By John C. Robinson
The first wave of 76 million “Baby Boomers,” representing 28 percent of the American population, turned 65 in 2011 and they will live longer than any previous generation in history – at least 15 years more than their parents! – creating an entirely new developmental stage of life. But what is this revolutionary longevity for? Just to get old and die? As a psychologist and interfaith minister, I’ve been researching and writing about aging for several years and what I have learned is breathtaking. I now believe that twenty-first century aging represents a new and largely uncharted stage of psychological, spiritual and mystical development driven by these three powerful forces:
Initiation: Aging initiates us a new and extraordinary stage of life. The events and processes of aging – changing bodies, fading identities, and losses of all shapes and sizes – tell us that a new time has arrived. We are leaving the old world of middle-aged goals and values for an unprecedented adventure in consciousness, an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth unprecedented in human history. While aging may represent the end of our old life, it is also the beginning of a new one.
Transformation: Aging is a transformation of self and consciousness. Surrendering our old identity, schedule and roles, our sense of self changes. No longer constrained by the rules of the middle years, we have the freedom to do and be whatever we want. Growth possibilities from the unfinished self blossom creating with new interests, goals and life possibilities. And the spiritual/mystical dimension is even more amazing. With the dissolution of identity, time, story, we can move into an expanded consciousness. If we are perceptive, we discover that consciousness is not just in me, I am in it, and it is the consciousness of the divine universe - a realization the mystics in every religion have described and one that is central to enlightenment. Who you think you are dissolves into a self of magic, joy, compassion, wonder, and love.
Revelation: As we leave the rat race of middle adulthood, we finally stop and smell the roses, and discover that the world is far more beautiful and amazing than we had time to see. The expansion of consciousness described above then takes this new capacity for seeing another step, revealing a world that is not only beautiful, it is sacred. We were never kicked out of the garden, we left on our own to enter the “rat race” world of man. As we wake up from our collective nightmare, Eden shines all around us. Mystics from every religion have been telling us for centuries that Heaven is already here when we are awake enough to see it.
This is not your old, grim historical aging, the “retire-and-die-two-years-later” kind. The new aging will change your life if you take the time to understand and experience it. Write down everything you believe about aging, throw it in the garbage, and join me at the 2018 Aging In America Conference for a magical journey of self discovery.
Dr. John C. Robinson is a clinical psychologist, author of The Three Secrets of Aging: Seeking Enlightenment in the New Aging and will present at the 2018 Aging in America Conference in San Francisco in March.