Dear Friends Committed to Living and Aging Consciously:

In this season of long days, warm sun,and life's abundance everywhere, we hope you are thriving inwardly and outwardly. For those of us in the midst of wintertime as we experience the transitions of our personal lives, and for all of us who are struggling to see the sun amid the storm clouds that hang densely over contemporary culture, may the sun remind us of the light and warmth that awaits us if we keep our dreams in the forefront, our hearts open, and our trust in inner and outer summertime alive.

In this Summer issue of our newsletter, we present two pieces of writing that we hope will shine some light on your spirit. One is a piece by Ron Pevny focused on how to know if you are truly living your commitment to a conscious elderhood. The other is a beautiful offering by long-time friend Joseph Jastrab about the power of trees to remind us as we age of the nature of life, change and growth.

You will also find inspirational poetry, resources we highly recommend, and a listing of the workshops and retreats we offer as supports for you to reach toward the sun of your highest potential.

How Do I Know If I'm On the Path or Have Fallen Off?
by Ron Pevny
I recently had a conversation with a woman who has participated in two of our Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreats in the last ten years. She told me that while her commitment to aging consciously remained strong, she felt she had fallen off the path because her deep passion for helping ease suffering in third world countries took so much of her time and energy that she wasn't engaged with various inner work practices. Our conversation served as a catalyst for this article about how we know if we are indeed on the path, or merely wishing we were.
 
Those of you who have read my book  Conscious Living, Conscious Aging and other writings by me and others know that conscious eldering is both a vision of the rich possibilities that call to us as we age, and a multi-faceted foundation of inner work that can support us in fulfilling our potential as conscious elders.  The key aspects of this inner work—belief, release and healing of the past, finding and living with purpose, community, and spiritual deepening are all critical components to supporting the emergence of the fulfilled elder within each of us. It is important that we use this precious time in our lives to engage with all these key tasks of eldering. But since we are unique, multi-faceted individuals, how we engage with this inner work, when we engage with it, and how much emphasis we place on its various aspects at any given time depend upon what feels right to us as we try to be in touch with our most authentic inner voice.
 
For the woman with whom I had the conversation, her long-time purpose is her strong need to serve. At this point, that is what she believes is the most important expression of her life energy, for her own fulfillment and the wellbeing of others.  I can easily point to others equally committed to conscious eldering who strongly feel the need for focusing much of their energy on the inward journey with its reflective and contemplative practices. There are many ways to age consciously.  And there are many ways to fool ourselves into believing we are doing so when we aren’t, and they can be so subtle. 
 
At the top of my list of ways to deceive ourselves is equating the collection of information with growth. Information can be useful in enhancing our awareness and can give us an inspiring picture of what is possible. However, information not reflected upon and acted upon is meaningless in terms of our growth, and does not make us wiser. But it certainly can support the feel-good illusion that we are growing, and some of us for this reason become “workshop junkies.”  I believe that a true commitment to working over time with the information and practices from one good personal growth workshop that somehow calls to us is worth far more than going to many enticing workshops or listening to many webinars in the hope that ever more information or temporary inspiration will change us. We change through our intention and commitment to using the precious resources available to us.
 
So, since all of us are works in progress as we seek to age consciously, and our paths are so unique, how do we know if we are indeed making any progress? I believe most everything I know about conscious eldering can be distilled down to the following.  We are on the path if each morning our strong intention is to in some way grow and in some way serve, and if at day’s end most days we can identify some way we have grown and served. 
 
There are so many ways to grow: in curiosity, in skills; in willingness to step outside our comfort zones; in ability to be flexible; in ability to forgive; in ability to keep our hearts open as others close theirs; in self-understanding; in learning more about our world; in discovering potentials we didn’t know we have; in shedding self-limiting beliefs.
 
