Dear Friends Committed to Living and Aging Consciously;
As we think about those of you we personally know and those others who share our commitment to living with passion, growth and purpose in life's later chapters, we send you our love, prayers and best wishes in this time of crisis when danger and opportunity are joined in a way few of us have ever known.
While this is our Spring newsletter and new life is bountifully apparent in the natural world around us, the human world is shivering amid the darkness of a deep, cold personal and cultural wintertime. Winter will surely end at some point. Whether the end of this frightening winter of crisis heralds new personal and cultural beginnings depends upon choices each of us make. Do we approach the pandemic merely as something to be endured until life can return to normal, or as an opportunity for envisioning and cultivating a more life-supportive way of being for ourselves and the human family?
In this newsletter we bring you articles and poetry, and introduce you to resources which we hope will inspire you, comfort you, and give you courage as, together, we navigate tides of immense change. We also include our schedule of retreats and workshops for later in the year when we hope and pray conditions are safe again for sitting with each other in circle amid the natural beauty of the retreat centers that host us.
In this dark time, may all of us find 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 mysterious and dangerous territory. 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.
Befriending Difficult Emotions
in a Time of Crisis
By Ron Pevny
Like many of us these days, I recently participated in a virtual sharing circle. In this gathering, members of a spiritually oriented community shared their experiences of sheltering-in-place, aka mandated social distancing, during the first stages of the age of coronavirus. One of the focusing questions which we were asked to address was, “what do you do to help yourself feel better when difficult feelings arise?” I personally found this question powerfully evocative, multidimensional, and a doorway to deeper personal and collective exploration than what arises as a first response for most people. I’d like to share with you where this question has taken me.
As I experience the myriad of emotional states that arise each day,
I realize that this question about feeling better is predicated upon a mindset that grief, loneliness, fear, disorientation and hopelessness, in their various shades, are negative experiences which call for a response of finding whatever ways we can to counter them, temporarily forget them, or overlay them with positive feelings. This mindset is bound together with the belief that crises such as the current pandemic, with all the inner and external turmoil that they engender, are painful interruptions in normal life to be endured and toughed out until life again returns to normal.
However, I and many others committed to our growth are asking if returning to normal, if that is even possible, would best serve humanity and our imperiled planet when normal means climate breakdown, extreme polarization, ever-escalating income inequality, and pervasive worldwide breakdown of human-centered cultural mores and values
. The coronavirus pandemic has compellingly reminded many of us of what virtually all the world’s spiritual traditions have long taught. Life-supportive personal and cultural transformation occurs only through crisis. Individuals and societies tap strength, vision, creativity and connection with our deepest wisdom when old structures and ways of identifying ourselves are cracked open; when our complacency is shattered; when we are thrust out of our comfort zones; when we are forced to acknowledge that the lives we have been living and the attitudes we have been carrying will not be sufficient for the new realities we are facing and for the possibilities that the next stages of our growth call us to manifest. This is the essence of the wisdom about growth and change reflected in the world’s wisdom traditions and in the rites of passage grounded in those traditions. Crisis is the essential catalyst for growth.
But, crisis itself is only a necessary condition for growth to happen.
It is what we do with the disorientation, the grief, and hopelessness, the loneliness, the fear and vulnerability and all the other inner experiences evoked by crisis that determine whether our potential for growth is actualized. All growth experiences are passages involving two difficult dynamics: one is a severing from, or breakdown, of a sense of identity that is no longer expansive enough to hold the potential that seeks to arise in us. The other is an immersion in the painful, disorienting process that is in various growth traditions called the neutral zone or liminal (out of normal) time. A global human family in danger of ecological and cultural collapse, but full of the potential for living in mutually supportive community and for healing a gravely wounded planet, has been thrust into a crisis with the potential to be a global rite of passage. And as members of this community, each of us has been thrust into what can be our own rite of passage.
