Dear Friends Committed to Living and Aging Consciously;
We are pleased to send you this Autumn edition of our newsletter, with its articles, inspirational poetry, and recommended resources. The theme that runs throughout is the necessity for going within as we move through the season of harvest and endings toward Winter.
In these darker months of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, our psyches call us to direct our energies toward our inner lives, as we seek the guidance for the journey forward that can come only from befriending our authentic inner voice -- the voice that knows our unique path toward the wholeness of conscious elderhood -- the voice that is our only reliable map through the mysterious and dangerous territory that lies ahead both within and without.
May we all discover or clarify our unique and necessary contribution as Elders to a world in grave danger, yet so full of possibility for a bright future for humanity and all beings.
Doing and Being, Serving and Savoring
Finding Balance As Conscious Elders
by Ron Pevny
There is a common theme
echoed by nearly all those I know who feel called to conscious eldering: the need to be of service to something larger than themselves and to use their gifts, skills, and wisdom developed over many decades to make a real difference in this world. These are people who believe they have a lot of legacy-building yet to do, and they are committed to finding ways to do it. At the same time, realizing the unique opportunity of their elderhood, they want to honor their inner call to a quieter, less goal-oriented way of life where emotional growth and spiritual deepening are priorities. They want to savor life, focusing more on being and less on doing. Learning how to understand doing and being, and what it means to balance these, is a critical task for those seeking to age consciously.
It is natural for the earlier stages of our lives to be heavily focused on doing.
We learn much about who we are and what we are capable of by acting in this world. It is through doing that we develop a strong, effective ego and use that ego in service to our career, relationships, and sense of fulfillment. At the same time we also learn much about how others expect us to be. Most of us have internalized these expectations, having learned how to act effectively in the world but losing much awareness of our authentic uniqueness in the process. One of the significant shifts that occurs as we enter life’s later chapters and become increasingly aware of our mortality is an inner call (sometimes heard, sometimes not) to focus on discovering who we are as unique beings. And with this awareness to find how we can best express those gifts (which I call signature or soul gifts) that our authentic inner voice tells us need expression if we are to find fulfillment in our elderhood.
Aging provides an opportunity to choose the kind of person we will be,
and to have that define us more than what we will do. This redefinition of ourselves becomes especially important as we experience the inevitable declines of ability and energy that aging brings. Seeking balance between serving and savoring, doing and being, conscious elders become increasingly able to have the doing we choose to engage in be in service to our deepest callings rather than to the needs of our egos.
This seeming dichotomy between doing and being is often spoken of when the subject of conscious aging comes up. It is commonly presented as a dichotomy between doing or not doing, activity or non-activity, which I see as mistaken. Non-activity does not necessarily equate to truly being, to truly savoring life’s precious moments. It is as easy to go numb, to live unconsciously, when we are not doing as when we are heavily engaged in being active. The key is cultivating conscious awareness of what brings us truly alive, of what helps us be fully present in each moment, and what does not. Conscious eldering is a commitment to doing all we can to foster such aliveness.
In an interview I did with the late Bob Atchley
, that wise elder and pioneering voice for conscious aging, who wrote the inspiring book
Spirituality and Aging
, Bob said: “You hear a lot of people saying, ‘What I want to do is cut back on the doing so I can really enjoy the being.’ And I think that doesn’t sit too well with my experience. My experience is that I have had to learn how to be-while-doing. That means to have one foot in the part of me that is connected to my deepest spirituality and one foot in the practicalities of whatever it is that I’m engaged in at that moment in the world…. As you move in the direction of connecting up with the witness consciousness, with real presence, which is the essence of true spirituality, you’re moving in the direction of being while you’re in the act of doing things. And to the extent that you’re doing that, you’re growing into the role of the true Elder, the Wisdom Keeper so needed in today’s world.”
In my own conscious eldering, I am facing a challenge
that confronts many people who recognize the importance of their contributions as elders to a world urgently needing their gifts.
I am passionately committed to having my Center for Conscious Eldering be a significant force for transformation. I am also very aware of a strong tendency in me to approach my work at the age of seventy-one in the same driven way I approached projects when in my thirties, forties, and even fifties. There were many times back then when I lost touch with my joy and inner balance as I pushed ahead. For that time in my midlife adulthood, such an approach may have been totally appropriate. I needed to learn to push beyond my perceived limits and learn something critical about my drive and passion. That was a time of building a strong, effective ego that could succeed in the world.
