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From the editor...

Reb Zalman and Bolton Anthony in 2004

Continuing our yearlong exploration of The Spirituality of Later Life, this issue of Itineraries focuses on The Inner Work of Eldering  It opens, fittingly, with a tribute to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a gentle pioneer in the conscious aging movement. Guest editor Ron Pevny's introductory essay explains core concepts associated with conscious aging — life review, healing the past, deepening spiritual connection, accepting mortality, creating legacy, and letting go — and introduces the contributors to the special focus section. Essays by Deborah Windrum, Richard Matzkin, and John Sullivan, and a review by Barbara Kammerlohr round out the issue. We hope you enjoy the issue!

— Bolton Anthony, Founder

 
 
Honoring our elders...

Reb Zalman: Living from the Light

Many of our ideas about aging with consciousness have their origins in the life and thought of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, called “Reb Zalman” by the many thousands whose lives have been deeply affected by his ideas and presence. Reb Zalman’s writings, especially From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older, and his workshops on “Spiritual Eldering” have provided a stimulating conceptual overview of how we might think about spiritual growth in later life — how we might think, in particular, about our potential for spiritual connection and our capacity to manifest wisdom, and their importance at all levels of social life. But as useful as his ideas have been, Reb Zalman’s way of being and its ongoing evolution is perhaps his greatest lesson for us.

"I am not wise until someone asks me to be."

In my own spiritual journey, I have met many people who are so in touch with the sacred that a holy light radiates from them. Reb Zalman is one of these. He makes no claim to have answers to life’s churning conveyor belt of perplexing questions. Instead, he contemplates the deeper questions and affords them the largest possible space in which to reveal their lessons. This contemplative space within his consciousness allows Reb Zalman to balance a keen, creative, and active mind with an extraordinarily open heart and deep knowledge of the history of human wisdom. He is continuously learning from deeply contemplated life experience.

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The photos of Reb Zalman (with Helena Foster) were taken
at a Visioning Council which Second Journey conducted in 2004 in Estes Park.

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In this issue...

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or photo to access the article.

■ Gary Carlson in “The Heart’s Path” recounts his own efforts to ground his post-retirement doing in a deepening awareness of being.

■ Rosalie Muschal-Reinhardt reminds us that wisdom comes not from having experiences, but from reflecting on those experience in her essay “A Reflection Model for Transforming Experience.”

■ Steve Harsh in “The Family Quilt: Harvesting and Sharing Life’s Wisdom” charms us with the story of his grandmother's unique way of memorializing life events.

■ Julia Riley in “Forgiveness — The Gift You Give Yourself” focuses on the critical inner work to process grief and losses that would otherwise sap our energies. 

■ Physician Louden Kiracofe, reflecting on his work with the terminally ill, probes the power of illness and physical loss to add intensity and meaning to life in his essay, “The Epiphany of Life-Altering Illnesses.”
 

 

By Ron Pevny

On one of the conscious eldering retreats that I lead,  a participant in her early sixties shared something that had a powerful impact on all present. In reflecting on her intentions for her retreat, she spoke of two significant older people in her life. One, who was in relatively good physical health, was difficult to be around because of her seemingly constant anger, bitterness, and negativity. She was old and miserable. People avoided her because she was a drain on their energy and joy.

The other was a woman who, while not physically healthy, attracted people like a magnet. In her presence they felt joy, serenity, optimism, peace. People saw her as an elder whose radiance and wisdom lifted their spirits. Our retreat participant affirmed her intention, on this retreat and on her journey ahead, to grow into a radiant elder rather than a joyless old person; and she shared her questions and concerns about how to accomplish this.

The aging process seems to bring out either the worst or the best in people — magnifying and emphasizing the flaws and shadow elements of some of us; amplifying the wisdom, radiance, and compassion in others. The question carried by those of us committed to becoming peaceful, fulfilled elders is, “How can my aging bring out the best in me?” The inner work known by rubrics such as “conscious eldering,” “conscious aging,” “spiritual eldering,” and “Sage-ing” holds important answers to this question. That INNER WORK OF ELDERING is the theme of this issue of Itineraries.

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Crones of the Flathead: A Poem by Ina Albert

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For the past few years, four native American women in their seventies have been meeting to share their life stories, their tragedies and joys, their concerns about aging, about children, about death, and the goals they want to accomplish in this last part of life. Two of the members are leaving, and the group is now disbanding. The author dedicated this poem to the intimacy and comfort the women found together.

We sit as council on our lives, searching backward to find the roots of our being; looking deep into the core of what brought us to this time.

Together, we stare at old photos, trusting we will find threads that, strung together, will answer the questions that remain.

Splinters need pulling to expose raw truths.

We tell our stories to each other, harvesting their meaning one by one to make sense of our seventies, the weavings of substance to create a tapestry of each life.

It is a secret confessional.

