has been!
I wonder how I might have shown my younger selves the joys of a peaceful mind so natural to me now. But I see no way my younger selves could have understood or even wanted to. They would have opened to my being a non-judging witness to their “explorations,” but my younger selves were way too wrapped up in my own dramas to be of much use to anyone, including me.
So how can we elders be of service to our younger generations as they do their exploring in these times? The stereotype of non-judgmental grandma or grandpa is not unhelpful here, but we each need to find our own ways of “being available.” My peace includes wanting to stay home in my solitude and not interact personally. These newsletters, emails and Skype chats are ways of giving that suit me. In contrast, Donna is a gift in person, and she spends much time being with others. We each are learning to relax into liking and honoring who we are now, and we will try to extend this into whoever we may become in the future.
But honoring ourselves is not easy in an external world that stuffs minds with sophisticated marketing images and political propaganda. The pieces that follow can help us understand how to honor ourselves in order to honor others. May we all find our own ways to balance our inner and outer experience so peace of mind fills our hours…
Much love, FW
2. “NOT‑KNOWING” WISDOM
BY DAVID ‘LUCKY’ GOFF, THE SLOW LANE, DECEMBER 27, 2016
It’s Christmas! I’m staying in, actually I’m a shut-in, celebrating in my own way. This time of year — add being sick, and alone, amounts to slowing down. This is a wondrous time to reflect. My mind could go back to the year I’ve just lived through, or travel further back to other Christmas scenes, but instead it is riveted upon this moment, wondering what all the uncertainty I feel portends.
This is ostensibly the beginning of a New Year. I wonder, will there be anything truly new about the New Year? The election continues to resonate. There is a lot of uncertainty in the air. The emotional tides are high. It seems that many of the old horrors are being warmed up. It is a time rich with feelings, fears, anxieties and apprehensions. There is an aura of teetering that colors the yuletide cheer. Going forward or going back, over the cliff or around it, becoming closer or more divided? — the moment quivers.
I’ve heard so many times this is the moment to stand up. Values are on the line, possibly the planet, certainly how we feel about each other, and ourselves. So much seems to be at stake.
I feel peculiarly out of step with the times. I am nervous, like many people, but I feel a sense of expectancy, like I’m participating in some kind of birth phenomena. The unknown, I sense, is delivering to us something unimaginable. I don’t know what is here. I don’t have a name for it. I don’t know how to greet what is taking shape. Strangely, I can feel it happening in the midst of all the rehashed actions that are being called for. Evolution is taking the mess we (humans) currently are, and working us into a different shape.
It is times like this that I find myself wanting to pause, like this holiday season is helping me do, and turn to that rarest of wisdom’s for guidance. Here, I’m not referring to the wisdom of the past, the wisdom of tradition and what we know, but the unknown wisdom of the present. It is the degree of bafflement in the air that arouses in me a sense of wonder, expectancy, and a desire to be open and wait. I am poised at a vibrating threshold. How I comport myself now will determine in some way what I will meet. This is a quantum moment, what I find, will be determined by my expectations, thus I want to be as open and as free of assumptions as possible.
It is at times like this when I feel so strongly the pull of not-knowing. There is such a spaciousness in the unknown, a darkness that is rich with possibility, a creativity that is guided by the formless. This is what I want to stand for. There is a miraculousness afoot, which doesn’t depend at all upon the election results, but becomes palpable when one opens up to the larger Mystery — of what is going on here. Let’s stop pretending we really know what’s happening. All of the certainty, ideological nightmares, and historical references are apt, but insufficient to this time. They are good for stirring up fear, anxiety, and hatred, but not very good for soberly leaning into the moment.
I am growing old. I’m not as interested, as I once was, in chasing my tail. Now, each moment has grown more precious, and I want to meet it, as it is. In being dragged around the block by Life, as many older folks have been, I’ve learned to open myself to each moment, to spend some time with it, to let it be, and to relish what is unknown about it. Life has introduced me to a whole set of unforeseen possibilities, I would have passed by many of them, because they looked familiar. Now, I come to this moment, with continued reverence for the Mystery that brought me here, ready to be surprised anew. Not-knowing releases me into the moment, it allows me to experience what is, and shields me from the tides of emotional upheaval that I am surrounded by.
There is one other thing I want to be sure to mention before I stop for this Christmas day. Not-knowing isn’t only good for calming the emotional waters, but is essential for re-enchanting the world. Magic dwells in the spirits of those, most generally elders, who are savvy enough to know, that they know enough, to know, they don’t know very much. There is a form of elder innocence that forms late in life. It isn’t like the innocence of childhood, based upon an ignorance of the world; in elder life it is giving up on relying upon adult like certainty, and meeting the world naked in a different way.