Now my growth requires something else. It requires learning to allow my soul and its energies to work through my personality as I give my best to my calling, rather than believing that my personality self has to do it all. I see that I am most effective when I am living and working from my wholeness, balancing the needs of my body, mind, emotions, relationships, and spirit. When I allow myself to get out of balance, my work begins to feel not like my calling but like a big de-energizing "should," and my well being suffers.
Conscious elders are not martyrs.
Older people who become martyrs are not acting with consciousness. When our call to service becomes a "should" or an exercise in ego rather than a balanced outflowing from our whole selves, we run the risk of having our work be compromised by our imbalances, and of burning ourselves out physically and emotionally. Imbalanced people produce imbalanced results, even when their intentions are noble. As I recognize my changing needs at this stage of my life, this means that I may quantitatively accomplish less with my organization than I might prefer. But paradoxically, I believe that what I do accomplish will have a greater impact than would be the case if I pushed myself to do more, because I am aligning my actions with the power of that essence in me that is wiser than my personality self. I am gradually learning to infuse my doing with being.
Service to others as a conscious elder is not defined by how big or visible our actions are.
Rather, it is defined by the intention to serve others, presence, self awareness and love—those qualities of Being—that we bring to whatever we feel the need to do. That doing may be volunteer work, working for an income, an avocation, social activism, grandparenting, or spending special time serving as mentor to a young person. Valuable service may not even look like doing, such as engaging in practices to raise the quality of the energy we emanate into the collective by deepening our spiritual life.
Conscious elderhood is about committing to have our lives, whether we are engaged in outer doing or not, be lived with authenticity.
There will be times when we feel called to be outwardly active. And times when deepening our inner lives and savoring these precious days of life's elder chapters are in the forefront. The key is finding the balance that is right for us, a balance that will change as we move deeper into our elderhood, a balance that we can gauge by how alive we feel in both our inner and outer lives.
The Challenge of Being an Elder
In These Frightening Times
By Harvey M. Austin, M.D.
Can you hold paradox?
Can you consider that these, believed by many to be the best of times, foretell the worst of times?
Can you be aware of a pair of predicaments — your own death and the possibility of the death of our human species?
Can you hold these predicaments lightly with a sense of humor?
Can you transcend your personal mind-denial and the denial of the culture in which you are embedded?
Can you hold the possibility that you are not here accidentally; that you chose to be born at this dangerous and exciting time in order to observe, participate and be-of-service to what you love doing?
Can you hold this metaphor:
“Though all doors are marked, No Exit, leap upon your steed and ride off with your banner held high and marked, “Engaged!”
Will you commit to lead a magnificent life, compassionate, bold and enthusiastic — just because you say so?
Will you, my brother, my sister, walk the shore after a high tide and, one-by-one, throw in stranded starfish? And, in the face of the accusation that doing so won’t make any difference, hold up one starfish and smile, “It will make a difference to this one,” Will you be a starfish-thrower?
Will you declare upon your death bed:
I have loved. I have lived. I have accomplished what I came for.
Dr. Austin is a retired plastic and reconstructive surgeon and publisher of ground-breaking surgical procedures. A visionary and innovator, Harvey is the author of Elders Rock! Don't Just Get Older: Become an Elder. He has been interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey show, Phil Donahue Show and the Larry King Radio show. His primary question-to-live-within during these most-dangerous times is, “How do we each live a powerful life of compassion, joy and enthusiasm — regardless of circumstances, including chaos?” He can be reached at email@example.com.
~Created for the Elder Rites of Passage 2018 at Ekone Ranch, Washington, by Ned Abenroth—convener for Illuman of Washington
We stand on common ground, honoring the presence of the Wild One in all that is,
We join with all creation:
In grieving the wounds of this world,
In celebrating the beauty of all,
In welcoming all beings and their place in the world,
In yearning for the healing of all,
In acting for the good of the world,
In loving all, especially the broken and marginalized
As elders, we commit:
All that we are, and
All that has been granted us:
our time, our energy, our money, our talents, our bodies, our wounds, our breath
To be used as Spirit calls us.
We step into our call as elders to live on behalf of the whole
We step into death,
into holy folly,
For the sake of our ancestors and descendants,
For the sake of the more than human world,
For the sake of each other,
For the sake of ourselves, and
For the sake of the Beloved Friend, in whose beauty, we pray.
Made for These Times
From Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst,
author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people...
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there...
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good."
Old Maps No Longer Work
by Joyce Rupp
I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well travelled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.
