Spotlight Blog Post By Gael McKenzie
For many years I remained focused on DOing. If I DO more, I will achieve more. It was a habit. I had grown up with parents who worked hard all their lives. Yet “abundance” (in the traditional sense) appeared to be something that other families had; not ours. We always “just got by”. But keep working hard, DO more! This attitude was confirmed by our community, the schools I went to, society at large.
Until I came across Ontology; the philosophy of BEing. About 10 years ago, already in my fifties, I started studying what it means to be human and the nature of human existence. How could I tap into my real potential –beyond just DOing more?
I learned that whatever age we are, language creates reality, whether that’s internal communication with self or vocally with others. What common beliefs about myself did I develop in childhood? What conversations did I have in my own mind, that led to this excessive DOing through most of my life?
I also discovered that my moods or emotions shape my perceptions and attitudes and can be signposts to serve a specific purpose and that the human body is an expression of who we think we are. I certainly didn’t grow up with a tool kit that taught me to “relate” with or to my emotions or body! In the words of Julio Olalla from the Newfield Network: “Body and emotions as domains of learning are largely ignored”.
So from that, I was able to deduce that the world showed up for me according to who I was BEing –and not purely from what I was DOing. My way of BEing was the underlying driver of my communication with the world. And what made even more of an impression was that my conversations, my emotions and my body could change–in any given moment. We are never too old to make these kind of changes!
There’s more than one reason, I believe, that our bodies request of us to slow down, by degrees, as we age: to embrace the essence of BEing that we have either embraced in our younger years or not. Which isn’t to say we stop DOing. Purely that in BEing we can start the process of acceptance and letting go into the precious and miraculous cycle of life and death.
Now, as a Personal Development Coach through my online business You Inside Out, I support others, of all ages 18 and beyond, from an ontological perspective. Clients develop a different way of BEing, achieving a future they desire for themselves, by noticing who they are showing up as in their own internal world -and how they then relate with the world around them. Rather than aiming to achieve one-off performance orientated goals, we can learn to become an observer of ourselves and make sustainable shifts by looking at what limits us and who we might BE and BEcome as we shapeshift on this extraordinary journey.
“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” ~Anais Nin
Copyright 3/2021 by Wildly Free Elder and Gael McKenzie
Image: Nevada City, N. Caliornia, Bare Feet in Snow
“We can’t change the world, but we can change how we live in it.”Grant Hine – Ecotherapist and Guide
Grant Hine, Ecotherapist and Guide starts this short video off by saying “just to walk on this earth is a miracle”. It indeed is.
While living in Vermont for 3 years, with frequent snow storms during the Winter, my bare feet found their way to the snow that lay outside my door just for the fun of it. To experience my lifelong intimate connection with nature in yet another form.
I will never forget that first experience and how it felt to connect the soles of my feet with the frozen water element in the form of snow. It was different from when I would walk on the earth barefoot in the Spring or Summer feeling the energy of nature move up through my body with the warmth of the day embracing me, and certainly different from walking on the sometimes very hot sand of Southern California beaches.
After the first initial exclamations of feeling the cold I sunk into walking in snow like I was made for it. Delight washed over me and though alone I cried out into the natural world “this Southern California girl goes barefoot anywhere!.”
Walking back into the house after this first bare foot snow adventure I realized the experience wasn’t over with yet. The tingling up through my body as my feet woke up to the sensation of warmth actually woke all of me in celebration. I felt wildly alive!
Celebration of embodied life in the moment with the natural world as companion and guide. It had always been that way my entire life.
The intimate connection, love of nature and all life flowing from it was a grounded anchor for a shy girl who always loved hugging trees, watching pollywogs turn into frogs, hiking trails where no one else had been, sitting by water and writing poetry, collecting shells on the beach, riding the waves into shore with absolute joy and abandon, and dropping into deeper states of peace sitting by a stream or river capturing the sound of its flowing within.
I always knew that I was never alone within the embrace of nature for it nourished and built the inner strength necessary to navigate life as a human woman. It still does and always will.
Take time to watch this short Green Renaissance video with Grant Hine as your guide. Perhaps you may resonate as deeply as I did….
