As It Should Be
By Felice Rhiannon
“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”
Former President Barak Obama asked this question, probably many times, in the course of his campaigns and terms of office. He probably asked it many times in his heart when he was slandered and derided and abused. He probably asked it many times when he had almost given up his belief in the goodness of human beings and the love of life.
And we too can ask it of ourselves as we commit to evolving from olders to elders. How should our world be? What are we willing, and able, to do to make it so? How will our current energy sustain us in the work of being sages, leaving legacies, and mentoring those who will reap the rewards and challenges we leave behind?
Certainly there is plenty to do in the spheres of political activism…lobbying for better health care for older people, securing work for those who want it, ensuring the best end-of-life environments…and in the sphere of environmental activism…supporting the reduced use of plastics, protecting the forests, cleaning up the beaches.
To make the world as it should be there are many groups and individuals who can help us navigate the material aspects of our ageing process, as well as the emotional turmoil that might come with retirement, grandparenting, ageing without children, loneliness and isolation. There are methods to assist us in making our wishes known for health care and for financial arrangements.
These supports touch our outer world in profound ways. And what of our inner world? How do we find the proverbial peace of mind in our elder time? What of our spiritual lives? What of the silence we can find when the chatter of some responsibilities and duties quiets?
The word ‘spiritual’ often puts people off. They may even become frightened by it. Many have had horrific experiences in religious institutions and have turned away from anything remotely related. Others may have rejected the faith they grew up in, finding it no longer inspires or serves them.
And yet, there is, in many of us, a profound longing for connection, a desire for inner peace and calm, a coming to reconciliation with the past, and a desire to explore the meaning and purpose of their lives.
Fortunately, we live in a deeply connected world, the world of the internet. This global connection allows us to explore spiritual traditions with long histories, from all over the world, as well as more contemporary expressions of spirituality. There are myriad online courses, many with dedicated facebook pages so that participants can stay connected while exploring the teachings and practices. There are blogs to keep us inspired and motivated to actually do the practices. And, of course, there are books…the real paper books…for those teachings we wish to actually hold in our hands and refer to, over and over again. (Supporting you local book store can be seen as political activism!)
We can become spiritual activists in order to create “the world as it should be”. Our inner self need nurturing just as our physical self does.
Andrew Harvey, a world renowned mystical scholar, poet, novelist, translator, has founded the Institute of Spiritual Activism. He provides us with 10 ways to become a spiritual activist, all of which are applicable in our process of ageing and becoming elders. Each one includes a simple, non-religious practice for daily living.
1. Be Grateful
Write down now one thing that today has made you feel grateful to be alive.
2. Ask Yourself: What’s Sacred to Me?
Without thinking too much or editing yourself, just “off the top of your heart,“ ten things you would say are “sacred” to you.
3. Cultivate Forgiveness
Think of someone who has hurt or betrayed you and make a commitment to work on forgiving them.
4. Read Sacred Words
Read a short text from any of the world’s spiritual traditions that inspires you with the love-wisdom of those whot know the sacred directly.
5. Pray, or Align with Love
When the text you have chosen starts to light up your spirit, say a short prayer/request that aligns you with the “pure deep love” that is longing to use you as its instrument in the world.
6. Develop a Spiritual Practice
Make now a real commitment to spiritual practice. It can be as simple as five minutes focused on your breath or as complex as you like.
7. Make a Small Gesture
Strengthened by prayer, practice and inspiration, turn now to your life and the people in it. We all know someone who could use some support. Commit now to ringing one of them up, and ask him or her what you could do to make their burden easier. Do this soon and be happy that you can.
8. Take a Baby Step for World Hunger or Any Other Global Initiative
Make a commitment to skip one meal in the coming 24 hours and send a check for the money you would have spent on it to a reputable organization dealing with world hunger. Substitute an action and a donation that lights your fire.
9. Reach Into Your Community
Find a way to help those in need in your local area. It might be a food bank, or serving homeless people a hot meal, or a helping at a women’s shelter, knitting warm caps for pre-mature babies…whatever excites you.
10 . Choose a Cause
Make a commitment today, even if you are having financial difficulties, to tithe between five and ten percent of what you earn to a cause of your choice. Again, choose a cause that moves you.
And one last suggestion because 11 is a sacred number and the number of the hexagram “tai” in the “I Ching” that means “peace.” Make a commitment to always have some small change in one of your pockets to give something to one of the growing thousands of homeless in our streets.
All of this supports us in taking President Obama’s words to heart and making the world as it should be.
Felice Rhiannon is a Onespirit Minister and spiritual counselor in Great Britain. She can be reached at elderspiritblog.wordpress.com.