I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.
“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats “toss it away.
It’s of no use where you’re going.”
“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction,”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”
so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul.
no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will l know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims travelled by the stars.”
It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.
For Those Who Have Far to Travel
by Jan Richardson
rom Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
as it comes into
There is nothing
but to go,
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond what would
from the way.
There are vows
that only you
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
you could not
Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
the gift that only you
before turning to go
Crabbit Old Woman
By Phyllis McCormick
Who is really inside? When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a hospital in England, it appeared she had left nothing of value. The nurse, packing up her possessions, found this poem. The quality so impressed the staff that copies were distributed to all the nurses in the hospital. This poem then later appeared in the Christmas edition of "Beacon House News," a magazine of the Northern Ireland Mental Health Association. This was the Lady's bequest for posterity.
What do you see nurse,
What do you see?
What are you thinking
When you look at me?
A crabby old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit
With far away eyes.
Who dribbles her food
And makes no reply;
Then you say in a loud voice,
"I do wish you'd try."
Who seems not to notice
The things that you do,
And forever is losing
A stocking or shoe.
Unresisting or not,
Lets you do as you will;
With bathing or feeding,
The long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking,
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes nurse,
You're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am,
As I sit here so still,
As I move at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of ten ...
With a father and mother,
And brothers and sisters
Who love one another.
A girl of sixteen,
With wings on her feet;
Dreaming that soon,
A lover she'll meet.
A bride soon at twenty ...
My heart gives a leap;
Remembering the vows
That I promised to keep.
I have young of my own,
Who need me to build
A secure and happy home.
A woman of thirty,
My young now grow fast,
Bound together with ties
That forever should last.
At forty, my young ones
Have grown up and gone;
But my man is beside me
To see I don't mourn.
At fifty, once more ...
Babies play 'round my knees;
Again we know children,
My loved ones and me.
Dark days are upon me,
My husband is dead ...
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread;
For my young are all rearing,
Young of their own,
And I think of the years
And the love I have known.
I am an old woman now,
Nature is cruel,
'Tis her jest to make old age
Look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone
Where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass,
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again
My battered heart swells.
I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living
Life over again.
I think of the years ...
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.
So open your eyes nurses,
Open and see ...
Not a "Crabbit Old Woman,"
Look closer ... see "Me."
The Earth Called To My Friend
by Nancy Wood
In Spirit Walker
The Earth called to my friend and he went,
Deep into the Earth Root from which he came,
Down into Blue Lake where our ancestors dwell,
Deep into the heart of the Yellow Corn Maiden,
To a place of beauty and light.
I watched the sky for a long time and then I saw
A cloud in the shape of my friend,
Riding a fine white horse with wings so big
They blotted out the sun, making shadows
Across my withered fields of corn.
I called to my friend to ask if he was happy
And if he knew more than when he left.
I called out his name and blessed him
With an eagle feather, dancing in his behalf
The wild old dances of our youth.
Good-bye, my friend, I said, watching the clouds
Crumble into little pillows that fell as rain
Into the dryness of my fields.
Upcoming Conscious Eldering Programs
Are you seeking an empowering vision for your elder chapters and tools for helping make that vision reality? Do you need to have your idealism acknowledged, your hope rekindled and your dreams for a vital, passionate elderhood supported?
If so, we invite you to experience one of our week-long Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreats, weekend conscious eldering intensives, or our newest program,
, co-led by Ron Pevny and Katia Petersen, former Director of Education at the Institute for Noetic Sciences and coordinator of the IONS Conscious Aging Program. All 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 possibiities of your later-life chapters--for growth, purpose, spiritual deepening, and giving your elder gifts to support a healthy society and planet.
Our currently scheduled 2020 programs are listed below. A couple of other weekend workshops are in the works but are not yet confirmed. You can find flyers with the details of these programs on our website in late December.
Choosing Conscious Elderhood
May 3-9 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
October 4-10 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Weekend Conscious Eldering Intensives
May 15-17 near Louisville, Kentucky
August 21-23 at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York
Cultivating Purpose and
Intentionality in Life's Later Chapters
March 29 - April 2 at the IONS EarthRise Retreat Center
near Petaluma, California
September 21-25 at Hope Springs Retreat Center
in the Appalacians of Southern Ohio
This new program presented by Ron Pevny and Katia Petersen (long-time former director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Conscious Aging program), will explore a variety of approaches and practices for getting in touch with purpose and living
with intentionality as we age.
