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Age-ing or Sage-ing

As I approach 50, I envision a second half of life with more depth and meaning than the first, with more contribution, with more love and more connection.  In preparation for such I have started to read a transformational book by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Rodald S. Miller called “From Age-ing to Sage-ing.”

The authors point out, “To harvest our life successfully, we must come to terms with our own mortality. A fantastic conspiracy of silence surrounds the issue of our mortality. Living as we do in a technological culture, we repress the sacred, transcendent nature of death that was experienced by our ancestors.”

“Seduced by our technological successes, which have given us unparalleled control of the physical world, we hope that genetic engineering, anti-aging chemicals, and bionic research will eliminate death from our midst.   In our hubris, we hope that with enough empirical research, we will reduce the mystery of death to a manageable scientific process that we can program and control at will. In this way, we will expose aging and death as genetic errors, cosmic mistakes rectified by our human ingenuity.”

The authors then go on to say, “As we approach the subject of our mortality, let’s be clear from the beginning:  Death is not a cosmic mistake. Woven into the warp and the woof of existence, the presence of death deepens our appreciation of life. It also regenerates our psyches in preparation for harvest.  The more we embrace our mortality, not as an aberration of God and nature, but as an agent urging us on to life completion, the more our anxiety transforms into feelings of awe, thanksgiving and appreciation.”

I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to live in the states of awe, thanksgiving and appreciation.  I get the impression this is a choice that stems from choosing to embrace my own mortality.

The authors reflect, “As we age, we receive a number of messages, either consciously or subliminally, about our mortality. For example, we may be aware of shortened breath in climbing a steep grade or for the need of a longer recuperation time after an illness. Usually, we mobilize our psychological defenses to tune out these messages. Slowly, over years and decades, as we expend more energy to keep reminders of our mortality at arms length, we have less overall energy and awareness available. As a result, our experience of life loses a certain clarity and depth.  There’s always a nagging ‘something’, a free-floating anxiety, that we try to drown out through frenetic activity, entertainment, sexual conquests, or excessive concern with the youthfulness of our bodies.”

“When we de-repress the fear of death, we reclaim the energy that has gone into denial.  We feel buoyed up as streams of creative energy course through our bodies, minds and nervous systems. By facing a subject that usually depresses and terrifies us, we feel lighter, freer, more perceptual and cognitively alive in all of our encounters.”

As David Feinstein, psychologist and author, reminds us, “When we confront our mortality, a shift occurs in our attention that makes us more aware of how precious life is. We have an enhanced ability to accept ourselves, along with a greater ability to love.  We lose the pervasive anxiety that makes us grasp obsessively for power, wealth, and fame. As we discover a deepened sense of purpose and a profound connectedness with other people, we tend to be motivated by higher, more universal values, such as love, beauty, truth, and justice.”

As the spiritual teacher Ram Dass playfully reminds us, “Death is absolutely safe. Nobody ever fails at it.”

As a physician, I have meet very few people who were faced with eminent death who were unaware of it, when they had the courage to tell the truth.  Whether or not we own up to death, to admit to death’s presence, is up to us, but the fact is death is always presence with us.

A few years ago, I came upon the top 5 regrets of the dying as complied by a hospice nurse.  They are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I sense that these regrets arise only when we embrace our mortality. Are you willing to acknowledge death’s presence in the midst of living? How do you choose to live?  What are you willing to release in order to live?  What are you willing to receive in order to live?  Blessings all!

Category: Personal development
What is behind hate

Mostly fear is behind hate say the wise ones. It also may appear as control.  “The angels of darkness must always disguise themselves as angels of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).  Fear itself is often convincingly disguised as a virtue, such as reason, prudence, morality, religion, obedience, or justice. As Father Richard Rohr inquires, “What better way to veil vengeance than to call justice?”

Sacred Violence

In Father Richard Rohr’s book Hope Against Darkness, he writes, “That which you fear, deny and avoid will be projected somewhere else with 100% certainty!  In other words there is an intrinsic connection between fear, hatred and violence. Furthermore, you will do it with impunity and even grandiosity. It is a sacralization of violence, and it is the most common form of violence. That way we can be hateful and not feel the least guilty about it, but in fact feel morally superior!”

He continues saying, “The process of sacred violence is so effective that it is now in the ‘hard wiring’ of human personality. As Aquinas said, no one intentionally does evil, they have to explain it to themselves as good!”

“Sacred violence is the most common kind of violence. How strange that we could ever arrive at this place after Jesus said that he came for the ‘forgiveness of sin’ and the perfect love that casts out all fear!  It is no surprise that he has to spend a great part of his ministry in an attempt to reform religion itself. Religion is ironically the safest place to hide from God!  In its healthy forms, it is also place to find God. As a Latin scholars said, ’the corruption of the best is always the worst’.”

