March 2016

Spirit logo

A newsletter from the
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View
Centers for Spirituality and Aging
Thoughts on Grieving and Loving
During the Center's February workshop with Wendy Lustbader, detailed below, Wendy made four powerful statements about grief.  
  • If we build a wall around our sorrow, we will never be known.
  • Grief heals when it's received by a caring other.
  • It's impossible to mourn what you've never known you've lost.
  • To grieve is to experience a relationship. 
These words reminded me of a meme I've seen on Facebook.  "Grief is the price we pay for love."  When I looked it up, I found the source of those words in this quote:

The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs.  
               -Dr. Colin Murray Parkes, psychiatrist at St. Christopher's Hospice
We so often want to concentrate on love (especially around Valentine's Day), but we are reluctant to grieve. There is little space for grieving in our culture. Yet as we work with older adults we, I think, need to be seeking to listen for their griefs, known and unknown. I'll never forget a conversation I had with a woman who was taking a memoir writing class we offer at our retirement communities. She said, "Writing about my life has made me realize how significant it was that my mother died when I was two years old."  

In her writing, she had discovered a grief that until that point was unknown. I experienced her as a person who had many walls around her sorrow, but in that moment, they came down just a bit. In telling me about her grief, she was able to be known a bit more completely.  And I hope that in both her reflection on that, and in her grieving for her mother in that time in her life, she was able to experience a bit of the relationship she didn't remember having with her mother.
Over and over again I keep reading that the goal of the spiritual journey is to be our most authentic selves. To be those authentic selves we have to know our griefs as well as our joys. Perhaps the most profound work we can do for ourselves and for others is to fully grieve our losses. Only then is there space for others to come to us with their losses.  Only then can joy be truly experienced.
Save the Date! 

The Essential Spirit

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
 10 AM - 3 PM

Join us for a dialogue about spirituality and presentations on the essential spiritual nature of caring for older adults with the editor and chapter authors of The Essential Spirit: Providing Wholistic Services to and with Older Adults, edited by Donald Koepke and recently published by California Lutheran Homes.   
Scheduled speakers are: Donald Koepke M.Div, BCC; Cordula Dick-Muehlke, Ph.D; Giovanna Piazza, M.Div, BCC; and Nancy Gordon, M.Div.  This workshop will be held at Walnut Village Retirement Community in Anaheim.
"Beyond Care" Engages and Illuminates
A Learning Circle Session at "Beyond Care"

Highly engaging and relevant to our work.  It was a renewing experience to the soul.  Very empowering and informative.

These were just a few of the responses to Wendy Lustbader's unique workshop, "Beyond Care: The Glorious Adventure of the Spirit," hosted at the Center's Anaheim location on February 2nd. This  workshop  used the experience of Carter Catlett Williams as its guide and foundation. Williams discovered new vibrancy and life in her older years, when she found the courage to venture into the depths of losing her father as a very young child. She wrote about this experience in her book, The Glorious Adventure. 
Wendy invited participants to our own potentially life-changing growth and self-discovery in  the first part of the workshop, leading us in exploring our own lives and making real for us the many ways the soul enlarges when we allow grief and vulnerability to become doorways to spiritual growth and well-being.  

In the second part of the workshop, we learned how to apply these personal learnings in our work with older adults using Learning Circles, one-on-one interaction, and personal journaling. 
Engaging through Art
The National Center for Creative Aging has recently released a series of videos that are a resource for caregivers. Each video demonstrates the use of art in creating a moment of connection and joy for both caregiver and care receiver. I was invited to a workshop-demonstration of the methods here in Los Angeles this week, and I think this could be a powerful tool for caregivers in memory care settings, for caregivers in the home, and for families seeking to find a way to connect with their loved ones when they visit. The Center's Creative Caregiving Initiative website has introductions and guidance for each art experience and they will be adding more. And it's all free!

Transforming Aging Summit, March 1-3, 2016
Join some of the top experts in the field of conscious aging, who are also role models and mentors for living a more meaningful, joyful and purpose-filled life in "early elderhood" or second adulthood, which Mary Catherine Bateson calls "The Age of Active Wisdom."

During this inspiring 3-day on-line summit, you can learn:
  • Effective practices for better health, mental acuity and wellbeing
  • Exciting possibilities for the next stage of your life
  • Illuminating insights on how spiritual needs change as you age
  • Ways to free up more energy as you release your "baggage"
  • A supportive community of kindred spirits
  • Your important role as an elder - helping others now and leaving a legacy for future generation
For more information on this free on-line event, go here.

Spring Symposium on Mindfulness and Spirituality
The Oates Institute has   announced its lineup of presenters for the annual on-line symposium that runs  April 19-29, 2016. It will feature:
  • Father Richard Rohr, OFM - "Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer" 
  • Peter Buecker, MD - "Mindfulness as a Path to Inner Peace: A Physician's Journey"
  • Father Joseph Mitchell, CP - "The Physical, Psychological, and Spiritual Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation"
  • Glenn Hinson, Ph.D - "Mindfulness Practices in the Christian Tradition: What Have I Learned from Thomas Merton and Douglas Steere, a Quaker"
  • Eric McCollum, Ph.D, LCSW, LMF - "Mindfulness for Therapists and Other Helping Professionals"
  • Tenzin Kiyosaki, Hospice Chaplain - "Buddhist Mindfulness & Contemplation"
For more information on schedule and cost, please go here.
I leave you with a Celtic blessing to nourish you and your work.

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
of water flowing, rising and falling,
sometimes advancing, sometimes receding. . . 
May the stream of your life flow unimpeded!
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
--adapted from the Gaelic by Mary Rogers

Nancy Gordon, Director
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging