I just started reading a book, "From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older," by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller, and I am so excited about it. I'm also excitedly thinking of starting a new group to help us age with grace.

Our present culture focuses on physical diminishments, which is a one-sided view of aging. The book describes a positive aging movement taking place rather than a stereotypical physical and mental decline. The book labels this new model of late-life development as "sage-ing," a process that enables older people to become spiritually radiant, physically vital and socially responsible. The ongoing process is called spiritual eldering, which transforms the elder's life to give purpose and meaning, honor and dignity. Spiritual elders use the teachings of yoga, Buddhism, shamanism, contemplative Christianity, Sufism and Kabbalah to awaken their intuition, wisdom, and perception, aiming to feed this back into society through mentoring and positions of leadership.

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Writers previously have painted dim pictures of aging: loss of identity, purposelessness, emptiness, infirmity, depression and fear of death. William Shakespeare describes old age in "As You Like It" as second childishness. The Bible also paints a distressing picture in Ecclesiastes 12:1-5.

Gay Gaer Luce, author of "Longer Life More Joy: Techniques for Enhancing Health, Happiness & Inner Vision," says elderhood "is a time to discover inner richness for self-development and spiritual growth. It is also a time of transition and preparation for dying. … Out of this time … come our sages, healers, prophets, and models for the generations to follow." People don't automatically become sages simply by living to a great age. They become wise by undertaking the inner work (that leads to expanded consciousness) and undertaking new learning by using growth methods and breakthroughs from research into the brain and mind.

This sentence inspired me: "Elderhood offers us the wonderful opportunity to complete our lives triumphantly." But then that begs the question of how many of us accept the offer? We can sit in our rocking chairs thinking about the good old days, and compare bodily breakdowns and disappointments with friends — or we can create a more fulfilling future for ourselves. Why not be a model for others showing the positive potential of old age with your competence, caring and wisdom?

Abraham J. Heschel in "The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence" writes that he finds it helpful to adopt a biblical perspective of every seven years as one month of the life cycle; biblical writers observed the rhythm of organic time, and Heschel believes they coincide with periods of growth in the human body and psyche. By the October, November and December of our lives, it's time for harvesting what we've sown in life. I say let's celebrate our accomplishments and mentor others for rewards, too. My reading has inspired me to start a sage-ing group so we can harvest the wisdom of our years and transmit a legacy to future generations. Interested in joining? Email me at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com so we can get started on an exciting future.

The Rev. Ellin M. Dize is executive director of nonprofit NRS Inc. and facilitates A Course in Miracles spiritual discussion group at St. Paul's UCC. She can be contacted at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com.

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