Ann Roberts (69) After she ‘retired’ from a 30-year career in management consultancy, Ann went back to University to hone her skills as a social researcher.
At that time, she and her husband had three frail parents in their 90’s, adult children as well as a growing number of grandchildren. Her university study led her to a book by Mary Catherine Bateson’s that was pivotal in helping her understand the challenge of this stage in her life. One of her passion is to explore this learning with others via an initiative called Active Wisdom: An Inquiry into our Elderhood. You can see her Elderhood conversations at https://bit.ly/sharedInsights
It was in 1996 that Ann first encountered the Earth Wisdom Teachings, and over the years she has woven the tools, protocols and practices into many aspects of her life and work. There is an eloquence to what the Teachings offer, both individually and collectively, that calls her to share this wisdom with others. You can read stories from this tradition at: https://bit.ly/beaconfires
GAYE: What is your relationship with the meaning of elder, and what do you see in Scotland in the domain of aging?
ANN: There are so many territories within the concept of elder that I am not quite sure where to start. At a broad brush level, I think culturally in Scotland, we do respect elders. I look after my health, and recently with the COVID situation, I feel I have been caught in the label of the elderly as if I was vulnerable. I don’t feel weak, and I do not subscribe to that message.
GAYE: I agree. I don’t either. When you have a certain body intelligence and have built a robust immune system over time, you end up trusting the body’s inner guidance. So part of Wildly Free Elder is to show the uniqueness of some of our elders out there, like you, that are really living it differently than the mainstream narratives.
What is your perception of your aging? How does that feel to you? What are you passionate about at this time of life?
ANN: So it’s interesting for me. I went through a patch around 2015 when I retired, where I felt quite a loss of identity. One of the things I did was go back to university, where I undertook a Masters in Applied Social Research. It was at this time that I came across the work of Mary Catherine Bates. She talked about an emerging stage in the Human Life cycle that she called Adulthood 2.
She saw that the virtue of Adulthood 2 stage is Active Wisdom. You know, sharing your wisdom in action, being out in the world, sharing your gifts and expertise. But the vulnerability of this stage is withdrawal, where you pull back through a loss of identity and confidence
And that spoke to me because that’s what I was doing. I didn’t know how to move out into the world with who I was. And I’ve been on this journey for four or five years. Now I feel as if I’m clear about the work I’m doing at this time. And I’m a very curious 69-year-old!
GAYE: You’ve touched on something that I have been reflecting on – identity – and how we shed our identities that no longer serve as we go into elderhood and aging. That is part of the reason why it’s such a wildly free time as far as I’m concerned. We get to rediscover who we are in our wholeness and wisdom and have the possibility of discovering an artistry that we’ve never explored or tried before. That is what I would like to hear about.
ANN: What is intriguing for me is finding what is mine to do in the world. I’ve been working a lot with elders and helping them to find their purpose. I also thought I’d like to do something for my part, so I’ve signed up with the Pachamama Alliance Game Changer Intensive. I am enjoying it, and it is helping me recognize what I want to do in bringing my gifts out into the world.
GAYE: Yes, it is a powerful program! I went through it twice in person, once with Lynn Twist.
ANN: I am also a part of a global network called Bright Future Now. It is a network of fascinating people. There are many opportunities to join in on shared ideas and find projects to give your time and expertise. You participate in a seven-week program with them as an entry point and then join the community. I so enjoy it being with people committed to right action.
GAYE: This feels more expansive to me. There’s no doubt that we’re going through a huge, powerful shift right now, all over this planet. Some of the “messengers” are a pandemic virus and especially here in the United States and globally as well, the exposure of the racism that built this country, that’s now being taken apart. The home sheltering has definitely made people look more in depth inside of themselves and understand on a much deeper level that there is no certainty or control. It’s a very vulnerable place to inhabit.
GAYE: And we’re all there, but it feels as older aging individuals, perhaps vulnerability is also always very much apparent. Would you have anything to say about that – vulnerability as you age?
ANN: My teacher is called WindEagle, of the Ehama Institute, on a recent call, she invited us to explore vulnerability as a power. I think touching into vulnerability opens you to an understanding of what makes you fearful. I also love the work of Thomas Huebl. He does lovely meditations where you can touch into, “where do I stand with fear?” Where do I stand with joy, with anger, you know, with sadness? He invites you to touch into those emotions and look into choices you have around when your thoughts are taking you into a fearful place.
And we are in a very challenging time! I am reading the book Choosing Earth by Duane Elgin, in which he lays out the dire consequences of the current trajectory that humanity is on. And his message is that there will not be a resolution in my lifetime. So what we’re doing as elders is not just for ourselves, it’s for our children and their children.
GAYE: Absolutely. I think every conscious action we take on behalf of that makes a huge difference. And that’s what people forget. You know, a lot of times our elders think, well, there’s nothing I can do. Just, for example, doing an act of kindness with somebody that you come across during the day, making somebody laugh or asking them like I did today at the natural food co-op – so what made you laugh this week? And all of a sudden, the smiles come up, and it’s like the whole energy changes. Like you, I don’t ignore the challenges. I open into them and grieve by feeling all the emotions. I think it feels that if we don’t mourn for the devastation of this planet and suffering of all living beings first in recognition, then we can’t be part of the healing of it.