Father Rohr continues with,

“The classic pattern is seen from the beginning with Adam’s treatment of Eve and Cain’s killing of Abel. It is the original lie, and continues nonstop until now. It is largely called history, largely a record of who kills, imprisons, tortures, oppresses, controls, enslaves, rapes, occupies or exploits whom. Then the utterly predictable response is revenge or retribution. We need a new plot beyond ‘get the bad guys.’

It is only the mystics and seers in all of the great religions who give us a genuinely new story:  redemptive suffering instead of redemptive violence.” 

This is the way of Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Gandhi, and Harriet Tubman.

Another Way

We have tried time and time again the way of hatred, violence, division, revenge, and it has never worked to provide lasting peace, security, and safety.  Is there another way?  Are you willing to explore it?  We all can say we want peace, but the wise words of Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us, “Peace is the way.”  Which means living peace, choosing to turn the other cheek, demonstrating love in the face of dismissal and disregard.  We do this on the small stage of our lives with the people who are immediately around us and a tsunami is created that covers all the earth.

May you act in love and live peace.  

Category: Spirituality

The Psalms

The Psalms

If you are similar to me, you probably know or have a familiarity with the Psalms.  I have attempted a few times to read all 150 Psalms, but never got far.  I started to question myself as to why.

Questioning always leads somewhere.  I discovered there are a huge number of different translations of the Psalms.  In my exploration, I also came across a small and potent book about the Psalms called Spirituality of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann.

Brueggemann describes three movements in the Psalms…that of orientation, disorientation and reorientation.  These are the movements of human life that we all experience many times over our lives.

From the book:

The Psalms of orientation tend to be consolidating, stable-enhancing, and inclined to urge conformity. These Psalms reflect a theodicy* that is accepted and celebrated without question.  They reflect society in a state of homeostatic equilibrium. They mean to affirm the order, to generate new allegiance to the order, to give the order more power and authority, and to inoculate the youth into it. This may be an act of good faith, but such a voice also benefits from the present arrangement….  [The Psalms of orientation] celebrate the coherence of life and the justice of God because that is how they are experienced. This is life fully oriented, finding the current rules on earth and heaven adequate.

The Psalms of disorientation occur and make sense to us when the consensus about theodicy has collapsed and there is a crisis in the ordering of life….in a season of disarray one does not know how best to move.  Within the Psalms of disorientation, there are three movements.  One is a yearning for retaliation against the unjust enemy who has made life so disoriented.   The second is an assault on Yahweh [God] as the legitimator of theodicy.  The third as a yearning for return to orientation and to accept the fault.

Finally the Psalms of reorientation celebrate a new settlement of the issue with the theodicy.  The crisis is past, and there is again a stable paradigm for social life.  What is clear in these Psalms is that this is not a return to the old theodicy.   There is no knuckling under to the old regime, the old God. There’s rather celebration of the coming of God, who now establishes a new rule.

….The Psalms are resources for spirituality; but any psalmic spirituality that denies or avoids the parallel issue of theodicy misses the point. That is, the spirituality of the Psalms is shaped, defined, and characterized in specific historical, experiential categories and shuns universals….The Psalms regularly insist upon equity, power, and freedom enough to live one’s life humanely.  The Psalms may not be taken out of such context of community concerns…. The spirituality of the Psalms assumes that the world is called to question in this conversation with God. That permits and requires that our conversation with God be vigorous, candid, and daring.

God assumes different roles in these conversations. At times God is the guarantor of the old equilibrium. At other times God is a harbinger of the new justice to be established.  At times also God is in the disorientation, being sovereign in ways that do not strike us as adequate.  We might wish for a God removed from such a dynamic, for a spirituality not so inclined to conflict. But the Psalms reject such a way with God as false to our daily life, and false to the memories of this people, who know they do not belong to the Egyptian empire, who hope for a new equilibrium in a kingdom of justice and righteousness. On this the Psalter insists passionately, vigorously, and boldly.

The Psalms are a timeless conversation with God, or the One Being of your knowing.  They are an example of the conversations we may find ourselves in with God. If you are so inclined, find a book of Psalms that speaks to you in your language and use it.  Prayer is so much more than just asking for things to go our way.  The Psalms can engage us in more intimate conversation with God.  May you have the faith and trust to converse with God boldly, vigorously and passionately!

*Theodicy:  A vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil.

      :   A defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.

Category: Spirituality

Sacred Life

Sacred Life

I am reminded of a war veteran’s story.  The veteran shared that after each battle, they would search the dead enemies with hopes of finding some information that they could use to win the war.  He stated that was rarely the case.  However, he always found letters from loved ones and pictures of loved ones.  He realized these people, called enemies, are just like me.

Over the past few months, I have been using a daily meditation book to support my inner work.  The book is by Caitlin Matthews and it is called The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year.  The following is an excerpt from the book that touches me deeply.  The focus of this reflection is seeing and honoring the sacredness and holiness of each life:

For many hundreds of years, the false tale that what ever is alive is evil has been told: This tale has been told from fear and denial, from pain and rejection, as a way of explaining why things go wrong and why perfection cannot be expected. Many people regard the living world as a predominantly evil place, full of beings whom we should be suspicious. For such people the only good place, the only good beings are in heaven. Living defensively in the eye of evil is not a happy way to live. Fear and suspicion darken everything with a sad pall.

