The power of lived experience and perceptions.
What a golden opportunity I was given to write a blog for the upcoming Healthy Aging: Embracing Life’s Seasons week that I will be facilitating at the end of the month. Elated, I began. And stopped. Feeling stuck, I pondered how to start a blog about a topic no one likes. For certain, in our westernized society, talk of aging is right up there with having teeth pulled and finding a snake in your suitcase. So welcome to this perhaps less-than-perfect introduction of me, Lori Low Soli, and some of the thoughts and feelings I have about healthy aging.
Through these passages, you will be invited to ponder the challenges, limits, and possibilities of language as it pertains to the topic (note the avoidance there). A brief visitation to April Cope’s article 5 of the World's Longevity Hotspots will pave the way for you to learn about my influencers, and philosophies, and how these have woven together to inform my work with people through their lifespans. You will see just what a golden opportunity (no pun intended) you have to participate in this unique week at Skyterra Wellness Retreat, and why it may not only change your life, but the lives of those you love, your community, and in doing so, maybe even the world.
You hold the roadmap to navigate new opportunities.
A professor of mine once said we are made up of the sum total of our lived experiences. Though this professor wasn’t my favorite, those words resonated deeply with me. They offered a new lens through which I viewed my past as well as a grounding philosophy for how I continue to approach people. Throughout my decades of work as a counselor, educator and life coach, it appears undeniably true that we really are the sum total of our experiences. Each and every experience you have changes you, whether you know it or not. No matter your chronological age, your past lived experiences are the stories you tell. They are the fabric of your life and are formed by your unique perceptions.
Your perception of an event cannot replicate mine, for you are not me, and I do not have your mind, heart, and spirit. That said, perceptions often dictate ‘reality.’ Luckily, perceptions, like the meaning of words, can be changed. I invite you to commit to changing your perceptions about what ‘aging’ means. Isn’t it time to shed some of that limited, unproductive thinking, and do a hard reset to celebrating, lifting up, reveling in, looking forward to the fact that we get to keep living! You hold the road map to create opportunities for new, lived experiences. You set the plan in motion. Each new day, you can change your perception, and thus change yourself, and create a life you love. Doing so does take some practice. The week that I will lead at Skyterra will help guide this shift in perception about aging and free you to reinvent yourself.
Are you happy with letting the world define you?
Consider this majestic tree. I call her the Grandmother Tree because her grace and wisdom helped me transition to becoming a grandmother myself. The Grandmother Tree does not care when others call her a crone, elderly, or senior. She is not offended when referred to as stately, aging, mature, or old. She does not seek a nip here and a tuck there, no cool sculpt for her, although she does appreciate receiving the needed nourishment to continue thriving. As you consider your own perceptions of these words, what comes to mind? From where do your beliefs emerge? Are they indeed what you feel, or have you absorbed them as truth over time? Are they grounded in a Western culture that worships youth and beauty at the expense of human dignity and healthy development through the life cycle? If so, are you good with signing off on that? Are you happy with letting a word define you? Are you willing to give your power away?
Embrace the possibility that words can have different meanings.
What if today you delimited your perception of all the words about all seasons of life and embraced a different possibility of their meanings? Maybe you would feel more personal freedom or opportunity, and perhaps less shame. Possibly this internal shift may lead you to approach someone for whom you are providing caregiving differently or equip you with a way to ask your friends or family for what you need. It might even provide you with opportunities to be a source of contribution to others. You will never know unless you lean into and embrace the possibility of thinking about words differently. It is yours, no matter who or where you are. You are the power of words.
This wonderful snippet from Eric and Joan Erickson’s The Life Cycle Completed in which the authors close the circle of Erikson's timeless developmental theories, outlining the unique rewards and challenges—for both individuals and society—of very old age.
“We must dig down to the roots, to the very seed, of ‘wisdom’ and ‘integrity.’ The Oxford English Dictionary relentlessly boils words down, offering us old and valid earthbound connections. After six inches of tiny print, we arrive at the word, the mother lodestone or kernel of illustrious ‘wisdom.’ This small root is veda, to ‘see, to know.’”
Curating your own Blue Zone.
5 of the World’s Longevity Hotspots features concepts from Dan Buettner’s book The Blue Zone. The term Blue Zone, from Dan’s perspective, delineates five world regions that contain the most centenarians and enjoy greater overall health compared to other populations. The fact that longevity is not accidental leaps from the pages of this work. Valuing each individual, having a sense of purpose and productivity, and an active community all intertwine to build the optimal web of a long, strong, and healthy life. These foundational elements may seem challenging to manufacture individually, and yet, they are possible. They will be part of each participant's experiential action during the Skyterra Embracing Life’s Seasons week. I invite you to join us for this exploration in Skyterra's beautiful, mountain retreat.
“You become what you think about most. But you also attract what you think about most.” ~ John Assaraf
Editor’s note: Look out for Dr. Soli’s Part 2. In her Golden Opportunities for a Second Childhood series.