The world’s wisdom traditions tell us that in this hero/heroine’s journey of growth, the new life, the new beginnings, the new potential are found only by facing the dragons that guard the treasures.
These are the dark, painful emotions that arise as the challenges of crisis seem immense. For me, facing those dragons means allowing myself to acknowledge, be with, and work to befriend these emotions when they arise rather than following the impulse to push them away with distractions to temporarily make myself feel better. This can involve just sitting with these emotions as they rise and fall. It can include journaling about them. Having conversations with them. Sharing about our difficult emotions with true friends of the heart. Creating simple rituals to honor these emotions as teachers.
By being with my grief and feelings of loss, I see myself getting in touch with what is most deeply meaningful to me—what is most essential to my well being—as I also see more clearly what activities and things tend to encourage me to live superficially day to day.
By feeling the pain, hopelessness, fear and vulnerability that arise, I am more deeply getting in touch with my compassion for my basic humanity and for my brothers and sisters in the human family who live with these emotions in situations much more difficult than mine. This is leading me to be better able to acknowledge my professional work, as well as the everyday acts of caring and compassion I have opportunities to perform, as vital service to others and to the planet, and to even more deeply commit to using my gifts in service.
My allowing myself space to feel loneliness, rather than immediately jumping to making connections with others, I am more aware of the difference between relating to people who are true kindred spirits who feed my soul, and people with whom connections are shallow and sometimes draining. I’m becoming more aware of the difference between solitude, which feels full, and loneliness, which feels empty.
During this time when social distancing is required and I painfully feel the loss of many of the structured outdoor activities that I so enjoy, I am gaining an even deeper appreciation for my relationship with the natural world. By spending precious time outside without performance oriented activities, I’m viscerally reminded that my relationship with the life-giving beauty, bounty and energy of the natural world is more important than the role nature plays as a venue for recreational activities that I love and miss.
I’m seeing that my feelings of being lost and disoriented, without a roadmap for my future in a changed world, are showing me the limitations of my mind to plan my way forward and of my ego to control outcomes. I feel the necessity for even more strongly committing to deepen my relationship with my inner sense of guidance, with my Soul, which knows how I can best give my gifts and thrive during this crisis and in the changed world we will live in after this crisis is over.
Perhaps the most powerful gift I am receiving from these difficult emotions is the heightened reminder of my mortality provided by the reality of being in the at-risk age group
. I am making a practice of allowing my fears of death to be the ally that various spiritual traditions teach about—the ally that reminds me of how precious is each day and each experience, and how consequential each choice I make.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that we will be served by spending large amounts of time inviting or wallowing in difficult emotions
. We all need at times to engage in activities that simply help us to feel better. My words here are not meant to produce guilt. But the reality is that, for most of us in this time of crisis, waves of difficult emotions will inevitably arise. We must each find our way to navigate these turbulent waves of change, and it is essential that we extend to ourselves and others plenty of healing compassion as we do so.
What I do want to communicate is that there is a big difference between “feeling better” and feeling that kind of centeredness and aliveness that comes from being fully present with our experiences
. I know that when I allow myself to be present with, and work to befriend, the difficult emotions that arise, they are teachers providing important guidance for my growth. And, I also can trust that if I allow myself to experience them without judging them as negative and trying to push them away, each wave will gradually give way to a sense of centered, trusting relationship to my self and to spirit that is very satisfying and enlivening—much moreso than when I choose instead to search for activities just to help me “feel better.”
If your growth is truly your highest priority, then I encourage you to use this liminal time between an old way of being and the new one that seeks to emerge, as retreat time to deeply engage with the growth practices and spiritual disciplines that are important to you
. People spend lots of money to go away on retreats where productively engaging with difficult emotions and attitudes is the goal. Now coronavirus has given us that opportunity and all it costs is willingness to, as best we are able, live beneath the chaotic surface of this extraordinary time. We have the opportunity to do the inner work through which this crisis can truly be a rite of passage for ourselves and potentially for the larger human community.
