Day 69: Eldering...?
My river-walk friend spoke with some passion yesterday about eldering. She’s been shaped in multiple wisdom traditions, but this focus on eldering seems to root most in the Dagara wisdom of Malidoma and Sobonfu Some from Burkina Faso, West Africa. Today, a glimpse of my own musings, instigated and inspired by her wisdom-sharing with me…to witness, mirror, explore while also honoring the distinctiveness of my own lineages.
I sense how eldering differs from teaching, guiding, or mentoring, though cannot analytically articulate it. There seems to be an energetic charge of belonging within eldering that may or may not be present in those other terms. Elders arrive in your life, sometimes sought, sometimes not. They speak with an authority into your life, landing their love into your choices underneath cognitive awareness. Felt and even potentially resisted, but loved, loving. Elders need not be older.
This resonates within me, though spirit-friendship is the language that I had access to over these many years. Certain men and women have landed into my life with the sense of providence, connection, belonging completely under the cognitive, analytical mind. I hear their words with an added authority of sacred wisdom, and have learned to trust in this way because of the fruit borne over time.
I also recognize that I have landed in others’ lives with this sense of sacred authority, not sought but undeniably felt within them somehow. I have been guided to and been more forceful in holding learning/listening spaces for some folks in a Spirit frame beyond my previously perceived vocation(s). Eldering? I wonder.
In my own conceptual frames, this forcefulness or loving care extended beyond expectation has felt like ‘goin’ to meddlin.’ Well over a decade ago, I think, a spirit-friend felt not quite himself to me. He seemed to be making choices and distracted from his family, his marriage, in ways that did not feel like the man I knew. It arose in me without thought to mirror, to witness, to name this aloud to him…which over a year after he thanked me for. Eldering? I dunno…
One of the leadership academies I held back in 2017 entailed holding a fierce learning space for women to take deep-dives into their own awakenings to the feminine. There was a journey we took collectively that had a similar sort of ‘root belonging’ and ‘initiatory energy’ throughout... The grief work and soul mirroring was more than a portion of the participants could withstand; they had no framework deep enough to hold the Sacred unfolding. One of the most vocal directed all her shadow projections onto me. And yet I knew to hold space, honor her pain, let the initiation unfold as it would at some cost to myself. Eldering? I wonder…
In the deepest sense, it doesn’t matter what we call it. Sacred work is what rises in surrender. But I am drawn into the initiation of a wisdom that restores…restores us to ourselves, to one another, to expressive delight in the world.