Dr. Tom Lavin, “The Art of Growing Wiser”
Jung in Ireland 2007
In the second half of life, the body declines, but the soul rises. As elders we have the ability and responsibility to mentor others because we now know from experience that everything passes; this is something you don’t know when you’re younger.
Growing wiser is an art and there is an energy growing bestows. There’s no gold watch to commemorate this passage.
Art actually points beyond itself to a deep place of wonder that can literally take your breath away. It magnetizes the soul.
We need this sense of dream time and astonishment. Journeys allow us to maintain vibrant contact with the extraordinary. For our sanity we need to take journeys out of the ordinary, into the extraordinary and back again. This also infuses life with more passion.
Traditionally people’s biggest fears: there’s not enough, need to hold on, being alone, death.
The ancient wisdom of the Tao says we will always have enough, we can let go, we’re never alone, and dying is like coming home.
Dr. Lavin recommends Sages Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu (Steven Mitchell translation). He opens it synchronistically, i.e., allowing the universe to guide him to the right page:
Today’s page: “The sage does not retire from life. The sage retires from unhappiness.”
Retirement, Dr. Lavin says, is about doing what we should always have been doing, living with joy. As the Tao says,” Retire from the strain of seeking security.”
Jung wrote The Stages of Life in which he mapped many of life’s crucial turning points.
One gift of Jungian psychology is that it guides us to gently turn at those points, and therefore keep moving and growing.
Rilke said: “I live my life in widening circles.” We have to take the time to grow wiser, to participate in active imagination, to experience liminal space. We can get stuck in certain stories and images and need to push to the next thing.
Dr. Lavin encourages us to read The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger as Your Body Grows Older by Elkhonon Goldberg. (see book list below) He also cites an article from Time Magazine that tells us certain aspects of the brain only form after a particular age.
You can be wise and isolated but not lonely because you are partnered from within. Wisdom is a gift and the earliest forms were the feminine. We don’t have images for the deepest energies inside us.
As we’ve grown, we’ve also rejected parts of ourselves we’ve outgrown or never liked. Jungian psychology is inclusive and Dr. Lavin encourages us to let back in our rejected selves. They had virtues, even though we’re glad we’re not them any more.
“Forgive those selves that make mistakes and begin to like them.” This heals the struggle with the polar parts of our personalities.
We’re on a collective and a personal journey but the collective is all about mediocrity, fitting in, not standing out. It does not encourage individuation.
This may have come from Wendy Donniger’s lecture: It’s ironic but a lot of what we become happened as a result of suffering, yet as parents we want to protect our children from suffering. The world presents it to them anyway.
Check out these books and venues:
Sages Tao Te Ching
The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Body Grows Older
"According to New York University neuropsychologist Elkhonon Goldberg, brains get better in key respects as they get older. Moreover, he argues in The Wisdom Paradox, people can do much to ward off the debilities associated with aging."
Jung in Ireland and other programs: http://www.nyjungcenter.org/
Glossary of Terms: (Compiled by Daryl Sharp, Inner City Books)
Archetype: ...Universal and recurring image, pattern or motif representing a typical human experience. Archetypal images come from the collective unconscious and are the basic content of religions, mythologies, legends and art. They also emerge...through dreams and visions.
Collective Unconscious: The deepest layer of the unconscious, which is ordinarily inaccessible to awareness. It is universal and non-individual...The contents of the collective unconscious are the archetypes and their specific images.
Persona (Latin) Actor's Mask: It is the partially calculated public face an individual assumes in relating to others. The persona is derived from the expectations of society and the early training by parents and teaches. It is the role one plays in society, useful both in facilitating contact with others and as a protective covering, but inhibiting when one identifies with it.
Synchronicity: A term coined by Jung...to explain the occurrence of meaningful coincidence...whenever an inner psychic happening (dream, vision, premonition) is accompanied by a corresponding outer physical event which could not have been causally connected with the former.
Unconscious: That portion of the psyche which is outside conscious awareness. The unconscious expresses itself in dreams, fantasies, obsesive preoccupations, slips of the tngue and accidents of all kinds. Jung distinguishes two layers of the unconscious containing the universal patterns and images called archetypes.