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I’m grateful to Chip Conley, founder of the Modern Elder Academy, for introducing me to the phrase, “Grow Whole, Not Old.” I was feeling as if I was becoming more fragmented as I grew older. I certainly didn’t feel like I was getting better. After all, isn’t aging about disintegration, not integration?

What does it mean to grow whole? We’re all growing old every day, and we can’t stop that. But how do we grow whole?

Living Above/Below the Line

Jim Dethmer of the Conscious Leadership Group points us in that direction with his model of living above the line. According to Dethmer, living above the line means being open, committed to learning, and curious. Like most things in life, there’s an opposite force pulling us below the line. Those who live below the line are closed, defensive, and committed to being right. Our default mode is below the line. Staying above the line in today’s world can seem like treading water just to keep breathing.

Three Centers of Human Intelligence

Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, has been another signpost pointing me in the direction of wholeness. According to Father Richard, to become whole “we must have three spaces opened within us—and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body.”

Father Richard has simplified this complicated world of personal development for me by telling me to go to work on my head, heart and body which happens to be the core of the Enneagram. No pun intended but this gets to the heart of the matter. My opinionated head, closed down heart, and defensive and defended body have been the source of much of my unhappiness.

My below the line, opinionated head has too often been closed, defensive, and committed to being right instead of being open to new ideas, especially those that I didn’t agree with. My below the line closed down heart has resisted the spontaneity of genuine emotion. I’ve been emotionally constipated most of my life. My below the line, defensive and defended body has suffered from “hugaphobia” most of my life, never initiating hugs and awkwardly accepting them.

Father Richard has said that the truth shall set us free, but first it will make us miserable. The truths that I’m discovering about myself at this stage of my life are setting me free. I experience brief moments of misery and regret when I see how my closed mind, commitment to being right and defensiveness have limited my growth over the years, but I get over it when I have so how much time I have left to take my above the line thinking and jump into the three playgrounds of personal and spiritual growth: head, heart, and body.

Let’s Go Out the Same Way We Came In

We come into the world on a ten-lane superhighway with no speed limits and too many of us go out on a one-lane dirt road going nowhere. As children, we are so far above the line you would think that we’d never go below it, but life happens to us and we lose that child-like curiosity, allow our opinions to be firmly baked in and refuse to listen to the needs of our body.

Let’s be like children again and jump into three playgrounds of personal growth with curiosity, openness, and a commitment to learning.

If this topic resonates with you, Join my Learning Community – Outsmarting Time and Culture

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Pat Whitty

Pat Whitty

Life Transition Coach

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