Shamanic Wisdom for Fruitful Aging: Medicine Teachings to Mine the Gold of the Golden Years

By Tom Pinkson

Our elder years can present us with challenging experiences. Changes in our bodies and minds often feel unwelcome and can leave us struggling as some faculties diminish. Things just don’t seem to work as fluidly and easily as they used to. These are tremors that can shake us off our feet and undermine us at a time when we most need a strong sense of self and wellbeing in order to meet a radical set of changes to the very structure of our lives.

Think about facing the impact of retirement, loss of faculties, loss of home, the merciless onslaught of pain, and the dissolution of relationship and family as our spouses, partners and loved ones precede us in death. Think about facing these trials without our best self at hand — or worse, with a weakened or damaged remnant of self.

The good news is that Increasing research evidences that grounded spirituality is a resource that offers a guiding life-enhancing vision in challenging times through connection with something greater than ego self — something transcendent, boundless, ultimate... the Divine.

We all carry the seed-potential for growing into spiritual maturity but it needs proper watering to reach full potential. The gift of growing older lies in the opportunity to grow into our highest potentials of self-realization, exploring new ways of seeing and new ways of being. Aging and longevity can be an adventure of exploration leading to a new sense of self and purpose. It’s about learning to use our minds to heal ourselves, to heal our relationships, and to create a sense of inner peace by opening our heart to our love-based essence, purpose in being, and knowing the truth of who and what we really are.

The mainstream Western paradigm of aging and older people is ageist and negative, leading to despair, depression and the waste of valuable wisdom. Indigenous wisdom ways from a shamanic perspective come from cultures that recognize and utilize their elders in socially integrative ways for intergenerational benefit. The “medicine teachings and practices” they embody constitute an understanding of deeper reality and how to access it for realizing our highest potentials as human beings.

A shamanic worldview and the practices therein offer ways for understanding the wisdom teachings of your life and for healing relationships from the inside out. They help you live from conscious intention in alignment with your life purpose, thereby creating a legacy of fulfillment by completing the assignments of your heart-path by contributing your gifts in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

How? By learning to use the heart and soul as organs of perception and insight, which Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux Holy Man, eloquently articulates from an indigenous perspective:

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the Universe and all its powers and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells the Great Spirit and that this center is really everywhere; it is within each of us.
— Black Elk, Oglala Sioux (1863-1950)

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This article appears in: 2017 Catalyst, Issue 5: Transforming Aging