The miraculous nature of Life is obscured by too much knowing. Not-knowing wisdom frees the imagination, releases potential, and honors what does not want to be changed by fickle human emotions. To recognize the blindness knowing brings, means liberating all that has suffered the slavery of human hubris. The world is enchanting, and so is this uncertain moment in our nation’s history. Something is happening, and let’s wait and see what it is.
3. YOU SAY YOU WANT A RESOLUTION…
BY MARTHA BECK, WWW.OPRAH.COM, JANUARY 2017
But your actions say otherwise.
Here’s help discovering what you really hope to accomplish this year.
In January, a gajillion Americans make the same resolutions, and by July, according to one study, only 46 percent are still sticking to them. Clearly, something is wrong—and if you ask me, it’s not the people, but the promises. Maybe when we “fail” to keep a resolution, it’s because deep down we know it doesn’t necessarily align with our truth.
Recently, I pulled out the list of resolutions I made for 2016 (which, of course, is almost exactly the same list I made for 1987) and contemplated it from a new perspective—that of a jaded crone. I asked myself, “Do these goals resonate with me? Are they really what I want most in the entire world?”
And you know what the answer was? No. So I thought about how I actually want to spend the next 12 months. Then I made brand-new resolutions:
1. GAIN WEIGHT.
How much did Florence Nightingale weigh when she founded modern nursing? How much did Rosa Parks weigh when she took her seat on that Alabama bus? How much did Malala Yousafzai weigh when she started writing about the lives of girls in Pakistan under Taliban rule? You don’t know? That’s the right answer! Because it doesn’t matter.
For so many people, January 2 is D day—diet day, that is. Losing weight can be a laudable goal, but this year I’m going to think about weightier matters—weighty as in “of great importance,” a definition that does not apply to dress size. I have found that I feel instantly lighter when I stop asking “Why are my thighs so squidgy?” and start asking “What would really make me happy right now?” Whenever body shame creeps up on me, I resolve to refocus on adding meaning to my life.
2. SPEND MORE.
Saving is a virtue. But when frugality becomes extreme, it can create feelings of deprivation—which can lead to compulsive buying. I’m going to avoid the cycle of consumption by paying more. Not more money, but more positive attention to what I have.
That’s what author Glennon Doyle Melton did after she posted a photo of her kitchen on her blog and readers chimed in with unsolicited decluttering and remodeling advice. Suddenly, Glennon found her cabinets and counters shabby—but instead of overhauling the room, she decided to redo her attitude. She praised the things her kitchen gives her, like cooked food and clean tap water. Under a photo of her fridge, she wrote, “This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD.” It’s energizing to be around someone who heaps positive attention on what she already has. Do it yourself and you’ll feel rich.
3. MAKE MESSES.
I grew up in a topsy-turvy household, and as an adult, I’ve struggled to master basic skills like cleaning, managing finances, and remembering my kids’ names. If you’re likewise genetically disorganized, you may feel as unfit as I often do. But you may also be ignoring something that I noticed about myself: My inability to follow routines and put stuff into boxes also means I tend to combine ideas in unusual ways and come up with unconventional solutions. As a life coach, I get paid to do this—and for me, the job requires disorganization. In fact, just now I’m sitting in a nest of pens, teacups, papers, and pillows, resolving to embrace the chaos.
4. BE SELF-INVOLVED.
Many people vow to be more attentive to relationships—less irritable with their kids, kinder to coworkers. But relationships are fluid, and we can’t dictate how we’ll feel as they evolve. This year I’m going to be more attentive to me.
If your parents ever forced you to kiss scary Aunt Mabel with the braided chin hairs, you know that trying to force love actually destroys it. This year take a moment every so often to check in with yourself about how you’re really feeling, and let your actions match your truth. Share with people who feel welcoming. Distance yourself from the ones you don’t trust. Peacefully explain your opinion to those who anger you. You may ruffle some feathers, but in the long term, your life will be more genuinely loving.
5. FORGET WHAT I’VE LEARNED.
The ancient Chinese Tao Te Ching taught me that to attain knowledge, every day you must learn something, and to attain wisdom, every day you must unlearn something. A deep intelligence lies within us, and wisdom comes from releasing misperceptions that cloud it. So this year I resolve to unlearn. I’ve noticed that when I scrutinize thoughts that create negative feelings—for instance, I never do anything right—they fall apart. (I do a lot of things right!) I pledge to steer my brain toward truer stories, until it develops new, less paralyzing thought patterns. Lesson unlearned.
That’s my list. I encourage you to compile your own. You may want to underachieve. Oversleep. Fritter away more of your days. When December rolls around, you may find you’ve finally kept your resolutions—and that 2017 really was a happy new year.
Martha Beck is the author of, most recently, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening.
Illustrations by Anna Parini
5. THIS YEAR’S LINKS:
© Copyright 2015, by William R. Idol, except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder(s). All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. We neither use nor endorse the use of spam.
Please feel free to use excerpts from this blog as long as you give credit with a link to our page: http://fatherwilliam.org/blog/. Thank you!