Monday, October 19, 2015

The Joys of Play!

Step out of ordinary time and let go of self-consciousness

Spontaneity, Freedom, and Renewal

I am a woman who loves to play. It's true that I did have a serious play deficit during part of my adult life, even quite a significant part of my adult life, but now that I am older and wiser, I have relaxed back into being playful--thank goodness. 

Grownups are far too serious and inhibited. Elders included.

It would do all of us good to be more playful because playing lifts us out of seriousness and self-consciousness, giving us a no-cost vacation from mundane concerns that preoccupy us much of the time.

Play sets us free in a beautiful open field, where we have a chance to express ourselves spontaneously.

Things happen when we play that don't happen in other situations. In the midst of playing, we lose some or all of our usual self-consciousness and step into another, more timeless way of being. Play is pleasurable and invigorating. It's full of information about ourselves and others that comes in refreshing, even surprising ways.

People don't all play the same way of course. We have different play personalities or styles, or a mixture of several of them. Here are eight play styles.

Eight Play Personalities

There's the Joker, who loves being silly, the Mover who loves dancing and sports, the Explorer who loves new places, whether they are physical, emotional or physical, the Competitor who loves playing to win, the Director, who loves planning and creating events and projects, the Collector who loves gathering interesting or beautiful objects, the Artist who loves making things and the Storyteller, who enjoys creating an imaginative world with stories or other artforms.

What play styles appeal to you?  I am fond of the Joker, Explorer, Director, Artist and Storyteller, with a good appreciation for the Mover. I have limited involvement with the Collector and the Competitor. What about you?

Medical doctor Stuart Brown wrote a wonderful book titled  Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. Brown suggests that when we reminisce about positive play experiences from childhood it can give us information about our emotional profile and what truly excites us in life.

What kind of play did you love as a child? What are some of your positive memories about great play times?

I remember doing a workshop titled Playfulness and the Pleasures of Aging at the Sage-ing International Conference in 2012.  I asked the 20 people who took part in the group to consider their childhood play experiences and to choose one that remains vivid to them. The responses were wonderful--running the gamut from tender and mystical to liberating and whimsical. One man spoke about how few positive play experiences occured during his childhood in Germany in the midst of war. But he recalled picking wildflowers and sitting with his sister making crowns from them. Weaving and wearing those crowns was a memorable moment of play and connection for him. Another person told of being raised in an oppressive atmosphere in an orphanage, and how he looked forward to throwing off his clothes and running into a lake at the end of each day. A woman spoke of a numinous dream of being underwater and the influence it had on her life. We went on to play some improvisational games together. By the time the group was over, I think all of us understood the truth of what Plato said long ago, when he wrote, "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

Not only can you discover more about another person, you can also discover a lot about yourself that you would never learn from other types of pursuits. Because in play, we are free to express parts of ourselves that often have no other kind of outlet.

Is it scary to be silly?

Even though I loved playing jokes from a young age, and even though I had a father who took great delight in talking with many accents while inventing a variety of very funny characters, I often thought being silly was kind of scary. After all, kids or adults could make fun of you, ridicule you or laugh at you. It took me a few decades and a fair amount of experimentation and healing work, but these days I am generally comfortable with being silly.

Being silly is really a lot of fun. It's freeing to let go of being so darned grown up, armored by the need to control our established image of ourselves. I know that when I am silly, it gives other people permission to be silly, too.

Of course, Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin have permission to be silly. They are professional funny people. But we can give ourselves permission to let go and explore what form of silliness lives in us, too. What are your silly aspects? Do they have names? Do you talk with them?  You know, we all have a bevy of characters and archetypes within us, and being silly is one way to get to know them better and give them a chance to have their say.

In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. ---Friedrich Nietzsche  (and that goes for women, too!)

The Magical Aspects of Play

For this child from the Omo tribe, elaborately beautiful makeup  includes many elements from the natural world, and carries meaning within the tribe.  In our culture, Halloween and Mardi Gras are often the only times we dress up or change our faces to present another character, persona or archetype, and these dress-ups we do in our culture are of course quite different from the Omo ways. But they are what we have to start with. It is wonderful to explore archetypes and personas with ceremonial makeup.

I have been wanting to play with others using ceremonial makeup, movement, voice, improv games and deep relaxation. I have been calling this program Free as a Bird Frolics. I would love to see this develop into a retreat of 2-3 days, either in a retreat setting in Ashland or in other locations. Right now, I am offering it for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon.

So far, however, the tribe of players has not responded to the call. This is a bit sad of course, because it would be great fun to play together. But on the other hand it just may not be the right time, or I may not have gotten the hang of how to let others know about what I am offering, or it may be that this program is something for me to let go of.  It's good to remember that all of life is a creative exploration. Success and failure are rather static, blocky words for what is really quite a playful enterprise. It all becomes clear as we go along the path. I continue to be playful in my life, and welcome the opportunity to play with other dear humans, in whatever way the play manifests.

