By Wendy Dudley
“I Am Mountain. I Am Ocean. I Am Sky. I am Sun. I am Moon. I am Pachamama, Mother Earth.” Standing at the Highwood Pass in the northern stretch of the Rocky Mountain Cordillera in Alberta, Canada, I spread my wings, declaring who I Am, and also who I am Becoming. This is a grounding exercise, a way to root my soul in the soil. Having recently suffered a family loss, I am vulnerable, and so seek the stability of the mountain.
This Misty Mountain range keeps me centered, the position of an Elder.
We stand in our space, hold our ground, and let world events swirl around us, for we have weathered many storms. Let the winds of change blow, let the wild rivers flow. We have lived through many challenges, we have witnessed many losses, we are aware of the bigger picture of where humanity fits into the history of the planet. There is so much more than just Us. Let such wisdom not fade from civic culture.
I believe it is from this position that we listen, support and guide those who are having difficulty navigating testy waters. Humanity is in transition, and we all know someone who is struggling to find her or his way, while trying to dodge the dark rabbit holes.
As Elders, our life experiences and compassion have given us the wisdom to stay centered, to not drift into divisive polarities. As a retired newspaper reporter, I know there are more than two sides to a story; often there are dozens. So many opinions, so many perspectives. No one position is absolute.
Coming from a place of compassion, we take the time to understand the stories behind multiple points of view. We model acceptance, equanimity and calmness. Wisdom is not intelligence, expertise or moral superiority. Elders know better than to focus on being Right, at the sacrifice of building Relationship.
And we, perhaps more so than many generations, should be grateful. Today, I am full of Gratitude, for having survived this long. For being able to say I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. I am grateful for these wild mountains and rivers, for family, for friends, for my purpose. But I am especially grateful for the time in which I have lived.
Our generation slipped in between the Second World War and the ongoing pandemic that has no end in sight.
I think of our parents who toughed out the Depression era, who experienced the despair of a World War that lasted six years, who endured food rationing, and who in later years found themselves confused by a fast-paced generation that spoke in technological terms they could barely understand.
And so today, I stand in the mountains, giving gratitude that the greater portion of my life has been without life-threatening hardship. Most of us had it pretty good, when it comes to avoiding global crises. We’ve had a good kick at the can.
I think of the young ones, looking ahead, whose beginning years are now rooted in Fear, something we know will affect them for years to come, and take years to heal.
Unlike us, they have most of their lifetime ahead of them.
Will the Peace that we marched for in the ‘60s ever be found, in a world that presently seems to be more divided than ever, a world racked with cruelty, angst, anger, frustration and fatal overdoses? I offer this sentiment by the late theologist and physician, Albert Schweitzer: “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes the ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
This is not to say that we too do not feel the intensity of these current times, from political turmoil to concern about the state of the planet. We may not always remain calm, but we do know emotional balance. We make the journey from Head to Heart, where we find inner peace, contentment, and compassion. We act wisely, because we do no good if we too fall off the rails. To take on anger and hate is to give power to those emotions. Humanity desperately needs healing. If we do not mend our divides, we will dwell forever in tribalism. And healing cannot take place when each side is trying to out-shout the other. Why feed divisiveness, when we can still be activists or pacifists without being pulled off-center.
If we succumb to the push-and-pull dynamics between polarities, we risk our mental, physical and spiritual health. And how well can we serve if we are not well? Is our purpose not to show compassion and a will to help others? So we ask: “How best can I serve, and in turn, what serves me well?”
To cite the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Find what works for you, as only you know what makes you feel good, what helps you feel centered, and who makes you smile. Work and play within your circle to maintain your social health and sense of community and belonging. As elders, we know there are no problems, only solutions. Walk and talk with Presence.
We all know wise ones who say little, but whose chosen words say so much.
Their confidence is palpable, their posture one of confidence. They know who they are. They know why they came here. They know life. They stand as Mountains.
Wendy Dudley is an eco-spiritist, visual artist and writer, shamanic practitioner and spiritual healer. Her website is www.wendydudleyart.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org