One of the great things about getting older is that the younger generation can bring fun and laughter to your life. The other day I was with our granddaughter Gracie, and I did not hear what she said. I asked her to repeat what she had said. She looked at me and smiled. Then quite naturally, she said, ‘Nana, do you have your hearing aids in?’ David nudge me in the ribs, and we both laughed out loud. I love that she knows my little quirks well enough to ask me that question. I love myself because I could laugh and not feel diminished at my losing my faculties, LOL!
I love that I have memories of my kids ‘seeing’ my Dad in a similar way as he headed for 70 and beyond. I have this sense of deja vu around my Dad and his journey through his elderhood. I know that my life is on a similar trajectory as I see my life reflected in my memories of him. He was such a significant presence in my life. And he was quirky too! He would take his hearing aids out when he wanted some peace and quiet. Something I have to confess I have done on occasion!
As always, feel free to share a comment.
This experience with Gracie took me to think about other young people that have brought fun and laugher into my life. Earlier this week, I came across twin brothers Tim, and Fred Williams, who have a YouTube platform called Twins the New Trend. They create ‘reaction’ videos of themselves listening to music they have never heard before. It is really great fun to watch them. They are becoming a bit of a sensation; in fact, Barak Obama surprised them recently with a Zoom call because they listened to his playlist.
Below is them listening to Phil Collin’s song Something in the Air Tonight. I smiled all the way through as I watched this. The video is 7 minutes long, but I recommend you stick with it. I decided to give you the whole video because there is a lovely build-up to their reaction when Phil’s crescendo begins.
There is something very appealing and refreshing about these young men. The first is their relationship as twins. As is often the case, there is an energetic shorthand in how they communicate with each other. The connection between them as they play off each other’s reactions is delightful. Then there is a genuineness in their responses to the music. You can see that they love music. They are genuinely open to the artist’s creativity, whatever genre or decade the music comes from. I have a sense that this openness reaches into other territories of their lives.
In these times of challenge and isolation, music is such a gift. Younger generations are a gift. To have the chance to just be with young people who are open to and actively engaged in celebrating music lifted my optimism today.
So here is another memory in celebration of the younger generation. When I am a bit down in the dumps, I have a wee video that I go to that fills my heart with delight. Back in September last year David and I took our then three-year-old grandson Noah out for the day. He is an adventurous little boy who loves to be outside, and he is entirely at home in nature. We have a favourite walk near our house that takes us deep into a Glen that runs alongside the river Gore. It is quiet with lots of nooks and crannies for Noah to explore in safety. We love being out in nature with the grandkids. It always lifts our spirits.
There is also a magical paddling place there that we have visited often. Noah and I have water shoes so that we can paddle there to our heart’s content. Off come our trousers, socks, and shoes, and then we embark on the next water adventure.
Below is a video of Noah and Grandad playing a game of making waves with a tree in the river. It was one of those special moments that, as grandparents, we treasure.
Click here or on the photo to view the video.
Watch out for the little accident.
And so dear friends and family, this has been a lovely newsletter to create for you. Hoping you are well and surrounded by happy memories that sustain you.
As always I am happy to hear from you.
Much appreciation to you for this journey.
Thank You to Ann Roberts for giving permission to share this issue of her Sunny Optimist Newsletter. Make certain to take the time to look at the video in the segment “Twins The New Trend”. Loved their reactions and openness to a new piece of music!
Guest Blog Post Video from Green Renaissance
“This pandemic hasn’t been easy for any of us. It has been terrifying and exhausting. It has been a time defined by loss – of freedom, opportunities and lives. And the year ahead will continue to be difficult to navigate. The world around us is in crisis and we’re trying to hold onto everything that helps us make sense of what has hit us. We have lost the feeling of certainty that gives us a sense of safe belonging in this world.
We are all collectively living through uncharted times, and this is when we need people to lean on. We need to find ways to be there for each other, to help each other through. If there is any silver lining to be found, it has been rediscovering our collective capacity for compassion. ”
This film features Cathy Winter
Filmed in Suurbraak, South Africa
“Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need. In that climate of sufficiency, our hunger for more abates and we take only what we need, in respect for the generosity of the giver.