So if you want to play, let me know. I am sending good energy waves to you, energy waves, the play of cosmic forces.....
Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there. -- Miles Davis

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I am always on the lookout for interesting articles, books and movies about aging, and I often link to them on the Sage's Play Facebook page.

Here are a few articles that have captured my attention recently.

This Interesting article from The Atlantic reviews research about how having a positive perspective on aging supports health and wellbeing. The article also discusses a study in which subliminal positive messages about aging worked to change people's negative beliefs on aging more effectively than writing positive stories about aging did.

"When seniors were led to subconsciously absorb positive stereotypes about old age, their physical health improved along with their self-esteem," the article's author writes.

This says a lot about the power of the subconscious mind, something that I am well aware of as a hypnotherapist and rapid eye healing practitioner.

Subliminal or "implicit" positive messages could be assimilated more easily because the person didn't have to go through the measuring, comparing and critiquing that the conscious mind is always doing, bringing up negative stereotypes or beliefs to counter the positive ones in a steady inner dialogue.

I'm not surprised by these results. And I do strongly wish for cultural change in our attitudes towards aging and old people. But I find the subliminal message method too Orwellian. Why substitute one form of brainwashing for another? Why settle for exchanging negative stereotypes for positive ones? Either way, it is still operating with stereotypes, and stereotypes reduce the variety of experience and flatten it until it is something distant from the experience of the present moment.

Collective and individual hypnosis certainly is happening all the time in the course of everyday life. But it does seem that waking from the trance, whether it be social or personal, is an essential part of maturing.

Another writer whose articles I enjoy is Dominique Browning. Recently she published an article titled  "I'm Too Old for This" in the New York Times. In it, she points out the advantages of letting go of a variety of things that once were vexing, telling us that she is too old to be bothered in those ways any more.

"And let’s just start with being an older woman, shall we? Let others feel bad about their chicken wings — and their bottoms, their necks and their multitude of creases and wrinkles. I’m too old for this. I spent years, starting before I was a teenager, feeling insecure about my looks," Browning writes, going on to reflect on her long history of concern about her appearance. It's a sweet article, in which she says " A goodbye to all that has done nothing but hold us back."

Because we're too old for that.

I am also interested in what Wendy Lustbader has to say about aging. She wrote an article recently titled "Thoughts on The Meaning of Frailty." In it, she examines our fear of becoming frail,  less a human being than an object of medical attention, at the mercy of strangers.  "To behold another is a spiritual act," she writes in the midst of her exploration. And she asks questions, like this one. "Are there ways to become more as the body becomes less? Over the years, we become accustomed to taking our worth from other people’s regard or the satisfactions of our accomplishments."

She speaks of the value of being stilled, and she investigates the rich potential for inner work that may come with frailty. A wonderfully tender, thoughtful piece of writing. Here is the link to Wendy Lustbader's article

Ashton Applewhite
Another writer whose work I follow is Ashton Applewhite, whose website is This Chair Rocks. Ashton is an eloquent and passionate anti-ageism activist.  She was recently asked to write a piece on ageism for the Playboy Forum. Her article is titled "Why Jerry Brown Can't Be President," which takes off from a show Bill Maher did in which he described ageism as the last acceptable prejudice in America.

Ashton does her usual wonders with the topic, and the article is fascinating, witty and highly readable. Raise your consciousness and have a good read, too! Here's the link to
Ashton Applewhite essay on ageism That's some of the news from the ElderBeat at least in terms of articles. Then there's the movie scene. I haven't seen the new Meryl Streep movie, or the new Lily Tomlin movie. Have you?  It looks as if the wild old woman archetype is coming out to play in both those flicks, which I look forward to whether in movies or so-called real life.

Last but certainly not least.....Here is a Sage's Play news flash: In September, we will be presenting two exciting new monthly programs, Gathering Together and Free as a Bird Frolics. One of them may be just right for you. To learn more and to register, visit the Sage's Play website. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Few of the Personas Living in My House

Dear friends: This blog contains the musings of Gaea Yudron, director of Sage's Play, which offers programs and resources for creative aging. You can find news about Sage's Play programs and resources in our newsletter. Sign up for it at our website,

I know I have the key to this door.
The Personas
There are many, but right now I will limit it to three of them that are usually hanging around the house.  One of them is The Artist, one is The Healer, and the third is The Entrepreneur. Working with them involves plenty of creative play, improvisation, discarding, resting, enjoying the moment, caring for myself and others, cutting loose, strategizing, scheduling, organizing, networking, etc. Here's something from The Artist.

