Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/ambition-to-meaning/
That old Southern custom of grabbing the advantage on Christmas morning by being the first to say “Christmas gift!” still rules in our family.
But even if that sounds like strange business to you, gift giving — presents — is what kids of all ages usually find at the top of our minds this time of year. The season is all about giving, isn’t it? (And getting!)
This year, especially as our son’s partner has just given birth to our first grandchild and created for us an up-close and personal nativity scene, meanings far deeper than frenzied shopping malls are vivid and dance inside us.
May I share the most vivid meaning with you?
Childbirth, the nativity scene, is the most powerful example we have of letting go.
Physically, not just metaphorically. All gift-giving entails letting go. That’s what giving is. But as mothers and midwives and doulas have said eloquently, when the mother’s body powerfully takes over and the birth process begins, then it’s a matter of letting go control, relinquishing any thought of control, and letting Mother Nature, who knows exactly what to do, take over. Giving birth may be the supreme act of letting go.
Christmas Day of all days is emblematic to many of us of the holiness of childbirth. The ancient story read today in churches is about just that, with its resonant undertones of letting go. Those undertones become dominant later in the story when an old man, Simeon, is so moved by seeing the baby that he exclaims, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace …”
The other supreme act of letting go is willing consent to completing one’s lifetime in death.
From start to end, the Christmas story is about letting go.
In between those two human landmarks, birth and death, the theme of “letting go” is a life lesson we mature into. Children are all about getting presents, then acquiring education, later getting a job, spouse and family, possessing a car and house and all the rest.
In the first half of life, we acquire and construct. In the second half, we begin to realize the equally important value of letting go things that are external to our true self.
We realize that rather than diminishing us in any way, to let go increases our delight.
We become aware that every spiritual tradition, those that celebrate Christmas and those that celebrate other Holy Days, every spiritual path emphasizes the positive value of letting go.
In place of holding on, generous giving. In place of acquisitiveness, detachment. In place of willful defiance, spiritual surrender. In place of amassing wealth and hoarding, simplifying. In place of earning merit, grace.
The wonderful secret of letting go is close to the top in spiritual traditions everywhere. And the secret is most readily available to elders. In fact, it may be the heart of becoming an elder, not just becoming an old-timer or “senior,” but an elder.
Franciscan teacher Richard Rohr was thinking of letting go when he named his book on elderhood “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.”
Franciscans say “falling” because St. Francis spent his life just falling: into the good, the true, the beautiful.
St. Francis displays the beauty of a person who has let go the passion to “have what we love” and experienced the tectonic shift of one who is content to “love what we have.” The way we come to that contentment is by letting go.
One teacher that moves us along the way is the Christmas story. It gently teaches us when we openheartedly attend to the humility and surrender of the birth-giving mother and the humble outpouring of the child. (Paul used the Greek word “kenosis” to describe him, which means “self-emptying” or “letting go.”)
An early Christmas gift I gave myself this year is the book “An Interrupted Life,” the diaries of Etty Hillesum from 1941 to 1943, the year this young Dutch Jewish lawyer died in a concentration camp.
The diaries tremble with courage and hopefulness and self-giving. One quotation puts a wrapping on the Christmas gift I receive in reading her: “Every day I shall put my papers in order and every day I shall say farewell. And the real farewell, when it comes, will only be a small outward confirmation of what has been accomplished within me from day to day.”
Etta proves it: Being an elder is not a matter of age (she was 30), but attitude. Her great gift, her positive value, was knowing how to let go. And her life’s accomplishment was marked, in the words of Peter Marshall, not by its duration but by its donation.
Be blessed this sacred season by finding new depths of soul, where you find you are not alone, but are in the presence of everlasting light and an everlasting love.
Bert Keller and Bill Simpson write the occasional column, “Aging for Amateurs.” Keller, a retired minister and bioethicist, wrote this installment. Comments, questions and suggestions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/letting-go/
“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness.” — Lao Tzu
As we get older, do we fear birthdays more? Perhaps it’s when we reach a certain milestone — maybe age 50, 60 or 70 — that a sense of our own mortality really hits.
