Dear Friends Committed to Living and Aging Consciously;
We send you love and pray for your wellbeing and growth as we near the end of a Springtime that has been both spectacularly beautiful outdoors and deeply challenging for most of us indoors. Whether gradual emergence from the coronavirus pandemic and the eruption of awareness of the powerful shadow of racism in our culture herald the birth of critically needed personal and cultural new beginnings depends upon choices each of us make. Do we approach these crises, and the impending climate crisis, merely as something to be endured or adapted to 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 the turbulent waters of immense change We also include our schedule of retreats and workshops for this Autumn, 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. We also include information about our new four-session online workshop on "Navigating Life's Passages: Wisdom for Times of Crisis."
Learning Elder Wisdom from a Fierce Teacher
By Ron Pevny
As coronavirus has given us all an opportunity to shift our focus from our normal outer activities to our inner lives, I have often found myself reflecting on what it will mean to claim ones elderhood in a post-pandemic world. I try to identify what we can learn from COVIG-19 that will inform our understanding of what a conscious elderhood can be and of our inner work to realize those possibilities? In this article I’d like to share some of my reflections and several meaningful questions for your own reflection.
Most of those who will read this article are in the demographic most vulnerable to the virulence of the virus. However, we are also in the demographic most vulnerable to illness in general; most vulnerable to losses of friends; losses of physical and mental abilities; losses of roles that we have used to define ourselves and to provide that all-important sense of meaning and purpose; vulnerable to being seen as irrelevant by the society we live in; and vulnerable to internalizing the pervasive ageism that disempowers us by sapping our sense of worth and our trust in our potential contributions to the community.
As I look at my experiences and those of other conscious elders I have been privileged to share with during the past three months, I see where many have used the coronavirus as a fierce teacher whose gift is giving us the opportunity to practice a way of living that has long characterized those who have ripened into the fullness of elderhood. I find that I and many others are allowing ourselves much more time than previously to embrace and savor the preciousness of each moment.
We are reveling in the wonder of the natural world emerging from dormancy yet again in this exceptionally beautiful Springtime. We are intentionally embracing these quiet moments as opportunities to cultivate stronger relationship with Spirit. We are appreciating the difference between superficial relationships and those relationships that feed our souls, and nurturing these very special connections. We are paying careful attention to the often-strong emotions, imaginings and fears, as well as the more subtle inner promptings and visions of our potential, that are arising into our awareness during this time. And we are using a variety of resources to help us practice fruitful ways to relate to these experiences.
Many of us are feeling a heightened need to identify and give our gifts to the human family and to our wounded planet. At the same time, we are more aware than ever that our ability to serve to the fullest of our potential depends upon us cultivating a rich inner life of presence, gratitude and compassion, qualities which can be an invaluable gift of embracing our mortality as the ally that continually reminds us of the preciousness of each moment.
We can learn so very much from a fierce teacher such as coronavirus, but to do so takes commitment and courage. It takes courage to allow such a teacher to help us examine our ways of being in the world and our relationship with our inner life. It takes courage to acknowledge our weaknesses and our (perhaps unrecognized) strengths. Courage is necessary if we are to choose each day to feed ourselves those experiences that bring us truly alive when it is so tempting to go on automatic and immerse ourselves in numbing distractions. It takes courage to choose to step outside our comfort zones in service to truly living.
It requires courage to choose to acknowledge that this current COVIG-19 crisis and the other crises that are arising and will inevitably be part of in the future, will all require letting go of ways of being that cannot be sustained. All the world’s wisdom traditions teach that significant change comes only through difficult personal and cultural initiations that are experienced as crisis, when former identities, attitudes and ways of being must be let go—as painful as that can be—so that new ways can emerge that support a fuller expression of human potential. This is the essential dynamic of that archetypal process of growth that is often called the Hero/Heroine/s Journey. And, as we enter our later life chapters, it is the essential dynamic of that archetypal process of growth from mid-life adulthood into the rich emotional, spiritual and service possibilities of true elderhood,
The coronavirus pandemic will end. Our vulnerability to mortality will not. Post pandemic, will we allow fear to drive us to live in perpetual psychological lockdown as we face the inevitable dangers that accompany our journey through aging? Or will we have the courage to take the risks that bring us alive?
