Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year- 2014

The barking from across the ocean lets me know the sunrise is soon. Our friend tells us that sea lions know when the sunrise is coming and they get even more excited when it’s going to be a beauty!

This morning the sea lions call loudly. The cacophony from across the ocean wakes us early. From our bed inside the yurt we hear them clearly. The nights are long now.  The darkness of night still lingers at 7:30. If we move, we know we’ll get to the point in time to watch the rising of the sun! Pouring our coffee in our travelling cups we walk the 5 minutes through the woods to Drumbeg Park.

It’s early, and, it’s worth it. The sun peeks her way up over the mountains and soon there’s a stream of light across the water. Together we talk about the wonder of our universe as it revolves around the sun. We are moving, all the time, and we are exposed to different views along the way.  It inspires me.

The new year begins this week. 2014 looms! There are so many exciting changes ahead of me.

We leave for Thailand next week after a brief solo visit to NY to see my mom. Thailand is a place we’ve never been to, and the prospect of tapping into new culture is exciting! We have many plans to visit friends, scuba dive, practice Yoga, eat good food and learn. We’ll finish our trip in India to visit friends and be in the places we love. We return to Gabriola in spring just in time for planting our gardens.

Paul and I are building our house on Gabriola. After living in tents, then our yurt, and existing mostly outside, we’ve decided to build a house with real walls and a more obvious separation from the outdoors. Our friends, who are accomplished builders, are the primary builders. Paul and I intend to help. So far the planning and dreaming process has brought us all closer together. In November, the process begins for real.

I will be in my 60th of life during 2014! For me that inspires deep reflection and contemplation. I look forward to creating new ways of getting out there in my world. I intend to be the best ’60 year old’ person that I can be! This coming year gives me time to reflect and plan for that. I see big changes in my future. A desire to ‘nest’, spend time with my family, and cultivate the creative essence of who I am, are all plans for this coming year.

I continue to recreate myself in my work. As I plan on being here continuously through the year, I can accept more ‘permanent’ positions. Creating a learning community for a full year is different from dropping in for a few days. I look forward to cultivating long term relationships with groups of teachers and with young people in various learning environments. And I want my work to continue to enhance the lives of others.

I have committed to a nine-month intensive Yoga programme on the island. Regular retreats and weekly classes of focussed practice are ways for me to more thoroughly integrate Yoga into my life. Working with Flo will enhance my own practice and also give me the confidence to share what I know with others. By the summer months I want to be teaching two separate classes. One of them will be for older women and the other for people who might benefit from simple practice and the understanding of how Yoga can fit easily into their lives.

This year I want to be physically healthy and strong. That means focussing more on what I eat, and trying not to eat (and drink) some things. I want to remain active and concentrate on turning 60 gracefully and strong. Yoga, running, bicycling, weight bearing exercises are all activities I want to enhance in my life.

Travel will be different this year. Shorter trips perhaps more often. We’re planning to take trips with our kids and meet up with friends in different places of the world. My ‘nesting’ desire leads me to want to be close. I also want to go to places I’ve never been! And I want to explore the world with my best friend and husband, Paul.

I find myself in a place in my life, where I think “It can’t get better than this”! I have the most wonderful partnership in marriage than I could even have asked for. My children are all happy, self-sufficient and loving. I have close friends in so many places who welcome me and love me and with whom I share many adventures. I have good work to do. I live in a most spectacular place.

I have everything material that I could possibly want. On the one hand 2014 can’t get better than this! On the other…..anything is possible. Anything is possible!

To all….may your year also bring joy, adventure, love, growth and good health! Happy 2014!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pondering the Christmas Spirit

Bah Humbug! 

It’s not that I don’t like holiday time. How can I not! People generally seem more joyful, more considerate, more generous, and caring. Shopping for gifts, being influenced to think about others’ desires are all ways for us to practise the ‘giving spirit’. Colourful lights sparkling sporadically as we drive down the streets. Twinkling charms that beckon us to come together, share hot soup, sing in song, join in celebration of life.

It’s not that I don’t like holiday time! I just frustrate about the fact that we can’t be like this with each other all the time.

It’s like my distaste for Mother’s Day. I discourage gift giving and special treatment from my kids on Mother’s Day. I want them to practise that respect on other days of the year too. Not just one! And I don’t want only one day of the year when we spend time together! Why wait for public pressure to express love for mom!!!

And Valentine’s Day! Is that the one day of the year that we openly express love for lovers and friends? We could do that every day, and it feels so good to share that love! Imagine... sending a card to someone you care for just for appreciation for another day of being able to love them! Or receiving a delicious box of chocolates in June, just because you are loved and cared about!
Thanksgiving Day can be a bit wearisome too. Is there only one day of the year when we sit down together with family and friends and give thanks for all that the world has to offer us? I think not! We could only benefit by doing that everyday!

I suppose, on the one hand, if we don’t have these holidays that help us ‘model’ how to appreciate our lives, many of us would never have the practice. Highlighting days that remind us to show thoughtfulness and gratitude and expressions of love for people in our lives, is a little like taking an exam. The purpose of an exam is to show what we know. Sometimes we cram for the exam, making sure we regurgitate the content to satisfy the system. Sometimes we learn for the exam, and the content becomes completely integrated into our lives. When that happens, exam taking is easy. We know how to do it. It becomes innate to our being and practising what we learned becomes more authentic. The content becomes integrated.

Sometimes though, we 'cram' and our objective is simply to pass the exam. We put effort in to getting the answers right, sometimes without really learning the material. We pass the exam all right, but, do we really understand the content? Have we really learned what the exam set out to test in the first place? Does giving the ‘perfect gift’ on Christmas provide enough depth to continue to give even when the holiday isn’t here?

I want to live in a world where practising appreciation and caring happens every day. I want to be able to pass any ‘pop quiz’ that comes my way, and be ready to achieve passing grades in life at any given time!

Bah humbug? Not really! Just Happy Holidays to all and sincere hopes that we can share love and joy together and make each day a special holy day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thank You Eric!

There’s nothing new! My undergraduate degree from university was in English Literature with a minor in Psychology. I was, even then, aware of the infancy of the science of Psychology at that time. Although there were several theorists with ideas about psychological development, there was still uncertainty and confusion about what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘deviant’ behaviour.

I remember learning at that time about Eric Erikson’s theory of The Eight Ages of Man, a structural theory of human development that is based on generalization and age appropriate expectations. Even then, I was leery about those generalizations and questioned the authenticity of the stages. As I grew and continued my studies in education and child development, I began to understand that these generalizations provide a basic framework for understanding and not a definitive structure. Instead they allow for a context for emotional and psychological growth within one’s own social environment. Throughout my life so far, I have referred to Erikson’s theory to help me ground myself in ‘normal’ and help me understand my self in relation to the world around me.

Today, as I hike through the mountains of Ojai in California, I ponder the idea:  “What am I really doing in this lifetime?” As change becomes the only constant in my life I continue to question what I’m doing. Once again, I find solace in his theory.

Next month I turn 59 years old. That means I will be in my 60th year of life. I have raised 7 incredible human beings and continue to be involved in each of their lives. I have forged an incredible career in education and continue to share my experiences and expertise with youth and educators all over the world. I am socially conscious and actively involved in trying to make our world a better place. In Hebrew we call that ‘Tikkun Olam’ - repairing the world. I am grateful for my life thus far and excited about exploring further, learning more, expanding my own possibilities and remaining aware of how to help our younger people develop a sense of efficacy and a realistic approach to possible changes to address.

For each stage of development, Erikson provides two possibilities for age acquisition. (For the complete explanation of the eight ages, check out Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development). Basically, Erikson suggests that at each stage, there is possibility for crisis or for healthy development.

1.  TRUST VS. MISTRUST (BIRTH- 18 MONTHS)                                              5.   IDENTITY VS. ROLE CONFUSION (12- 17 YEARS)
2.   AUTONOMY VS. SHAME AND DOUBT (18 MONTHS - 3 YEARS)                   6.   INTIMACY VS. ISOLATION  (17- 35 YEARS)
3.   INITIATIVE VS. GUILT (3 - 5 YEARS)                                                       7.   GENERATIVITY VS. STAGNATION (35- 65 YEARS)
4.   INDUSTRY VS. INFERIORITY (5 -12 YEARS)                                             8.   INTEGRITY VS. DESPAIR (65 - DEATH)

Ideally, individuals who live through this 7th stage with a sense of generativity, find it easier to transition into the last stage (Integrity vs. Despair) with a strong sense of achievement and satisfaction about accomplishments and progress.  Appreciation and gratitude help us feel a sense of satisfaction, even a sense of completion. “I have lived a good life. I have done well. I am satisfied.” Alternatively, if a person is not finding contentment in these years, the final stage leads to a sense of regret and despair.For me, at this point, I focus on my current stage of development. The second stage of adulthood (ages 35-64) Erikson calls Generativity vs. Stagnation. These are the years of concentration on career development and immersion in our work world. It is the time to give back to our society and help improve the world through vocation and healthy life style choices. It is also, for many, the time for family creating, giving birth to and growing up children to be strong, happy and independent human beings. Marriage, family, social life and work provide the social structure that guides our world during these years. All of this gives a sense of purpose.
One thing I’m very aware about is that I am undoubtedly in the 7th stage of the eight ages identified! In fact, more modern theorists even suggest that the stage of Generativity vs. Stagnation actually finishes at 55 years old. That’s an amazing realization for me… am I that old? At the same time, I’m okay with that. I feel healthy and strong. I remain excited and curious about my immediate world. I am full of love for most of those people around me. I am still often awe struck by my natural (and often unnatural) surroundings. I want to find love where I am, seek inner strength when necessary, and maintain good health. I want to have a sense of worth always, and nurture my desire to help others. In fact, I want to keep doing and being all of those things, right through the end of my life! I want to continue to feel positive about living and maintain a wholesome place in this world. And if and when that stops, I think I’ll be ready. But, for now, I think I’ll just get ready for my next adventure.