This question was posed to me fifteen years ago – and in some sense has been on my mind & heart ever since.
In a culture where we actively try to hide our age, by dying our hair or with the anti-aging products we use, this question feels particularly relevant.
From the teachers I know & respect, the path to becoming an elder is a path of hard work and resilience, a path that requires dedication, fortitude & a whole lot of faith and humility.
For me this path has taken the form of cultivating a deep and sustained relationship to ancient technologies & deeply rooted practices with teachers that I trust.
In the path of elder hood we stand on the shoulders of our teachers. We walk in their footsteps. We are their dreams, as their steady influence & generosity nourishes our own dreams.
What does it take for an oak to become an elder? The crucial parts: deep roots that weave in a mesh of interconnectedness with other roots underground. Tall branches that are in constant contact with the cosmos. Many years of withstanding storms, droughts, infestations. Constant nourishment from the sun & the rain, tossed by the winds, the dance of xylem & phloem bringing information & sustenance up and down.
Looking at the oak, I see what I need in my life. A strong community of interconnection. A continual reaching for the light – for the values I believe and can stand strong in. Deep roots in the daily practices. Elders who are leading the way & pointing out my blind spots and mistakes.
We need all of these things. The inspiration of the cosmos and the nourishment of the roots.
The path to becoming an elder is a path to gaining wisdom, beset with many challenges and many experiments to test our mettle, to help us realize we’re stronger than we know, and to help us discover those things we value most.
Friendship, love, loyalty, authenticity, dependability, reliability.
These are qualities that are often overlooked in this entrepreneurial world where everyone has something to market, where we have to grab attention with drama, sensation, fireworks, and annoying repetition.
Kindness. Quiet wisdom. Observation. Silence. Patience.
These qualities matter just as much, if not more in the culture of Now.