It’s been about a month since I’ve written for Orcas Issues. I’m in the midst of preparing for my big adventure to Bali as well as putting together the program for my Retreat – Weaving Heaven and Earth. I’ll tell you, who ever said aging is boring didn’t get it right.
The Aging – Who Me? group at the Senior Center has been running for a whole year now. Happy Birthday to us! We have been meeting two Tuesdays a month with pretty much the same 11 participants – with a few leaving and a few joining us. You’d think our conversations might be on the boring side – what could possibly be the point of old people getting together to talk about aging over and over again? But the fact is, every conversation is rich and dynamic, because each of us, at the heart of our being, is rich and dynamic . . . how could it be otherwise? So when there is space to share the truth of what’s really happening in the midst of aging, things get really interesting, even juicy and yummy. For instance…
Madeleine is getting to the point where she can no longer deny that she is aging. Up until just recently she has prided herself in being self-reliant and independent. Over the holidays, while with family and due to bad weather, Madeleine experienced an inability to driver herself around. Plus, she had to rely on her children to take care of her more personal needs – something she never ever considered before.
During our check-in at the beginning of our session in the New Year, Madeleine shared how rich it was to have her children attend to her every need. She had never experienced such loving care in her whole life. She wept as she touched into how vulnerable yet beautiful it was to be receptive to receiving. And, as if to dismiss this poignant moment of self-disclosure, she quickly moved onto the next bit of sharing.
Later in the discussion the topic of receiving popped up again, and Madeleine and a few others reiterated how difficult it is to receive loving care, especially now when it is most needed.
I asked the group, "What is it about receiving that is so uncomfortable for people?"
There was a long pause, then Sharon spoke the word: "Pride." And then she said, "Pride is really important to me. I feel vulnerable and humiliated if I need to ask for help. I don’t like receiving help – never have!" Madeleine backed up Sharon by saying, "I’m the very same way. I don’t like having to receive! It’s a pride thing." I found this interesting, given Madeleine’s initial sharing of the session about how wonderful is was to feel appreciated by her children.
Howard spoke up next and shared that he loves being generous and being of service, but feels really uncomfortable when people are generous to him. He gestured with his hands, as if pushing off any nicy-nice offerings that were coming his way.
It is amazing to notice that just through the process of sharing the ongoings of one’s holiday experience, this whole context of life regarding receiving entered the room. Not only the stories but the challenges of allowing oneself to receive.
One of the many dilemmas of being human, and of aging in particular, was surfacing in this conversation: On the one hand, we all desire connection and engagement with family and friends – in essence – giving and receiving, while at the same time allowing pride and vulnerability to interfere with the pleasure that is experienced when in the act of true receiving. There is a disconnect, and an inability to allow the enriching experience that receiving actually is.
In essence, as we age, most of us will face that time in our lives when all we can do is receive. I’d say we are lucky if we reach that point in life! However, this moment presents us with a choice-point: Do I receive with grace, humility and honor? Or, do I resist and resent the reality of what is, which leaves me angry, withholding and withdrawn? This is a big question that takes us on a whole new not-boring adventure.
A beautiful crescendo occurred in the group – lightbulbs lit up as most of the group could identify with enjoying being the giver, and, in this fresh new awareness, saw how they had dismissed the true experiences of receiving. Marlin had a sparkle in his eye when he realized that truly receiving a gift is a gift to the giver. My heart hurt as it experienced Marlin expressing this moment of self-realization, as the human being within the 80-something person he thought he was. Marlin was beginning to realize that there is so much more within himself, and I saw that he was becoming more curious about who that is. The potential for a whole new adventure was awakening for him.
As we evolve within the ever changing body of tissues, blood and cells, it is easy to get caught up in the attitude of decrepitude – that because our bodies continually move into less and less ability, functioning less and less the way we want it to, then our true self is moving in the same direction.
This belief cannot get any further from the truth.
And it is easy to capitulate our power and sacrifice our soul, sliding into depression, isolation and despair. It takes courage and strength to not only see it but to live it another way.
Marlin, Howard, Madeleine, Sharon and the others in the Aging – Who Me? group, are discovering that there is a lot more to who they are. They are cultivating curiosity and fascination about who is inside the sagging bag of bones. They aren’t as likely to compromise their human-spirit as they once were. As they listen to others and reflect within themselves, they are finding the inroads to a whole new world to discover. Aging is guiding them onto the path of the inner journey – the biggest adventure of them all!
There comes a time when the adventures of exotic parts of the Earth aren’t beckoning us as they once had. But this doesn’t mean that life has to be boring and stagnant. Aging provides so many opportunities to adventure into the "Me" inside the body. As with all adventures, this too can be arduous, requiring courage, strength and guidance to remain present and on the path. After all, who want’s a boring life?
Perhaps you are curious about my 7-day retreat in Bali, Weaving Heaven and Earth, and you are up for the opportunity to adventure out into rare pockets of beauty on Earth, and at the same time desiring to explore the exquisite inner world where Heaven truly exists. Click here for more information, or email me. I’d be delighted to answer any of your questions.
Currently, Aging – Who Me?, the in-person discussion group is closed to new participants. However, if you’d like to join an online discussion group, please email Dr. Rosie to encourage her to make this available.