Conscious Ageing

I am often asked what I mean by the term ‘conscious ageing’. I guess, on the face of it, it may seem to be rather a po-faced expression. For me, it is not about being holier-than-thou in any shape or form. It is more like waking up to the fact that getting older really is the ‘great adventure’. It is a time when we can let ourselves dare to be more real, honest and open. Above all – we can become more aware. We can drop the niceties and strictures of who we have been brought up to be – and start to be ourselves, without being so bothered about how others may ‘see’ us.

My work these days, such as it is, still covers a fairly wide age-range. I am now 80 years old, and don’t have the energy for ’causes’ anymore.  I do have energy for simple gatherings and individual sessions where participants are interested in how their own ageing process fits naturally into the society around us.  In other words, how we, as individuals come to peace with ourselves and our actions.  How we ‘come home’ to ourselves as it were.

I am not interested in ‘doing’, ‘learning’, or behaving in any way to create some ideal image of older age. I actually don’t care too much whether I am ‘of use’ or not!  I just do what I enjoy, and people seem to enjoy that with me.  Each taking home their own interpretations of what we may have discussed, felt and shared.

The population of over 50s is growing apace. Here is part of quote from something a colleague and I wrote in Australia where we first started working with ‘older’ people.

“ At this time in history we have the blessing of living longer than any of our ancestors. But to have an extended life span without an extended awareness of how to live life and enjoy the fullness of a lifetime’s harvest, isn’t really a blessing at all.

Most of us have created the “normal” pattern of adulthood – work, mating, parenting and all the various human conditions in between. For our later years there are no benchmarks – other than an expected general feeling of decline. We are encouraged to maintain our fitness through exercise, swimming, walking, sailing and other physical pursuits. We are also encouraged to learn new things. Nothing wrong with that – but, they are all about doing and filling up our time. They don’t address Being. Where is the encouragement for owning and channeling the wisdom gained over all of those earlier years? How can we address the internal taboos we place upon ourselves through a life-time of conditioning? Where is the acknowledgment of our own inner world, the excitement for life that got squashed in the “busyness” of earning a living and bringing up children? Where is the respected place in society for our elders? How can we enjoy the empty spaces without rushing to fill them? When is there time to smell the roses?”

I would like to thank Wes Carter in W. Australia, for opening my mind to new possibilities as well as his encouragement, support and skill in co-developing this work with me. We both owe a debt to Rabbi Schachter’s book ‘From Ageing to Sageing‘.