For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Preparing for the EROP
We will provide you with some specific activities after your registration for EROP is complete. However even starting now, in addition to those items which we’ll ask of you later, we invite you (and all) to use the following resources to prepare.
The Journey of Illumination, with its five touchstones, is a wonderful place to start. These touchstones are rhythms or practices we think are important to include in one’s journey, and they are Centering, Gathering, Connecting, Releasing, and Serving. To them, for purposes of the EROP we add Listening and Creating.
Centering– Preparing for any rite of passage is always a good time to check in with your current centering practices. We encourage centering that involves the body, as well as the mind and heart.
Gathering– Let your community know that you are coming. Ask for their communal support before during and after the rites, as well as what the community might be asking of you. The more the place or community in which you elder knows that you are embarking on this work, the better. Remember to go beyond human communities with this practice.
Connecting– Work with a close friend, partner, spiritual director, or some other intimate soul who can walk with you through this process. Spend time connecting with them before and after the EROP and ask for them to pray for you throughout. This may also be a guide from beyond.
Releasing– What is needing released either before or as part of this process for you? Moving into any major life change requires a making of space, a stripping away of that which no longer serves. What is coming for you and how might you ritually mark this?
Serving– Eldering is a service for which the world is thirsting. It is more about transformational presence than transformational action; a deep engagement that holds the good of all in mind. The question is are there particular contexts in which you especially feel called to be? Eldering is not a private, inner work, nor simply about dealing with end of life, it is a deepening of engagement in the world, but from a different posture. Service thus might look different, but is as intertwined with eldering as breathing. How will you let your life speak in this new stage?
Listening– Part of the life of the Elder is the practice of deep listening. This is tending to what future generations are needing to be birthed today, it is reflecting on what our ancestors are saying, it is listening to God, to the more than human world, to everything! The deep listening of an elder gives special priority to those whose voices are not being heard or are being silenced. It is listens between the gaps, beyond the current conversations, it strains to hear what and who is missing, it is listening with the ear of Elijah who in the silence, sensed the very voice of the Creator.
There are too many possible practices to list here, but perhaps consider writing a letter from your great great great grandchildren 100 years from now to yourself today. What are they asking of you to do now, to be now, on their behalf?
Another form of listening is reading and we offer a reading list for you here.
Readings on Eldering:
- From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older. By Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Ronald Miller.
- Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. by Richard Rohr
- Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up. by James Hollis
- The End of Old Age., by Dr. Marc Agronin
Readings on Death & Dying
- Required Reading: On Hallowing One’s Diminishments (Pendle Hill Pamphlets Book 292) by John Yungblut.
This little book, written by a teacher of contemplation who develops Parkinson’s disease, is a reflection on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of “hallowing one’s diminishments.” Pendle Hill’s pamphlets are designed to be read in one sitting and are available on amazon kindle or through www.pendlehill.com.
- The Divine Art of Dying. by Karen Speerstra and Herbert Anderson
- The Five Invitations. by Frank Ostases
- With the End in Mind. by Kathryn Mannix
- Die Wise. by Stephen Jenkinson
Other Genres: We encourage you to read other genres of writing as well as you prepare for the rites. This might include poetry, funeral and burial liturgies, or samples of “ethical wills”.
Consider educating yourself about wilderness burial as well. This link takes you to White Eagle, the wilderness graveyard at Ekone, where we will spend one of the days at EROP. The time in the graveyard is a powerful part of the broader work that unfolds at EROP. This sacred ground is being stewarded on an ongoing basis. If you get an opportunity, listening to the land can evoke insights you wouldn’t hear elsewhere, whether in the wilderness, or in a graveyard, or in a wilderness graveyard.
Creating– Being generative as a soul practice is something that continues throughout life. This might be writing, working with your hands, gardening, creating art, cooking, dancing, singing, or any number of other creative practices. The point is to find joy in a simple practice of being one who creates. Being creative is part of being in the imago dei; it is intrinsically tied to your humanity. One assignment we’ll give to you beforehand is to write your obituary with a couple of different styles…what has your life already spoken?
After the EROP
Following the EROP you will be invited into further work with fellow Elders. This work started at EROP is a beginning, a launching, a deepening, a place to engage the conversation of this stage of life. A container to continue this work is already being created by the last EROP cohort, and will continue to be provided by the community of Elders. This work is not only for your own benefit but to further push you into how you are to be in this world during these troubled times. Men may return to the EROP periodically as returning elders, to further their work and to aid in the process of ushering in others into the eldering journey.