It is important to reflect deeply and honestly about what kind of person are we committed to being after the current crisis passes. What attitudes, habits and ways of living are we being called to shed so that as a result of this crisis we become the result of this crisis is us becoming fuller versions of ourselves and not smaller, more frightened people? What can we be doing now to establish within our psyches and in our daily lives those healthy ways of being that will serve us in maturing into alive, committed elders—elders whose contributions of big-picture perspective, commitment to a healthy future for the generation to come, and willingness to give their personal soul gifts—will be more needed than ever in a world where the viruses of polarization, inequality, racism and climate breakdown loom large to threaten humanity’s future wellbeing and even survival?
As our hearts are broken by witnessing the pain of so many in the human family, what understandings of our soul gifts are being evoked by our compassion and commitment to making a difference?
Are we striving to gain a clearer sense of how, when the pandemic is over, we can serve our community as elders in ways that stretch us beyond our previously perceived limits and bring us more fully alive than before? Are we cultivating the courage to defy ageist stereotypes that view older adults primarily as vulnerable old people whose primary motivation is comfort and security and who take more than we give? Are we willing to commit to living in such a way that we can more easily be seen by younger generations, and by ourselves, as courageous, vital contributors to the wellbeing of the community? As honored, valued elders, willing to learn from a fierce teacher.
The Power of Story
by Anne Wennhold
Stretched flat out on the sandy floor of the Arizona desert, Ed Lowe took off his boots and relaxed his six foot muscled self in the gentle curve of the earth beneath him. He felt blanketed by the warmth of the sun overhead. It was solo day at the Next Step retreat at COD Ranch. Ed’s intention was to spend the day getting in touch with nature more intimately than was usual for him. He already loved nature and delighted in sharing that love with others. For years Ed had led kids on weekend nature jaunts and had guided adults in rafting trips on the Rio Grande River in Texas.
Ed also had a passion for nature as expressed in food. Good food: wholesome, farmed locally, served in a down-home style that had made his restaurant not only a regional ‘go-to’ but garnered recognition in a national magazine. Now it was time for Ed to deepen his own connection with the earth as a basis for the Next Step of being in service to others seeking their roots in nature. So far this week’s retreat helped him slow down his administrative self to become more aware of the greater energy of the universe.
Ed closed his eyes and gave himself over to the hum of insects, the rhythm of birdcall and the solitude of the day. He drowsed awhile before lazily scanning the horizon. A butterfly fluttered momentarily over his head then zigzagged down the length of his body to hover over a toe before flying off. Remembering the instructions to notice what in nature attracts your attention because often it is a ‘teacher’ coming to you with needed information, Ed sat up to inspect his toes. A closer view revealed an ant, patiently climbing from the side of his foot to higher ground, presumably to one of the toes sticking up. Up the ant climbed only to find that was not the sought after spot. With great patience, the ant turned its efforts in another direction. But even that was not the goal it wanted. Back and forth across Ed’s foot it went: seeking, always seeking…
…. And it made Ed laugh. How like himself, he thought. This ant: running here, running there, restless, not sure of his purpose, not knowing where to go next, always challenged, yet sensing there was something more. How interesting that this tiny creature, busily trying to dispel its energy to find food and provide for procreation, had no idea of the terrain that challenged him: no inkling that another creature, so huge as to be beyond belief, was host and surveyor of its frantic to and froing.
Yet, how like that ant must he, Ed, be in God’s eyes: a creature trying this and trying that, never quite sure that even when following his creative intuition in service to others it was enough. Wasn’t there something
to do with his life? He was here at COD Ranch in Tucson, Arizona to find an answer. And the solo day was geared to support that quest.
