Friday, May 31, 2013

The Artist's Life: Her Update

Songs of the Inner Life: 
How I Made My Way in the Dark

The final proofing for Songs of the Inner Life has been done, and soon the book will be finished, published, out and about in the world.
The book explores the buried meaning in life events, the juxtaposition of ordinary outer life and mysterious inner experience that leads one further into one's calling and development. It's very personal and very universal. 

Creating art can be a solitary and sometimes lonely pursuit. Friends and kindred spirits are essential to one’s sense of purpose and well-being.  I am fortunate in that regard. I have been buoyed up, inspired and brightened by many people, each of whom brings unique and wonderful qualities into my world.  Harry (Rick) Moody, author of a wonderful book titled The Five Stages of the Soul, had this to say about Songs of the Inner Life. 

 "Whoever thought that a spiritual journey could read like a roller coaster ride?  As Bette Davis said, “Fasten your seat belts! ” -- and be ready for a great ride in Gaea Yudron's memoir of her life and times."

Activities In the Kwan Yin Inn

We are assembling the new audacious aging kits in the Kwan Yin Inn, a studio in the back garden. The button making machine, button parts, magnets, booklets and envelopes---each part of the kit sits in happy expectation of meeting people who want to get a positive aging boost in their lives.

People often say "what a cute idea" when they hear about the kits....

Do you want to wear some sassy, pro-aging buttons or give a friend a kit that contains upbeat, life-affirming messages about aging? Great for birthdays, retirement or just because...... Learn more at our website....

Beauties of the Garden, an Ongoing Saga

The poppies are finishing their bloom, the roses are out in full flower, and penstemons, feverfew, snapdragons, daylillies are among the delicious sights right now in the south-facing garden. I am still working on moving the rest of the 3 yards of compost I had delivered to various beds.

Playfulness and the Art of Aging

I'm giving a talk on playfulness on Monday at the  Ashland Food Co-op. Well, it will be more/other than a talk, depending upon how willing the audience is.

Being playful, spontaneous, creative, silly, inventive, outrageous, letting go of one's ordinary persona and behavior--all of that is so refreshing and delightful, freeing, instructive and just plain fun.  I love doing this with groups, and would like to do more of it!

I presented The Poetry of Aging the other day at OLLI. Poetry and playfulness---two of my favorite things to share with others.... Both allow us to take a vacation from ordinary reality and enter other parts of our psyche. I enjoyed sharing what many poets have written about aging, and we had a marvelous conversation about aging afterwards, too.


I just finished writing "Organ Recital," a very funny song about physical complaints that composer Laura Rich is now setting to music. One of its verses goes like this:
"We have to go to Thailand for our teeth
Getting work done there is much more cheap
the dentists are quite gentle
they’re never temperamental
Thai food is just delightful
We relish every bite full
what’s more, there is also the beach."

Oh, what a wonderful day it will be when the revue is ready for production. I am very ready to see that day arrive.  Well, that is a little of what is going on here in my life as an artist/entrepreneur/social change activist.  

Of course, my life is full of a great many other things, too. I have been happy to see protests against Monsanto arise in so many cities and countries. I pray for the bees, for the whales, for the humans.  Living in a body right now takes a lot of courage and heart.

Perhaps it has always been true. Wishing all of us the courage and heart to meet and engage with life in ways that are fruitful.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Speed of Light in the Slow Lane

Tashi Choling's beautiful temple and a clear blue sky
Until one grows older, one doesn't understand the comments of older people who insist  that "the years flew by so quickly." Now, however, we understand. One moment, we were 30 years old, the next moment we find we are 60 or 70, taking life in more slowly and with the panoramic perspective unique to age.

In 1976, I was fortunate to meet Gyatrul Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama who became my root teacher.  I could certainly devote many blog posts to events and recognitions that transpired in my relationship to him, to his amazing example of what is possible as a human being.

Paradoxically, there has been a whole lot of physical effort involved!

I hope that I live long enough to write about some of this, not necessarily here, but in a book that describes the creation and evolution of Tashi Choling, one of the Dharma centers that he inspired, which I helped to ground in its early years.

Tashi Choling's majestic Tibetan temple sits at the top of an expansive meadow. It is a beautiful place --peaceful and inspiring. I just finished taking part in 7 days of spiritual practice there, as our annual spring retreat unfurled.  We were blessed by the presence of Lingtrul Rinpoche, a wonderfully open and relaxed Tibetan lama, and my teacher Gyatrul Rinpoche came to the final session of the retreat. A very rich, powerful incredibly moving time....a dip into the timeless heart essence ....

The proof copy of my new book--close to publication!
Songs of the Inner Life

Today I plan to finish the final proofing for Songs of the Inner Life, my soon to be published memoir.  The book is a project of Sage's Play, a venture I created in 2008, whose programs focus on creative, conscious aging.

I am very pleased with the cover design created by Robert Frost.  Robert has done many beautiful design projects for me over the years. I love his work.  He created a delightful brochure for the Retirement and Inspirement Coaching I offer and he has developed many many other posters and brochures for me.

It has been 25 years since I published a book! Well, that's not exactly true. I self-published Words Themselves are Medicine, a chapbook of poetry and essays in the early 90s.

My first book Growing and Using the Healing Herbs was a big success, thanks to the publisher Rodale Press' fantastic marketing structure. That herb book sold 200,000 copies -- the royalties paid for land I owned with my then-second husband, who co-authored the book with me.

Now we are about to send Songs of the Inner Life out into the world through Sage's Play.  I am very pleased to be offering Songs of the Inner Life, which tells some of the stories of how mysterious events and forces led me on my way in the midst of the landscape of ordinary life. I began writing some of the stories that appear in the book when I was 55!  I was plunging into life review, even though I didn't know it then.

