Sunday, May 29, 2016

Signing up for Life

Father Gregory Boyle embodies what it means to create a world that works for everyone. As a Jesuit priest, his ministry had led him to the creation of Homeboy Industries which is rated the most successful gang intervention in the world. In a TED talk, he shares the secret of his success, “creating a culture of compassion and kinship.” He says, “It shouldn’t surprise us that God’s own dream come true for us-that we be one—just happens to be our own deepest longing for ourselves.” As Elder Warriors joining in Oneness to shine a light on the world, we can make a difference while sustaining our needs for purpose, to belong, and to know we matter. We too can be a star following our own fearless path into the darkness of a world needing much help. I have listed below what I believe an Elder warrior does to remain strong.

Spends time in Silence

Many wisdom traditions teach the importance of silence. Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation is the one I prefer; but there are many others, centering prayer, contemplation and shaman practices of silencing the mind in healing ceremonies. Focusing on our body sensations and emotions rather than our chattering mind is basic to all healing. In silence we can move from the analytical thinking of our head into the whole embodied experience, creating a state of awareness. Through awareness you can tap into the knowledge and wisdom, you carry in your body and soul.  The gift of a silent mind helps us find our way through life with purpose. The rational mind often lies because of its distorted perceptions; the body never lies. When you know how to listen in silence, you bring more awareness to situations. You can see your way as the star shines on what matters. You reclaim your true nature, freedom, peace and joy.

Grows in Compassion

As Elder Warrior’s compassion may be the greatest gift coming from times of silence and the wisdom accumulated. We find ways to support and defend the suffering of others. We practice self-compassion honoring our wish to be happy. We care deeply about the plight of others. We suffer with them but are not depleted when we come from our resilient heart. When we have a sensitive heart, we know what is needed to make changes in the world to end suffering. We replace fear with courage to stand up and protest against the darkness, and we make the personal choices to support a kinder gentler world.

Replaces Dogma with a flexible, curious mind:

The Elder warriors know there are no “right” answers. Zen masters used koan to teach their students’ how to leave thinking with their analytical mind. Here is an example from the tradition called the Gateless Gate:

A man is hanging by his teeth from a tree on a cliff. Someone asks him a question. If he doesn’t answer, he falls and dies. If he does answer, he falls and dies. What should he do?

By seeing how things we believe to true may also be false, we force the thinking brain to give up control and we no longer obsessively hold on to the “right way” or “how things have always been done.” A state of open-mindedness gives us the ability to listen and actually hear others. 

Continues to play and learn

There is an ancient Sioux story about Creator giving all the animals unique survival gifts—size, fur, extraordinary abilities to smell, hear, or see far away strong teeth. Creator gave humans the capacity to play all of their life. It is our unusually prolonged neoteny, a Greek word meaning to stretch. Neoteny is the playful behavior of young mammals to learn basic survival skills. Non-human mammals discontinue play once they are adults as they have learned the necessary survival skills. Play is an important elder tool. Scientists believe fast learning takes place with play. Week one in a Short Lesson in Neuroscience we covered Panksepp’s seven primary emotional circuits and the Play Circuit’s powerful potential to heal past emotional pain. Play gives our brain the capacity to absorb new information and form new ideas no matter how long we live. Stretching to learn new ways to play will enhance our warrior skills.

The brain state of play usually involves intense focus with a mind-body activity. Tibetan monks create sand mandalas sometimes taking days to complete with exquisite detail and beauty. When the mandala is completed, it is erased as a lesson in impermanence. In the tradition of the Pueblo tribe, the medicine man created sand paintings as part of healing ceremonies. Creating a focused non-rational brain state and holding it for a length of time is the intention of sand paintings. Playing golf, swimming, bowling, tennis or enjoying a live music performance can create the same mind-body healing.  Laughter is playfulness. Having a sense of humor lightens the load in stressful situations. Until I can find the bright sight of something, I may find humor helpful. ''I can't imagine a wise old person who can't laugh,'' said  Eric Erikson. ''The world is full of ridiculous dichotomies.'' So many times I find laughing at some of the physical changes brought on by age beats complaining about them. Ladies, you know what can happen when laughing sneezing or coughing too hard.

Guided by Evolving Passion and Purpose

Spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen asks his audiences the following question: “How would you live your life if you learned that the future evolution of the human race rested on your shoulders alone?” If you knew all of your future actions were creating an example for future elders to follow as a guide, would your behavior change? For me, his question was an eye-opening wake-up call. Contemplating this idea of future humanity depending on me and my tribe fills me with passion and purpose. I always think of Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It takes courage to stand up to cultural expectations and perceived personal limitations. When we can stand up and release all attachments to what others think, let go of competition, we remember we are here on Earth to live the highest and greatest life possible. We are Elder warriors in service to the growth and evolution of everyone and the planet. There are many possibilities for the world today has many needs.