an elder is -- one who carries the knowledge of the tradition and wisdom of the heart,
one who walks in truth and dignity to matter how poor, in humility no matter how revered.
An elder serves the people even when his or how own larder is down to the last sack of coffee, even when the body aches with fatigue. Even where there is nothing left to give, there is always an open door, an open heart.
Some elders heal with knowledge of natural medicine not yet known or recognized by the dominant culture.
Some heal with spirituality – worlds beyond many of those who don black robes and preach on Sundays.
Some heal with a song.”
from The Book of Elders; Life Stories of Great American Indians, as told to Sandy Johnson
Ever since I celebrated my 67th birthday in mid-March I am, according to my own reckoning, no longer approaching elderhood but becoming an elder.
Of course, the years are arbitrary and the words might be just semantics - but if I take the time to listen, I can feel the inner awakening that the journey has changed a bit.
The old question of “Who am I?” has resurfaced, now reframed as “What kind of elder will I be?”
I like this question, and I welcome its timeliness as I wrestle with this question.
When I read the above definition it made me pause and think. It is a bit intimidating, but it can also be aspirational. I could never be that blessed, saintly elder described in the above definition -- and, it is so easy to go along, day after day, without giving much thought to who I am and what I am becoming in this next phase of my life.
What is the knowledge of my tradition?
How do I share the wisdom of my heart?
How do I serve?
How do I heal?
Lets face it -- this is my one chance of being an elder! It is a challenge to grow into being the best elder that I can be. So I look for guidance.
…where there is nothing left to give, there is always an open door, an open heart.
Cultivating an open heart is one thing that I can do; something that I know is needed in our difficult and challenging world. Perhaps the only thing that I can control. So I ask myself, “How can I continue to cultivate an open heart towards others?
Perhaps, this is my path of becoming an elder.
Is this definition helpful?
What are the questions does this definition provoke within you?