A Time for Deepening
by Anne Wennhold
I don’t know about you but I’ve been overloaded,
is more like it
with well meaning messages about how to cope with the coronavirus’ imposition upon life. The tsunami of writings, programs, uplifting poems or heartfelt prayers is overwhelming! And tiring!
OK. I don’t mean every single email that comes in for I love the thoughtfulness of those who send music to listen to or information like the Metropolitan Opera free streaming online, or a list of local take outs. And I really do appreciate the
others have to maintain a sense of connection
in time of isolation. For me, actually spending time with such attempted connections became not only overkill but resulted in the opposite. It separated me from myself,
me still further! How ironic is that? By looking to others I forgot to look into myself.
At the beginning of the crisis, I confess to signing up for an online program by a famous spiritual teacher with a medical background. I thought it wise to learn new creative ways to enhance the mandated isolation. But while waiting for the first segment of the program to arrive I realized I didn’t want to hear any more information on “how to” manage my life from anyone. If anything, what I would like to hear from the teachers, leaders and guides is how
are coping with the chaos of our time rather than to tell me how to do it, and to hear how
are dealing with their own human concerns like fear, panic, boredom and restlessness at being confined.
So I will share my central coping strategy. This one is about making a daily date with the Universal Energy I call Creator Within. The purpose is to open the channels of inner wisdom that are ready to support navigation along life’s path and through difficulties like the current mandated isolation.
Going into the meditation room I begin with lighting a candle, smudging and sitting at the altar. Out loud I invite in my power animals, ancestors and spirits to be present and supportive. Then I open my Virtual Doorway to Inner Being with these magical words that come from the poet Rumi.
‘There is a
way between voice and presence
Where information flows.
In disciplined silence it opens,
In wandering talk it closes.
Resistance to Growth is Futile
by Larry Gray
Up until a few weeks ago, the global consensus was that climate change is the
defining issue of our time. Then came COVID-19. Of course, the two are not unrelated, but the global pandemic is an acute infection requiring heroic measures whereas the climate crisis is more of a chronic disease requiring ongoing management.
Like everyone else, I have been trying to make sense of the times we live in and to seek the deeper meaning of it all. I consider myself both a scientist (biologist) and a mystic and I see no conflict between these two perspectives. I see no conflict either between personal human experience and planetary experience. In this short essay, I will draw upon science, mysticism, personal and planetary perspectives in one of my many attempts to make meaning of COVID-19.
I’ll begin with a cartoon. There are two lineups of people to get into two different places. There’s a sign above the entrance to each place. One sign reads “Heaven”. The other sign reads “Books about Heaven”. One of my dominant emotional patterns that came into the glaring light of consciousness during one of my periodic exercises in life review put me squarely in the line, “Books about Heaven”.
What does that mean? It means rather than simply DOING something (writing an article, initiating a potential relationship with someone, beginning and sustaining a solid exercise regime, eating the kinds of food I absolutely know are right for me, etc., etc. ad infinitum), I have chosen to instead buy books (yes, lots of books) on writing, relationships, exercise routines, untold number of diets and so on and so on. Not just buying and reading books, but engaging in any activity that might fall under the category of “procrastination”.
Why choose “books about heaven” over “heaven” itself? Well, the dynamic I uncovered within me and which I have since discovered is a universal energy pattern might simply be called
And the People Stayed Home
by Kitty O'Meara
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways if being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the heart fully, as they had been healed.
Oh, let it be so!!!
When This is Over
by Laura Kelly Fanucci
When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theatre
Friday night ot the taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
When this ends,
may we find
that we have become
more like the people
we wanted to be
we were called to be
we hoped to be
and may we stay
for each other
because of the worst.
My Work is Loving the World
by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
The Time to be Slow
By John O’Donohue
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
The Great Turning
by Pris Munson
"BE in it all - FEEL it all
help the dark constraints,
the rules, the structure,
the illusion of separation,
and fear of the other,
fall away of its
own outdated accord.