There are so many powerful elders in the world right now. I look at you, and I think of Jane Goodall, who I think is an amazing woman at 80 something, yet still traveling the world on behalf of sustainable life and ecology.
ANN: One of the women who has had an impact on me was Barbara Marx Hubbard. Just before she passed, I attended a program called Awakening Homo Amore Universalis – the new living human. She was 88, so energetic, eloquent, and insightful. She was very inspirational.
GAYE: I also attended an online community course of hers. It was a delight to be part of that particular international community and see what she opened for people by encouraging living within the questions and participating, like you said, in whatever way we can that’s in alignment with our passions and what we feel is important. She could be in your face, and it was wonderful. But you knew she wanted things to happen.
So what is your newest interest right now? As far as where you want to be? I understand the Game Changer is part of that. Will that give you an idea of how you want to be involved right now?
ANN: Well, I’ve recently been invited to join an organization where the Earth Wisdom Teachings that I have studied since 1996 are being woven into leadership development programs. I will be in the role of an elder that carries this Wisdom. What I realize as I step forward is that I don’t think I’m “old.” I still feel I’m sort of 16 or 18 in my head, and yet I do feel that my contribution is fresh and vital.
GAYE: I feel such a vibrancy coming from you! And that’s what they’re feeling. The Japanese have a word called “shi bui,” which means the beauty of aging. It’s that radiance that comes through, and it’s coming through you big time. Someone sees that beauty that is just radiating out, and that’s what the younger people are taking in from you. You’re serving as modelling of sorts showing the younger generations that we may be older, but we are vibrantly alive and right there with them.
ANN: Thank you, and one of the things I am challenging myself around at the moment is white privilege. I live in Scotland, and I haven’t had anything like the experiences I hear in the media. I decided to read the book “White Supremacy and Me” by Layla F. Saad. I worked in the police service, and I had training around prejudice. So I’ve got a sense of prejudice, but I don’t have such a clear understanding of white supremacy.
And one of the things she said has certainly spoken to me. I prefer people to be polite when they give me feedback. Layal brought forward how important it is not to close people down because you want them to be polite. And that has really caught me and something I’m working with.
I now understand from her writing is that it is appropriate that people are angry and perhaps strident. So, I’m processing that to see if I can explore this wish for politeness. It’s part of my white supremacy? And what else is there? I’m only just beginning to see what else might be revealed to me?
GAYE: Yes, Ann. Many people I’ve talked to recently are doing the same diving deep inside, even though we think “I’m not racist.” I “don’t have prejudice.” But no matter how expanded we believe we are, some layers are asking for exploration. If we’ve had experiences with different races or ethnic groups and had trauma of some sort, then it’s in our bodies. We may react even though there are no threats at all. I married a black man in the seventies, an African American man, and I have a biracial son and biracial grandkids. So I’ve experienced racism firsthand towards me, my husband, certainly towards my son, and most probably will happen to my grandchildren as well.
You give me heart and hope that this is global. It’s not just in our country where these killings have happened. It’s all over. And with all, not only black people but anybody of a different religion, different sexuality, a different belief system, gender. It’s shifting everything, and it is indeed hard work. So thank you for doing your work around this. It’s a powerful time.
ANN: It is a powerful time. Pachamama Game Changer has taught me about “hope in action,” which resonates in me. You know, to be hopeful, but to take action too, finding your way to what’s right for you to do. Yes. And I’m still on that path of exploration.
GAYE: Isn’t it the journey that’s the most important, not the destination? That’s what I’m finding.
ANN: Absolutely. And to be in that inquiry. There are 900 people on this program, all inquiring into this being Game Changers. Here’s another name, Zach Bush, the young doctor who is talking about global grassroots movements. I love the juxtaposition of something being global whilst being grassroots.
ANN: Tell me a little bit about the website. What was your dream for the website?
GAYE: I want it to be a community where other elders can be inspired and find resources. Much of what you’ve mentioned today in this interview people can access if they want – a place of hope, potential, possibility and finding our own unique “game changer” actions and artistry to unfold. I’ve written some blog posts and am accepting blog guest blog posts as well as having the “Elder Spotlights”.
Part of my original calling in creating this community is to help to shift the mainstream narrative around aging. And go back to what you touched upon – sharing elder wisdom, gifts and artistry. We’re part of a very important part of the shift that’s going on in healing the planet and guiding our youth and our young people.
ANN : That is so beautiful and I am honored to be part of this.
Pachamama Alliance Game Changer Intensive https://www.pachamama.org/engage
Bright Future Now : https://context.org/bfnow/
Duane Elgin Choosing Earth: https://choosingearth.org/book/
Ehama Institute: https://www.ehama.org/
Thomas Heubl: https://thomashuebl.com