Cultivating Purpose, Intentionality and the Courage to Aim High

The beautiful, living earth around us is turning every shade of vibrant green after months of being shrouded in a cold cloak of white. Spring has arrived in all its glory, reminding us again that after a necessary season of hibernation and dormancy, the energies of life are stirring once more, with each being—plant, animal and human—called to grow into the fullest expression of its essential nature. This is the time when seeds germinate and begin their cycle of growth-leading-to-abundance. This is the season when animals give birth to a new generation full of the energy of life. And it is the time when we humans, no less beings of nature than all those other-than-human beings with which we share this planet, are reminded by the surging life force around and within us, that in order to reap an eventual rich harvest, we must carefully and intentionally identify and nurture the possibilities that life seeks to birth through us.

A significant difference between those who grow into the fullness of elderhood and those who merely grow old is willingness, or lack thereof, to look within to identify the possibilities that seeks to emerge through them in their precious later years, and to consciously work toward nurturing the growth and eventual harvest of these possibilities.

A primary reason for my ongoing commitment to supporting the growth of conscious elders is the sadness I feel when I see older adults declaring through their actions as well as words that reaching retirement age marks the end of their opportunity to give birth to significant new life for our world.

So many believe what mainstream culture reinforces—that their significant contributions to life end when they become “senior citizens”. With millions of people living 20 or more years after retirement age, possessing a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experiences, and having access to all the wisdom traditions of the world if they choose to look, the belief that life does not ask much from us after retirement age is painfully disempowering for older adults and impoverishing for a world urgently in need of the gifts that seek to emerge through seasoned, committed elders.

If we are committed to growing into true elderhood and giving life to our world by bringing forth the gifts that naturally want to emerge in this life stage, it is essential that we live with purpose, intentionality, and courage. Without these, we exist rather than thrive.

Purpose
More and more research is confirming what the world’s spiritual traditions have long understood—that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being absolutely depend upon having a strong sense of purpose. Purpose is often defined as having a reason for getting up in the morning that is bigger than our own pleasures and comforts. Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose, offers powerful guidance when he says that the foundation for discovering our unique expressions of purpose lie in a deep commitment to having our primary motivation each day be to somehow grow and somehow give. With this general purpose as our pole star, we will find countless opportunities to grow and to be of service, and as we do so we open ourselves to awareness of the unique gifts within us that seek expression and can become primary avenues for living our purpose.

Having a vision for our ideal elderhood is an equally important dynamic for living with purpose. When so many older adults are asked what their ideal elderhood looks like, they have no idea how to respond. They might talk about taking bucket list vacations or enjoying their grandkids or finding some volunteer opportunities, but beyond that there appear to be no vision—just taking each day as it comes and finding things to do to fill the hours. We get what we aim for. If all we aim for is to fill our hours and enjoy what comforts we can, that’s all we will get as we age. But imagine having a bucket list that addresses many more of our needs as human beings than just our pleasures and comforts. Imagine having a clear vision of what it can be like if your need for community is well met in your elderhood, and to be taking tangible steps to have that need become a reality.

Likewise, imagine having clear vision of how you can fulfill your need to use your gifts in service; your need for emotional and spiritual deepening; your need to continually learn new things; your need for pleasure and excitement; your need for good health of body, mind and spirit; your need for a close, life-giving relationship with the natural world; and your need to give expression to your elderhood through meaningful relationships—perhaps mentoring—with younger people.

You can begin to develop such a vision by making it a priority. You can give yourself the gift of quiet time and solitude in which you look within to see what images emerge as you focus on each of these dimensions of yourself which, when fulfilled, will contribute to your total wholeness and well being. You probably already are at least somewhat aware of various aspects of your vision, and they just need to be recognized, affirmed and committed to. With other aspects, your focused desire for clear vision will help support
your increasing clarity. Inviting contact with your spiritual guidance through prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices that you resonate with is invaluable in helping you know what is truly coming from your deepest, most authentic inner knowing versus from just your mental self and your conditioning.

As you gain a sense of elements of your vision for your ideal elderhood, take time to imagine that they have become reality in your life. What will it look like when they manifest? What will you be feeling as you achieve these goals? This process will help you move beyond having appealing ideas to getting a deeper sense of whether each of these possibilities is truly one you should choose to aim for.