The introduction to the book is available at our Sage's Play website (see link a few paragraphs up) under the Book and Writings link. I've collected some reader comments on the book as a way to let people know a bit more about what they can expect when they open its pages. If you are curious or interested, you can check them out at our website, too.

Writing and creating art of any kind  is of course an offering. Each piece of art attracts its own audience, people who resonate with its color, form, scent, message.  Songs of the Inner Life will emerge and connect in its own perfect timing with the people who are meant to read and appreciate it.

The Gardens

I feel very fortunate to be living amidst these gardens. The south-facing garden in front of the house is now filled with masses of blue love-in-a-mist, poppies, hibiscus, roses and dayliies. I expect the feverfew to explode into clouds of white blossoms any day now.

I am an earth-digger. With 6 planets in Taurus, it seems natural, perhaps inevitable.  It gives me a great deal of pleasure to enrich the soil and create beauty in gardens.

Years ago, when I lived in a place that had very dense clay soil, I used to imagine living in a cottage like this surrounded by profuse flower gardens, and now here I am....have I said this already? It is still very true.

In the back, there is a shade garden, boxes full of vegetables and the area at the very back of the yard, where a variety of vegetables and herbs commingle with some roses. Butterflies, bees, birds---the garden is a natural place of rest, where one can slow down and listen to things as they grow, appreciating their vigor and their perfect beauty.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Pleasures of the Garden

 Twenty years ago, when I was still in my second marriage, I was living in the country on land that boasted very dense clay soil. In spite of the difficulty of the ground, I managed to convince some gorgeous white antique roses as well as some herbs like tansy and mother wort to flourish there. I had daydreams that when I was older, I might live in a cottage with a beautiful flower garden, where the earth was easy and cooperative.

Now I do live in just such a place. The front garden has a lovely English style (read profuse and a bit chaotic) flower and herb garden.  In the back, there is a shade garden and two areas where I grow vegetables.

From the time I saw the place, I thought the front shutters should be painted blue rather than the faded charcoal grey they were. I like them much better this way, and they bring out the color of the masses of pale love-in-a-mist that are now blooming in various parts of the front garden.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Elder Beat: Two Great Books on Aging, and a P.S.

 Carol Orsborn is one of my favorite commentators on aging well. Ever since I first spotted an article she wrote in the Huffington Post, I've been interested in knowing what she has to say about engaging with the aging process in  positive ways. Orsborn doesn't romanticize aging or its challenges and she describes the unique opportunities that later life offers in a way that makes sense to me.

I am a fan of hers, so I was looking forward to reading her new book, which is the 21st book she has published! Orsborn has written self-help, spirituality and business books--all aimed at the boomer generation. She's been on Oprah and the Today Show. She writes for Huffington Post, PBS's Next Avenue and BeliefNet. She is what is called a thought leader these days.

Her new book is titled  Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn.  A very engaging memoir, the book chronicles Orsborn's experiences and observations during one particular year in  her early 60s, which as it happened was a year that brought home the realization that she was definitely leaving the territory of mid-life and entering the realm of old age.

There are so many great reviews of the book available and I want to include some excerpts of them here.

In her wonderful blog, Any Shiny Thing, (which I highly recommend checking out)  Lynne Spreen writes, "When I read this book, Fierce with Age: Chasing God and Squirrels in Brooklyn, I knew for sure. Carol Orsborn is on to something that I, at age 59, am really hungry for. I want to know how to feel valuable, powerful and at peace in the second half of my life, while still fully functioning in a society that demeans, caricatures, and negates older people."

Author Connie Goldman, who herself has written a number of wonderful books on aging, writes, "I've not read anything as honest and revealing as the tale of Carol Orsborn's personal journey into becoming Fierce with Age. Through searching deeply and having the courage to share the experience, she offers us all insights and validation of who we can become in mid-life and the years beyond." —Connie Goldman, author of Who Am I . . . Now That I'm Not Who I Was

So yes, I do recommend that you read this book, whether you are 45 or 75. Orsborn's storytelling is easy to take in. It's honest, vulnerable, feisty and seasoned with bouyant doses of humor.  What she has to say is valuable and how she says it is delightfully written and full of insights and surprises.

Right now, I am a student in The Possible Elder, a 10-session class taught by Carl Marsak at our local OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute).  Marsak founded the Enneagram Center of Ashland in 2008. He is a great teacher and I have been enjoying the experience of each class session. It's really fun to be a student rather than a teacher sometimes. One of the books that Marsak is using in the class is  Aging as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond. Richmond is a Zen priest who was a student of the great master Suzuki Roshi, one of the first teachers to bring Buddhism to America.

Because I've been a Buddhist for 40 years,  I make some assumptions which may not be very accurate, it seems. I assume that everyone recognizes that aging ---no matter what your spiritual inclination or lack of it--is a profoundly spiritual process that involves surrendering the ego, the attachment to and identification with the transient self--and in the process, if the process is taken on full bore-- letting go, forgiving, getting over oneself, recognizing that the work of "laying down the mantle"  and moving toward dying--as they say in the gospel songs-- is a primary work of later life.

If you are feeling called to explore this territory, the realm of Aging as a Spiritual Practice, then this is a wonderful resource and support for you in your quest.

"As someone who recently turned 70, I ate up Lewis Richmond's words on seeing growing older a spiritual practice. The book is fun and enlightening. I'll never forget some of the stories and the sharp formulas the author uses to remember how to age with some pleasure. The Buddhist point of view is especially fresh and useful. There's some Zen in all of us, deep down."
---Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and Writing in the Sand

The book is warm and easy to read, and it includes valuable exercises along with its valuable insights.

My own memoir, Songs of the Inner Life, is moving forward toward publication. More news on that in my next blog--you can check out our website, for some wonderful reader comments on the book.