#380 – The Three Secrets of Aging with John C. Robinson


John C. Robinson, Ph.D., D.Min. is a clinical psychologist with a second doctorate in ministry, an ordained interfaith minister, the author of seven books on the interface of psychology and spirituality, and last but not least, an aging Boomer with grown children and a gaggle of grandchildren. His professional work specialized in midlife, men’s issues, the integration of psychotherapy and spirituality, the nature of first-hand mystical experience, the psychology and spirituality of aging, and the archetypal revelations of myth and fairytale. A full time writer now, his recent works include a memoir/narrative on the transformation potential of aging (The Three Secrets of Aging), a collection of fairy tales (Bedtime Stories for Elders: What Fairy Tales Can Teach Us About the New Aging), and a work on a new myth for aging men (What Aging Men Want: Homer’s Odyssey as a Parable of Male Aging). www.johnrobinson.org.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

copyright 2013: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. phwaap
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    An important topic, the second half of life and aging. Many places to comment. Though “stopping to smell the roses” is always respectable advice, it’s really a more dangerous enterprise in the second half of life. If you really do it you’ll recognize that those beautiful flowers are rotting right before your eyes. Through the many layers of our personae, people still sense this lurking confrontation with death and hurry their step.
    That really is what these transitions are all about, are they not? Realizing Heraclitus’ change is the only constant, that we could never accumulate enough accolades, titles, lovers, relationships, material possessions, etc., to create the permanent foundation we so desire? No, we sense we are not all those things and that, when the mosaic of our persona cracks, nothing is there. This is beginning of the journey towards the religious outlook in the second half of life that Jung said was our primary concern.
    So many don’t heed this call, trying to ignore it with all sorts of soporifics, frantically maintaining the chinks in the shell. Others plummet to the depths and grope. It’s more terrifying by far than those pretty roses.
    I agree with Mr. Robinson about the importance of rituals. Places like the School of Lost Borders (http://www.schooloflostborders.org/term/adult-vision-fasts) and the Animas Valley Institute (http://www.animas.org/programs/great-place-to-start/the-animas-quest/) have excellent programs along these lines. Most of us aren’t capable of improvising our way through these states of liminality, as Stein called them, and can use the guidance of ritual.
    Heaven on Earth is indeed to be realized here and now. It’s the key insight of most Eastern practices and powerfully stated in Western texts like the Gospel of Thomas. As J. Campbell was fond of quoting, “the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.” But this indicates a path of transformation, rather than obedience, and it too is dangerous.

    Dr. Dave, you are of the Silent or the Lucky Few generation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Generation)!

  2. Oskar
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Just listening to your latest show and felt that I must write this down before I forget it. You speculate that there “must be some kind of body memory” involved in surgery. I can attest to that. I had a broken appendix at age eight, was severely ill, and went through a long and complicated surgery, which I fortunately slept through, seemingly peacefully.

    However, during a shamanic session two years ago, a cellular memory spontaneously arose and I instinctively knew that I was re-experiencing my body’s terror over the invasion that the surgery meant, and which it registered as if it had been wide awake, even though my brain was cut off from the feedback loop. It was horrifying. In my re-experiencing this, I understood that since my sleeping mind could not inform the body that the surgery was for my own good, the body had no idea what was going on and totally panicked as if it perceived the pain even though the brain was shut down.

    This memory was not sought or contrived in any way and I had no intention to bring up such events when I sat down to meditate. It came out of nowhere, which speaks to its autenticity.

    But the overarching theme that (also spontaneously) arose for me that weekend was about borders and boundaries, which I had been struggling with a lot. My lesson that session (see, I rhyme too), luminously clear, was that it’s a good thing to have boundaries around one’s own person, something that I had not yet realized. Until then I had basically been energetically naked.

    Seen in the light of this major theme of boundaries, the cellular or bodily memory makes perfect sense, I think. For it was the feeling of being invaded—and simultaneously paralyzed, unable to defend myself—that was most striking. To have my borders violated. Today I would think thrice before I let any doctor cut me open again.

    After this, I believe that the brain doesn’t have to be involved neither in perception nor in memories for them to register. I mean, the cortex and the spinal cord are supposed to be suspended during general anaesthesia, so how could such a memory form otherwise?

    I bet Stan Grof would have a lot to say about this 🙂

    This talk of ’no self’ is synchronistic to me since I just took a four week course online with Adyashanti. Its title? ”Experiencing No-Self.”

    If you want to delve deeper into the enlightenment game, Adya is the guy to talk to (if he grants an interview)! I have yet to find a teacher that speaks more clearly and down-to-earth about this subject.

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