Just before Christmas I had the honor of spending an hour with a group of forty elders at their retirement community. The occasion for my visit was that I had been invited to come and give a talk about “How To Maintain Spiritual and Emotional Wellness Through the Season of Winter.” Here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the days are quite short this time of year and it is important for all of us, no matter how old or young we are, to be proactive about staying well. I accepted this invitation without hesitation because I have found that I always benefit from spending time with people who have more years of wisdom on this earth than I do.
I began my time with these wonderful people, most of them in their 80’s and 90’s, by sharing with them a core teaching from our Living Compass wellness programs. That teaching is, “The wisdom is already in the room.” This teaching is a reminder that whenever a group of people gather to discuss wellness and wholeness, every person brings a great deal of wisdom with them. It is also an effective way to remind people that the most important wisdom can be found within what people already know and not necessarily in what some presumed “expert” knows.
So as I began my “talk” at the retirement community, surrounded by a room full of wise souls, I said, “The wisdom is already here in the room. You have gained it over the years and have brought it with you today, and together we are going to learn from each other about how to enhance our spiritual and emotional wellness.” I’m delighted to report that they spent the next hour proving my assumption to be correct.
I had a large pad of paper on an easel and together, as a community, we worked to create a list of essential habits and practices they gleaned as being good for the nurturing of one’s heart and soul. What made the list so powerful, is not just the ideas that were shared, but the context within which they were shared. Many of the elders shared quite personally about very real challenges they were facing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and so the wisdom they shared was clearly coming deep from their life experiences. I made sure to copy the list and I share it with you here. I hope you enjoy and appreciate the wisdom I found in this group as much as I did.
“Things That Strengthen One’s Spiritual and Emotional Wellness as Shared by the Residents of St.John’s on the Lake, Milwaukee, WI, December, 2016”
Cultivating an “Attitude of Gratitude”
Reading books on spirituality
Spending more time with friends-not isolating
Spending more time with children
Forgiving freely-others and yourself
Letting go of regrets
Not taking yourself too seriously
Praying, meditating, embracing being quiet
Singing as often as possible
Spending more time listening, rather than just talking
Learning to accept and love things as they are, including your aging body
Supporting one another
Staying active, trying to move some every day
Finding the blessing in each day
Remembering the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer
Every time you see someone, even if you don’t know them, greet them with a smile
Reflecting back on this experience, I know one thing I would add to this list as something that I believe always enhances our spiritual and emotional wellness: Spending more time with the elders in our families and in our communities.