More of us are entering the second half of our life than at any other time in history. As life expectancy continues to rise, we are living much longer as elders than did our parents and grandparents.
These extra years, even decades, extend the blessings of life, yet in many ways we are not prepared to live them fully. Unfortunately, a dominant cultural perspective is that latter life offers only decline, disease, despair, and death. Elders are not valued the way they are in traditional cultures around the world. Instead, they are marginalized or rendered invisible, their wisdom lost to future generations. Neglected, too, are the rites of passage that help us transition into being wise elders, living deep and fulfilling lives.
If we each are to embrace these years and flourish in them, we need to consciously shift our perspective. The more challenging our world, the more we need our elders to share the lessons they have learned, to lend us their problem-solving skills, and to enhance our lives by imparting their unique gifts. As elders ourselves, we need to embrace this role for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
"Becoming a Wise Elder with Angeles Arrien" is an 18-part e-course in Spirituality & Practice's Elder Spirituality Project. It is based on the realization the skills we develop during the first half of life are not adequate for the frontiers we will cross as we age. The attitudes, disciplines, and life skills that elderhood demands are completely different. Many world tales and perennial wisdoms point to eight gates through which we must pass in order to fully develop into wise people. Each has its own gift, task, and challenge. They include:
• facing new experiences and the unknown,
• discovering one's true face or authentic identity,
• exploring relationships from the crucible of love, intimacy and forgiveness,
• approaching service, creativity and generativity from a place of legacy,
• developing character and deepening wisdom,
• opening to the presence of grace,
• moving into surrender, acceptance, and equanimity,
• practicing non-attachment and letting go.
This online course was written by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist, award-winning author, educator, and consultant to many organizations and businesses. She was President of the Foundation for Cross-Cultural Education and Research and regularly lectured and conducted workshops worldwide, bridging cultural anthropology, psychology, and comparative religions. She was author of seven books including The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom, winner of the 2007 Nautilus Award for Best Book on Aging. She is profiled in our Remembering Spiritual Masters Project at Spirituality & Practice.
For this e-course, Angeles Arrien explored the eight gates to becoming a wise elder in 18 emails. Each contains a short essay and suggestions for applying this wisdom in your own spiritual journey., including:
• practices in how to trust the new and unfamiliar,
• how to create openings and initiate ways to collaborate and unify,
• how to resolve inner and outer conflict,
• time-honored skills that foster a clear mind, an open heart, a strong spirit, and courageous action in the world.
(6 CEHs for Chaplains available.)
(choose your own start date and frequency)