And, let’s face it — the thought of old age can be downright scary for anyone, me included! Seeing our aging parents face illness or not being able to fend for themselves can be a startling wake-up call that we, too, one day may reach that age.
“Getting old isn’t easy for a lot of us,” writes spiritual teacher Ram Dass in Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying. “Neither is living, neither is dying. We struggle against the inevitable and we all suffer because of it. We have to find another way to look at the whole process of being born, growing old, changing, and dying, some kind of perspective that might allow us to deal with what we perceive as big obstacles without having to be dragged through the drama.”
I’ve recently heard about the conscious aging movement. Baby Boomers, never ones for rocking chairs, are increasingly looking at life’s third act as one filled with many possibilities, instead of none.
The Conscious Aging Alliance notes:
“Conscious aging is a perspective that sees aging as life stage full of potential for purpose, growth and service to community, and is a path toward realizing that potential. Our beliefs, about what is possible for us, and the intentions that spring from them, hold great power in shaping who we become. A great many Baby Boomers, as well as those further along in years, are hearing an inner call to age consciously, and are seeking support in responding to that call.”
From age-ing to sage-ing
Elder circles are cropping up, too, across the nation with a focus on helping older people learn how to get rid of negative thoughts about aging, and instead frame it in a positive way that includes an expanded consciousness and wisdom. Elders, too, are giving back to community and society by sharing their wisdom with the younger generation.
But did you know that this is really nothing new? The alliance notes that, “Throughout most of known human history, societies have had an honored role for their older members … It was the elders who were expected to have grown into a state of personal wholeness so they could serve their community as models for healthy human development.”
No longer waiting at the windows of life
Dass also stresses the importance of being connected to community, which can help ward off loneliness and isolation.
“Whether through shame over our own aging, or through fear of dependency, we should be vigilant about this tendency to isolate ourselves as we get older. To offset it, we might seek out community centers and other meeting places where peers congregate … specifically for bringing people of all generations together.”
Want to practice conscious aging?
The Institute of Noetic Sciences, a member of the Conscious Aging Alliance, has identified nine practices to help people engage in life fully:
1. Reflect on your worldview, beliefs, stereotypes, and assumptions. How might they be limiting you or holding you back?
2. Reframe Your Inner Talk. Take note of your critical self-talk… reframe these internal messages as more positive and self-compassionate.
3. Shift Your Perspective away from the popular media and the weapons of “mass distraction” that shape the dominant culture’s view of aging. Find opportunities to pause and ask yourself where you find joy, goodness, and connections.
4. Practice Mindful Attention. Bring your attention toward greater self-awareness. What do you need to surrender or leave behind? How can you conserve your energy for what has heart and meaning? What still needs healing or forgiveness?
5. Set Intentions. Ask yourself, “What matters most? What values do I want to adhere to?”
6. Build New Habits. Challenge your brain with new learnings, explore new activities…or do something new every day.
7. Find Guidance. Connecting with others offers a way of living into new patterns and behaviors.
8. Move from I to We. Altruism and compassion born of shared destiny, rather than duty or obligation, can emerge and add joy and purpose to your actions.
9. Death Makes Life Possible. As people grow older, as they come to face their own mortality, they can bring greater awareness to the transformative process that allows a deeper experience of their life journey.
Live it forward
I agree, growing older shouldn’t mean an end to our growth. As philosopher Søren Kierkegaard noted, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” Sounds like a fine future to look forward to!
Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/aging-with-consciousness/
An interview with
Dr. Joyce Knudsen
Dr. Joyce Knudsen, PhD, is an internationally published author of ten books, a successful entrepreneur, the CEO of The ImageMaker, Inc. Communications Group, and a a social media maven with a massive social network that is closing in on one million people.
She is also the youngest 71-year old I know.
