Back in 1982, Thomas Moore published the first of more than 20 books about the human condition. You may be familiar with his work for the Huffington Post, but this remarkable man is more than just an author or columnist. In fact, it could be argued that he is a renaissance man for our era because he is a former monk, a university professor, a psychotherapist and an acknowledged expert on the fields of archetypal psychology and mythology. Obviously, this is a man in his late 70s who has made an art of making the best use of every available moment.
When Moore was denied tenure at Southern Methodist University, he was propelled in a different — more spiritual — direction. His best-selling 1991 book "Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life" offers readers a beautiful look at the truth about aging and urges them to embrace (rather than fear) growing older. Unfortunately, all too often when we see words like "soul" or "spirituality" we confuse those concepts with religion, which then opens the door to disinterest, rejection or a sense of superiority ("My church — i.e. my beliefs or way of worship — is better than yours").
In Moore's latest book, "Ageless Soul: The Life Long Journey Toward Meaning and Joy," he offers us an entirely different approach to spirituality and aging. In his words: "When I use the word aging, I mean becoming more of a person and more you over time. I keep an image in my mind of cheese and wine. Some get better with the simple passage of time. ... your very purpose in life is to age, to become what you are; essentially, to unfold and let your inborn nature be revealed. You let your ageless self, your soul, peak out from behind the more anxious, active self."
He reminds us that while our souls are with us every moment we experience, they are also ageless. And he more frequently uses the term "elder" to describe an individual who has arrived at a time when friendship and community can flourish. The way he sees it, the years help us become more alive, connected and engaged. Here is his list of the five distinct phases of aging:
—Feeling Immortal (when you don't believe that your lifespan is limited).
—First Taste of Aging (when you began to accept that life is not permanent).
—Settling Into Maturity (when you begin to see changes).
—Shifting Toward Old Age (when you begin to feel old age approaching).
—Acceptance (when you let things take their course and flow with what age brings).
If you find yourself struggling with the higher number that greets you each birthday, I can't think of another author who is better equipped to provide a better perspective than Moore. In the nicest possible way, he reminds us that trying to fight the natural process of growing old is a futile activity. He urges us to embrace the process of becoming an elder and put that stage into action as a friend, a grandparent, a healer, a mentor and the creator of a worthwhile life and legacy.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.