If our first response is gratitude, then our second is reciprocity: to give a gift in return. What could I give these plants in return for their generosity? It could be a direct response, like weeding or water or a song of thanks that sends appreciation out on the wind. Or indirect, like donating to my local land trust so that more habitat for the gift givers will be saved, or making art that invites others into the web of reciprocity.
Gratitude and reciprocity are the currency of a gift economy, and they have the remarkable property of multiplying with every exchange, their energy concentrating as they pass from hand to hand, a truly renewable resource.” From “The Serviceberry” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
At times in life we find ourselves purging possessions that we no longer need or even use very often. Starting a train of thought about why we hang on to things, and what meaning and impact they have in our lives and by default to others around us. Is it based in scarcity and survival?
Western economics is based on the assumption of scarcity as the main principle. Anything and everything in a market is implicitly defined as scarce and how people use resources and respond to incentives.
Ecological economics is a growing economic theory that expands the conventional definition by working to integrate Earth’s natural systems and human values, where human and non-human life can flourish.
In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein reflects on the economy of ecosystems: “In nature, headlong growth and all-out competition are features of immature ecosystems, followed by complex interdependency, symbiosis, cooperation, and the cycling of resources. The next stage of human economy will parallel what we are beginning to understand about nature. It will call forth the gifts of each of us; it will emphasize cooperation over competition; it will encourage circulation over hoarding; and it will be cyclical, not linear. Money may not disappear anytime soon, but it will serve a diminished role even as it takes on more of the properties of the gift. The economy will shrink, and our lives will grow.”
A gift economy is a system based on the currency of relationships expressed in gratitude, as interdependence and the ongoing cycles of reciprocity. This nurtures community bonds which enhance mutual well being. The economic unit is “we” rather than “I” based in diversity, community support and collaboration.
Recently, as I have been clearing away possessions and past identities of endeavors in preparation for a relocation out of my native state of California, I have found the pure joy and freedom held within the “we” of a gift economy even when selling something no longer needed. In exploring this territory over the last year I recognized that most of my life was spent struggling with the assumption of scarcity and living it as a fact of life.
This past month I have experienced a continuous expansion and freedom as I sold, donated, gave away and recycled. it started with a portable massage table that was sold to a local acupuncturist who would continue healing work on its surface; a Buddha statue that went to a man who was giving it as a Valentines Day gift to place out in the garden of someone he loved; a laser printer given away to a Special Ed teacher at the local high school; an antique kimono I had been carrying around forever that needed repair to one sleeve; and many items to the local Hospice for their thrift stores to support the important work they do.
Whether selling items, donating, recycling or giving away the actions were based in gratitude, reciprocity and a circular flow of abundance and interconnection to people I had not come in contact with before. Never in scarcity. Always in the knowing of “enough” to be shared and passed on.
The Special Ed teacher thanked me for my generosity and said that her students would benefit greatly from a printer easy to use for their projects. And I smiled this morning as I received a text from the woman who took the kimono. She had repaired it and was joyfully wearing this beautiful art. A picture of a local river here in N. California that I had donated $60 for at a silent auction for Hospice a couple of years ago, went right back to them to sell at their thrift store thus gaining additional monetary support for their contribution to the community.
As I ready myself for a cross country drive to my new home of Asheville, N. Carolina I feel only gratitude and a freedom born of knowing that the reciprocity and regeneration will continue to flow.
RESOURCE: https://gratefulness.org/resource/the-serviceberry/ , By Robin Wall Kimmerer, Plant Ecologist, mother, scientist, professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
“Don’t look forward in fear. Don’t look backward with regret. But look around you in awareness. That is more or less what it is I think.”
At 14-years old I was not ready to be without my mother, but that moment in time when I went out to look for breakfast one morning, and instead found my father washing the walls of our living room in full scale grief, changed my life forever.
He told me that my mother, the love of his life, had died during the night at the hospital where she had recently undergone exploratory surgery for pancreatitis. The last time my 10-year-old brother and I had seen her being a couple of days before in the hospital as she was supposedly recovering. This death was sudden and unexpected.