Afflicted in childhood with a vision impediment that prohibits her from driving, Knudsen overcame the limitations put upon her and launched a company that helps others overcome theirs. She helps clients understand and improve the image they project through their appearance, communication style, and behavior. On a deeper level, she helps clients address the self-esteem issues that hold them back: “I think of failure, according to other people’s standards, as a starting point for my path toward even bigger success,” she said, and she coaches her clients to do the same.
Knudsen launched her home-based image consulting business in 1985. She obtained her doctorate at age 54 and started building her social media empire in 2009. These days, she works around-the-clock to keep up with her international clientele and substantial social network. Between Skype calls and social engagements, Knudsen squeezes in time to work on her eleventh book, entitled “Refusing to Quit: True Stories of Women Over 60.” She seems perfectly suited as one of its subjects.
Knudsen strives to make a difference in at least one person’s life every day. She once helped a six-month coma survivor regain her confidence after a traumatic accident, and that client now owns her own business. She also helped another client achieve her goal of becoming the President of the American Veterinarian Association. “If I don’t [help someone] by the time I’m falling asleep…I reach out on social media. I love the interaction,” she said.
The positivity Knudsen espouses is an inspiration to older women who are fast approaching traditional retirement age and will continue to work, either by necessity or by choice. According to a 2014 Transamerica Retirement Survey, more than half (52%) of working women plan to continue working after they retire. Three out of five women over the age of 65 cannot afford to cover their basic needs, which forces them to stay in or return to the workforce indefinitely.
Why are older women so strapped for cash? It seems to come down to one simple fact: women live longer but earn just 78% of what men earn, according to a 2014 report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The lingering effects of a recession combined with threats of Social Security benefits cuts make retirement planning difficult, but the truth is, the advantages of working past 60 may exceed the supposed downsides.
Financially, working past the traditional retirement age makes sense. The longer you can hold on to your employer-paid contributions to your 401(k), the better. Continuing to work past 60 means you’re living off a paycheck instead of drawing from your savings, allowing you to continue feeding your retirement funds. Health insurance provided through work can be cheaper than Medicare and provide you with more comprehensive coverage.
But even more than that, science shows that working longer keeps you younger. Ceasing work can be detrimental to your health. Retirement often means participating less in both mental and physical activities, which means both the mind and body begin to deteriorate.
Retirement can also lead to a drop in self-esteem since so many people tie self-worth to their jobs. Combine that with fewer personal interactions with other people on a day-to-day basis, and you have a recipe for loneliness and depression.
Dr. Joyce certainly is not the type of person who lets age limit her goals or allows modern culture to dictate what older generations are capable of doing. She firmly believes that age does not determine a person’s worth in the job market, and workforce studies back her conviction. According to CareerBuilder.com, 54 percent of employers hired workers ages 60+ in 2014, up from 48 percent in 2013. A 2015 AARP study makes the case that mature workers ages 50+ are highly valuable within many organizations — particularly in industries such as healthcare or energy that require highly skilled workers or those with unique skill sets. These older workers scored high marks for listening, writing and communication skills, leadership qualities, and a high level of employee engagement.
To women who may feel inferior because they must work well into their 60s and 70s out of financial necessity, Knudsen would encourage them to look at what might appear to be failure as an opportunity instead. “You can’t think [working past traditional retirement age] is a bad thing, but a step towards success,” she said. “You have to push yourself to keep going, be persistent, and believe in yourself.”
It should come as no surprise that Knudsen doesn’t ever want to stop working. She dismisses the idea of retirement completely. “No, it’s a silly question,” she says. “I have so much fun, and I hope I live long enough to do it all. I’m going to be 100. I want to be one of those centenarians.”
Knudsen’s story is evidence that a thriving work life past 60 is not only possible, but also rewarding. She is one of five entrepreneurs profiled in my free eBook “The Modern Entrepreneur, Secrets to Building a Thriving Business from Home,” which I wrote in collaboration with personal finance community MoneyTips.com. The study found that 97% of successful entrepreneurs who work from home truly enjoy it, making it an attractive option for workers over 60 who still want or need to work.