Ed recorded the encounter with the ant in his journal and then spent the rest of the day quietly enjoying the view of distant purple mountains capped with frothy white clouds while in the back of his mind the ant’s teaching slowly took form.The next morning all twelve participants in the retreat met with the facilitators and one by one shared the results of their solo day with each other. Ed waited a bit before he claimed his time to share.
How we all laughed as Ed described his discovery of this minute creature trying to navigate one tiny part of a monumental (to it) mass of energy with absolutely no clue that there was any other universe than the one its limited capabilities beheld. Ed joined our laughter at his description. Then he fell silent for a moment. He hadn’t realized during solo time just why an ant, rather than a larger more important manifestation of nature, appeared but he honored and accepted it’s presence with the intent to open to whatever it had to teach. Ed finally raised his head and said, “The ant’s teaching was about Strength, Strength and Determination to carry out its purpose.” I don’t remember what Ed might have said after that. There were others in the group that needed time to share their experience. And then there was the hubbub of packing and leave taking. It was only months later that I was able to track down how Ed might have felt and what he did in response to the ant’s teaching.
Here’s what happened... Ed left the retreat feeling fulfilled and confident that the information necessary for the Next Step would be revealed in a timely fashion. He continued running his weekend trips in service to youth and adults interested in bonding with nature.
The bigger challenge came with the idea to meet with his ‘family’ of restaurant workers and ask them what they saw in his characteristics and capabilities that might point the way to greater ability to serve others. As an outcome of that discussion, Ed asked the cooks, waiters and kitchen help to help spear head the restaurant’s concept of highlighting local and natural foods by becoming part owners and assuming more responsibility for the actual running of the place: an experiment in developing community for the good of all.
Some months later, while scouting a riverside ledge for a place where his rafters could set out camping equipment, Ed lost his footing, pitched head first into the Rio Grande river, broke his neck and died.Everyone who knew Ed was shocked by his unexpected death. Some people responded to the news with outrage, making comments like, “What a tragedy!” “He was too young to die!” and “What a waste of a good life!”
Yes! It was all of that. But to others, grateful for experiencing Ed in their own lives, or just hearing about his story, felt that after all perhaps Ed had fulfilled his purpose in this life and that it was time for him to move on.
Stories bring up questions,
help us examine our own lives, guide our behavior, stimulate imagination and satisfy our longing for connection. There are many levels to Ed’s story: each level promising a rich inner or outer conversation. My initial response to Ed’s story was at his level of intention. I too had been wondering what the Next Step would be. At the time it meant figuring out how to deal with a difficult health issue: a stubborn bacterial infection with a life altering persistence. My question for the Next Step was how should I plan to live if this invading force decided to take up permanent residence in my body and eventually cause its demise?
Thinking back to Ed’s encounter with the ant, an insect as busy trying to find its path as my mind was busy trying to determine how next to live, I realized I was frenetically trying to organize my life and make a decision based on an outcome I couldn’t control. Actually I was always trying to control how my life would turn out. But no matter how often I experience it otherwise, I keep forgetting that almost 100% of the time, things never happen as I imagine them. As the saying goes, ‘Man plans and God laughs!’
How easily I forget that, however ones chooses to name them, there are larger forces that are part of the equation for anyone of us who is a mere particle in the creation and maintenance of the universe.
The teaching of the ant is the one of the power levels in Ed’s story. It offered me the opportunity to see a larger perspective to my way of dealing with a challenging problem and to let go (once again) my need to control it by dictating the outcome. My take away from this story is: ‘PERSPECTIVE!’
There are other levels to Ed’s story that speak to life challenges such as creative imagination, communication with nature, and issues of life purpose, community and the timing of death. The power of stories, good stories, true stories is that they contain messagesof timely guidance for anyone looking for it.
