Celebrating our Elders in Their December Years
By Tanis Helliwell
In this last month of the year I find myself reflecting on the many elders who have made a difference in my life and in the world. Not so long ago folks in their 60’s were considered ‘retired’ and not expected to contribute anything more. Now, it is not uncommon to find men and women in their late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s at the peak of their achievements and still gifting our world.
David Suzuki – the 70’s
As I write, 78-year-old David Suzuki is just completing a cross-Canada 32 city lecture tour, accompanied by Neil Young, Margaret Atwood, Raffi and others, to help enshrine environmental rights in Canada’s constitution. I was honoured to work with David and his wife Tara Cullis for 3 years when they were establishing the David Suzuki Foundation. As their organization consultant I assisted them, their staff and Board to examine their mission and align their mission to the projects on which they were working. Just a short time ago, when visiting David and Tara, David referred to my work with them and said, “You should be proud of what you helped us to accomplish.”
On my bad days when I feel I am not doing enough for the world or my energy lags it gives me hope to remember his words. At an age when many men are no longer alive, David Suzuki is a force of nature leading an environmental movement, not only in Canada but internationally.
Jean Houston – the 70’s
Another 78 year-old who has had an incredible impact on my life is Jean Houston. Over twenty years ago, when I had come to a standstill, not able to think of next steps, where to go, or what to do, I took myself off to study with Jean for a year and a half. She is known as the teacher of teachers and she certainly deserves that title. She advises people like Hilary Clinton and the presidents of Ecuador and has 26 books (the newest is The Wizard of Us) teaches and travels to bring the most recent findings in new thought into the mainstream.
Both David Suzuki and Jean Houston sleep only about 5 hours a night, and neither of them seem to need down time to recharge—their work recharges them. Last year when I was visiting Jean in Ashland Oregon she advised me to do more teleconferences and teleseminars and to accept more students for in-depth study. Jean always thinks BIG and her will and David’s are indomitable. They are both wonderful role models for me and for all of us in refusing to quit and in saying ‘Yes’ to life challenges and looking for how to make a difference.
Anne Baring, Barbara Marx Hubbard and Paul Horn – the 80’s
Jean strongly recommended that I read a new book by a British psychoanalyst, Anne Baring, called Dream of the Cosmos. I take any recommendation by Jean seriously and so immediately ordered that book. Anne Baring, at age 82, has written the most comprehensive history of our western culture from a depth perspective that I have ever read. Wisdom gleams through the pages and what was especially relevant to me was her exploration of what Jung terms our collective shadow and the damage it is wrecking on our world. When I spoke to Anne at her home in England about some of the difficulties I was facing in my life, she laughed and said at my young age (only in my 60’s) I had years and years left to work for and in the world.
Then there is futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard who in her mid-80’s, after years of being known to few, has moved into well-deserved recognition on the Shift Network for her work in what humanity is evolving into. Barbara is calling us forward in time to co-creation with the Earth and not looking backward, as many at her age are wont to do.
I also want to mention my friend flutist Paul Horn who, in his mid 80’s, passed a few months ago. Not only is he credited as being the father of new age music but also he brought Transcendental Meditation to North America and was the first TM teacher here. Paul was a very wise man who could as easily sit in silence and listen to others tell their stories as to have any desire to parade his accomplishments. He, and all these wonderful people continue to teach us by both their doing and their being….which brings me to people in their 90’s.
Franklin Merrell Wolff and others – the 90’s
Years ago I was brought by writer and teacher Richard Moss to meet an enlightened man Franklin Merrell Wolff who in his 90’s lived in relative seclusion. I have been fortunate in my life to know many powerful people but I have never to this current day met another individual whose very aura catapulted me into an altered state as it did with Dr. Wolff. Very few know of him, and I recommend his book Pathways into Space, which he wrote to document his journey to enlightenment, UNBELIEVABLY, at the very time that it was occurring.
When given the opportunity to speak with Dr. Wolfe about anything I would like, I was almost catatonic and could think of nothing else than talking about wolves if you can believe it. He did not treat me as if I was wasting his time but instead readily spoke with me about wolves and, as it was obvious that I could not drive in my altered condition, invited me to lunch. From him, I learned the lesson to treat others with dignity no matter where they are at in their evolution or how absurd their questions and even actions.
A few weeks ago I received an email from a man (who wishes to remain anonymous) asking me to look at his Spiritual Transformation blog and to suggest it to others. As Spiritual Transformation is the main trust of all my work I eagerly did so and wrote to him thanking him only to find out that he was 94 and in poor health, and passed away this last week. His blog contains articles on his distilled learnings about spirit over his lifetime study. I encourage you to read his articles and to share them with others: http://coronalongreach.wordpress.com. His life is a good example to all of us that there are wise spiritual individuals living among us leading what appear to be ordinary lives. They are determined seekers of truth and wayshowers on our path.