The principal emphasis in our trainings has been on allowing people to experience that their lives are intrinsically meaningful. This means that all their pain and suffering, all the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, all of what they have already experienced and all of who they already are, somehow create the tapestry we call ‘life’. Becoming aware of how the many facets and aspects of our life and life history form a whole provides the basis for what we call understanding. Understanding, in turn, allows for our ability to feel that our life has meaning.
Because much of more conventional psychotherapy has emphasized symptom and pain reduction, help with adjustment and adaptation, we felt that we wanted to focus more on helping people uncover who they are, not what something or someone believed they should be. The role of helping others to be who they already are and of facilitating their process of becoming, we saw most closely connected to the role of the elder. This led us to conceptualize our plan as an eldership training program.
Read More About ‘Why Eldership’
Our Earth, Our Elders
Our earth – our world and home – needs elders. It needs to know who elders are and what they do. It needs the wisdom they afford us, the teaching they can give us. Elders are not only those who are old in years. Rather, an elder is a role that lives in all of us at any age. Still, this role appears mostly in people who have matured through the many years and much effort.
Elders turn to values that have endured the test of time. These timeless human qualities are expressed through words such as equanimity, acceptance, patience, compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, calm, empathy, and mindfulness. These words describe an attitude, a disposition towards the world, towards people and events, often hard-won through experiences spanning ecstatic moments of joy to deep, often extended periods of suffering.
Timeless qualities speak to those who humans are essentially. They speak to what we often call the soul of the human being, to what is immutable, transcends time, trends and culture. In today’s global world with its multiplicity of attitudes and approaches to life, its unprecedented access to information and knowledge, timeless human qualities can help us navigate through the thicket of offerings and help us remain close to what matters most. For more than ever, we humans need a compass to guide us so we can stay true to our essential selves and feel that we are living a life of meaning and depth. Such a life many a great thinker has referred to as a life worth living.
Restoring Eldership: Integrating our older population within our society
The thesis here is a simple one and not original: some of today’s challenges, environmental degradation, national conflicts, dehumanization of the workplace, youth violence, the absence of spirit – to name but a few of today’s more pressing issues – could be helped through the restoration of eldership within our Western societies. Eldership here means: those who have lived into their retirement age and have valued their emotional and spiritual understanding as much as their advancement on the material level are given the important place of counselors and advisers to those younger in age. This place has been given up by today’s elders.