A sharing beyond sharing. Beyond shame or guilt. Not a place for cowards, this place where souls are bared and tears are the currency of trade.

We are healthy and handsome and humbled by this time together.

A time to harvest our lives — to peer through the lens of coming old age, to choose our most valued possessions as keepsakes for our heritage chest of memorabilia.

Only our most sacred memories and nubs of wisdom will dwell there.

We are strong now. Full of energy honed with years of caring for our bodies. Yet we see creasing skin sagging over muscles, hair turning ashen.

We chart each sign of aging, of memory loss, of fatigue, the wear and tear that scrolls its record in the furrows on our faces.

We are more careful now. Careful of our bodies, our money, our relationships. Careful with our children.

Too soon we will be their children, trusting that they will be careful mothers and fathers.

Then it will be time to open our chests and offer their inheritance, hoping the gold of our lives will be their treasure.

The author, Ina Albert, lies in Whitefish, Montana.  More...

 
Brief Notices...

“Once the truth has made its presence felt in a single soul, nothing can ever stop it
from invading everything and
setting fire to everything.”

— Teilhard de Chardin

And the truth that Connie Mahoney — who turns 80 on May 12 — grasped is that we are all called to care for our Mother Earth, all called to be Earth Elders. Happy birthday, Connie.

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to see a  tribute to Connie published in the Spring 2006 issue of Itineraries.

Conscious Aging Alliance

Second Journey is joining together in mutual support with several other organizations which we believe are making a positive contribution toward birthing a new vision of aging. Information about each organization is on our Web site at this link or click on the icons below to visit their Web sites.

Center for Conscious Eldering

Life Planning Network 

Older to Elder

Recognition Rites for a New Vision
of Aging

The
Sage-ing™
Guild

 
 

Honoring the Cycles of Our Inner Seasons

The autumn season offers an opportunity to create a deliberate blueprint for living. . . to become the considered architects of our beings. With qualities of agefulness, we have the opportunity to mindfully, consciously fulfill life’s cycles — to embrace the heart of aging....


Artistic Creativity as Renewal in Eldering

The act of creation is a living, breathing process. You are giving birth to something from deep inside yourself — your unique expression. Creating a piece of art presents you with the opportunity to proclaim, “This may not be a masterpiece, but this is who I am … This is what I have created!”...

The Yellow Leaf

A yellow leaf
drifts
slowly down,
turning languorously
like a swimmer afloat
on gentle waves.
I watch it go
down,
slantwise,
down
till it is lost
in a patch of wild asters.

“Do it again!”
I cry, almost aloud.
But no.
Never again.
Never in the history of the universe
past and to come
will it happen again.

And so, the moments of my life
each unique, inimitable, irretrievable,
gone forever.

And yet,
unlike that singular leaf,
another follows,
and another
giving the illusion
of immortality.

from Tricks of the Light and Other Poems by Nina Mermey Klippel (2010).

The Hidden Work of Eldering

In the end, there is no way to tell sages by physical appearance. They seem irreverent, yet their compassion is deep. They come and go in the affairs of life, making no effort to follow in the footsteps of earlier sages. Mysterious and transparent, they do not draw attention to themselves. Nor do they evade what comes. They enter the marketplace. They return home. They are virtually unnoticed.....


Aging Through Disparate Lenses

Spiritual practices, especially meditation, even when stripped of religious belief, enhance the neural functioning of the brain in ways that improve physical and emotional health. . .

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Editor's Note: A special thank you to Judith Helburn who helped Ron Pevny assemble and edit this issue of Itineraries It was a labor of love for Judith who has been active in Sage-ing activities since 1994. She has been chair of the Coordinating Circle of the Sage-ing Guild and recently stepped down from her role as Training Coordinator. Judith leads both Sage-ing and memoir writing workshops in Texas and nationally.

Introduction

 

Individual reprints of each of the four issues in the 2011 series on the Spirituality of Later Life are available from Amazon for $10 each. To access ordering information, click on the cover images below
.

Click for information on Second Journeys: The Dance of Spirit in Later Life Order Serving from Spirit from Amazon.com Order Rites of Passage into Elderhood from Amazon.com Order The Inner Work of Eldering from Amazon.com Order Writing as a Spiritual Practice from Amazon.com

Second Journeys: The Dance of Spirit in Later Life, published in 2013, is also available from Amazon for $20. Its essays along with the many poems scattered throughout the anthology — the contributions of 44 writers and poets — explore the “dance of spirit in later life.” New essays companion earlier essays from Second Journey’s 2011 exploration of The Spirituality of Later Life. All four sections contain a tribute to an elder whose life has been emblematic, each concludes with an Invitation to Practice. Interspersed throughout, authors who have been our virtual partners in the work of birthing a new vision of aging for our time offer reflections on the books from which they have drawn sustenance. Dip into this rich collection at any point and you will find yourself drawn to linger and reflect. For further about the anthology, click on the center cover.