Dear Friends Committed to Living and Aging Consciously;
The beautiful, living earth around us is turning every shade of vibrant green after months of being shrouded in a cold cloak of white. Spring has arrived in all its glory, reminding us again that after a necessary season of hibernation and dormancy, the energies of life are stirring once more, with each being—plant, animal and human—called to grow into the fullest expression of its essential nature. This is the time when seeds germinate and begin their cycle of growth-leading-to-abundance. This is the season when animals give birth to a new generation full of the energy of life. And it is the time when we humans, no less beings of nature than all those other-than-human beings with which we share this planet, are reminded by the surging life force around and within us, that in order to reap an eventual rich harvest, we must carefully and intentionally identify and nurture the possibilities that life seeks to birth through us.
We hope this Spring edition of our newsletter, with its articles, inspirational poetry, and recommended resources, helps you identify and support the new life that seeks to awaken in and through you in this season of new beginnings.
Cultivating Purpose, Intentionality
and the Courage to Aim High
by Ron Pevny
A significant difference between those who grow into the fullness of elderhood and those who merely grow old is willingness, or lack thereof, to look within to identify the possibilities that seeks to emerge through them in their precious later years, and to consciously work toward nurturing the growth and eventual harvest of these possibilities. A primary reason for my ongoing commitment to supporting the growth of conscious elders is the sadness I feel when I see older adults declaring through their actions as well as words that reaching retirement age marks the end of their opportunity to give birth to significant new life for our world.
So many believe what mainstream culture reinforces—that their significant contributions to life end when they become “senior citizens”. With millions of people living 20 or more years after retirement age, possessing a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experiences, and having access to all the wisdom traditions of the world if they choose to look, the belief that life does not ask much from us after retirement age is painfully disempowering for older adults and impoverishing for a world urgently in need of the gifts that seek to emerge through seasoned, committed elders.
If we are committed to growing into true elderhood and giving life to our world by bringing forth the gifts that naturally want to emerge in this life stage, it is essential that we live with purpose, intentionality, and courage. Without these, we exist rather than thrive.
More and more research is confirming what the world’s spiritual traditions have long understood—that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being absolutely depend upon having a strong sense of purpose. Purpose is often defined as having a reason for getting up in the morning that is bigger than our own pleasures and comforts. Richard Leider, author of
The Power of Purpose,
offers powerful guidance when he says that the foundation for discovering our unique expressions of purpose lies in a deep commitment to having our primary motivation each day be to somehow grow and somehow give. With this general purpose as our pole star, we will find countless opportunities to grow and to be of service, and as we do so we open ourselves to awareness of the unique gifts within us that seek expression and can become primary avenues for living our purpose.
Having a vision for our ideal elderhood is an equally important dynamic for living with purpose. When so many older adults are asked what their ideal elderhood looks like, they have no idea how to respond. They might talk about taking bucket list vacations or enjoying their grandkids or finding some volunteer opportunities, but beyond that there appear to be no vision—just taking each day as it comes and finding things to do to fill the hours. We get what we aim for. If all we aim for is to fill our hours and enjoy what comforts we can, that’s all we will get as we age. But imagine having a bucket list that addresses many more of our needs as human beings than just our pleasures and comforts.
Imagine having a clear vision of what it can be like if your need for community is well met in your elderhood, and to be taking tangible steps to have that need become a reality. Likewise, imagine having clear vision of how you can fulfill your need to use your gifts in service; your need for emotional and spiritual deepening; your need to continually learn new things; your need for pleasure and excitement; your need for good health of body, mind and spirit; your need for a close, life-giving relationship with the natural world; and your need to give expression to your elderhood through meaningful relationships—perhaps mentoring—with younger people.
You can begin to develop such a vision by making it a priority. You can give yourself the gift of quiet time and solitude in which you look within to see what images emerge as you focus on each of these dimensions of yourself which, when fulfilled, will contribute to your total wholeness and well being. You probably already are at least somewhat aware of various aspects of your vision, and they just need to be recognized, affirmed and committed to. With other aspects, your focused desire for clear vision will help support your increasing clarity. Inviting contact with your spiritual guidance through prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices that you resonate with is invaluable in helping you know what is truly coming from your deepest, most authentic inner knowing versus from just your mental self and your conditioning.
As you gain a sense of elements of your vision for your ideal elderhood, take time to imagine that they have become reality in your life. What will it look like when they manifest? What will you be feeling as you achieve these goals? This process will help you move beyond having appealing ideas to getting a deeper sense of whether each of these possibilities is truly one you should choose to aim for.
Once you become aware of at least some elements of your vision for your elderhood, the next step is to put these in written form, perhaps accompanied by photos or artistic images, that you keep in a place in your home set aside for reflection and inspiration. Without clear statements of your goals and your commitment to work toward them, they will remain ephemeral fantasies with little chance of manifesting in your life. I encourage you to develop and periodically update your list of intentions, and keep a journal in which you identify and keep track of tangible steps you are taking and can take toward their fulfillment.
If you are working toward your ideal vision for your elderhood, you are living purposefully. You are growing, you are giving, and you are offering the best of yourself to this world
Living intentionally is living with a clear sense of purpose and commitment. It is not hoping, or wishing, or declaring what you would kind-of-like to do or have. One obstacle to living with such intentionality is the idea I have often heard expressed that creating such statements of intention seems like adding a big “should” to their lives when they want to reduce the “shoulds” and instead enjoy each moment. I believe it takes personal self awareness—part of the wisdom of elderhood—to find the balance between these two realities that is right for each of us. Our elder chapters are indeed a time when our psyche calls us to slow down, savor each moment, and develop our inner lives. At the same time, if we want to grow into our potential fullness as human beings, we need to have meaningful goals and work toward them. We need to have goals to focus our energy, and to give us reasons for choosing to endure the discomfort that accompanies real growth. Goals are what help us move beyond who we are to who we have the potential to become. One of my own intentions speaks to this balance: “As I age, I intend to create a lifestyle that balances focused activity and work toward making my intentions a reality, with the time I need to just savor and reflect on life's wonders without being goal oriented."
I have a list of eleven intentions, created over the past few years, that guide my journey into my elderhood. I keep these on an altar I have at home where I have items, inspirational poetry, photos and objects that are sacred to me. Each week I look at my intentions and pay special attention to at least one that seems most alive time at that time. I think about it, visualize it, feel into it, consider steps I have taken and steps I can take, however small, toward fulfilling that intention. Periodically I look within to see if one of my intentions no longer has life for me, and, if so, I delete it. And periodically when I find that a new goal becomes important, I set an intention around this element of my ideal elderhood and add this to my list.
My intentions, and yours, may not all become reality, but they keep us aiming high and searching for what is possible in our growth. Sometimes a goal that feels ever-so-right also seems totally out of reach. Rather than dismissing it, I suggest you try to take a few small steps in that direction and see what these lead to. We all know those inspirational quotes that tell us about the unexpected support that often arises when we become truly committed to something. So many people have found that these are true. With some of our intentions we find we have to change course along the way, but without the original intention, commitment, and small steps we would not have gotten to that point. Acting on our intentions is often a catalyst for recognizing possibilities we cannot initially envision.
One of the most important questions I ask participants in our workshops and retreats is this:
As you age, is it more important to you to be comfortable, or to grow?
For so many people (few of whom come to our programs) comfort and perceived security are the highest priority. I believe it is a reality that
little or no growth occurs inside our comfort zones.
I’m not suggesting that there is not a place for comfort in conscious eldering. We all need experiences of comfort and rest. Times of comfort help us stabilize new growth and renew our energy. But if our vision for our elderhood is grounded in continual growth and true aliveness, we need the courage and will to endure the initial discomfort and face the fears that come with shedding old skins and moving beyond our perceived limitations. Additionally, by being willing to step outside our comfort zones, we receive another, equally important gift: that unmatched feeling of aliveness, usually accompanied by joy and pride of accomlishment, that arises when we shed self-imposed constrictions to the life force seeking expression through us. We have all known that feeling of aliveness, yet we all too often allow fear to override this deep knowing.
Rich possibilities for wholeness, fulfillment and contribution to a world in peril lie within each of us
as our beautiful, beseiged planet gives us yet another Springtime. All life asks of us as elders-in-process is that we commit to growing into our very best selves, nurturing the many facets of our precious lives so that as we grow and bloom we are gifts to a world that urgently needs truly alive and whole human stewards.
To Be of Service: Obligation or Choice?
by Cathy Carmody
Cathy was a dear friend and a strong voice for conscious eldering in Canada.
She died in 2016
Much has been written about the expectation that as we step away from our midlife work, (currently called retirement) we will be ready and eager to volunteer, i.e. ‘give back’ and ‘be of service’ to our communities. I hold a strong belief that looking out for our fellow human beings who are in need, as well as working for a better world, are absolutely necessary parts of being a civilized society. I wonder, though, what giving back really means today.
The more traditional ‘elder’ way of giving back
In the past, in indigenous tribes, and in a number of cultures, older members were considered ‘elders’, sought out for their knowledge and wisdom. Their ‘service’ wasn’t the current type of doing good works, or giving money; rather it was a natural outflow from people who were known as the ‘wisdom keepers’. They were the ones who having lived and learned much over their lives, provided words of wisdom when others didn’t have the lived experience to know which direction to choose. They were the ‘elders’ who listened and gave advice when asked, as a way of giving back. In the world today, the recognition of ‘wisdom keepers’ within our communities has largely fallen by the wayside. In fact, a cynical person might say that today older adults are not asked for much of anything, except volunteer labor and/or cash.
The trap of obligation:
What if many of those in their 50s and 60s who are currently reaching the end of their midlife work, especially in healthcare, education or in the variety of other ‘service sectors’, are just plain tired out by years of providing ‘service’; by doing more with less because of austerity budgets; by looking after or out for others, with little time for themselves? What if they are exhausted? What if they turn their backs on ‘giving back’, even temporarily?
On the other hand, what happens if we allow ourselves to be lured into feeling that we’re obligated to ‘do’ volunteer work, or other types of ‘good works’ because it’s a way to ‘keep busy’, serves as a way of maintaining our self- respect or the respect of our friends, or is part of what we are told
aging requires. And, what if we discover that in so doing, we begin to notice that it doesn’t make us happy, doesn’t fill us up, even if we don’t know what would? What if we discover that when one starts from a place of obligation and makes a commitment, it can result in a deep and growing sense of resentment?
Yet there is no doubt that a large number of individuals, especially after having left their midlife work and, after a time of travel, leisure, trying out hobbies, etc., discover that they miss having a reason and a deeper purpose to wake up to, even though they may not be able to articulate the feeling.
The Challenges of volunteering:
Unconsciously many of us tend to automatically and blindly think about and seek out a volunteer position. Many organizations looking for volunteers review the skills/abilities one has developed over the years and tend to quickly slot people based on that general overall background – or alternatively - stereotype ones’ contribution based on their gender and age. Who they have become and are today isn’t usually looked at or considered in depth. Lately, I’m hearing about many who did turn to volunteerism, and who have abruptly changed their minds after they’ve realized that being given ‘mickey- mouse’ jobs is disrespectful and dismissive of who they are, and their potential, as older adults.
Dr. Carl Jung observed that we wouldn’t be living as long as we are – if there wasn’t a reason.
Thus, if our longevity is not to be wasted on being pushed into ‘being of service’ through a sense of obligation, what is the alternative?
It’s all about consciously choosing our future
I believe older adults can choose - if they are awake - to nurture a consciousness about ‘being of service’ – and – yet it will come only after much thought and from a place of choice. I believe that one of the greatest benefits to ‘being of service’ has very little to do with past ‘knowledge’ and everything to do with ‘wisdom’ gained from experience, especially as it relates to self-knowledge, or emotional intelligence. Our world is full of ‘stuff’, of ‘things’, of knowing this concept, this historical fact, this mathematical formula, this new innovation, and this new computer skill/piece of equipment. Yet as we grow older our need for self-reflection and a deeper sense of who we can become over the coming years is critical, not only to our own health and well being, but also as a gift to others, especially younger people, who could choose to seek us out to serve as much needed mentors.
As we step away from our midlife work, rather than racing out to immediately find something to do to keep us ‘busy’, we would be wise to take the time to enter a search for what we are passionate about in the world, what we really care about, what we long for, and what can/will create meaning and purpose in our lives for the years ahead. We could begin by remembering what /who we dreamed about becoming when we were younger, (and perhaps over the years put on the back burner when it didn’t seem possible). Often times, our thoughts are so latent, so well hidden from ourselves that it takes time and ‘paying attention’ to get them out into the open, where they can become the fuel for our intention for moving forward. Out of this remembering may come a desire to create ‘legacy work’ - either paid or of a volunteer effort - as a way to contribute to the larger good.
Throughout my life I’ve had a number of times when I ‘woke up’ to a new way of moving through my world – always prompted by a new challenge, a new way of thinking or a dramatic question that triggered a shift in my perspective. And, in the midst of those times, when I felt a sense of knowing what was really meaningful for me, I sometimes chose to become part of a larger community, giving back in response to a call around an issue about which I felt passionate. Always the issues I worked on meshed with my passions at the time. And yet there would inevitably come a time when I knew I had to walk away.
As we grow older – consciously – we will discover there are many layers to our lives, including this life stage of a new elderhood, with possibilities for longevity, growth and service not available to those who have gone before us. Who we will become, and what we will do is totally open to our choices – we can choose to be and do whatever we want, when we want and how we want. How we become ‘of service’ for the good of the world will be a very individual decision – one that we cannot choose purposefully - unless and until we are awake and conscious.
Questions to ponder:
* Do I feel an intention to give back? to volunteer? To give my gifts in some other way? Where does it come from?
* Does it come from a place of obligation, or a place of conscious choice?
• When I was very young, who did I dream I wanted to become?
* What was it about that dream that called to me then?
* Is there something about that dream that calls to me now?
Do I feel that becoming an activist for change in the world is my way of giving back? If not, what seems to be my way?
Crack Yourself Open
by William Martin
The Sage’s Tao te Ching
Being a sage is not all unruffled calm.
It is also a time of freedom
to express and feel the truth of our lives
To explore the passions buried for years beneath acceptable masks.
It is a time to serve a cause with energy and compassion,
To fall madly in love
and dance into the night.
Crack yourself open!
What use is it to continue
to hide behind your facades and roles?
Why waste your energy playing games?
Isn’t it time to cry your tears
to shout your passion;
to dance like Zorba;
and to let your soul touch
the Soul of the world?
by John O''Donohue
As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.
As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back among
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.
As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The right solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.
By Nancy Wood
Why look for answers, my child,
Among the people you meet?
Why believe there is fulfillment
In your narrow life of work?
Why sacrifice the gift of loneliness
To fill up the time with diversion?
Look inside every living thing you find.
Feel the energy of rocks and leaves, hummingbirds and cactus.
Dwell for a moment in a single blade of grass.
Discover the secret of snowflakes.
In these patterns lie harmony, my child.
In harmony, the universe.
A Blessing for One Who Is Exhausted
by John O''Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
by Sue Ludwig
I am in search of my life
Not the one I was dealt
but the one I want to have.
Not the one
repeatedly stomped into the ground
where I least expect it,
But the one where
I wake up each day
expected to be on a path
maybe nothing I expected
but everything I wished for.
I have been tending to the hard work.
I have unearthed and tilled
and reseeded the dead areas.
I am beginning to see sprouts.
Little glowing green life
pushing against gravity,
weight of earth
to find light.
They are in search of their life.
They know more than I
how to shed the confines
of the seed,
thank it for its lesson,
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 programs offered in collaboration with Omega Institute, and with Katia Petersen, long-time director 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 remaining 2019 programs are listed below. You can find flyers with the details on our website. We especially encourage you to check our our newest offerings:
Embracing Conscious Elderhood
at Omega and
Aiming High: Cultivating Purpose and Intentionality in Life's Later Chapters
at the IONS EarthRise Retreat Center north of San Francisco.
Choosing Conscious Elderhood
June 23 - 29 at Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon
(registration deadline May 22)
October 1-7 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Weekend Conscious Eldering Intensives
May 31 - June 2 near Louisville, Kentucky
September 27 - 29 in Salida, Colorado
Embracing Conscious Elderhood
August 12-16 at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York
This workshop, at the beautiful retreat center that introduced conscious aging to the world 25 years ago, weaves together practices of conscious eldering with wisdom and practices from the three Transforming Aging Summits which were hosted by Ron Pevn
Cultivating Purpose and Intentionality in Life's Later Chapters
October 27-31 at 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.
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
No one has made a more significant contribution to the field of conscious aging than Bolton Anthony. And no one has done more to help make my writing about conscious eldering, and my work through the Center for Conscious Eldering, possible than Bolton.
The organization he founded and directed, Second Journey, existed as a legal entity for 18 years. During that time, over 150 leaders contributed articles on various facets of aging consciously to the 13 issues of
, their online newsletter. The dozen books Second Journey published were edited by incredibly talented, dedicated visionaries. Many people came into their orbit because of the Visioning Councils and other programs they offered. Many more simply heard in Second Journey's voice something that allied with a deep longing in their heart.
Second Journey no longer exists as an entity, but Bolton is making the legacy created by so many inspiring people available for the foreseeable future. The online material is available at no charge through an archival website
of their books (which you can learn about on that website) can be purchased through
. or through the website. If you read no other books or articles on aging, these materials will stimulate your mind and touch your soul for a long time to come. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Thank you, Bolton for all you have contributed to my life, my work, and to the work of so many others who are supporting an empowering vision for aging in today's world.
This deeply moving work is meant to be slowly read and savored--perhaps a chapter every now and then when you need the inspiration of a true elder who has earned that title through a life committed to learning and growing through both bright vision and hopeless darkness. In reading the stories Palmer shares about his journey of growth, I felt I was sitting with a personal mentor whose struggles, aspirations, and contradictions I could relate to and learn from.
As one of the book's endorsers, Carrie Newcomer, writes. :"This book is tender to the core for our shared human condition and fierce with love and guarded hope for our shared human possibility. It has the feel of a lovely kitchen table conversation between the author and reader, exploring thoughtful aging, finding meaning n hard times, and harmonizing our inner ad outer landscapes at every stage of life."
"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 online programs include:
* Choices for Sustainable Living
* 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.net
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
Ron Pevny, Founder and Director
It is vital to our well being to be engaged in projects that allow us to use our character strengths and our gifts in support of causes we are passionate about,
with people who share our aspirations and values.
Art Mitchell, in his soon-to-be-released book
Grateful Not Dead