by Barb Dean.
What, you may be asking, is spiritual eldering? When an email so entitled appeared in my inbox under the umbrella of a Pacific Jubilee Soulwork event I was curious. Then I noted the wise folks who were going to guide this event: Lois Huey-Heck, Jim Kalnin, Donna Scorer and Tim Scorer and my curiosity changed to interest. Next the location of the event – Naramata Centre, one of the United Church’s continuing education centres. Naramata has been a special place in the growth of my spirit and that of my family. Finally, the opportunity to be with a community of people seeking to learn what it means to grow into eldership, a time of life in which experience and wisdom become a resource and gift, was too much to resist. I am so glad that I answered this call.
Thirty-four people, all over the age of 55, sat together, laughed together, remembered together, listened to stories together, watched movies together and cried together. How fortunate that we, in the autumn of our lives, gathered in the season of fall. Nature kept nudging me with her beauty and her graceful acceptance of the huge transition unfolding within and around her and reflected back to me the experience of aging that I am living. Each component of this week of shared experience echoed what nature was showing me. Even the salmon struggling their way up the Naramata Creek underscored the reality of this stage of our journey. Their presence accentuated the wisdom of the simple Italian folk tale, The Shining Fish, which we read and responded to in art and personal reflection.
Nature was not the only resource reinforcing and supporting the wisdom in this week. So was Alvin Straight, the main character in the movie The Straight Story, starring Richard Farnsworth. Alvin’s story captures the essence of the seven tasks of creative aging and does so in a heart warming and nourishing way. Like Alvin, each of us identified the moments that alerted us to our own mortality. We shared the many questions we have about living into the reality of aging. We took time, again like Alvin, to embrace the sorrow in our lives. We, however, had the help of Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing after Loss co-authored by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck Deklyen. Alvin, and this week of inner work and community sharing, blessed me in so many ways.
I know that in accepting what is and exploring whatever arises within and around me, I am truly alive. I also realize that I do have wisdom to share – indeed need to share to ensure the survival of God’s world. I also know I need to forgive myself for past mistakes and accept the forgiveness offered to me for past hurts. Thanks also to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the author of From Aging to Sage-ing, for reminding me that I want to live through every step of my dying. Like the fall leaves, I want to fill this tree of my life with rich colour and then fall freely and gracefully into whatever lies ahead.
Barb Dean is a teen and children’s literature advocate. She’s currently a participant in the Pacific Jubilee SoulGuiding program ~ a two year practical learning program in spiritual growth, soul development and the art of spiritual direction. If you have comments or questions about this blog, please be in touch with Barb at barbdean(at)shaw(dot)ca or Julie Elliot at julie(at)pacificjubilee(dot)ca
The Jubilee Programs explore the contemplative life through spiritual practices including the enneagram, integration of head/heart/body, silent retreats, “holy listening” in journey groups and contemplative prayer and meditation. Read more about spiritual direction by clicking on our 3 national programs: Ontario Jubilee, Pacific Jubilee, Prairie Jubilee