Receiving Praise: The Artist

Two readers spoke with me recently about my book Songs of the Inner Life. It is always instructive to hear what people discover in the book, what themes or passages resonate. Sometimes when I am listening to a reader, I find myself thinking, they just don't get that at all! Or it seems that the reader is fairly ho-hum in their response, either because they are guarded or because the book just didn't do much for them. Sometimes people are enthused and happy about the book, but their comments are quite pithy. So when two people are telling me within the same week that they read the book twice and say more than one sentence about their experience, it stands out.

The first woman told me, among other things,  that she thought the book was daring, that I was daring for being so intimate in writing about my life. People say that about me. It must be so. I like it when people feel more adventurous because of my own willingness to share my explorations. The second reader told me that she was reading the book out loud to her husband on the second read, which I found very touching. Reading aloud is such a beautiful way to share, and I know that my writing, at its best, is lyrical when spoken out loud. The second reader actually wrote something about Songs of the Inner Life, and I plan to put what she said on my website as soon as I can get The Entrepreneur persona to do it. Here is what she wrote.

"It is a rare delight to encounter a literary voice so wise, refreshingly honest, open-hearted and irreverent as that of Gaea Yudron in her candid yet magically surreal memoir Songs of the Inner Life. In gently lyrical, often astonishingly crystalline prose we re-live an intimate voyage of childhood from a simpler if not easier time, a coming of age in traumatically torn but rip snortingly hedonist '60's america, the blossoming of spiritual yearnings and utopian optimism into focused eco-activism and ultimately a rebirth into spiritual transcendence - & all this the mere runway of an 'ordinary' person's life onto the most transcendent human flight of consciousness - encountering one's own highest mission culminating in a life's work of service to others. Through the generous sharing of this gift I now feel Gaea Yudron as both sister-friend and potent artistic/spiritual mentor by example; both my husband and I (who read this book together) anxiously await the unique enfoldment of her next chapter in an ongoing saga of adventure, achievement, realization and love." 
                                        -- Rebecca Cintron Osvold

As an artist, I feel glad to make meaningful connections with other humans, and happy if something I do or say expands their life in some way. Yes, writers do like it when readers read their books twice, of course they do.

The Healer
Yes, grateful for every day, for the whole spectrum of life

The Artist and The Healer personas are often  hand in hand.  They have things in common--the Openness to Beauty for one thing and the wish to uplift and honor the innate harmony in life experience. Both of them wish to provide inspiration, wellbeing and refreshment.

One can often find them sitting quietly talking with each other, or sometimes dancing, or walking in the woods together.

The Healer views life as spiritual journey, and she knows that her gifts are for giving away. She is grateful for the opportunity to support others and to provide tools that open up new experiences,  perceptions and understanding.  Her intuition is keen. She meditates and prays for the wellbeing of others. A yogini lives in her. She continues to work on transforming her negative habits and patterns so that she can become a more evolved vessel.

The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur is often thinking about money, raising money, earning money, creating programs that bring in money. She is pondering about how to find and talk with the tribe and the audience, how to build the mailing list, how to use new technological tools to relate to others. She thinks about creating priorities in terms of program development. She wants to network, collaborate, connect, become more visible. She does relax when she connects with The Artist and The Healer from time to time, tapping into inner knowing, trusting in the process of experimentation rather than rigidly expecting to have everything neatly fall into place and work perfectly the first time.

The Entrepreneur was very happy about Into the Mystery, the first e-course Sage's Play offered, which attracted 20 participants. Marketing types told her that was very good for the first time around. She is definitely the most impatient of the three personas that are hanging around the house right now. Maybe that's good, as long as she does some deep breathing and takes some breaks in Nature and just gets out of her head at times.  She is an important part of the mix.

Culture Change and Frank Language--Helen Mirren Speaks Out at 70
“... Of course I don’t look better than I did when I was younger, without doubt...The great thing that happens is that you don’t give a flying fuck so much, that’s the thing. Yeah, I don’t look so good but I don’t care…But that is the great thing about getting older, I hope, is that you lose the incredible insecurity of youth.”

It's all relative of course, in terms of how good we look. I for example lack the glamour and polish of Helen Mirren, not to mention the wardrobe.

That's the story here, as I try to keep the personas happy with each other in the midst of a big creative blast. (cliffhanger, but more details soon)  I have been mostly indoors the past 6 days because of very unhealthy air from large wildfires in the region. But I am going out this afternoon to have tea with someone I knew over 30 years ago, who now lives in Nepal. And I plan to head over to the Wild Goose to hear some Beatles and Rolling Stones songs this evening.