So, The Conversation
in joy & compassion,
light & love,
hope & optimism,
freedom & sovereignty,
can begin to
for a world
Don't plan: Just BE.
Don't try: Just DO.
Don't worry: Just TRUST.
Breathe & pray.
by Nancy Wood
whose poetry ws inspired
by the elders of Taos Pueblo
Many winters I have lived
Ever since the beginning of time
When the first snow fell
Covering the tired earth
Which played with endless summer.
Many winters I held the water captive
On the tops of many mountains
Still warm from the earth’s beginning
When the moon and sun gave birth
To one full circle of beauty.
Many winters I blew the stars around
So that the place where each star fell
Was where a river grew
Taking as its course to the sea
The path of the winter sun.
Many winters the trees slept with me
And the animals walked on my breast
Just as the birds drew near
Seeking warmth from my fire
Which took the sting from the night.
Many winters I have been
Companion to the lonely moon
Chasing after the raging sun
Which listened to our song of thanks
Before releasing earth from winter.
Many winters I have lived
Ever since the beginning of time
When out of the melting snow
Came the first frail flower which said
I am the spirit of spring.
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 this late-Summer and Fall, to experience Ron and Anne's annual
October week-long Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreat at Ghost Ranch
, 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, or Ron's
weekend Conscious Eldering intensive in late August at Omega Retreat Center
in New York. Additionally, partially in response to the coronavirus crisis, Ron is teaming up with Sage-ing International to present in August
a four-session webinar very relevant to these times, titled
Navigating Life Transitions -- Wisdom for Times of Crisis.
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.
Choosing Conscious Elderhood
October 4-10 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Weekend Conscious Eldering Intensive
August 21-23 at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York
Cultivating Purpose and
Intentionality in Life's Later Chapters
November 15-19 at the IONS EarthRise Retreat Center
near Petaluma, California
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
Navigating Life Transitions: Wisdom for Times of Crisis
an online interactive course presented on Four Thursdays:
August 28, Sept. 4, 11, 18
Offered in collaboration with Sage-ing International
Information will be on our website and Sage-ing international's website in late April
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
"Olivia generously shares with us her wise woman and spiritual elder perspective on aging and sageing, with grace and wonder, loving-kindness, patience and humility. Her unequalled passion for exploring and cultivating the positive opportunities of aging without turning away from the gritty and painful parts of the process is an instructive inspiration to us all, an awakened vision which can transform our later years. These experiences, engaging stories, and wise reflections are timeless and timely life lessons opening to the great mystery of existence, of love, and of being alone yet connected here together through birth, death and onwards."
Lama Surya Das, author of
Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World.
"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
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, has released 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 is available through Amazon 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.
From the Foreword by Harry R. Moody
The Ageless Way
may be written expressly to empower women in their later life chapters, but as a 71 year old man committed to growing and serving as I age, I found Karen Sands book informative and deeply inspiring. It fills a critical need by weaving together the various strands of the Positive Aging Movement into a paradigm that supports us in thriving in all areas of our lives—physically, emotionally, socially, economically and spiritually as we enter our elder years at a time of unprecedented longevity and unparalled possibility. As I savored this book, I appreciated it as the work of a visionary with the ability to understand how a great many streams of thought and research are merging into a new story of life’s elder chapters providing the opportunity for the fruition of our human potential. As someone who myself writes and teaches about this potential, I learned much from this book, and especially appreciated the personal stories that brought the concepts to life. And I find the reflection questions that close each chapter valuable in helping readers move from merely acquiring information to integrating that information into their own journeys of growing older.
Review by Ron Pevny
leading-edge GeroFuturist™ who, through her best selling books and innovative programs, is helping many older adults discover how they can use their gifts in service while also generating income. You can learn about her work at
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.
Ron Pevny, Founder and Director
Elders are those older adults who have
extracted the gold from their painful experiences