Winnie Sun is the Managing Director and Founding Partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners, a trusted financial consulting firm providing financial planning services to small business owners, senior executives, celebrities, tech elite, and established families throughout the West Coast. She has appeared on CNBC Closing Bell, Fox Business News, Huff Post LIVE, and is host of the The Renegade Millionaire show, and founder of the TheMillennialStudy.com. Follow her isms on Twitter: @sungroupwp.
Winnie Sun is a registered representative with, and securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Sun Group Wealth Partners, a registered investment advisor and a separate entity from LPL Financial.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/dr-joyce-almost-a-million-twitter-followers-and-71-years-young/
The number of Americans 60 and older is growing, but society still isn’t embracing the aging population, geropsychologists say. Whether battling “old geezer” stereotypes or trying to obtain equal standing in the workplace, those who are 60 or older may all too often find themselves the victims of ageism.
In fact, in a survey of 84 people ages 60 and older, nearly 80 percent of respondents reported experiencing ageism–such as other people assuming they had memory or physical impairments due to their age. The 2001 survey by Duke University’s Erdman Palmore, PhD, also revealed that the most frequent type of ageism–reported by 58 percent of respondents–was being told a joke that pokes fun at older people. Thirty-one percent reported being ignored or not taken seriously because of their age. The study appeared in The Gerontologist (Vol. 41, No. 5).
And what’s worse, ageism also seeps into mental health care. Older patients are often viewed by health professionals as set in their ways and unable to change their behavior, aging experts say. Mental health problems–such as cognitive impairment or psychological disorders caused at least in part by complex pharmacological treatments–often go unrecognized and untreated in this growing demographic, many researchers believe.
The deficit in treatment comes at a time when those over the age of 85 make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Nearly 35 million Americans are over 65 years old, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and that number is expected to double by 2030 to 20 percent of the population.
Those numbers come as no surprise to geropsychologists, who–as they mark Older Americans Month this May–continue working to get the word out about the need for better elder care. Their ultimate aim is to expand training and research opportunities in this area and eliminate ageism in all facets of society–from demeaning stereotypes portrayed in the media to the public’s personal biases.
The effects of ageism
Not only are negative stereotypes hurtful to older people, but they may even shorten their lives, finds psychologist Becca Levy, PhD, assistant professor of public health at Yale University. In Levy’s longitudinal study of 660 people 50 years and older, those with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of aging. The study appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 2).
On the other hand, people’s positive beliefs about and attitudes toward the elderly appear to boost their mental health. Levy has found that older adults exposed to positive stereotypes have significantly better memory and balance, whereas negative self-perceptions contributed to worse memory and feelings of worthlessness.
“Age stereotypes are often internalized at a young age–long before they are even relevant to people,” notes Levy, adding that even by the age of four, children are familiar with age stereotypes, which are reinforced over their lifetimes.
Fueling the problem is the media’s portrayal of older adults, Levy says. At a Senate hearing last fall, Levy testified before the Special Committee on Aging about the effects of age stereotypes. Doris Roberts, the Emmy-award winning actress in her seventies from the T.V. show “Everybody Loves Raymond,” also testified at the hearing.
“My peers and I are portrayed as dependent, helpless, unproductive and demanding rather than deserving,” Roberts testified. “In reality, the majority of seniors are self-sufficient, middle-class consumers with more assets than most young people, and the time and talent to offer society.”
Indeed, the value that the media and society place on youth might explain the growing number of cosmetic surgeries among older adults, Levy notes. Whether this trend is positive or negative in combating ageism is one of many areas within geropsychology that needs greater research, she says.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/fighting-ageism/
February 16, 2011 by Integrative Health
Have you ever wondered how you will like to age and have you ever imagined or even remotely thought about how you would like to die? I know these are not easy questions to answer but nevertheless are thought provoking because one day we will all be old and will be nearing death. When I look at my parents, I wonder what they think about their aging process and what lessons I can learn from them. Especially at a time when cosmetic surgery, botox and winkle reducing creams and the like seem to be the norm, these question become even more important.