This was my first lesson in the inevitable mortality of all living beings. Part of the wholeness of being embodied as death takes its many forms along the way. I was to go on and choose professions in nursing and as a holistic health practitioner, and much later in life as a hospice volunteer, where I was constantly exposed to this inevitable part of life, supporting many patients, clients and families as they navigated the landscape of dying.
In a more personal way it also touched me through my youngest sons fathers death at age 42 – also sudden of a heart attack, my father at 89 in his sleep of a stroke, and two beloved women friends recently from metastatic cancer who suffered greatly before transitioning.
Death has always served as a wake up call for me. Somehow along the way I have learned to integrate it into the daily unfolding of embodied life as the seasons come and go. I perceive death and regeneration all around me in the natural world.
“Before it dies, a Douglas-fir, half a millennium old, will send its storehouse of chemicals back down into its roots and out through its fungal partners, donating its riches to the community pool in a last will and testament. We might call these ancient benefactors, giving trees.”
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Now as an elder I know I am closer to this transition myself, and though not afraid of it, I do wonder if I will suffer. We cannot choose our own death for the most part, but what we can do is live fully while we are here savoring the precious moments we are given.
Awareness of the essence of life.
“It can be unpredictable and last only a few minutes, or you can see it coming from a distance. The thing about dying is that it’s not something you can negotiate. Whether you’re prepared or not, it’s going to happen, and on its own terms, too.
But what helps is making those last days count. They’re still with you. They haven’t gone yet. Make their last days comfortable. Be honest and talk about what’s to come. Nothing has to go unsaid because you have the opportunity to say it. Tell them you love them, and more importantly, show them.
Life is so unbelievably precious. Make every day count.”
Welcome to VINIT ALLEN our newest member of our Wildly Free Elder community! Take some time to watch his video interview talking about activism, conscious eldering, and his views on death and dying.
Guest Blog Post By Ron Pevny, The Center for Conscious Eldering
As someone who is deeply committed to supporting people who feel called to age consciously, the terms elder and elderhood are integral to my work. In the modern world, the term elder tends to be equated with that disempowering word elderly, which so often means frail, vulnerable, or just plain old. But it can mean so much more if we understand the role it has played throughout history.
Elder is a role and elderhood a life stage that has been critical for the wellbeing of the world’s cultures since time immemorial, but which has been lost in today’s world. It was the elders whose role was to embody the wholeness, and share the hard-won wisdom, that their communities needed to survive and thrive, especially in difficult times when the ability to see the bigger picture was critical.
It was the elders who recognized the responsibility to share the fruits of their lives and experiences with the younger generations. It was in elderhood, as physical abilities weakened and day-to-day responsibilities lessened, that people could more strongly focus on their inner lives and on allowing Spirit to shine through, so that their biggest impact came more through the wholeness of their being than through the amount of their doing.
While modern culture no longer acknowledges the role of elder, the inner call to true elderhood as we age is still there. It is an archetypal dynamic built into each of us which seeks expression as we begin to move from the stage of mid-life adulthood toward our next chapter.
Many of us are unable to hear this call because it speaks to us in a language of feelings, experiences and intuitions that is foreign to our culture and its values. Others may sense this call, especially in times of inner or outer crisis when we are potentially most open to our inner guidance, but try to ignore it. In either case, by not responding to the call to elderhood we run the risk of stagnation and depression. The nature of life is growth through stages, and when the growth that enables life transitions is prevented, all living things, including us humans, wither.
Each new stage presents us with challenges and opportunities for growth. As one stage is nearing its natural completion, we have a choice: to either try to hold on to what has been (risking withering and loss of our aliveness in doing so) or to embrace the challenging but renewing process of transition. Healthy transition between life stages is a three-phase process, with all these critical phases interweaving as we move toward the new life chapter that calls us.
The first phase is severance, the time of inner autumn, harvest and endingsWe are called to review and take stock of our lives and who we have become—with our mix of strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows—seeking to learn and distill wisdom from our many experiences. We become aware of and begin to release or heal attitudes, fears, beliefs, behaviors, attachments and self-identifications that may (or may not) have served us in the past but will certainly not serve us in the future we envision for ourselves.
