Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sage-ing International Conference: Gathering at the Lake

The conference was held at Lake Junaluska, a Methodist Church-run conference center outside of Asheville, NC
I just returned from the Sage-ing International conference, which was held at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, a Methodist facility  in the mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina. It felt good that we were gathering at the big, peaceful lake.  Lakes have a strong association with the Feminine, with healing, fertility and growth. The surface of a big lake can be seen as a mirror for contemplation, consciousness and revelation. In Chinese symbology, the lake represents receptive wisdom and absorption. And the work of sage-ing contains all of these elements. 

Some Sage-ing History

The organization that is now called Sage-ing International began through the pioneering work of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, whose classic book From Age-ing to Sage-ing sets forth a powerful new vision of aging. At first, the organization was called Spiritual Eldering Institute. Then its name was changed to The Sage-ing Guild. The new name, Sage-ing International,  was chosen after considering many names submitted by members. The new name was announced at the conference.

Do you know anything about sage-ing and Reb Zalman's pioneering work? I encourage you to read his book if you haven't done so yet, and to learn more about him as a model of eldering. His contribution to the development of a new paradigm of aging is enormous.

A walking path circled the lake. We had sunny days--beautiful autumn weather.
I arrived at the lake in time to relax and unwind after travelling cross country. I took some long walks in the autumn sun.
I had hopes when I signed up for the conference, and they were met and sometimes even exceeded.  I wanted to meet people in the aging field that  I had heard about for years. I wanted to get to know how others in creative, conscious aging did their work. I wanted to learn more about the Sage-ing movement itself.

And I wanted to have the opportunity to share some songs from A New Wrinkle, our musical revue on aging, with an audience that I believed could give me useful feedback.

Bob Atchley

I met people.

Many wonderful people who touched my heart.

For instance, I met Bob Atchley. My friend Susan Bosworth studied with him at Naropa, and was always talking about him so I had wanted to meet him for years. Bob is a really delightful human being--funny, warm and engaging. After retiring from his academic career, he has taken up an encore career as a singer-songwriter. It was great fun to talk with him and see him perform his wonderful songs. Check out his website for more information on his music and workshops he offers.

I wanted to meet H.R. "Rick" Moody and Connie Goldman, too-- and I did! Connie began her career at NPR and has spent decades writing about aging. Her interviews and observations are well worth reading. You can check out her books and other services at her website.  

Rick Moody is Director of Academic Affairs at AARP.   I found Rick to be a generous, thoughtful and funny person. He made himself available to talk with people about a wide variety of topics, including marketing. It was a real joy to meet all three of these delightful folks.  I  hope my life and work brings me into contact with them again. 

H.R. "Rick" Moody (seated on left, in back) generously shared his wit and wisdom with us, including at two breakfast meetings devoted to marketing. 

The presentations I attended were all very well-done. I enjoyed learning more about storycatching from Christina Baldwin of PeerSpirit. I resonated with Ina Albert's workshop on the energetics of the heart and how we communicate through the heart.  I learned more about the intersection of spiritual direction and life coaching from Rev. Nancy N. DeStefano and Carol Scott-Kassner.

I was touched to be with those who have been involved in the evolution of the Sage-ing organization for many years, whose dedication has supported the organization as it has changed and grown. Thank you, all of you for your generosity and kindness.

I loved the plenary sessions where we all gathered  to brainstorm and create. The speakers were delightful, introducing topics with insight and humor. I especially liked the work we as a group did together on shifting the aging paradigm. The plenary session on spirituality and wisdom was quite wonderful, too.

Rituals were an integral part of the conference, and they were enriching and beautiful. During the final ritual,  the most elder among us were honored with ceremonial scarves representing the elements. The love in that room was resonant, let me tell you.

I joined Sage-ing International because I suspected the people in it might be kindred spirits. And I am happy to report that my suspicion was right. It felt very, very good to be so at home with scores of folks who had been strangers only hours before that. I met some people who moved me a great deal, with whom I shared deeply, and some of them will probably be my friends for years.

When you hang out with people in Sage-ing groups, you introduce yourself by name and then you say "and I have 71 years of life experience." Or whatever number of years it is you do have. That feels good, doesn't it? It did to me.

 Sage-ing International is a great place for you if you are an older adult who longs for meaningful connection, community and personal//spiritual growth.  In other words, you may want to join Sage-ing International yourself!

I want to write about Playfulness and the Art of Aging, the workshop I presented at the conference, and also the performance I did of some songs from A New Wrinkle, and I will do that in my next blog. I am feeling encouraged, stimulated, supported and loved, thanks to my conference experience.

These are some of the women I first met through ElderwomanSpace, an international internet community. It was wonderful to meet them in person at the conference!


  1. Loved your reflections. It was a gift meeting you and your spirit. Keep up the good work on your play. Dream big. Go for it. Take care. Jann

  2. Visit Website sage evolution, It was great fun with him and see him perform his wonderful. Thank you for this great sharing.......