Aging is a personal experience and we can learn a lot by spending time with people who are near to the end of human life span. Conversations around sharing your own experiences and understanding the perspective of an older aging person can provide much perspective and insight. Conscious aging means to ‘move on’ and confronting your own death. There are several myths around aging for instance, most think that retirement has a negative connotation associated with it. The popular belief is that retirement leads to identity crisis and that older adults have little contact with the younger generation. You will be surprised to know that research suggests that younger people are more lonely than older people and according to the theory of Gerotranscendence (The term Gerotranscendence comes from the words “gero” (“old age” in Greek) and “transcendence” (“to climb over” in Latin) ) by Lars Tornstam, a researcher in this area, Gerotranscendence is a developmental stage that occurs when an individual who is living into very old age shifts their perspective “…from a materialistic and rational view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life satisfaction.”
Isn’t that just fascinating! To know that old age can have such profound meaning is so gratifying. Being raised as a Hindu, I am aware that the religious scriptures define fifty two life stages and out of these, ten are the most important. These stages are called Samskaras. Some of the most commonly known Samskaras are that of childhood, of boyhood, of manhood and of old age and death. Similar to the Tornstam theory of Gerotranscendence, in the two last stages of life as described in Hindu scriptures (namely Vanaprastha and Sannyasa), a person withdraws himself from all worldly activities, retires in the forest and prepares himself for taking Sannyasa. As a Sannyasin, he or she renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation. It’s interesting to see such similarity between recent western research and eastern view of purpose or path of life for an aging person. We become more and more like the Zen Buddhist as we age.
Tornstom conducted qualitative interviews of 50 participants between the ages of 52 and 97 years and identified three dimensions of change – The Cosmic Dimension, The Self Dimension and The Dimension of Social and Personal Relations. According to the cosmic dimension of gerotranscendence , a person transcends borders between the past and present and sometimes interprets his/ her childhood in a new reconciling rience feelings of being a child, a young person, an adult and an older adult all in one moment. This view of time allows them to re-evaluate old events to gain new perspectives, and provides opportunities to right old wrongs. They begin to view death as a natural part of the life process; they appear to fear death less than those who are younger.elder may report that they expe
The dimension of self relates to self confrontation and through self discovery, one finds hidden aspects of their self – both the good and the bad. During this time, one may find removing the self from the center of one’s universe on one hand and on the other, if there is a lack of self confidence, a struggle to establish self-confidence that feels appropriate may happen. The care of the body continues but the obsession with it surely ends. These elders become less self-occupied and a shift occurs from egoism to altruism. Gerotranscendent elders remove their “masks” because they no longer feel the need to play their old roles; they can now be themselves. These individuals find themselves simply accepting the mysteries of life, acknowledging they can’t understand everything. When gerotranscendent older adults reflect back on their lives, they realize that the pieces of their life’s jigsaw puzzle really do form a wholeness.
According to the dimension of social and personal relationships, the meaning and the importance of relationship changes. These elders become more selective and less interested in superficial relationships and find an increasing need for periods of solitude. As they age, they often become more selective in their choices of social and other activities; they avoid social interactions they judge to be unnecessary. Gerotranscendent seniors report a decreased interest in material things, viewing too many possessions as express a greater need for “alone time” for thought and meditation, referred to as positive solitude. They also have an urge to abandon rules, while also understanding their necessity at times. They have ‘everyday wisdom’ meaning they show reluctance to superficially separating the right from the wrong and thus holding judgments and giving advice. They have an increased tolerance and broadmindedness.
I hope this blog helps you to understanding the aging process and how to age consciously. This may also help you to relate to what your older family members may be going through and will assist you to understand that process better.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/integrative-health-on-conscious-aging/