And there are so many ways to serve:  through giving our gifts in ways that fulfill a specific sense of purpose, like the woman I referenced earlier; through responding to some of the myriad opportunities that arise each day to extend love and caring to another; through being truly present to those who cross our paths each day; through engaging in social and environmental actions that help promote a better world for the generations that will follow us; through finding our best way to send love and compassion to people and events in dire need of loving energy.
 
Living in this way requires intentionality and focus. As we embrace ways to grow and serve each day, this commitment will gradually shift from being a practice we engage in to a way of being that reflects who we are becoming. Growing and serving will become our primary motivations. This is how we know that we are indeed growing into true elderhood. 
 
And there will be days when we don’t live in such a way, days when we numb out, days when we live mindlessly. But each day is a new day, offering the opportunity for recommitment to our overriding goal.  Remember that nothing sabotages our noblest intentions like critical self-judgment that closes our hearts to ourselves, fills us with guilt and feelings of unworthiness.  Guilt does not support conscious eldering. Telling ourselves how weak and unworthy we are whenever we go unconscious (and all of us will often be unconscious) does not support conscious eldering.  What does support this journey is acknowledging ourselves for choosing this path and for the progress we are making; developing the self-awareness to know what from within and without pushes us off the path; committing to showering ourselves with love as we slowly but surely move forward;  and strengthening our ability to connect with our inner knowing—our  spiritual dimension—and from that place making choices each day, one day at a time, to be as conscious and intentional as we can.  Each day is a new day, a new opportunity for a fresh start on our journey toward conscious elderhood

The Company of Trees
by Joseph Jastrab

I walk the same wooded trails over and over again. An enduring habit that allows me regular visits with a few trees with whom I've become closely acquainted. I've known them through the sweetness and fury of all seasons. I’ve watched how they handle themselves in the wind, admired their steadfast grounding in the earth, the strength and flexibility of trunk and limb. Through it all, they stand.

They invite me to do likewise. I waver. I have to admit that I still cling to my nomadic ways. I can imagine no envy in them for my ability to continually wander the earth in search of my calling and place. None whom I've met have given me the slightest inclination that they would trade places with me. That's the thing about trees: they don't trade places. They belong. They live, forever at home. Their commitment to the dark earth they stand in, their resting in the domain of the present, roots them into something eternal. No, they watch me wander, but do not lose themselves in the watching.    

I instinctively seek their company when the winds of change blow forcefully through my life, shaking once stable structures of career, relationship or health. Or when gale winds batter against the barrier I’ve constructed to keep the turmoil of the world at bay. These are times when the magnitude of change is far too strong for the mind to stand alone and rule against. No amount of reasoning can ever repair an outlived life or hold fast against nature's laws. When the foundation of the world's sanity or personal well being feels shaky at best, perhaps there's a deeper sanity waiting for our attention, a bedrock layer that roots us in something larger than the frail world of human construct and ways.

Tall stands of hemlock offer my weary soul a particularly warm invitation to rest among them. The refuge they create is perceptibly different than that of a community of oak or maple, or even their close-cousin pines. I cannot pass through a hemlock stand without pausing for a moment. My eyes are attracted to the way their layers of lacy, needled branches disperse the light, scattering the ground with drifts of sunlight. Their straight trunk and furrowed bark reveal a simple dignity that bolsters my own. My ears relax into the soft drone of their branches at play with the wind. But it is something else that brings me to a standstill, something so refined and spacious about these beings. They leave me, for moments at least, blessedly mindless.

I imagine myself as their apprentice. Time slows down, the world stops. These tall standing ones embody so much grace! My ability to sustain such intimacy with the world of stillness and silence remains fleeting at best. The hemlocks suggest I stop striving so hard. They simply invite me to stand among them. They reflect a truth to me that I struggle to fully accept. They tell me I confuse freedom with wanderlust. Everything about these beings suggests I will have to belong to somewhere, to sometime, to someone before I will be truly free. Fully belong. Perhaps, then, I might belong more fully to myself and become humble enough to truly stand among them.

