Friday, August 20, 2010

Elder Recognition and the Longing for Respect and Recognition


A few weeks ago, I was having an eye-opening conversation with Elder of the Water, Ariann Thomas. We were discussing our views about respect in relationship to elderhood. I just hadn’t realized how significant an issue this can be for some of our more mature New Dream members.

I remember being taught by my parents to respect my elders. I gave up my chair if an elder came in the room and there was no other place to sit. I spoke respectfully to my elders even when I disagreed with them, though I must admit I crossed that line during my teenage years when it came to my own parents. But I certainly spoke to my grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, clergy, shop-keepers, and bus drivers with respect. I was even respectful to elders that hadn’t particularly earned my respect. The good news is that I learned to be respectful even if my elders weren’t doing the same.

The danger was that respecting your elders also meant doing what they told you to do. If the elder was coming from a balanced and appropriate space, and in my case they generally were, then life is safe. But if they are telling you to do something that is harmful to yourself or others, and you have been taught to mind your elders, you are in trouble. You have some tough choices to make.

As if in a pendulum swing reaction to the more dangerous aspect of respecting your elders, some younger people have been raised without the instruction to respect your elders and as a result some of them demonstrate very little respect to anyone, including themselves. In reaction to demonstrations of little respect, and our own childhood upbringings, we may find ourselves demanding respect, which doesn’t work very well. True respect just can’t be forced.

Acknowledging all of these dynamics, I realize many mature men and women are longing to be respected. They may have grown up in families where they were expected to give respect, but didn’t get very much of it. In reaction to that phenomenon, they may have raised their own children a bit too liberally and therefore, received little respect from their children. Their spouse may or may not treat them with the modicum of respect they would like to experience, and hence they reach their elder years hungry for respect.

There is a way to fill the desire for respect and end the cycle of disrespect. It requires one point of spiritual focus—respecting yourself. What does that mean? Well, it depends on what respect means to you. Does respect mean being heard, understood, appreciated, accepted as you are, or some other distinctive quality? When you identify specifically what respect means to you, you can begin doing it for yourself. You listen intently to yourself, or accept yourself as you are, or appreciate what you have contributed.

When you are committed to respecting yourself in new and more satisfying ways, you will already become fulfilled deeply within. You will become one that recognizes yourself through your acts of self-respect. As you approach life from this centered place, you become a woman or man standing in your true source of power. In response, the rest of us will simply honor and recognize you as you already recognize yourself.

Because so many of our elders today have not experienced the respect and honor that is truly theirs, preparation for our elderhood quests and ceremonies at New Dream Foundation include a degree of emphasis in discovering the qualities of self-respect that fulfill you, and then we support you in living more consciously from that beautiful and powerful place of self-awareness. We know that from this place, your gifts to your communities as an elder have their greatest positive influence and strength. Furthermore, they will be received with the gratitude and respect due to a person of your wisdom and experience.

If this speaks to your heart, New Dream is preparing elders for questing and/or Elderhood Recognition Ceremonies beginning this September. You can discover more at: http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/schedule-classes.htm

As your needs become fulfilled, the elderhood quests can then be a place in which you delve deeper into the purpose and meaning of your sacred work during these golden years of your life, without the encumbrances that longing for respect and recognition can bring with them. The elderhood recognition ceremonies then honor your life of dedication and commitment to creating a better a world, based upon a clearer sense of purpose and service.

The journey to being recognized formally as an elder is a journey in which you fulfill yourself in every way. You lovingly fulfill each desire within you until life fulfills you as it is. In this true place of power, your presence in the world is a precious gift that will be respected and recognized.