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Article: Conscious Aging and Worldview Transformation

by Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, PhD, Cassandra Vieten, PhD, and Kathleen Erickson-Freeman

Abstract
Aging invites changes in worldview as people encounter the challenges and opportunities of growing older, progressing through developmental stages that connect to body, mind, society and spirit. As people age, worldviews can become more rigid, constricted, suspicious, or fearful in response to the challenges of retirement, friends and loved ones becoming ill or dying, cognitive decline, and societal undervaluing of elders. However, these experiences—along with the rewards of often having more time and freedom to interact with family and grandchildren, contribute to society, and engage in contemplation and reflection—can also lead to an expanded sense of self and the world. Bringing explicit awareness during aging to how one’s worldview changes and influences perceptions and actions can enhance personal and social experiences and behaviors and lead to a stance of radical acceptance toward death and dying. Based on a series of qualitative and quantitative studies on worldview transformation in the context of aging, we explore in this paper the ways that conscious inquiry can inform our experiences of aging, our models of what happens when we die, and our understanding of the way these beliefs impact how we live. We also outline a curriculum designed to help expand awareness of conscious aging and facilitate a supportive atmosphere for exploration and mutual discovery.

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