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In “Aging to Sage-ing,”Rabbi  Zalmon Schachter-Shalomi, explores the question of our true nature first, by eloquently re-imagining Freud’s basic premise of Eros and Thanatos representing the dual nature of Humanity, and in particular, re-working Thanatos (which Freud called the Death Instinct) by re-interpreting it as an inward energy that bestows a sense of sacredness and preciousness of life and invites us to complete our life by consciously aging and consciously dying.  He also gives us tools we can use to heal, forgive, let go, accept and hold our selves and our lives with compassion so that we might release energies bound up in old stories and cultivate courage and curiosity to challenge our beliefs and ask of our stories: “Is it true” and “what if??  Then allow the linch pins to fall and our stories to unravel or dissolve as they will.  No attachment – no contention.

Three years ago right around this time I experienced a flashback that in hind sight (is there any other kind?) was the initiation invitation that got my attention and started  me in this direction of spiritual eldering…. the wife and I were in the car and next thing I know we are arguing about what, I have no earthly idea, but it’s heated and all of a sudden out of the blue I start freaking and shaking and with the good sense God gives women she backed away – pulling back as I shared with her a vision and an overwhelming fear of being trapped, cornered or caged by some thing or  someone unknown and in that space I would do or say anything to protect myself and fight back to the death.

Nothing like this had ever happened before and had it happened before we were ready and able to deal with it I highly doubt my partner and I would be together.  But there it was – this raw naked thing that had come forth in me and I needed to understand it – my partner needed to understand it and it seemed too big an event to turn away from.  My attitude was that it was an invitation to explore deeper rather than a symptom that I was screwed up big time.  Our Buddhist practices gave us the space and wisdom to pause, step back and re-frame this sudden out burst in new ways and part of doing that of course, is dropping the old ways.  This requires love and faith and sharing from an undefended heart.

Rabbi Z encourages us to look at our failures and our misfortunes along the way using the tools of journaling and experiential exercises laid out in his book and one technique that seems to dovetail with Vipassana Buddhist practices, he calls re-contextualization which he defines as: “using the panoramic vision that comes with old age to re-frame our old mistakes and failures and mining them for unexpected success and wisdom” (pp 20).  I was especially struck by his imagery of Harvesting the fruits of our lives using the tools of re-contextualizing our memories, re-visiting and re-examining some of the old events and stories that pop up and then the re-scripting of the story (if we choose and I think we can choose not) or simply allow the old story to melt and find there is no need to replace it with a new one.

I am no stranger to the couch or the leather chair and off and on throughout life I have sought others to mirror what I wasn’t seeing clearly or seeing at all.  I’ve always turned to others, no one has ever purposefully led me astray and there is a certain flavor of consciousness that grows from the mixed soils of different eyes and different points of view.  BUT in the past, going to therapy always seemed to imply that deep down in places I didn’t want to touch meant that there was something wrong with me…something ego insisted would result in discovering some thing dangerous – something to fear, something more to be ashamed off and so not knowing any differently, I had listened to the small self and believed my worst fear of myself, so of course none of the previous therapies changed me much.  But  this time, a foundation had been laid and by the grace of God and the fruits of my Buddhist practice I knew growth and  transformation would take place.

And so it began.  This process of deconstructing my old self-defining stories using the naturally occurring fruit of mindfulness practice to begin unraveling my entire “Bridges family myth and the place of Lil Bob, Just Bob, Rob and finally, Robert within it: (A tale of drama, trauma, woe and magical wonderness equal to the best of any child within us).  And it continues that as one layer of my stories dissolve  another rises and in that in between time there is no self and what does that say about what our true nature is?

The good Rabbi says that to continue this path of spiritual eldering we must come to terms with and lose our tight grips of the fears of death, of dying, aging, loss of identities/ of self and life.  My path is taking me this direction but my feet continue to drag and dawdle.  No point in pushing the river – no good comes of trying to force life to unfold on our terms – it won’t and we will just suffer.  I can only place my faith in the Dharma that life is unfolding as it is meant and that I too am unfolding as meant.

In opening to being a person that exists with 1 extra chromosome and by openly embracing the Klinefelter’s, opportunities to explore gender identity and the lack of Testosterone has pushed up a layer or two also.  As I peel these back new cracks appear though which light might enter and through which old stories might be re contextualized. I have entered the world of transgendered beings as an ally and having sat, joked, nibbled chocolate, spoke of drama and trauma and woe and wonderness, left feeling enriched and humbled and all I could think was that I have never met such amazingly beautiful people and how I likely wouldn’t have had dad not been gay and had I not have been gifted with the opportunity to work out my own gender queerness and now and then having glimpses of how being a K guy made it difficult for me to stay attached and focused on one career….”one less failure to hit myself over the head with…”

I was thinking of this as I walked the River Trail watching how the afternoon light lit up the Cottonwoods golden hues, pausing now and then to see if there was a way to frame the view to capture some of its radiance with my camera, and as I ambled along feeling content, peaceful and at ease, a thought arose:  “Its taken all my life to get her and here I am and I feel comfortable in these old shoes walking these old streets.”