A Shining Light

Today a good friend died, and I never even met him.

It feels to me that a shining light in the world has gone out.

My heart was deeply touched by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi when I read his book From Age-ing to Sage-ing.

I had been in my mid 50’s grappling with my apprehension about getting older. He wrote of his own fears of aging and about his personal journey in addressing them. From his experiences, he developed a process to help people consider their lives in such a way as to then create more deeply satisfying lives.

The process includes doing a life review to “harvest” the gifts of our past experiences, to appreciate what we’ve accomplished (no matter how small or large) and to forgive others and ourselves. After looking at our past and doing the sometimes challenging yet crucial “inner work” and healing, he has us look at how we could be valuable, contributing “elders”, elders who respect ourselves in a country that is youth-obsessed. Our society has no positive elder role for older people to aspire to, as they do in other cultures.

Most of us wish to share our knowledge, experience and wisdom instead of buying into the cultural expectation that we’ll step aside from actively working into a life of leisure. In recent years there have been many more “Positive Aging” and “Conscious Aging” articles. Numerous organizations also encourage older people to live active and engaged lives. Yet overall, our culture does not expect us to continue growing, learning and contributing our special gifts and abilities in our later years. For example, many people who are experienced indicate that, after retiring from full time employment, they still want and/or need to work on a full-time, part-time or seasonal basis. Unfortunately there is a serious and widespread lack of work opportunities in business, government, non-profit and educational settings for older workers. Ironically, their leaving the workforce has been creating a “brain drain” for the very organizations that have not yet designed ways to continue using their talents in a modified way!

How can we carve out our own positive roles? It takes courage and self-knowledge to find or create the ways in which we want to contribute. It takes exploration to find work, activities, hobbies and sports that really engage us. It takes perseverance to find organizations with the vision and willingness to use the skills being offered by elders. More than ever before, older people are being pro-active and starting businesses to provide services or products that are important to them and to their clients/customers. Elders also find many ways to volunteer in meaningful ways.

Reb Zalman caught my attention in a powerful way and I agreed with him that I don’t want to become old and invisible to people younger than myself. I want to be a vibrant elder who continues to make a difference in the world.

As I prepare to attend a Sage-ing International conference and to connect with, learn from and be inspired by Sage-ing Leaders, I continue to consider what being a wise elder will be for me. How will I be different from who I am today? What will I do differently? With these questions in mind, I have great gratitude in my heart for the wise, inclusive, loved-by-people-of-all-faiths-from-around-the-world man with an impish grin and a twinkle in his eyes. He has left an important legacy.

When I think of the Wheel of Life and how quickly it turns, it reminds me that I want to live each day fully and to do what I authentically desire to do rather than bog myself down unnecessarily with “shoulds and musts”. And I want to be a shining light to the people I have contact with in person, by phone, in writing and through my art. I want to continue having a sense of direction and purpose in my later years.

As you consider your life, are you being the person you most want to be? And if you are not fully doing so, what can you do, little by little, to make the difference you want to with your friends, families, communities and the world? What small action can you take? How do you want to be that is different from who you are currently being? What kind of shining light are you?


Lorrie’s Learnings is a monthly e-article which shares my awarenesses, learnings, contemplations and anything else that comes to the mind of this life coach! Let me know the articles that give you new perspectives/thoughts/feelings, confirm what you’ve been thinking or move you into action. To receive Lorrie’s Learnings straight to your email inbox, click here!