The world needs more elders. Our children need more elders. Congress needs more elders.
Where are the elders we need going to come from?
If not you and me. Then who?
There are a lot of adult-adolescent thinkers who would like to believe they have what it takes to be an elder. Yet most of them would be shocked to learn that they have yet to master most, if not all, of the five master skills that define a true elder.
I list them by number from 1 to 5, but each of the five skills listed below is no more or less important than the others. And more importantly, to be considered a true elder one has to have mastered all five.
You do not master these skills simply because you “understand” them or attempt to “do” them. Anyone can pretend competency but until these skills become who you are, one cannot claim mastery or the title of elder.
What are the Five Master Skills Of A True Elder
- An elder has achieved a high level of self-awareness.
They have embraced and recognize the beams in their own eye. When they have an internal, emotional, knee-jerk reaction to an outside event, they look inside for the shadow belief or emotional button hiding in their psyche. Their emotional energy is not projected out into the world. They manifest humility and compassion. Stated simply, they do their own work.
- An elder is an empathic listener.
They recognize that empathic listening is more important than advice giving. They trust that others are capable of discovering truth for themselves. They manifest their wisdom through silent presence and empathic listening. When asked a question they will share their own experience. They do not use the question as an opportunity to give advice or change the other person.
- An elder recognizes that their beliefs about spirituality and reality are no more than a collection of various human maps they have adopted to make sense of and understand, the world they live in.
They know their maps will need to be adjusted from time to time as they grow into deeper knowledge. They trust that a bad map will always invite pain. They know that only an open mind can determine where the pain is coming from. Only an open mind can know when and how to adjust its maps of reality. When others ask a direct question about life and their views of reality, elders simply share their own experience. They do not give advice. They do not need to be “right”.
- An elder does not “push the river”.
They do not attempt to avoid or deny the necessary pain and suffering that is part of life. They embrace the pain and learn from it. They recognize that until we have stumbled and fallen we will never learn to embrace our true selves. Until we have stumbled and fallen, we will never have the wisdom necessary to give up the need to control that our primitive ego strives so hard to achieve. Until we have stumbled and fallen, we will continue to manifest our false self by attempting to fix, control, and change everything that fails to conform to our beliefs and assumptions about how things “should be”. Until we have stumbled and fallen, we will be unable to embrace humility and compassion. Stated in another way, an elder does not attempt to “push the river”. They allow reality to simply be what it “is” and then learn from the experience. When they confront a reality that conflicts with their beliefs, they simply manifest the behaviors and energy they would like to see and experience in the world.
- An elder has learned to embrace paradox.
They have learned to walk the non-dual middlepath between two opposing ideas without taking sides. They simply search for the truths on both sides of every issue. They have no need to be “right” or embrace their own ideological beliefs as representing absolute truth. They recognize that opposing beliefs provide the negative feedback necessary for balance. They know that opposing beliefs will help them to more fully understand the strengths and weakness’ contained in their own beliefs and assumptions. Once they have the wisdom and insights contained on both sides of the issue they search for compromise and a way forward; a way forward that avoids the limitations, and embraces the strengths, contained in the arguments being offered by both sides of the issue.
Summary of Five Master Skills Of A True Elder
True elders have awakened and achieved the level of self-awareness and wisdom necessary to lead and guide others.
- They have no egoic “i” to protect.
- They have learned to embrace humility.
- They have no need to divide the world into dualistic categories of right and wrong, or “us” vs. “them”; the source of most of the violence we see in the world today.
- They are comfortable with paradox and uncertainty.
- They embrace heart energy, not ego energy.
- They have learned to see the world in “wholes”, not just in parts.
- They have learned to embrace an “opened mind”.
In the words of Richard Rohr in his book “Falling Upwards”…… “Unless you develop some concrete practice for recognizing and overcoming your dualistic mind, you will remain in the first half of life forever. Nondualistic thinking presumes that you have first mastered dualistic clarity, but also found it insufficient for the really big issues like love, suffering, death, and ultimate mystery.”
True elders have the wisdom and insights necessary to embrace the concepts of compassion, mutual benefit for all, compromise, and most importantly, the ability to embrace all of reality, not just the parts of reality that agree with their own subjective beliefs and ideas of what “should” be.
We need more elders in positions of leadership in our world.
If not you and me. Then who? If not now. Then when?