20 May 2024

Living life in full bloom

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The Southern Cross | May 2024

Lorraine Muir is the kind of person who likes to stop and smell the roses (all flowers for that matter). She believes there’s no better time to do so than in the second half of life.

Seventy-four-year-old Lorraine lives in South Australia’s Riverland.

She has been an educator and pioneer of holistic and person-centred care in the areas of specialised dementia care, palliative care and ageing for more than
30 years.

Lorraine is also the facilitator of ‘Elderflowering: The Inner Face of Conscious Eldering’, a series of interactive, creative workshops aimed at helping people embrace continual growth and potential during the ageing process. She is delighted to help others in what she calls ‘the winter years’ of her own life.

“Elderflowering is part of a ‘conscious eldering’ movement that specifically focuses on the inner journey we can choose to take for a fulfilling second half of life,” Lorraine says. “The concept of is really catching on. It is an invitation for us to achieve who we can truly be as we age, not just what we can do.”

The notion of conscious eldering was started in the United States in 2010 by Ron Pevny, founder and director of the Center for Conscious Eldering.

“It’s about what we do as elders to pass on to the next generation,” Lorraine says.

“The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart picked up on this concept and they’re very passionate about the idea of conscious eldering. Sr Maryellen Thomas ran a retreat on Conscious Eldering at Lake Bonney in the Riverland 2022, near where I live.

“I’d never heard of it before but went along and was very impressed. I developed a friendship with Sr Maryellen and came away from the workshop thinking a lot about conscious eldering. It’s not just what we can pass on physically to the next generation, it’s also about the inner journey we can take as an elder and what we can pass on in a wisdom tradition.”

Lorraine, who is part of the Our Lady of the River parish, was enthused and told Sr Maryellen she planned to write a book about it. “Sr Maryellen said, ‘This also needs to be a workshop. It needs to go out to the world’.”

So, ‘Elderflowering: The Inner Face of Conscious Eldering’ was born. “You couldn’t fit all the information into just one day, it needed to be at least four sessions,” Lorraine says. “Ultimately, it’s all about the reflection you can do to find out who you authentically are. This can be a rite of passage that grants healing, insight, integration, and deep joy.”

Lorraine is quick to add that ‘older’ and ‘elder’ are not the same thing. “To be an elder is a role that is consciously chosen and requires preparation at different all levels of our life, most importantly spiritual,” she says.

“To be conscious means to be awake and in a spiritual sense, it recognises a feeling, sense or acknowledgement of something greater than ourselves. As we age, this spiritual awakening can be an invitation for us to revisit and explore the inner mansions and experiences of our lives and see them again through the discerning eyes of an elder.”

Lorraine is no stranger to looking back on life’s diverse chapters. “The autumn of my life happened in my 40s. I had a huge awakening. Consciousness is really just about waking up. I started writing religious and spiritual poetry at that time (I’d never written poetry before) and I had my first experience of palliative care when a very dear aunty passed away in a hospice at Belair. The experience really spoke to me.”

Lorraine studied complementary therapies, particularly to assist the dying, and when her relationship ended, she left what was then her home in the Barossa. “My life got turned on its head,” she says. “I studied at Tabor College at that time and was also part of the team at the Barossa Palliative Care Services and later at Southern Hospice [Daw House]. I decided I wanted to give back to this wonderful higher source. It was an amazing time for me.”

In the decades that followed, Lorraine went on to be a pioneer in complementary therapies in palliative care, living and working in far flung corners across Australia, including Queensland and New South Wales. Each experience and interaction informed the knowledge and life experiences to which she holds dear today.

“These are the threads of your life,” she says. “You can’t plan this stuff. You get opportunities and you embrace them. Life isn’t linear. It’s not a straight line. As humans we all make mistakes, especially in the first half of our life.” Lorraine smiles. “I think of the Paul Kelly song where he sings, ‘I’ve done all the dumb things’ – it’s about finding the courage to go back and review things, to not blame others or be bitter about what’s happened to you. Rather to just sit and reflect and ask, ‘What is the lesson I need to take from this?’”

The four workshops focus on the spirituality of autumn and winter seasons and the songlines and storylines of our life. Poetry, readings, meditation, music and reflection are all part of the interactive sessions. Lorraine also plans to run Elderflowering retreats in the future.

“Learning and teaching how to have insight and reflection is a great gift we can give the next generation.”

Elderflowering workshops will be held on May 10, July 19 and September 6 from 10.30am to 3.30pm at the Mary MacKillop Precinct. For more information contact 8130 5916 or email mary.ryan@sosj.org.au

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