Elders are the jewels of humanity that have been mined from the Earth, cut in the rough, then buffed and polished by the stonecutter’s art into precious gems that we recognize for their enduring value and beauty. Shaped with patience and love over decades of refinement, each facet of the jewel reflects light that awakens our soul to intimations of its own splendour. We sense such radiance in our youth, but we cannot contain it. It requires a lifetime’s effort to carve out the multifaceted structure that can display our hidden splendour in all its glory….” – Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalom
In many traditional and indigenous cultures, the elders are honoured for their wisdom and life experiences. They continue to serve their communities in specific roles or tasks that contribute to the fullness of life and creative expression in others, especially the younger generation.
Although this is not mirrored in many western youth-oriented societies, eldering can be an empowering and creative phase in later life. It is a transition from the “doing” phase of life that was formerly ego-driven, to a more spacious “being” phase of life that connects one with presence, wisdom and vision that are natural and authentic.
The work of spiritual eldering demands great courage and honesty of us if we are to consciously explore the process of growing older and wiser. We have to keep our hearts awake by asking ourselves and each other: “how can my eldering bring out the best in me? How do I amplify the wisdom, joy, radiance and compassion of who I truly am? How can I embrace the unity of being in the dance of life that is sometimes up and then down, joyfuyl and then sorrowful and keep anchored in the the remaining time I have left?”
In reality, the journey from late middle age (ca. 50) into fulfilled elderhood can be an empowering time for enhanced emotional, psychological and spiritual well being. But it can also be quite challenging to face diminishment in body and mind, and to encounter the many limitations and changes that come up.It takes commitment and faith to nurture a steadfastness in our inner lives, which anchors us at our most vulnerable, confusing and painful moments. We also need other like-minded people to share our human experiences with, and to open up our hearts in the recognition that eldering is a shared and universal journey. Spiritual Eldering is empowering when it is fueled by loving awareness, conscious intention, self discovery and appreciation for the wholeness in the dance of life.