Buried in the origins of our language, I find an ancient reflection of my feeling for these beings. The word "true" and the word "tree" have sprouted from the same Germanic root. By standing in their midst, something of my own true nature returns to me. What we admire in the life of another is always something that lives inside us—something waiting to be seen and claimed by our own eyes.

Even in their dying, there is something noble and dignified about trees. I have had the good fortune to witness a number of these stately kings fall to the ground when decay had weakened trunk and root. And, more often than not, the fall has taken place in complete stillness, with not so much a whisper of a breeze. A sudden, loud crack unleashes their death cry as the trunk and crown tear through surrounding limbs. The tree comes to rest with a resounding thump that shakes the ground. All ears of the forest turn, at once, toward the sound.

Trees die at home. They fall on the very same ground that gave rise to their birth. They follow their generative destiny to the end, like the ancient king who sacrificed himself so his blood would renew the soil and thus insure a healthy crop to feed his people. The sight of a young, green sapling growing from the body of one of its elders often gives me pause for reflection. I am the sapling that grows from the gifts of those who have come before me. And, I am the elder for those whose experience reflects a lighter shade of green than mine. What have I gained from my ancestors; from all the life that has come before me? What do I have to give to those who will follow? Somewhere, in the stillness between these two questions, is the truth of who I am, and the possibility of true freedom.
Praise What Comes
by Jeanne Lohmann  
                                              
surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven't deserved
of days and solitude, your body's immoderate good health
that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise
 
talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books
that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks
before sleep. Praising these for practice, perhaps
 
you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs
you never intended. At the end there may be no answers
and only a few very simple questions: did I love,
 
finish my task in the world? Learn at least one
of the many names of God? At the intersections,
the boundaries where one life began and another
 
ended, the jumping-off places between fear and
possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,
did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?

For the Senses
by John O’Donohue

May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake 
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
 Of everything that meets you.
                                                

The Summer Day
  by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean – 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?



Prayer to Future Beings
by Joanna Macy      © 2012  Inquiring Mind

You live inside us, beings of the future. In the spiral ribbons of our cells, you are here. In our rage for the burning forests, the poisoned fields, the oil-drowned seals, you are here.

You beat in our hearts through late-night meetings. 
You accompany us to clear-cuts and toxic dumps
and the halls of the lawmakers. It is you who drive our dogged labors to save what is left. 

O you, who will walk this Earth when we are gone,
stir us awake.
Behold through our eyes the beauty of this world. Let us feel your breath in our lungs, your cry in our throat. Let us see you in the poor, the homeless, the sick. Haunt us with your hunger, hound us with your claims, that we may honor the life that links us.

You have as yet no faces we can see, no names we can say. But we need only hold you in our mind, and you teach us patience. You attune us to measures of time where healing can happen, where soil and souls can mend.
Upcoming Conscious Eldering Opportunities  
Are you seeking an empowering vision for your elder chapters and tools to help make that vision reality? Do you need to have your idealism acknowledged and your dreams for a fulfilled elderhood supported?
  If so, we invite you to experience our annual autumn weeklong Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreat at majestic Ghost Ranch, a weekend Conscious Eldering Intensive, or Ron Pevny's new Embracing Your Conscious Elderhood retreat to be presented in August at Omega Institute in New York. These inspiring and empowering experiences tap the loving support of strong community, the wisdom of skilled guides, and the heart and mind-opening energy of the natural world to open you to the rich possibilities of your later life chapters --- for growth, purpose, spiritual deepening, and supporting a healthy society and planet through giving your elder gifts.

The fear, darkness and polarization that pervade contemporary western society are toxic and numbing to the spirit. Participants find the energy of our programs to be cleansing, enlivening, inspiring and heart-opening. Come join us to experience this precious gift and reawaken your spirit. .  
    
