During a retreat I was leading on “Shamanic Wisdom for Fruitful Aging” at a retreat center in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains outside of Tucson the question arose of what exactly is an “elder”. Here are my thoughts. See what you think.
First off it is important to differentiate being old from being an elder. Growing old is a biological process that happens naturally for all physical manifestation from the smallest to the largest, from atoms to galaxies. From my experience with indigenous peoples around the world I see that an elder is an older person who also carries wisdom within their being.
So what is wisdom? Wisdom recognizes that the Great Spirit, the Sacred Mystery, is present in every one, every thing, everywhere and all the time, always seeking to work for the greatest good but needing people showing up to do their part in bringing it to fruition. Wisdom elders live from that consciousness in all their relationships. They seek, cultivate and share the truth of wisdom and the wisdom of truth embodies in the quote below:
“According to the great wisdom traditions of the West – Christian, Jewish, Islamic – the heart is first and foremost an organ of spiritual perception. Its primary function is to look beyond the obvious, the boundaried surface of things, and see into a deeper reality, emerging from some unknown profundity, which plays lightly upon the surface of this life without being caught there: a world where meaning, insight, and clarity come together in a whole different way.”
True Elders carry the teaching stories, the ceremonies, rituals and values of the community to the next generation. They see the larger vision than that which just serves egos. They hold the welfare of the whole, the tribe, the community in their heart and prayers. They stand up for justice, for honor, for doing the right thing. They notice and stand up for the vulnerable, the underdog. They bring beauty, kindness, generosity, compassion, courage and wisdom teachings by which to meet life’s challenges skillfully and in ways that support the fullest blossoming and greatest good of their people, of Mother Earth, of the cosmos. They are a link with the ancestors.
Elders love, serve and remember what is important to maintaining healthy life and living for future generations. They serve Higher Will. They hold hope and vision for what can be. Elders are living embodiment of a commitment to carry their hearts through the world like a life-giving sun, shining so bright, on each and every one. They are channels of Great Spirit’s light and love, healing and forgiveness to their people.
They are the realization of spiritual maturity and spiritual intelligence using the last cycle of their lives to “Give-Away” all that they have learned and internalized so that their people might live on in a good way after they are gone. Wisdom Elders are what we can all grow to be if we hold that as an intention and do the work to make it be a living reality.
Great Gratitude to all the Wisdom Elders of our lives and throughout human history staying up at night to keep the fire going while others sleep. Un mil gracias!