Aging - The New Paradigm - Development and Fulfillment
Some thirty years ago I was attending N.Y.U.'s Graduate school for Movement Therapy. When I asked the then Chairman of the Dept. what the underlying theory to all the courses they were giving us was, his answer was that there wasn't any.
Then he looked at me and said, "Stefan, we hope you will develop one."
Well thirty years later I am happy to report that I did.
In the meantime I founded Creative Aging with Johanna Vandenberg. I met with hundreds of people of all ages during my affiliation with the organization and came to the not-so-surprising conclusion that people were completely resistant to the idea of aging - of growing older.
Beside retirement not much about becoming 60, 70 or 80 appealed to most people. It was and is viewed as a period of decline, rather than what it really is, a period that promises being human will come to full expression.
Having done my undergraduate work in Physics I started to ask fundamental questions about reality and human development.
Why do we go through this process of being born, youth, adulthood, and finally growing old?
Is there a purpose? Is there a plan?
I learned to look for intelligence in the Universe, so I persisted 'living in the question'.
And after many years the answer slowly started to unfold.
There is a plan - we are just oblivious to it. Our context for life is a mis-perception.
And that's not unusual - we held that the earth was the center of the universe until Galileo postulated otherwise; we thought people were demon possessed until Freud postulated the existence of prior experiences as the cause of some of our destructive behavior.
And even though Democritus postulated the existence of atoms 2500 years ago, we dismissed the theory until the 1850's. Atoms are invisible and sophisticated, intelligent, educated people would never believe in tiny, invisible things. Please.
Yes, the last stage of life has always been intended to be the most fruitful, the most powerful, the most fulfilling.
But when life expectancy was 15-20 years, or 40-50, it was hard to experience what the later stages of life have to offer.
A new theory of human development has been offered to replace our world view - the Freudian, Jungian, Maslowian, etc. view of a life span - The Continuum Theory.
Its basic tenet is that life is a three-stage developmental process - with the body, then the mind, and finally the spirit coming into full development. This theory treats spirit in the same experiential way we think of body and mind - and not in any spiritual or religious way.
It defines spirit in terms of its purpose and function in human existence, how it is developed, how it is nourished and nurtured, and finally what its development means to our ability to create our life from vision, from context, self-generated, as opposed to handed to us by parental and societal expectations.
No longer will aging be viewed as a destructive process, but rather as a natural unfolding from more limited understanding of life to an ever greater one.
From the impetuous powerlessness of youth to affect meaningful change, to the patient powerful force of people, who with fully developed spirit can touch the heart of society and accomplish, in an effortless way, in a compassionate, loving way, the changes that are necessary to bring peace and prosperity to all of earth inhabitants.