The opposite view sees all of life as worthy of respect, as potentially able to achieve its fullest stature. Of course not every being alive reaches its potential; but then neither does it sink into irredeemable iniquity. Entertaining the possibility of all things living being able to achieve their potential of holiness is a powerful and supportive way to live.  But, like all life-ways, even this view can be abused: when we live as though no harm could come, we are foolish rather than innocent. 

Life is a sacred gift that all beings receive. It is the manner of our living that makes all the difference. The way in which we relate to other living beings encourages them to change the world for good or violate the world for ill; the way in which we spend our lives illuminates or darkens those around us. But if we are not aware of the sacred potential in each living being, if we do not acknowledge it and respected, we me become active agents of the soul’s darkening.   Everything that lives is holy because it is an abiding place of Spirit; Everybody is a home where the sacred gifts of Spirit may be born anew.

Contemplate the living beings with whom you are in contact, not just human beings, but other living beings of nature as well. Hold each of them in your heart and acknowledge their sacred gift. Write in a journal or share with a trusted loved one about your experience.


Category: Spirituality
What is Great about Being Human?

All too often, we focus on what we do not like about being human.  Recently, I did an exercise where I asked myself,  “What do I enjoy about being human?”

This is what came to me:

  • Interacting with dogs. Smelling them, feeling their fur, receiving their kisses, and watching their behavior.
  • Tasting wholesome food. Enjoying the array of flavors and how flavors combine. Appreciating all the elements and people involved in the growing of the food.  Appreciating the nourishment of my body.
  • Interacting with nature. Seeing sunrises and sunsets. Feeling the wind and the warmth of the sun on my skin. Leaning against a tree. Smelling the earth.
  • Cooking creative meals and sharing them. I love to turn to recipes for inspiration then modify with the ingredients I have within my house at the moment, then share the meal with dear family or friends.
  • Looking deeply into the eyes of another and experiencing communion.
  • The gift of healthy touch either through massage, abhyanga, or trusted loved one’s hug or handholding.
  • Laughing!
  • Singing, especially with multigenerational groups spontaneously!
  • Practicing yoga and meditation…being in this body and in this moment is simply delightful!

How about you?  What do appreciate about being human?  As Father Richard Rohr has reminded us in many of his books and sermons, “It is good to be human.  It is good to live on this earth. It is good to have a body for God in Jesus chose and said ‘yes’ to our humanity. Incarnation is already redemptive. The problem is solved. Now go and truly enjoy all your remaining days.”

Consider sharing your lift on my FB page or with someone you appreciate.  Blessings and appreciation!

Category: Spirituality


Lifestyle Determines Health

“…if we remember the fundamental principle that the symptomatology of an illness is at the same time a natural attempt at healing….”  ~C.G.Jung, Collected Works

How would we relate differently to our achy backs and stiff joints, or instable blood sugars and heartburn if we honored the symptom as the body’s way of attempting to heal itself?  What Western medicine offers is valuable, but it is limited.  The approach to symptoms in Western medicine primarily is that of attempting to eradicate or control. If we review symptoms as a natural process of healing, then the question becomes “Is the obliteration or control of symptoms the optimal approach?”

Certainly relief from symptoms is helpful, even necessary and life saving at times, but where both the provider and patient loose in the end is calling it a done deal when the symptoms are controlled or eradicated.

Epigenetics, which is the study of variation in gene expression that do not involve changes to the original DNA sequence, but may result in variable expression in our physical bodies.  Epigenetic change is a regular and natural occurrence and is influenced by several factors including age, the environment, lifestyle, and state of health.   What the study of Epigenetics has revealed is each of us is much more in control of lives than we thought.  We are not at the mercy of our genes!

We can influence our gene expression based on our lifestyles, and lifestyle determines health, thus investigation of disease beyond the mere treatment of symptoms is key.  What is lifestyle?  Lifestyle includes not only what we eat, but how we eat it; not only if we exercise, but what is our attitude when exercising;, not only if we are in relationships, but are those relationships nourishing; not only how we act, but what are the underlying emotions that are the foundation of our actions.

Health is not determined by a series of negative lab or imaging studies, nor is determined by your doctor saying, “Everything looks great.”

While those are important, each person’s health is ultimately dependent on his/her daily behaviors and attitudes.  Do you have resentments from childhood or from yesterday that are still festering?  How do those resentments impact your relationships today?  What habitual ways do you have of interacting?  Are they of benefit to you and others?  Are you willing to look, take responsibility, and be uncomfortable?

Wishing you courage and honesty with your self upon the exploration of these questions.  Remember engaging a trusted friend, family member or counselor to aid in your exploration is invaluable.  All the best!

Category: Personal development
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