October 25 - 30 at COD Ranch near Tucson, Arizona
This retreat is for those who have experienced a weeklong Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreat and want to explore their next steps on their conscious eldering journey
For Organizations, Faith Communities, etc:
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 and registration information, please visit
Loss to Legacy
is a beautiful, unique guide to dealing with loss and grief. It vastly expands our cultural understandings of grief, from something to be moved through as fast as possible to showing how our inevitable losses are embedded with the potential for discovering ones purpose and wholeness.
Loss to Legacy
reveals how life-defining legacies for future generations can emerge from loss. Weaving together profound concepts with poignant stories and a comprehensive set of exercises for turning the pain of grief into a pathway of transformation,
Loss to Legacy
touched me deeply. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Carol Orsborn has been on the forefront of the conscious aging movement for many years. She has been a leading voice of the baby-boom generation as it ages, through her many books, appearances on Oprah and the Today Show, presentations at Positive and Conscious Aging Conferences, and a great many blogs written over the years. She is curator of
Fierce with Age: The Archives of Boomer Wisdom, Inspiration and Spirituality
This profound collection of short essays is the culmination of 20 years of her writing on the subject of spirituality and age -- writing grounded in her deep commitment to exploring her aging authentically and passionately, while learning from many of the pioneers in exploring and articulating both the rich possibilities and daunting challenges of aging consciously in today's world. This is not a book to be read quickly, but rather to be savored and felt into one heart-opening essay at a time.
"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
One of our partner organizations, the Elders Action Network (formerly called the Conscious Elders Network) is an educational non-profit organization fostering a budding movement of vital elders dedicated to growing in consciousness while actively addressing the demanding challenges facing our country and planet. They work inter-generationally for social and economic justice,environmental stewardship, and sound governance. They offer their multiple talents and resources in service to the goal of preserving and protecting life for all generations to come. Anyone committed to living and serving as a conscious elder in invited to join them in this critically important endeavor. Upcoming EAN offerings include:
* An online book study group, via Zoom, exploring the book
Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change
by Sherri Mitchell
* Monthly Elder Activists for Social Justice Community Conversation
The Empowered Elder-
-EAN's foundational program
* EAN also produces an excellent quarterly journal, Turning Point.
To learn about EAN and its initiatives and programs, visit www.eldersaction.org
Another of our partner organizations is Sage-ing International, the pioneering organization in promoting the principles of conscious aging, or "Sage-ing". Their work is grounded in the work of Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, who introduced conscious aging to the world with his workshops at Omega Institute with Ram Dass and others and via his seminal book,
From Age-ing to Sage-ing.
Sage-ing International is committed to transforming the current disempowering paradigm of aging to one of Sage-ing through learning, service and community. Their work is focused through:
: They share the Sage-ing philosophy worldwide by providing workshops,conferences, webinars and publications for the public, and a training program for Certified Sage-ing Leaders.
: They encourage and support elders in serving their families, communities and others around the world.
: They provide opportunities for individuals on their Sage-ing journeys to share and connect with others through interactive modalities that include chapter programs and Elder Wisdom Circles.They foster collaboration with others, including the Center for Conscious Eldering, who share their vision.
To learn about Sage-ing International, visit www.sage-ing.org.
Human Values in Aging Newsletter
This informative newsletter has been produced by Harry R (Rick) Moody for many years. Rick, formerly Vice President for Education at AARP, has long been one of the most prominent voices in the fields of gerontology and conscious aging. If anything is happening in the arena of Positive/Conscious Aging, Rick knows about it and is likely working to support it. Besides containing meaningful reflections, quotations, and humorous wisdom stories, Rick's monthly newsletter, produced in collaboration with Fielding Graduate University, includes a comprehensive listing of workshops, retreats and other events that support empowered aging.
To subscribe or send information to Rick, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bolton Anthony, one of the pioneers in the conscious aging movement and a long-time dear friend and supporter of the Center for Coscious Eldering, is putting the finishing touches on a unique and captivating book. This work explores the power of film to reflect and shape our perceptions of life's later chapters, and is the culmination of several years of his teaching about images of aging in film at the university level. The book will be available through Amazon in mid-December, in a black and white paperback and a full color Kindle edition/.
Bolton Anthony, the author of this newly-minted book on films for the second half of life, has, for a score of years, urged us to think of aging as a “second journey.”
The Best Years of Our Lives
is the crowning achievement of his efforts.
by Harry R. Moody
Ron Pevny, Founder and Director
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone