LINDA RICKETTS is a spiritual director, retreat leader, and retired Episcopal priest who has worked in parish ministry and hospice chaplaincy.
Linda and Robert live in an over-55 community in San Antonio, Texas.
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SOME DEFINITIONS OF SPIRITUALITY
1. The experience or expression of the sacred
2. The search for transcendent meaning – it can be expressed in religious practice or expressed in relationship to nature, music, art…….
3. The search for meaning in life events and a yearning for connectedness to the universe --- relating to a person’s experience of, or a belief in, a greater power.
4. A quality that goes beyond religious affiliation, that seeks for inspiration, reverence, awe, meaning and purpose.
JOURNEY AS PILGRIMAGE
From Richard Morgan:
1. We choose to realize that we no longer have to maintain the illusion that we are young.
2. We don't even need to use the qualifying euphemism "young at heart." We discover that actions and behaviors once appropriate for our thirties, forties, and fifties no longer serve us well in our sixties, seventies, eighties, and ninety-plus. In fact what served us usefully earlier may actually impede our growth in later life.
3. We acknowledge the limited nature of time; every moment brings an opportunity to experience Life and Spirit more fully.
4. We choose to believe that we are not only aging but we are following a call to advance - to go forth from the known and comfortable into the unknown and uncomfortable, perhaps even painful.
5. We choose not to retire from life but to refire into new life.
6. We choose to interpret all the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual changes as new territory to traverse in our advancement.
7. We choose to see this aging process as our final pilgrimage - the one that will ultimately lead us to our Source.
8. We willingly and eagerly invite others to come with us and to help them along, just as we allow them to help us reach our sacred destination.
I never saw aging as a spiritual journey. Especially not one that can be exciting and fulfilling and rewarding. I was in almost complete denial, first, that I would ever get old and second that I could possibly enjoy it.
If only I knew earlier in life what I know now! How different things would have been. But I couldn't hear it until I was ready, and that was just a few years ago. On my kindle I have more than fifty books about aging, from every aspect, some positive, some not. Only a fraction cover spirituality. Hence the need for our workshop.
Well, I am aging too! My own years are accumulating! That is one reason for wanting to offer this workshop. But one of the main reasons for me to present this material is the seeming lack of attention paid to spirituality in the aging process. Several years ago there was very little written about aging and spirituality - how they fit together and inform each other. In my work in the church as a priest and as a nursing home and hospice chaplain, it was my privilege to work with older adults as they aged and maneuvered through the many transitions of loss and physical decline.
I attended classes, workshops, read books. I learned how to offer support and spiritual help with the elderly and dying. This taught me a great deal about my parishioners, my patients, my own mother, and of course, my own process of aging, which I was beginning to notice! And while the classes and information from books were all helpful, I learned the most from the people themselves — as they aged and adapted (or found difficulty in adapting) to the changes they were experiencing, and from their families who were trying to cope with all the changes their loved ones were going through. They were teaching me about forgiveness, letting go, resistance to letting go, acceptance, and completion. They taught me again and again in many different ways, that life is a gift, every single minute of it, right up to our very last breath.
So it is clear to me that our later years can offer us a unique opportunity for going deeper -- the inner journey, looking at and working with our souls, our relationship to God and Spirit in new ways. I believe there is a way to age gracefully and fully. I want this as part of my journey. I know it takes attention and intention on my part. It takes time to adjust, to find peace in the new landscape of change as we no longer are at the peak of our engagement in the world. New questions clamor for our attention. It takes time for reflection and just being. It takes time for planning, (and giving up of plans), some inner soul work, some flexibility, (no, a lot flexibility and adaptability) to the many changes, physically, mentally, emotionally we will go through as we grow older. The pattern of impermanence is universal. This aging process, that many look at as “downhill” can be a time of richness, transformation, healing, and growing into wholeness. We can dedicate these years to waking up! Advent words. Wake up. Stay alert. Watch!
This can be a time of new perspectives - with some of our other vistas closing as we age, it is time to recognize the beautiful, peaceful inner vistas that we may have been too busy to explore.
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