As we do the work of this phase, we find ourselves more and more aware of being in what is often called the neutral zone. This is time of being betwixt and between life stages, often feeling lost and confused with no map to follow into the future, knowing that who we have been doesn’t feel alive anymore and may not even be possible to continue, but not knowing who we have the potential to grow into.
While the neutral zone is difficult, it is through allowing ourselves to experience this discomfort and disorientation, without grasping for the certainty of clear goals and direction, that we move forward. This is a time for giving ourself the gifts of silence; solitude; reflective time in nature; deepening of our spiritual connection; inspiring images, poetry and ideas; and exploration of possibilities, without making long-term commitments, to see what feels truly alive for us. If we embrace and support this winter time in our journey of transition, we can trust that the vision, creativity and strength that will define our elderhood will begin to emerge according to a timing that comes from layers of us deeper than ego.
As we emerge from the neutral zone, we find ourselves entering the phase known as reincorporation, or new beginnings. This is spring for us, when we experience the emergence of a new life stage, with seeds of possibility sprouting and emerging into the light of a new life stage. We experience gradually increasing clarity about who we can become, what brings us meaning and purpose and how we can best serve life in the new chapter we are entering.
One of the most profound experiences in my 15 years of leading conscious eldering retreats involved a retreat group that shared profound awe as, over several days, we watched three caterpillars undergo transformation within a wire enclosure on a table in our meeting room in Vermont. The retreat center owner had carried them, along with bunches of the milkweed they feed on, from a verdant hillside to this enclosure. As each caterpillar clung to a small branch, it gradually turned into a chrysalis, losing all its caterpillar characteristics and becoming a green fluid contained within a translucent ovular membrane.
The caterpillars had entered their version of the neutral zone, no longer what they were but clearly not yet what they would become. That green fluid contained a pattern or image for the butterfly that would emerge from the goo when the inner process was complete. Then over a couple of days we began to see within each chrysalis vague outlines of a new form beginning to develop.
On the final day of our retreat, as we were reflecting on what we had learned about the dynamics of our own transitions, one chrysalis broke open and a magnificent, wet, fragile monarch butterfly emerged, ready to grace the world with its beauty and contribution to the web of life.
It needed an hour to dry its delicate wings in the sun, and shortly before our retreat ended we opened the enclosure and off it flew to begin its new life. Shortly thereafter we left that place to embrace new chapters in our journeys toward new life as conscious elders.
Ron Pevny is Founding Director of the Center for Conscious Eldering, (www.centerforconsciouseldering.com), a Certified Sage-ing Leader with Sage-ing® International, and author of Conscious Living, Conscious Aging published by Beyond Words/Atria Books. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leaving behind my journey of struggling and racing through
the white water of many rivers, I become the river,
creating my own unique way.
Leaving behind my self-imposed role as a tree upon
which others have leaned, I now become the wind,
with the freedom to blow whenever and wherever I choose.
Leaving behind the boxes I’ve created in my life, crammed with
roles, responsibilities, rules and fears,
I become the wild and unpredictable space
within which flowers sprout and grow.
Leaving behind the years of yearning for others
to see me as somebody,
I soften into becoming my future,
with permission from SELF to
continually unfold as I choose, without concern
for how others may see me.
Leaving behind years of telling and teaching,
I become instead a mirror
into which others can peer and
view reflections of themselves to consider.
Leaving behind the urge to provide answers for others,
I become – in the silence of this forest retreat
– the question.
Leaving behind the rigor of my intellect,
I become a single candle in the
darkness, offering myself as a beacon for others
to create their own path.
I become an elder
~ Cathy Carmody, August, 2012
This poem was written at a ‘Choosing Conscious Elderhood Retreat’ at the Sea to Sky Retreat Centre, British Columbia, Canada in August 2012. This retreat was offered by The Center For Conscious Eldering.
Cathy Carmody died in 2017; her WordPress website, https://cathycarmody.wordpress.com/ , continues to be a source of inspiration. She gave permission for others to share her poem as long as she is credited as author.