Here is a wordy one for you. . .
Many things can assist us in facing our fears of death and moving towards peacefulness; exercise. meditation, prayer, making amends, preparing our will, clarified relationship with God or the Cosmos or our belief systems around letting go and decay. We may risk being open with relative strangers, own up to very human failings and repair important human relationships. But perhaps most pivotal of these is something Rabi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls the practice of “Life Harvesting” – and, he says, it is this life harvesting that is the crux of “Soul-Making” – the growth and rising up of our passionate essence.
Jungian analyst Florida Scott-Maxwell in her journal “The Measure of My Days” which she began writing at age 82, shares: “my 70’s were interesting, and fairly serene, but my 80’s are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. . . inside we flame with a wild life that is almost incommunicable.” Elder years are NOT just a fading away, their fullness is different from the fullness of youth – and yet it shares similarities. An inner passion for growth is one of these.
Schachter-Shalomi, in his fabulous book FROM AGING TO SAGING; A REVOLUTIONARY APROACH TO GROWING OLDER says:
“The heart blossoms briefly in adolescence, when we sense that something tremendous is supposed to happen.” He goes on “Unfortunately, our materialistic culture provides few vehicles for [youth] to convert their spiritual idealism to practical reality.” “That great longing in the heart is diverted to social and sexual channels. It goes underground but can resurface in elderhood after a detour of five decades.”
This passion is, at it’s essence, a longing for our own souls’ wisdom.
“The real challenge of old age” he goes on, “is to risk all habitual frames of reference and to open the mind to another field of possibility that lies beyond the physical. Having gained a foothold on the inner world, we can then face death with calm anticipation rather than horrifying fear.” (Italics mine.)
The task of life-harvesting is in “Using the panoramic vision that comes with age, to re-frame our so called mistakes and failures, mining them for the unexpected success and wisdom that were their fallout.”
Schechter-Shalomi says the purpose of life review – of this “harvesting” process is “To put to bed the ‘what-ifs and should-haves’ of a lifetime. And in this way, to begin feeling more peaceful and self accepting”. And here, to me, is the gold in all this:
The peace we find in self-acceptance allows us to examine our mortality with less fear, and to live our remaining moments (however long or short these may be) not with fear and constriction, but with a sense of curiosity, appreciation and willingness to continue exploring.
I want to leave you with two things:
And when we, or the dying, take these brave risks, we are not running through “life review” for it’s own sake. “We are not”, as Schechter Shalomi says “just reminiscing about the good old days”. When we learn to HARVEST from our lives (both the ‘successes’ and the so-called ‘failures’), we are not only actively befriending our own deaths, but are deeply “engaging in the process of soul-making”.
A soulful day unto you all, my friends!
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Rev. Maya Massar