Once you become aware of at least some elements of your vision for your elderhood, the next step is to put these in written form, perhaps accompanied by photos or artistic images, that you keep in a place in your home set aside for reflection and inspiration.

Without clear statements of your goals and your commitment to work toward them, they will remain ephemeral fantasies with little chance of manifesting in your life. I encourage you to develop and periodically update your list of intentions, and keep a journal in which you identify and keep track of tangible steps you are taking and can take toward their fulfillment.

If you are working toward your ideal vision for your elderhood, you are living purposefully. You are growing, you are giving, and you are offering the best of yourself to this world.

Intentionality
Living intentionally is living with a clear sense of purpose and commitment. It is not hoping, or wishing, or declaring what you would kind-of-like to do or have. One obstacle to living with such intentionality is the idea I have often heard expressed that creating such statements of intention seems like adding a big “should” to their lives when they want to reduce the “shoulds” and instead enjoy each moment. I believe it takes personal self awareness—part of the wisdom of elderhood—to find the balance between these two
realities that is right for each of us. Our elder chapters are indeed a time when our psyche calls us to slow down, savor each moment, and develop our inner lives. At the same time, if we want to grow into our potential fullness as human beings, we need to have meaningful goals and work toward them. We need to have goals to focus our energy, and to give us reasons for choosing to endure the discomfort that accompanies
real growth. Goals are what help us move beyond who we are to who we have the potential to become. One of my own intentions speaks to this balance: “As I age, I intend to create a lifestyle that balances focused activity and work toward making my intentions a reality, with the time I need to just savor and reflect on life’s wonders without being goal oriented.”

I have a list of eleven intentions, created over the past few years, that guide my journey into my elderhood. I keep these on an altar I have at home where I have items, inspirational poetry, photos and objects that are sacred to me. Each week I look at my intentions and pay special attention to at least one that seems most alive time at that time. I think about it, visualize it, feel into it, consider steps I have taken and steps I can take, however small, toward fulfilling that intention. Periodically I look within to see if
one of my intentions no longer has life for me, and, if so, I delete it. And periodically when I find that a new goal becomes important, I set an intention around this element of my ideal elderhood and add this to my list.

My intentions, and yours, may not all become reality, but they keep us aiming high and searching for what is possible in our growth. Sometimes a goal that feels ever-so-right also seems totally out of reach. Rather than dismissing it, I suggest you try to take a few small steps in that direction and see what these lead to. We all know those inspirational quotes that tell us about the unexpected support that often arises when we become truly
committed to something. So many people have found that these are true. With some of our intentions we find we have to change course along the way, but without the original intention, commitment, and small steps we would not have gotten to that point. Acting on our intentions is often a catalyst for recognizing possibilities we cannot initially envision.

Courage
One of the most important questions I ask participants in our workshops and retreats is this: As you age, is it more important to you to be comfortable, or to grow? For so many people (few of whom come to our programs) comfort and perceived security are the highest priority. I believe it is a reality that little or no growth occurs inside our comfort zones. I’m not suggesting that there is not a place for comfort in conscious eldering. We all need experiences of comfort and rest. Times of comfort help us
stabilize new growth and renew our energy. But if our vision for our elderhood is grounded in continual growth and true aliveness, we need the courage and will to endure the initial discomfort and face the fears that come with shedding old skins and moving beyond our perceived limitations. Additionally, by being willing to step outside our comfort zones, we receive another, equally important gift: that unmatched feeling of
aliveness, usually accompanied by joy and pride of accomlishment, that arises when we shed self-imposed constrictions to the life force seeking expression through us. We have all known that feeling of aliveness, yet we all too often allow fear to override this deep knowing.

Rich possibilities for wholeness, fulfillment and contribution to a world in peril lie within each of us as our beautiful, beseiged planet gives us yet another Springtime. All life asks of us as elders-in-process is that we commit to growing into our very best selves, nurturing the many facets of our precious lives so that as we grow and bloom we are gifts to a world that urgently needs truly alive and whole human stewards.

An Encounter with Red Rocks, Snake and Transition

By Wendy Dudley

My pulse tripled and my muscles tightened. Only two hours had passed on my solo day in the desert at Ghost Ranch. And here I was, high on the cliff rocks, facing a snake. I live in the foothills of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, so am used to dealing with bears and cougars, but not a venomous Snake. My adrenaline still rushing, my inner voice began to tell me I was fine, that this was meant to be, that things were unfolding as they must. I was outside my comfort zone, and I knew this is where we learn the big lessons. 

