61st Birthday – Looking Back, Looking Forward

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 27, 2010

I’m at SCNM teaching my newly reformulated Healthy Communication Workshop to naturopathic students today and tomorrow.  So it’s a new beginning for me.  But there’s another new beginning happening for me at the same time.  You see, today is my 61st birthday.   And it’s hard to believe that a year has passed since my big bash at 60.  Just as I’d been told by my elders when I felt immortal and most of my life was still in front of me, the days seem to be flying by at a much faster rate than ever, and I’m increasingly aware of our temporary stay in this world.

So far so good. My mind is still quick enough, though I think it was once much quicker.  My reflexes, the same.  I’m fit, and feel good in my skin, not too thin, not too fat, just about right.  I eat well, sleep well, and my attitude towards life continues to expand in order to make room for new ideas, new views, and new possibilities.  From what I remember of myself as a child, I have come a long way indeed. Once moody, now generally and remarkably happy.  Once shy, now comfortable talking with almost anyone.  Once mentally turbulent, now I have a quiet mind. Once impulsive and overly reactive, now I am more measured and prudent in my response to conflict, challenge and change.

I’m excited about the workshop, and a bit nervous too.  Why  nervous?  Because I love teaching at SCNM, and don’t want to give it up.  But in this new format, I’m not yet convinced I can make it matter enough to be worth the time and effort.

So I’m doing what was called a class in the new format of a workshop, and I’m doing it as a test, a trial run.  If it goes well, I will continue teaching at the school for as long as they will have me.  But if not, there is great wisdom in that song lyric, ‘You’ve got to know when to hold em’, know when to fold them.’

The old format allowed me to do so much.  I aimed for, and occasionally cocreated with my class, a truly transformative experience, at the end of which the students had a much better understanding of their own patterns of belief, behavior and experience.  The class stretched comfortably over five consecutive days, four hours of contact time each day.  That’s 20 total hours in what might have been the most formative week of their medical education.   We were able to devote much of the first day to the agreements we would build on.

The students were able to commit on the last day of the old class to some kind of project involving classmates, a way to contribute actively to the community rather than passively waiting for what good might come.

It was awesome.  I made some wonderful friends in my students, many of which I am touch with several years later and most likely will be for the rest of my life.

In this new format, I’m not sure what kind of structure would allow for transformation and deep insight, though I have some ideas, and I’ve rebuilt the enterprise to take advantage of the new format, two 8 hour days, back to back, with an hour break for lunch.   I’ve designed the workshop around 10 core ideas, ‘words’ as I put it, that impact every aspect of our interactions with ourselves and others. Words like integrity, agreement, narrative, understanding, influence, purpose, and so on.  Each word or core idea is a point of leverage to gain self awareness and skill.  I even found a way to introduce the agreement process I’ve written so much about in the past.  Won’t know til’ I try, but then, that is the art of change!   I posted on my Facebook page that ‘the proof is in the pudding,’ and one of my students from two years back said “If Superman is still in there, it will be great pudding.”  Well he is, and here’s hoping.  I’ll post my results here.

As to my birthday, I’ll just say this.  The older I get, the more aware I am of how little I know, how much there is to learn, and how much there is to do.  The older I get, the more relaxed I become about the burdens and challenges of living in this world, the more willing I am for events to unfold and ripen before injecting myself into them.  And the older I get, the more determined I become to create some legacy, some contribution, some way of pointing to the fact that I was here once upon a time, doing my best to make a difference.

Care to celebrate with me?  Post comments here or on my Facebook.  When the workshop is done tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, I’ll take it all in, as I measure the effectiveness of two back to back 8 hour days with incoming freshmen.

Wish me luck.  Wish me a happy birthday.  Or better yet, wish me the joy of reading your comments!

Be well,


P.S.  We had a little spontaneous birthday party on Friday the 24th, about 25 friends came over and there was plenty of laughter and deep conversation.  (It was supposed to be 10 people, and the number just kept climbing.) We did our annual cigar walk, the weather was perfect, my long time crew was there, joined by my good friend, Roman Morykit of the wonderful musical duo Gypsy Soul.  The party was awesome.  Lindea does something for me every year, in spite of all the work that goes into it and the cleanup that follows it.  She is so good to me!!  I had a great time, thanks to everyone who came. Our house isn’t big enough to hold everyone we wanted to invite, so if you didn’t hear about it, please forgive us.

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