Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Expiration Date

     Once a month I teach a class at the Senior Center called Conscious Aging.  I volunteer my time doing this because I believe it is important to view aging in a positive way, not as what we've lost, but as what we can find.  There's a different topic every month designed to provide some psychology underpinnings to some common sense ideas and to give some thought provoking grounding.  Each topic has a positive tone, a you can do it tone.  I prepare the day before, going over my notes, deciding how I will present the class to leave room for lecture, groups, individual comments.  I am usually enthusiastic about the topic.  Not so the topic of today.
    The first time I presented this topic, Death, I glossed over and sanitized it as much as I could.  I was uncomfortable as I didn't really know how to view death in a positive light.  I still felt in a bit of disbelief that it's going to come to me one day.  Somehow I'm going to be the one person who will not have to face that deep unknown.  Oh, I know it's so, but I don't want to die.  I'm not afraid of death, I much prefer, however, living.  This time when I faced preparation for the class, I wanted to not shy away but present it fully and see what would come of it.
   I looked at the full title of the class, "Death Makes Living Possible" and I couldn't initially (as in the first time I gave the class and the beginning of my preparations for this class) understand the connection in any other sense that I can only die because I am living.  But then, the word living took on a different meaning somewhere in my preparations this time.  Living in this sense doesn't mean only breathing in and out and paying bills and figuring out what to have for dinner.  Living means the fullness of life.  Paying attention.  Being Conscious.  Coming to a moment and being in the moment and then going to the next moment.  A lightbulb!  Death makes LIVING possible.  If I know death can happen at any time, that nothing is promised, I can view life in a different way.  I can LIVE.
    The rest of the preparation for the class centered on this positive idea.  Live.  In my relationships, with others, with myself, with the world.  Live. In the sunrise and the sunset and in all the times in between.  Live.  In kindness to myself, to others, to the world.  Live.  LIVE.
     Some day I will no longer live, in either the sense of breathing in and breathing out, or in the sense of being present.  What will happen to my other-than-body, I do not know.  I do not want to know my particular expiration date, but if I had a glimpse of my best used by date, well, I wouldn't mind that.  Knowing neither, I will focus on death as the idea that makes my LIVING possible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Flower Stories


Flowers in a garden.  Even the same varieties at different stages have uniqueness.  Some mature, some buds, some with tightly wound florettes. All perky, facing the sun, a mirror of it's color, with traces of fiery red over an orange ball.  Circles within the circles.  A light dusting of fallen petals lay beneath, caught by the undercarriage of leaves.   And then there's the interloper flower, the bloom nearly gone, petals pointing up, down, contrasting color, an early sunrise, a sunset.   Scruffy array standing with the order of the coifed, providing a break from the tension.  This flower, time of bloom and blossom nearly spent, offers a mindful visual of the importance of being and beauty at all times in life.  Flowers needn't speak to provide their stories, but oh if they only could.  What stories would they tell of accepting and appreciating, of living life together, of understanding difference is transitory, and part of life.  Alive is alive. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wisdom Speak, Elder Wisdom, Elder Stories

         The convergence of this and that often leads me along a path not yet fully visualized, but a path that feels at once possible, exciting, and comforting.  And here I am now.  I drove, a couple of weeks ago, to the Mendocino Coast to attend a writers conference.  As is often the case for me, processing takes a bit of time and I allow myself the unconscious doing before I tiptoe into the conscious part.  The conscious part means wrangling with how to do what I want to do, and often leaves me feeling whelmed (can I be?),  if not overwhelmed to some degree.
        Before I left for Mendocino I became part of an online class to collect required continuing education units for a clinical license.  The online class had to do with activism and deep storytelling.  Not the rah, rah kind of activism that makes my palms sweat when I think of making cold calls or knocking on doors, but a kind I can make my own by championing an idea that can be helpful in the world.  I can do this in my own way, which, to me, means starting small, and writing.  At the end of the class the challenge was to pick an area.  I left it to marinate before I began to work with it.
      The convergence led me to write about wisdom speak, which I defined as ways of knowing, ways of understanding, ways of being when open to the knowledge of the world and gathering it in and sifting through those inner workings of self.  This is the experience of wisdom, and the speak comes through putting the wisdom into the world through stories.  I most particularly want to focus on wisdom speak when it comes to elder wisdom.  The story is the vehicle.
     Elders in many parts of the world are valued for their wisdom.  In the United States the voices of elders are often overlooked.  The culture of youth and the idea of obsolescence in general underpins this disregard.  Elder stories provide a myriad of experience to connect generation to generation through feelings and subtext, through commonality of life's struggles.  Elder wisdom through stories provides the circularity of life, interweaving the hope from the past to the hope for the future, providing and verifying the interconnectedness of life.
     I take the small steps along the path, uncertain of where I'm going, of where to go.  What will I do to enlarge the idea?  Who will listen?  Who will join?  And yet, here is the path.  I take a step.