By Tony Frank
Chancellor of the Colorado State University System
I’m writing to get some thoughts off my chest as I sit here late at night, unable to sleep, thinking about a 65-year-old woman. She’s tough as nails, but has viral pneumonia, and she’s alone and she’s scared. You’ve made a big impression on her—on all of us, for that matter. And I know you’re not done yet.
You’ve made uncertainty and even fear part of our everyday lives. You’ve dashed more than a few dreams so far. You’ve given those who work with infectious diseases a new understanding of the individual lives behind our graphs and curves. You’ve pushed our doctors and nurses to the brink. You’ve taken loved ones from us. Sometimes, they have died in the hands of strangers, with even their funerals held in isolation.
You’ve exposed some of our societal fault lines—painful gaps between rich and poor,
White and minority, rural and urban, young and old, the technologically connected and those with limited access, the healthy and those whose health is compromised, even in unseen ways. You’ve made your mark in our history books—you will be remembered.
But what’s more important to me is what you can’t do. You can’t keep us from adapting. You can’t stop our creativity and humor. You can’t stop us from caring for one another. You can’t stop us from expressing our diverse opinions as human beings. You can’t keep us from expressing our beliefs in something larger than ourselves. You can’t separate us from love of family, the compassion of our friends; even the gentleness in the touch of a total stranger for those who are in your final grasp is beyond your ability to prevent.
And you can’t stop us from learning, from innovating, from working together in unexpected ways to fight you. Right now we’ve got scientists who have shut down their own work to help private companies test their existing drugs and chemical compounds to see if any of them can stop your spread. We have volunteers lining up to give blood, hand out free meals at school sites, take in foster pets and go shopping for strangers. We have front line employees in grocery stores, hospitals and campus residence halls who are putting themselves on the line to make sure their communities are safe and cared for.
We are stronger together—and you have reminded us of that, in ways we should never have forgotten.
So go ahead. Unleash whatever havoc is within your power, but do so knowing that we are relentlessly resisting you, learning about you. And we will win. Throw your worst at us, and realize that it cannot hold a candle to the beauty of the better angels of the human spirit.
Not Out of the Woods
© Bob Calhoun
“Not out of the woods”,
say the epidemiologists, not yet;
the virus being with us much longer;
“Until a vaccine”, they repeat,
“We’re not out of the woods…”
And those of us in this second half of life,
awarded a new classification of “most vulnerable,”
however difficult it is to embrace,
finding ourselves hunkered down
safe in place, if not out of our own concern,
then by our children’s insistence…
still deep in the woods
not yet out and about in what we took as normal;
“Not for a long while most likely,”
the epidemiologists again contending.
Underlying medical conditions,
a weakened immune system or cancer diagnosis,
throw those in the mix,
and it’s double down, triple vulnerability
and the sense we may just be hauled into court
to explain any risk taken.
Where is this “out of the woods” place that is not yet?
On this journey are we ever out of the woods,
free from pathogens, viruses, bacteria, cancers, accidents,
forces of nature, insults, cultural persuasions, shared spaces, death?
Are we not, like the trees of the forest, an integral part
of a complex cosmos of relationships
connected to each other despite our differences,
up against the odds together, vulnerable as one in this life?
Waiting to get out of the woods, even rushing…
could it be chasing an illusion of control,
a great race back to “normal,” to busyness,
overlooking the very woods we inhabit,
yearning for lost or postponed distractions,
including the many that numb us, blind us, keep us
from embracing the rich layers of life and spirit
deep in the woods…?
During this “great pause” as some have called it, what is the gift?
Where might lie opportunities to see more clearly,
love more dearly, be more conscious, more human,
…breathe more deeply?
As second half of life folks,
already on the path of transformation,
a path of letting go, getting back to simple,
shifting from existing to living,
this pandemic time offers encouragement
to keep evolving, making intentional adjustments
to deeper living and consciousness.
Enjoy the quiet moments,
the long walks, conversations allowed to flower,
kind acknowledgements from neighbors,
connections with old souls from the past,
downsizing, closet cleaning,
offering a hand, accepting the hand held out toward you,
precious looks from your grandchild
even if through the computer screen.
