February 17th at 10 AM PT/ 7 PM CET

New capacities emerge in our minds as we age


Tom Christensen has a keen interest in bringing the knowledge about these new possibilities into the world.

He writes:
“My intellectual focus in the field of Human Development has been the effort to define and describe what new capacities emerge in the minds of people far along the path of cognitive maturation.  Many of us find we are able to use our minds in new ways as we age.  And nowhere else have I read about this state of affairs:  New capacities and thus new territory, as we age?”

Portrait of Tom Christensen

STREAMED LIVE HERE on February 17th 2017

00:00 introductions and mechanics…

05:40 Tom’s begins to explain his new theme of new capacities that emerge as we age.

07:56 Example of learning to drive at age 16 and forgetting what we were like at age 8!

and how that continues throughout life.  So what is new in our later decades?

09:20 Examples: Transtemporal cognition:  holding the present for extended periods. and forgetting that we weren’t always able to, that once the time story held us!

12:00 No longer stuck in a word-based reality, the importance that “story” has had.

13:00 Heidi is surprised by a “new” view of the old men just sitting around and chatting, but some of those old men are not in the same kind of mind!  It’s hard to tell.

13:40 The effects of meditation may be a natural effect of ageing! Transnarrative cognition: understanding arises without “figuring it out”. Complex thinking!

17:25 How do we get there? Tom explains how: name it, claim it.

18:30 The difference between the automatic growth of thinking to meditation?  Tom still meditates but not for the old reasons.

21:30 Meditation and the emergence of “Orange” cognition with modernity.

22:50 Watcher comments, Tom’s thoughts on wisdom. What emerges with meditation

26:35 Another trans word: transegoic!  Tom explains: interrupting identity patterns.

29:05 Tom’s grand vision: Older people HAVE the wisdom to alleviate many huge problems.

32:07 Arguments over terminology, what to call we “olders”. Defensiveness, respect.

33:30 Tom’s paper in as “Leading Edge Cognitive Capacities” or to Integral Leadership Review.  Tom’s classroom experience: collective intelligence.

36:35 More audience comments and how this wisdom emerges in tribal cultures.

39:20 How could we gather second tier people together for real problem solving, free of ego!  Some cross fertilization among a group of 70 year olds.

42:02 All these trans words! Tom has a group of 9!

43:35 Tom hunts and we talk from personal experience and speculation. Tome brings us back with “quieted amygdala” and loss of fear. Also “attunement” and feeling the nature of things. Tom’s experience on Lake Superior. Mirror neurons, “tuning into spirit”.

48:30 More audience questions.  This process occurs in the same order for everyone.

49:40 Contradiction?  Tom explains how it seems to him.

51:20 Why so many more are experiencing this now. Multiperspectival cognition!

52:40 Final comments from audience, importance of temperament, choosing how we understand things.  Mark remarks on the “indigenous” people of Europe.

55:45 Tom’s final comment: Heart opening surpasses thinking.Goodbyes


Would you have believed when you were young, that new capacities emerge in our minds as we age? The normal way of seeing ageing and older people is through the lens of loss. We see so many elders who have lost interests, memory, physical health, family members, friends, a long list of losses. Some of those losses may be real, others not.

But seldom do we notice the huge gifts and gains which arrive in older age. We often assume that WISDOM arrives in older age – and it sometimes does. What else could we gain?

Instead of guessing, as people in the third half of their lives, let’s look at our own experience. And let’s look also into scientific research which shows that our brains can develop and grow new capacities at ANY age.

We need to first understand that there are new possibilities. Then we need to believe it and embody it, and last but not least act on it.

The emergence of new capacities in older age is not common knowledge and not even of general interest yet. And still the “elderly” tend to see ageing as a negative thing.


Tom Christensen “Tom C.”, is the editor of and one of the authors in two books of Gravesian-Spiral Dynamics case studies. He provides Gravesian trainings and writes often on this topic, and others. Tom has braided his life over the past 40 years with constant strands of business, art including painting, sculpture, poetry and piano, regular engagement in sports & gardening, and raising a family. Tom C. is married, and with Stephanie they have 7 children, and 4 of the most charming grandchildren in the world. In years past, Tom C. served as an orderly, nursing assistant, and the first hospice counselor at UW-Madison Hospitals. This phase left him with a wider and more comfortable appreciation for the extremely wide range of end-of-life experiences for people. This background with dying, combined with an appreciation of the possibility of lifelong learning, has led him to welcome each day of his new, more obvious, aging phase, as another opening for discovery and adventure. “No one has ever lived THIS life before. I wonder what’s next?!”

0:18 Irene Standness joins us

0:42 Introduction to the after show conversation

1:15 TAlking to group experience she had. Similar to what Tom talked about in the show:FEELING the river. Is it only about age?

2:30 Tom: cognitive complexity. The importance to talk about it as normal human experience

3:27 Irene’s experience of how people receive her talking about it

4:16 an example by Tom: awareness of sexual arousement – Appreciate your experience

5:31 About being alone on that level of awareness: our minds cannot relate any more to what the others are interested in. We have got a treasure for the world and need to honor it.

6:36 Monika: opening our hearts? Monika talks about her group. The flying carpet who gets woven while flying. Referring to the map of integral theory and Wilber

8:40 the multi-perspectival mind. “You don’t expect a lawyer to know that”

9:28 Appreciation for our offering the space for conversations. New projects.

10:15 About writing a book.

11:10 We can tell the stories online, on video, instead of writing books!

12:23 How to land in the gross body when you are high up in the subtle body.

13:00 Tom: abdominal breathing.

13:21 Heidi: grounding, connecting with the earth, flowing down of energies.

13:50 Monika: would be good to share the experiences.

Connecting us from many parts of the world. Where are you?

15:30 Canada? – better than the US – bye bye Tom

15:53 Monika – the closing phrase.  Monika tells about her time of “being high”, grounding, grow the roots into the earth

17:06 back to the roots! We might need different tools in different periods of our time.

18:00 throat and heart opening