Much of the everyday literature on aging focuses on health: bodily health first, mental health second. Little is said, though, about what new elders recognize as the critical component: spiritual health. Being a new elder is spiritual work. It is work that acknowledges yet transcends the day-to-day mundane concerns of everyday life and helps forge a connection to something beyond. It involves understanding the temporal in light of the universal. It helps us see our place not just in the world, but in the full universe of possibilities.
As a consequence of this, new elders are easily amused; they see the essential absurdity of it all. Moreover, they have the ability to help others see this absurdity and laugh at things, and themselves, as well.
They see and appreciate the paradoxical nature of life: They realize the more that you know, the less you know; that happiness cannot be pursued directly; that getting love means giving love. They're still growing. They have great curiosity about things and realize they haven't got it all locked up. They accept that there's some stuff they don't know and may never know.
New elders recognize they won't be around forever. Consequently, they have a somewhat paradoxical outlook: On the one hand, they see each moment as precious; on the other hand, they recognize that the time they won't be on Earth is infinitely longer than the time they will be. And so, while they are deeply concerned with the here and now, they are also powerfully in touch with the eternal.
New elders recognize that death is our most profound teacher. Without death, our lives would have no meaning. Death frames an end for us and also puts a value on things. New eldership is, in part, a state of coming to terms with oneself and one's life. It isn't a matter of accepting everything, or of not wishing some things couldn't have been or are not different. But still, it is a matter of accepting things more or less as they are, of realizing that the best that one can do is the best that one can do. New elders don't settle for less than their best efforts, but they do realize that their best efforts may also not achieve the best results. And rather than agonize over what might have been, given how things were, they tend to focus on what may be, given how things are.
One of the most useful practices we have found in the ongoing development that leads to becoming a new elder is to commit one's thoughts to paper in a journal. Journaling allows us to find and express our inner voice in a manner that helps us better understand who we are, where we belong, what we care about, and what our life's purpose is.
The following examples are not meant to be models of the form, but rather, simply to illustrate that if we can do it, so can you.