Choosing Conscious Elderhood
October 7-13 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Weekend Conscious Eldering Intensives

July 13-15 in West Bend (near Milwaukee) Wisconsin
July 20-22 at Oceanside, California
September 7-9 near Louisville, Kentucky

new Embracing Your Conscious Elderhood retreat
August 5 (evening) through August 10 at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York
This retreat will draw upon the practices of conscious eldering and wisdom and practices from the three Transforming Aging Summits hosted by Ron Pevny


We are available to present our weekend workshops or custom designed programs for groups who would like to sponsor one in their area. Contact us to explore possibilities.


for details on our programs, please visit
www.centerforconsciouseldering.com


Recommended Resources
"A beautifully written and important book about aging and elderhood. Pevny reminds us that consciously moving into our greater years is a major rite of passage, and he offers skilled guidance through the many questions and challenges, endings and new beginnings, that arise."
Meredith Little, Co-founder of the School of Lost Borders
  I have been asked to endorse several books in recent years, and, while I value the opportunity and have learned from most of them, none have touched me at the visceral, emotional level as has Helen’s book, which I felt compelled to read in one day.  It’s greatest strength lies in its tapping into the great power of story. Telling the story of key landmarks on the journey of growth into elderhood, Helen has done a magnificent job of employing core conscious aging concepts, a richness of quotations from wise “authorities”, and heart-opening personal experiences to paint for readers a dynamic, living picture of what elderhood can be for those willing to live with commitment, curiosity and courage. Make note to look for this book when it is released later this summer.  
Ron Pevny


Sage-ing (R) International's Global Conference
October 25-28 near Minneapolis, Minnesota

Featuring excellent keynotes, presentations and workshops by leaders in the conscious aging field, the theme of this conference will be Elder Voices Changing the World: Our Stories In Action. Anne Wennhold and Ron Pevny of the Center for Conscious Eldering will be presenting a workshop on woundings and grief as key teachers on the Hero/Heroine's Journey. Sage-ing International, one of our partner organizations, also offers one and two-day introductory conscious aging workshops, an excellent year-long program to train Certified Sage-ing Leaders, and promotes Elder Wisdom Circles around the world. For information, visit www.sage-ig.org.

The Conscious Elders Network (CEN)

Another our partners, CEN is a growing network of individuals and organizations committed to creating a culture of conscious elders to meet the challenges facing today's world. Their focus is on the critical role of conscious and committed elders in reminding society of the need to take tangible actions and create life-supportive policies to ensure our descendants have a healthy world and society in which to grow and thrive. CEN is a strong voice for a "conscious activism" grounded in personal wholeness and an open heart. Their signature workshop, The Empowered Elder, is available in video-conferencing and in-person formats. For information about CEN, visit www.consciouselders.org.



Spirit of Resh Foundation
Spirit of Resh Foundation (Resh) is a 7-year old non-profit organization in southern Oregon. We love using story as the medium for inspiring people to build a relationship with death that informs how they live. Our story was birthed from the deaths of Lois and Dave, our founder, Lily’s sister and brother in law, whose fourteen year in-tandem cancer journey brought Lily into a renewed sense of purpose. Lily’s story, told in her first book,  Two Rare Birds: A Legacy of Love t racks her journey of finding meaning in death and how she was led to create Resh—a project for her eldering phase of life. Resh supports people in turning devastating loss into life-affirming legacy. Resh does that through an annual community ceremony in Ashland, Oregon called the  Tree of Living & Dying: A Gathering for Sacred Story, a local monthly radio show called  Passing the Torch: Stories of Wisdom , a grant-funded workshop curriculum called  Loss to Legacy (soon to be transformed into a published book of stories and exercises), by conducting life-celebration events, and the newest program (still in its infancy) called the  Compassionate Community Project (building community capacity for responding to death, dying, illness and bereavement). Resh is available to consult with individuals or organizations and welcomes the opportunity to support. More details about our programs and a form for contacting us can be found on the Resh website:  www.reshfoundation.org
Ron Pevny, Founder and Director
970-247-7943
ron@centerforconsciouseldering.com
  A society grows great when old men and women plant trees in who's shade they know they will never sit Timeless Proverb