Dr. Lori Soli’s Vision of Conscious Aging
I admit that when I first heard the phrase “conscious aging,” I imagined fiber drinks, walkers with tennis balls on the ends, and smiling seniors with perfect teeth in Depends commercials. Nothing could be farther from Dr. Lori Soli’s vision. Through my recent conversations with the buoyant humanistic psychologist, I have become a cheerleader of the concept, and actively seek my own version of its meaning in my life, which she encourages everyone to do. She emphasizes that there is no generic template for healthy aging, and that how we choose to embody each phase of life is unique and personal. The tragedy arises when we limit ourselves because of someone else’s idea of how we should be.
“Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Dr. Seuss
So, what is conscious aging? Before you write off the concept as something too complicated for folks who aren’t writing a doctoral thesis, you may want to take a fresh look at that old, beloved children’s book collecting dust in the attic: Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! Read it cover to cover, and then you might get the gist of it. Dr. Soli refers to the book’s relevance in one of her class descriptions in the itinerary for her upcoming Healthy Aging specialty week at Skyterra Wellness Retreat, beginning April 28th, 2019.
While many of us already know that the book contains life’s true secrets, most of us haven't applied it to the process of aging. The whimsical masterpiece actually seems to sum up much of what makes conscious aging so worthy of our attention:
- The knowledge that we can write our destiny on our own terms
- The ability to accept change through life’s phases with knowledge instead of fear
- A road map to help us follow our own path toward happiness
We all want this, right? The ideas are fairly simple, yet not always simple to manifest in one’s own life. That’s why we need exceptional guides like the two good doctors: Suess and Soli.
Aging requires a rearrangement of the roles we play in life. Sometimes it’s hard to let them go.
“With conscious aging, there is a sense of purposefulness; of being able to take charge of your process to the extent that you can,” Dr. Soli says. She likes to highlight the opportunities in these changes instead of enabling an imbalanced focus on the losses. “By engaging in a week like this,” she says of the upcoming retreat, “ it gives people a different opportunity to take on and try on those perspectives and use a different language that they may have never even imagined was an option before.”
We feel pressure to conform to our culture’s expectations about age.
Have you ever felt like you shouldn't wear that skirt, hike that mountain, or play that electric guitar because you are too old? What is exceptional about Dr. Soli’s focus is that it can change a person’s perceptions about what is possible. She observes that too many people see aging only in terms of what they can no longer do. By participating in her upcoming week at Skyterra Wellness Retreat, participants will explore their true potential, and learn how to free themselves from artificial definitions of age that no longer serve them. They will also learn tips for longevity and self-care.
When a person awakens to the hidden riches of these new phases of life, as she encourages us to do, he or she may no longer feel limited.
Dr. Soli imagines that this awakening is infectious, and that it creates a more extensive support system that people can take back out into their communities, “as they converse with their friends, their family, their bowling league, their swim club, their book club.” She sees this deeper awareness about what is possible with change as a means of taking control of one’s life. With a shift in how we imagine ourselves, we can achieve liberation from perceived limitations throughout our lives, she believes. “If we claim it, if we walk it, if we talk it,” she says, “we don’t have to convince anyone else because they see possibilities instead of seeing things that are closed.”
“My hope is that people may walk away from the week with a sense of empowerment.”
Both wise doctors, (Suess and Soli), remind us that even though aging can seem scary and unknown, it can also bring wonderful change if we learn to become comfortable wearing some of the new hats. I see Dr. Soli as a living, breathing example of this kind of freedom. Like she envisions in her ideal of conscious and healthy aging, her exemplification is infectious. I had the unique honor of going through the Skyterra Wellness Retreat program alongside her in January, and have seen how authentically she lives out her ideals. I cannot imagine a more healing and rejuvenating environment to explore her teachings.
“At the end of almost everything I do in life,” she said to me of her hopes that others can enjoy this same freedom, “one of the underlying themes is to empower people and help them to live the best lives that they possibly can. I really believe that we don’t ever have to stop doing that.”