Meeting Snake was the pinnacle moment of my week-long Choosing Conscious Elderhood (CCE) retreat, held under the masterful guidance of co-leaders Ron Pevny and Anne Wennhold. 

Our group was well prepared for our solo. We had discussed our inner fears, and what we needed to release, so that we could move forward in a more free and joyous state.

We learned how important it is to come from our hearts, and to speak our truth, and how anything is possible if we overcome our self-limitations and remain open. 

Using intent as our gateway, we opened ourselves to receive light and love, and messages that can arrive through visions and from Nature. 

Surrounded by magnificent red rock cliffs and an oceanic sky, Ghost Ranch is the ideal setting for the CCE retreat, as it is in Nature where we often come face-to-face with our truths.  With daily opportunities to commune with the high desert environment, participants are washed with birdsong and the beauty of the spacious and humbling land. Science has proven that being in the natural world can take us into a peaceful state, where we often find clarity in our focus, thoughts and intentions. Some may call this space the Field, the Mystery, the Cosmos, God, or Spirit.  The label does not matter.  What is important is that we hold this sacred space dear to our hearts, for this is where we seek authenticity and our personal truths which help guide us on our unique paths. It is for this reason that indigenous peoples sought their life purpose through vision quests, when they left their villages and spent time alone steeped in Nature. 

By wandering among the trees, along creeks, or in the mountains, we are reminded that we are not separate from Nature. Rather, we are part of it.  We are all interconnected through a web of energy.  And in doing so, we welcome Spirituality into our lives. 

Nature is an integral element of the CCE program, whether sitting under a sea of stars, hiking mesa trails, or simply meditating beneath a canopy of arroyo cottonwoods.  With loving and caring support by fellow group members, and respectful guidance from the co-leaders, Nature also becomes our teacher and healer. 

Basking in the outdoors, we learn that Nature is full of signs to help guide us on our paths.  We may find meaning in a particular bird, the shape of a cloud, or an animal crossing our path.  The CCE program teaches us to be open, to be willing to receive and accept what is shown us. 

And so on this day, I was given Snake, symbolizing transformation since it sheds its skin, casting off an old identity for a new one. According to many cultures, it is also the sign of a medicinal healer, which mirrored my interests in Medical Qi Gong, Shamanic work, and art therapy. Snake rested half in shadow, half in sunlight, marking the importance of seeking balance in all that we do. It also was stretched out, an indication of awakening from a coiled state, as we move from karma to dharma. These signs of healing were significant, as I had arrived at Ghost Ranch with broken trust. Through the letting-go ceremonies and heartfelt group discussions in the retreat, I began to heal, to feel I could trust again — as in trust myself, trust Nature’s signs, and thus begin to trust others. 

After spending five hours with Snake — during which time I rattled to it and played my flute — I walked up a windy ridge. I felt like I was wrapped in a ceremonial blanket, as I gazed over the mesa and incoming rain squalls. I let the wind rustle my hair, as the rain washed and cleansed my soul. In that moment, I took back all the power I had mistakenly given away. I was now truly the co-creator of the rest of my life, consciously aware that my path was a worthy one, and that I myself was worthy. I felt my calling, as I received affirmation that I was to teach and share my love of Nature through my practice of shamanism and my painted drums which send out healing vibrations when played, echoing the heartbeat we sense and hear when we are still in the womb. To know one’s sense of purpose, and to answer it, is transformational and life-changing.

And so, without surprise, when I returned to the rock I had shared with Snake, my reptilian teacher was gone. Its lessons had been passed. My old skins were shed. 

It was up there, along the cliffs, where the eagles nest and the ravens dip and dive and dance, that my life began to take on a different shape. This could not happen in a boardroom, or among the competing distractions of an urban environment.  This could only happen in Nature, in the truth of its songs and chants and meaningful encounters. 

From modern-day spiritualists to monastic monks to native North Americans, many spend time in Nature. It is the ideal environment for meditation, since the Earth’s electromagnetic frequency is one that promotes relaxation and restoration.  When we are in Nature, the tendency is to synchronize with its healing frequency, which also puts us into a state of increased happiness and compassion. 

