Friday, March 29, 2013

In the Flow of Life

Tibetan Master Yangthang Tulku Rinpoche
Last week  I traveled to Alameda, an island near Oakland, California. It was delightful to be there and enjoy the freshness of some new vistas. I was attending a few days of the empowerments being given by Yangthang Tulku Rinpoche, a Tibetan master now in his late 80s. He is one of the few remaining Tibetan masters from what people call Old Tibet, the land before the Chinese Communist decimation.

Yangthang Rinpoche embodies a lifetime of spiritual development and service. He was held in a Chinese prison for many years. Prisoners were forbidden to pray or meditate on pain of torture and death. It is said that Yangthang Rinpoche lay next to a different Tibetan every evening and whispered the Dharma teachings in their ear.

In Alameda, he followed a schedule that most octagenarians could not duplicate. He got up on his teaching seat at 6am, and got off it at 6 or 7pm, with only one break-- for lunch.

Meditators at his level of development have control over their bodies and minds. I suppose that for those who have never had any contact with authentic spiritual teachers, this may seem astonishing, but really, it is the least astonishing aspect of the influence and effect teachers like that have upon us beings who are still in the formative stages of development. Once I arrive in this kind of gathering, and sit in the presence of a teacher like Yangthang Rinpoche, I find it hard to leave and return to my ordinary life.  But of course I do return to it, to my habits, projects, friends, home and garden, all of which are the expressions of innate openness and light.

The Lagoon in Alameda

My friend Diane and I stayed in the Coral Reef Motel, and our living room faced the lagoon. We walked from the motel to Orgyen Dorje Den, the Buddhist center where the teachings were held. Alameda has a big Asian population and that gives the place its particular flavor.

I enjoyed the warmth, the beautiful gardens that front many of the houses, walking on the beach, window shopping and visiting the wonderful natural foods market. It was a nice respite from my home in southern Oregon.

Elder Beat 

Cause for celebration! I find more and more evidence of positive aging in the media and in the flow of everyday life. Two weeks ago, I attended a fundraising dinner for the Rogue Valley Chorale. Lyn Sjoland, now in his 80s, is retiring as its director after a 40 year career. Sjoland is such a warm, humorous and vivid presence -- he is a wonderful example of how to age in a happy, fulfilled way.  Vision and purpose are key elements to successful aging.  Sjoland certainly has managed to demonstrate that. It was touching to see how many lives he has enriched with the musical programs and ensembles he created.

On the nonagenarian front, I read another article about a 90-year old yoga practitioner. Her name is Phyllis Sues. Here's her take on aging. 

"I started my own fashion label at 50, became a musician and learned Italian and French in my 70s, took tango and trapeze at 80 and walked into my first yoga class at 85. So, if you think you're old, think again!" You can read Phyllis Sues story here 


Here's a few other items from my recent Elder Beat explorations.

There was an article in the Washington Post about 101-year old Ray Clark and his fitness routine. It's pretty inspiring to read about a centenarian's commitment to wellness through exercise. Here's the link. 
I discovered the work of filmmaker Laurie Schur, who is developing a film on creative aging after 80. Take a look at the film clip for Greedy for Life to see some wonderful living embodiments of positive aging.  I am looking forward to hearing and seeing more about Laurie's work.
Yesterday in her Time Goes By blog, Ronni Bennett posted an article about the development of elder playgrounds.  

How wonderful! I'm a big fan of playing. I think of my life as one big elder playground, but it would be fun to have a real life playground in some nearby park, too. 
I know I said that I would tell you about Carol Orsborn's new book Fierce with Age. This is her 21st book! It's a very enjoyable read. Its main theme is Orborn's shift from a long career as a dynamic author, speaker and marketer into the territory of old age, and life in a slower, less wellknown lane. 
Orsborn talks honestly about her feelings when she realizes that she is losing the visibility and clout she has grown accustomed to. It's a topic many of us have to deal with as we age. She discovers a new freedom that arises as the intensity of her earlier career fades back.  You can download an excerpt of the book here.   I may write more about the book later, but right now I am full up with various projects.

The Artist's Life---Plethora and Plenitude

Much creativity and forward momentum---My memoir Songs of the Inner Life is being designed and formatted for publication. With any luck, it should be published by end of April or so.

I just got the booklet for Your Audacious Aging Kit back from the printer, so I will be heading to my studio out back soon to produce some finished kits. When I have them assembled, I will be making them available at the Sage's Play website. I usually call the studio out back the Kuan Yin Inn but for awhile it will become the Button Factory. This will be my first experience using the button making machine I ordered recently. I'm sure it will be interesting. I'm hoping to have one or more friends join in on the fun.

I've been working on  a song I plan to use to raise money for A New Wrinkle, our musical revue, and that song is nearly finished. I love it when songs just pour out. They are not always so cooperative. I've been working on this one for weeks. Now I am going to work on lyrics for a song that will appear near the end of the revue. Once I get that done, we will have 20 songs! Amazing, considering that not so long ago, we had only 12 songs. The past 2 years have been an amazingly fertile creative period in my life. That's what happens when you pull out the stops, it seems. Composer friend Laura Rich and I sent two songs to John Mazzei, a Bay area composer and arranger, so that he can create a musical soundtrack for them. Creating a soundtrack for all of the songs is one of our next steps. My dear friend Carolyn Myers is reviewing the revue's script, too. I am looking forward to meeting with her and hearing her comments on it.

In other words, things are moving forward. Hallelujah!


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