Appreciate and care for the “woods,”
these woods that surround us.
allow them to be our refuge,
to enliven us, nurture us,
hold ground for us, protect us,
and yes, bury us.
Do Not Try To Save the Whole World
By Martha Postlethwaite
Do not try to save
The whole world
Or do anything grandiose.
In the dense forest
Of your life
Until the song
That is your life
Falls into your own
and you recognize
and greet it.
Only then will you know
How to give yourself
To this world
So worthy of rescue.
by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
By Terry Tempest Williams
et us pause and listen and gather our strength with grace
and move forward like water in all its manifestation:
flat water, white water, rapids and eddies,
and flood this country with an
integrity of purpose and patience and persistence
capable of cracking stone.
am a writer without words who continues to believe in the vitality of the struggle.
et us hold each other close
and be kind.
et us gather together and break bread.
et us trust that what is required of us next will become clear in time.
hat has been hidden is now exposed.
his river, this mourning, this moment –
ay we be brave enough to feel it deeply.
nd then act.
A Blessing for Presence
by John O”Donohue
May you awaken to the mystery of being here
And enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift
And find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and anxiety never linger about you.
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 join us for an in-person retreat or our new web-based four-session course on Navigating Life's Passages.
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.
We sincerely hope we are able to present our Fall in-person retreats. We will do so only if we, the retreat centers, and the health authorities believe it is safe to do so. If you are interested in Choosing Conscious Elderhood or Aiming High, please contact us to receive updated information.
Choosing Conscious Elderhood
October 4-10 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
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.
Navigating Life's Passages: Wisdom for Times of Crisis
an online interactive course presented on Four Thursdays:
August 27, Sept. 3, 10, 17
Offered in collaboration with Sage-ing International
Information can be found on our website and Sage-ing international's website
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
Mystical Activism is a book that is urgently needed in this time of environmental and cultural crisis, reminding us that frightening statistics and apocalyptic predictions are not enough—that the wisdom and will that can save our planet can only come from deep experience of the sacredness of life on Earth. This book is a beautiful, practice-filled guide to accessing mystical consciousness and committing to using the soul gifts we find there in service to a world teetering on a knife’s edge between collapse and transformation.
"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
Art Mitchell's book presents a remarkably comprehensive contrast between the current mainstream disempowering paradigm for aging and an understanding which recognizes and supports the potential of older adults to truly thrive, grow, and serve as vital and important members of their human communities and the larger planetary community. Within his organizing structure of REWIREMENT, he provides a compelling conceptual framework and a rich variety of practices to help elder adults tap into their beliefs about their aging, their core values, their innate sense of purpose, their signature strengths and gifts, and many other dimensions of life’s elder chapters well lived. It is clear that Art is deeply committed to living what he teaches, and his heartfelt and often-entertaining stories of his personal journey of conscious aging make
Grateful, Not Dead
an engaging work that speaks to both head and heart.
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.
Announcing a highly recommend new e-course
What's New With Old
an e-course presented by Sage-ing International and
Spirituality and Practice
Led by Katia Petersen, Jerome Kerner and Dave Bauer
This course, presented via a series of email lessons which include valuable practices to engage with each week, calls us to re-envision ourselves as vibrant and spirited elders. What would change if we each decided to finally claim our authentic voice? What if each of us saw this as our time to emerge from the chrysalis of our lives with a clarity and passion to live with creative and purposeful choices? And, what if we each decided to truly listen to ourselves and be open to the synergy of younger people in the creation of a new day, of a new world? These are important questions to ponder when envisioning a thriving world at this time in history. How we view the aging process in our culture affects the way we choose to live our lives. We invite you to join us in this exciting exploration of expansive ways of aging gracefully and energetically.
This course began on June 1st and concludes on June 25th. However, you can join at any time with full access to all the course materials.
Ron Pevny, Founder and Director
Place your fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche