Dear Friends Committed to Living and Aging Consciously:

In the Northern Hemisphere of our planet home, each new year begins in the season that calls us to focus our energies inwardly -- to rest, reflect, and gather the energy we will need to fully engage with life when the inner and outer seasons turn toward Spring, and darkness yet again gives way to new beginnings, new possibilities, new challenges and new or renewed commitments. In this Winter edition of our newsletter, you will find articles we feel are perfectly suited to the tasks of Winter. Center for Conscious Eldering retreat guide Larry Gray writes about the realizations and commitments that can arise from allowing ourselves to go into inner dark places to get in touch with our elder scars and the wounds we human inflict on our earth mother.

Dear friend Arden Mahlberg writes about the courage that is needed to thrive and serve as conscious elders -- courage that is grounded in deep conviction rather than hope. You will also find inspirational poetry and information about resources that you can draw upon for support as we move into a year of both tremendous challenges AND powerful opportunities for growth, fulfillment and service.
We begin with a heartfelt Blessing for You in 2020.

A Blessing for You in 2020
by Brenda Dineen

May you embrace and appreciate the stage of life you are in right now.

May you feel compassion for yourself and others and let go of self-doubt.

May you find and use your voice to be heard in this world.

May doors of opportunity and learning open before you.

May you share messages of hope and optimism with others.

May you be surrounded with people who love and support you. May you let go of people and things that drag you down and that do not serve your best interest.

May you have the courage to ask for help when you need it.

May you experience well-being in all ways and have all the health supports you may need.

May you walk through each day with purpose, appreciating your gifts and thankful for this very life you have been given.

May you gain new insights and awakenings in your soul.
Brenda Dineen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in Vancouver, BC. She is passionate about supporting people who are going through their 50s, 60s and 70s so they discover new purpose and meaning in life. She can be reached at .

Honoring Our Elder Scars
by Larry Gray

Sometimes when I begin to work with a new group of college students in one of my Environmental Studies courses, I hold the first day of class outside. I ask members of our circle to introduce themselves by telling us and showing us (if appropriate and with their permission) the scars on their body and the story that is behind each physical scar. One thing I have learned from this exercise is that just about everyone has some sort of early scar from falling off their bicycle! 

As we go around the circle and share these physical wounds and the stories behind them (I participate in this too), we realize that some events in our life story are literally written on (and even in) our bodies. Hence, the adage, “our biology is our biography”. I then ask the students to think about the Earth and reflect on the physical scars our planet bears on its surface. These are wounds inflicted mostly from a range of resource extraction activities as we log, mine, fish, hunt and burn our way through the ancient fabric of Earth’s natural systems. Some of Earth’s scars are very long-lasting and perhaps will take thousands of years to heal. I use this type of introduction to show how deeply humans are connected to the natural world, that the Earth’s suffering is our suffering, too. If we can feel compassion for ourselves and each other because of our physical wounds, we can feel compassion for Earth’s physical wounds, too.

This correlation between our planetary suffering and our personal suffering was reinforced for me recently, when I went through a bout of influenza. When I occasionally become physically ill, I become vulnerable to not just the physical pain, but emotional pain as well. During my recent illness, my physical energy was compromised and I had to be looked after by someone else.  As I lay in bed for two days drained of energy and with a 103 degree fever, some of the accumulated emotional pain (my emotional scars) that I usually carry hidden from my own view became more available to me as all of my defenses were down. This pain took forms of regret, remorse, and deep sadness for past unconscious actions and non-actions (opportunities squandered, roads not taken).

In this mild delirium, a small poster I keep on my wall came into view – The Five Remembrances – a piece of buddhist wisdom beautifully written about by Frank Ostaseski in his book by that name. I remembered that I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape ill health .” Sometimes when feeling ill, I use it as an opportunity to practice dying. I imagine what it might be like to be on one's death bed and I remembered that  I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death .   Over the course of my 2 days in bed, my teenage son would bring soup, juice and his unique brand of humour to the bedside, sharing many of our “inside” jokes. I lay there feeling so weak and miserable at one point, but looked up at him but with a heart full of so much love for him and I remembered that all that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change; there is no way to escape being separated from them” .

When you are ill, you cannot give to others because you yourself are in need. Yukon First Nations elders have used this comparison when they speak with my students. They say that Earth has a fever. The science of climate change has basically said the same thing. Earth is sick and it has very little left to give until it heals. It is time for humans to give back. It has taken me a lifetime to fully and viscerally understand the wisdom of these three remembrances. The other two, I feel I am on the threshold of fully embodying.

One is that I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old ”. Returning to where I began with my Environmental Studies students, I would love to try the scar exercise with a group of willing elders. I imagine there would be many more scars and many more stories. I sometimes ask students just to imagine how Earth might feel under the burden of so many scars and wounds. I assure them that Earth is resilient. It has been around for over 4 billion years and has experienced 5 mass species extinction events in that history (and is in the midst of the 6 th  mass extinction now). I sometimes ask them what it might feel like to be old, to inhabit an old body, to be an elder. I assure them that like Earth, conscious elders are resilient, too. Their character has been forged in the fires of a lifetime of experience. Wisdom has been earned through dealing with adversity, challenges, setbacks and we eventually learn that, to quote Winston Churchill, “ success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm ”.

The fifth of the five remembrances is the one that, for me, stands on the shoulders of the others and reaches as high as it can: my actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand ”. In my elderhood, my actions will define me, more so than at any other stage of my life. My actions will arise out of the greater and deeper consciousness of the wise elder. It is my choice now to act as I will. I have decided that my actions will be in service to the Earth community – the human and the more-than-human worlds. More and more, I am coming to know who I truly am. I am that part of Earth that is actively working to heal itself.

Larry Gray is a professor of environmental studies at Yukon University in Canada, a research affiliate with the Institute for Aging and Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria, and a faculty member of the Center for Conscious Eldering.   He and Susan Manning will be presenting a Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreat at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico May 3-9, for which a few spaces are still available

“Courage, dear heart.”
by Arden Mahlberg

Elders must find hope for those we serve when others do not. Hope helps us see a way forward and draws us toward following it. A related responsibility is to help others find courage when courage is lacking, especially when the situation is not hopeful.

In C.S. Lewis’ tale  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,  we find the famous line, “Courage, dear heart.” Lucy was on a single mast sailing ship with a full crew. They sailed to what they thought was a dark island but found no island. Instead, they had entered Darkness itself. Filled with fear, they encountered their own demons. There was no wind, so they rowed. They rowed frantically to escape the Darkness but found they kept going in circles. They turned on each other. They despaired, “We will never get out!” They all agreed. They would never get out. Then Lucy prayed and heard a whisper that only she heard: “Courage, dear heart.” Suddenly feeling lighter, she saw more clearly the way forward.

When others are gripped by fear, some try to ease it by giving reassurance. “Don’t worry. It will be alright. It will all work out. Everything happens for a reason.” But this is dishonest. No one really knows that it will be alright. No one really knows that everything happens for a reason. It also depends on our perspective. One person’s hire is another’s rejection. One group’s American dream is another’s brutal loss. Platitudes of hope are based on the point of view of survivors, not the multitudes that perish. 

The more resources we have and the fewer life-threatening challenges we face, the more we come to rely on hope as a motivator. With plenty of hope to draw from, there is little need for courage. Unfamiliar with courage and unwilling to lose, we flee to hope when under duress. We demand hope from our leaders, from our political candidates. Things must always work out… for us. The oppressed and marginalized have no such refuge in hope. But they act anyway. We can learn more about courage from the oppressed than from the comfortable, who have no need for it.

Wiser is to instill courage in those who are uncertain and fearful, including ourselves. Hope can be dashed while courage cannot. The story is told of a prisoner at Auschwitz who was old and very ill but somehow kept going. Someone asked how she did it. She said she had heard the Allied forces would free them by Christmas. When Christmas came and went, she died. Hope had sustained her, but finally betrayed her. Hers was death by despair. Many in our society are dying of despair.

Courage is different. It is based on core resolve, based on conviction. C.S Lewis, a firm believer in courage, said, “Courage is not just one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Similarly, Winston Churchill said that “courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.” TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, CLICK ON THE BUTTOM BELOW
The Invitation
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t matter to me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for—if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive

It doesn’t matter to me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow—if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, yours and mine, without having to hide it, fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, yours and mine—if you can dance with wildness, and can let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself—if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty every day—if you can source your life from God’s presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the moon, “yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.  I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you are, or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where, what, or with whom you have studies.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
And if you truly like the company you keep in empty moments.
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.

What Other Wisdom Can There Be?
By William Martin in  The Sage’s Tao Te Ching
Life is always too short.
We will never be able to see
everything we wanted to see,
do all the things we wanted to do,
or achieve all the successes
we thought so important.
But to arrive at a quiet mind,
and a serene spirit,
is the supreme accomplishment.
If we do this,
we have done all.
Do what you can each day
Enjoy your goals and plans.
But the cultivation of your spirit
is your greatest task.
What other reason could there be
for the life you have been given?

Over the Threshold
by Tom Chulak
(written after his Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreat)

There is a space
where we don't know
what the future will tell

It is a mystery
vague and foggy
waiting for the warmth
of sunlight

The mind is tugged
to return to the past
the heart says stay open

Over a lifetime
faith has emerged
assuring clarity will arrive

Oh, how we want to go back
to what is familiar
Oh, how we want the blanket

But wait, wait, wait
slow down, slow down

Until the door swings wide
and we struggle over the threshold
illuminated in a new room
  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, Aiming High , 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 2020 programs are listed below.
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
July 31 - August 2 near Loveland, Colorado
August 21-23 at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York

Aiming High
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 coordinator 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.

Next Step
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

Recommended Resources
This is the book that the Sen Gen (Senior Generation) group that I am part of is exploring this Winter, and we love it. Each of its short chapters invites the reader to explore an aspect of his/her relationship to change, especially those changes that are uninvited, unwelcome and painful. This wise elder Buddhist teacher presents "an open-hearted call for human connection, compassion, and learning to love the world as it is", with its joys and sorrows, during these challenging, polarized times. This book draws one in with its engaging blending of deep reflections, humor, personal stories, and powerful everyday practices. As the author stresses throughout, it is much easier to be compassionate and present when all is going according to our plans than when we are thrust into transition. It is In times of unwelcome change that our commitment to growth is truly tested, and we have the opportunity to experience life through a lens much wider than that of our ego self. Ron Pevny
Last month I gave myself the gift of re-reading "Grace and Grit." This book, which first came out in 1991 but is available through Amazon new and used, is one of my favorite books of all time. In it, Ken Wilber, recognized worldwide as one of the foremost scholars in the field of human transformation, shifts from his scholarly role to tell the heart-opening story of the final years in the life of his wife Treya. It is a powerful story of how Ken and Treya navigated through the stormy seas of hope, surrender, intention, acceptance, fear, trust, and deep commitment to using Treya's cancer as catalyst for growth. This beautiful book weaves together conceptual understandings of growth and healing from many traditions with Ken and Treya's recounting of how they worked to embrace every experience as a teacher and gift. I can honestly say that I have learned more about commitment to, and movement toward wholeness from this book than from any other book I have ever read.
Give yourself the gift of reading "Grace and Grit."
Ron Pevny
"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
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:

* Learning : 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.
* Service : They encourage and support elders in serving their families, communities and others around the world.
* Community : 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.

Every two years, Sage-ing International creates what many consider the most valuable conference in the Conscious Aging field, with a rich variety of presentations, keynotes by leaders in the field, focused discussion groups, and wonderful networking opportunities. The 2020 Conference, with the theme of
Elder Wisdom Transforming the World, will be held near Minneapolis, Minnesota November 5-8.
To learn about Sage-ing International, visit Conference information will be on the website soon.

The mission of the Diverse Elders Coalition is to ensure that the unique needs of diverse elders are addressed at the Federal, State, and Local levels They work with policy experts across several organizations to address the needs of American Indian/Alaska Native elders; Asian American, Pacific Islander American, and Native Hawaiian elders; Black and African American elders; Hispanic and Latino/Latina elders; and LGBTQ elders. The Diverse Elders Coalition produces original policy analysis and resources, speaks with policymakers and advocates to highlight the issues of our communities and share solutions, and works to ensure the needs and perspective of diverse elders are at the forefront of national and local conversations on aging.  
For information about Diverse Elders Coalition, visit
Bolton Anthony, one of the pioneers in the conscious aging movement and a long-time dear friend and supporter of the Center for Conscious 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.
              From the Foreword by Harry R. Moody
Ron Pevny, Founder and Director
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Howard Thurman