If there is one animal that reflects the essence of the CCE program, it is Snake. 

Through loving and gentle support, Ron and Anne assist Elders-in-the making with shedding patterns, releasing what is no longer serving us well, and setting intentions as to how we wish to live the rest of our lives.  I left the CCE retreat with increased awareness of the conscious state, which is where our dreams and wishes reside, and awareness of the importance of a caring and supportive network. I knew I would always embrace Life with passion, and that our truth comes from deep within our souls. Others may guide us, but only we hold the answers for our unique path.  

Building an altar is part of the CCE program, and today, a Zuni stone carving of a fully stretched snake holds a place of honor there, as does the CCE program that allowed me to so fully transform, so that I may trust myself to become the keeper of my own flame, knowing no one has the right to blow it out. 

The drumbeats and rattling, which welcomed each morning of our retreat, continue to vibrate throughout my very being.

Choosing Conscious Elderhood October 7 – October 13 Ghost Ranch

This retreat, for people in or approaching their senior years (50+), provides a dynamic experiential introduction to conscious aging and the types of inner work that are important on the path toward becoming a conscious elder.

Such an elderhood is a role that is consciously chosen and grown into through preparation at all levels—physical, psychological and spiritual. We invite you to join us for an inspiring week at Ghost Ranch, a land of great beauty long recognized as a place with strong earth energy and spiritual power—an ideal setting for supporting the inner work we will engage in.

Download the flyer.

Ron Pevny on Mission: Evolution Radio

Ron Pevny was recently interviewed about the role of conscious elders in today’s world on Mission: Evolution a radio show broadcast around the world and hosted by Gwilda Wiyaka. Mission: Evolution is dedicated to supporting the healthy evolution of humankind through spiritual and scientific dialogue. Listen to Ron’s interview at the Mission: Evolution website or in the player below.

Listen to “ME: Ron Pevny – Knowledge VS Wisdom: Evolving Purpose” on Spreaker.

Understanding and Supporting Your Passage Into Elderhood

The Transforming Aging Summit, hosted by Ron Pevny, is an online gathering designed to inspire and support those moving into the third act of their lives — and determined to thrive. Listen to an interview with Ron Pevny.

This interview is part ​of ​The Transforming Aging ​Summit, a free online event where you can learn from some of the most powerful visionaries and community leaders about ​fulfillment, creativity and higher purpose in your later years.

For more information, please visit www.transformingagingsummit. com

Pricing

We’ve decided not to show the price on the main page for this event, because we want to make sure that you understand the full value of this program before you make your decision.

We understand that the cost of an event matters. You’ll find all the details on the flyer for the event. We hope you’ll take the time to learn all about the event before you decide.

Guest Post Guidelines

This website publishes blog posts written by Center for Conscious Eldering retreat leaders as well as individuals choosing to age consciously and willing to share their perspectives and experiences.  Blogs can focus on any themes important to the empowered vision for aging that the Center is committed to supporting. We encourage you to share your wisdom with the conscious eldering community! You don’t have to be a “polished” writer—just someone who is passionate about aging well and willing to share your thoughts with others.

Submission Guidelines

  • Your blog must not have been published elsewhere, in part or whole
  • Length should be between 300 and 1,200 words
  • No advertisements please; just a one or two sentence bio with your name and position or relevant experience, and your contact information for blog readers
  • Please submit your proposed blog post to Ron Pevny at ron@centerforconsciouseldering.com
  • Each blog post accepted will be featured for several weeks and then archived
  • Blogs accepted may be edited for clarity and grammar

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging

Miriam Knight of the New Consciousness Review interviewed Ron Pevny, author of Conscious Living, Conscious Aging, a book about new views of aging.

Knight is the host of the New Consciousness Review Radio Show. “On the NCR Radio Show,” Knight says, “we interview some of the most passionate and exciting authors and filmmakers we can find among the dozens of spiritual and progressive titles we post and review each week.”

Knight describes her guests as “the thought leaders of the conscious awakening.”

In this interview, Ron Pevny shares the experiences in his life that led to his work in the area of conscious eldering, and the long-term effects he sees coming about from this work.

If the video does not play correctly on this page, please click through and watch on YouTube.