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The Ten Things I Love Most About The Magic of Aging

Since my own retirement from the practice of psychotherapy some twelve years ago, I have been teaching a course on the psychology and spirituality of aging, I have presented this material in retreat centers, churches, book signings, men's gatherings, blogs, articles and books, and, especially fun, in endless conversations with good friends. In my course, currently titled "The Magic of Aging," I don't talk much about depression, memory loss, dementia, retirement planning or any of those other dreary topics everyone else teaches; rather I describe the tasks, gifts and meaning of aging, the archetypal forces that move us toward higher levels of consciousness (if we're willing), and the practices that can turn aging into wisdom and enlightenment. It's been great!

So, I thought I'd share my enthusiasm for aging with one of those numbered lists you see on the magazine covers at grocery checkout lines. Here is my list of the top ten things I love about teaching this course.

1. The folks who take my course almost always feel grateful to exchange a grim and scary version of aging for one filled with optimism, creativity, possibilities, and personal growth.

2. People are also grateful because they finally get to talk about the experience of aging, not just the endless details of retirement planning, investments, living wills, power of attorney for healthcare decisions, reverse mortgages, assisted living facilities, and tiresome physical complaints. There's plenty of that at everywhere on the web.

3. In the course of our work, people tell their life stories, heal and forgive old wounds, break free from the chains of guilt, regret, and sadness, and begin to thrive again. We are initiating each other into an entirely new stage of life, why hang onto the past?

4. People develop new interests, hobbies, talents, and goals. Life becomes exciting and meaningful again. There's no dearth of new beginnings in this "third age."

5. From the ever-deepening sharing, laughter, and exploration of common themes, people develop new friendships, trading isolation for community.

6. From the class material, and from our rich sharing, insights emerge that make sense of the challenging issues and events of aging. We learn, for example, how confronting our own personal death can release us from worry about what others think, what we have (or haven't) done in our lives, and the whole "project of self" that once seemed so important. We learn the lessons of loss and purpose of grief. We learn to create an elder ritual that actually changes the elder. Aging is a rich soil for growing wisdom.

7. People move from religious orthodoxy to an intuitive and reassuring spirituality that guides their path through life, aging and death.

8. Honoring the true self within, people begin a new stage of personal and spiritual growth, making changes in their lives, taking risks, and re-inventing themselves.

9. The mystical stages and transformations of the enlightenment process arrive more readily in aging, if we pay attention, for they are happening anyway and all we need to do is notice.

10. In the midst of all this plenitude, I have probably benefited as much as anybody else. I love how this work keeps me growing as well. This is an amazing time of life.
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