Hope your various personas are enjoying this beautiful summer too.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting Up in Front of People

I met Harry Moody, gerontologist and author, at the Sage-ing International conference in 2012. I liked him immediately for his intelligence, empathy and easy humor. I've talked with him a few times since then, and consider him a mentor. When we first met, he was very appreciative of my performance work and told me that I should "get up in front of people."

In terms of fears, public speaking is at the top of  the list for most people.  I used to be afraid in that way, but not any more. So that is not one of my problems, though I still do have a few problems. I am trying to recall when it shifted. Hmm. It must have been at the very moment that I recognized how powerful it is to be vulnerable, make fun of yourself, and be a Fool. An awareness that has appreciated over time in my case. I don't want to make it my main shtick of course, but I always find it a reliable way to deal with mis-steps, or even deliberately orchestrate a pratfall or two. In other words, I used to be very serious, and now I am making up for it. In addition to the holy rascal play,  I love the performer-audience interaction, the collective energetics of it, the business of establishing rapport and connection, the potential there is for uplifting and opening up the field of energy.

But I have to say even though I always enjoy and am invigorated by getting up in front of people, I have not done enough of it, in terms of following Harry Moody's advice, or in terms of really enjoying myself. So I am planning to do more. Because old women want to have fun. At least this one does. She wants to have fun, most certainly, and she wants to fly into meadows of heightened awareness with others, to plunge into the deep waters of the psyche and spirit, to come up for air drenched and ecstatic, and of course she wants to Set a Good Example (SAGE).

I loved giving a talk at Unity in Ashland last Sunday, and today I am going to perform a wonderful collection of poetry at the Ashland library in a program I've been calling "The Poetry of Aging." I got a nice writeup in the local paper the other day about it. If you like you can take a look at Angela Decker's article here.

I plan to present "The Poetry of Aging" again this fall at the Medford library, and I would love to give my rousing talk in praise of old age at more churches. But to really get up in front of people, it looks like I am going to have to write and produce my one-woman show Bolder and Wiser. I still have the gypsy wagon fantasy, and I can imagine doing a road trip and performing Bolder and Wiser in various places. Yes, I can imagine that. In fact, it feels like it would be wonderful fun. So stay tuned.

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
             --Pablo Picasso

This evocative painting was posted on Facebook the other day.  Its title is "Evening Seed Bubbles," and it was created by British artist Emma Sian-Pritchard. You can view some other paintings of hers at this site. If you are a fan of decorative art, you will enjoy Folt Bolt a site created by Hungarian artist  Kriszta Kemeny who currently lives in Australia.
Eighty Year Old Pop Idols
Okinawan pop idols in Japan
Dahlias, zinnias and lavender from Kate's garden
Another article that bemused me recently is one from The Guardian, a British paper.  It tells the story of a group of women from Okinawa who have become pop idols in Japan. All of the group members are over 80!  Click on the link to read the Article about a group of older women 
from Okinawa, a place where people live a long time and apparently know how to enjoy themselves in the process.....I do suspect those two things are linked. Don't you?

Difficult Vegetables
To change the subject ever so slightly, my last blog regarding using difficult vegetables in a tasty way elicited two responses from readers--one was a great recipe for chocolate zucchini cake and the other a suggestion to make zucchini chips. The second reader told me of her fondness for lavender butter over green beans. Some people are so exotic. I wish she were cooking for me, at least occasionally.
Thanks to both of you for sharing your difficult vegetable suggestions.

Friends,  I hope that your artful life is going well. Keep in touch!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

At the Moment: Elder Housesharing Report

My housemate Kate Nehrbass has done aikido for 30 years
I was still traveling in Mexico early this year when Kate Nehrbass emailed me asking whether I would like to share her house. Kate and I have lived in Ashland for many years and we have a number of mutual friends, but we never really spent any time with each other.

The idea of living in her big, welcoming house up in the wooded area of Ashland was appealing, and I sensed that Kate and I could get along as housemates just fine, so I agreed. It felt good to have such a sweet place to land when I returned from Mexico.

And it has turned out to be an excellent experience. Kate is easy to live with and getting to know her better is delightful. She loves to travel and to garden, and she loves kids. Her young friends are often at the house, and she is generous in taking them to camps, plays, and other outings. Kate is also engaged in Buddhism, and that is a beautiful common ground.  I admire her generosity and kindness. Since I arrived, we have been getting along with each other quite well. Harmony in the house! That is so good. And living here with the myriad birds that appear, and the beautiful big garden and nearby hiking trails is also so good.

A beautiful line of old lavender bushes blooms at the side of the garden
I've been engaged in elder housesharing for about 7 years. To me it makes sense. It keeps housing expenses down, provides companionship and friendly engagement and exposes me to new perspectives and people. I imagine that I will keep doing it. It's like a return to the communal days of yore in some ways. But without the constant partying and late nights.

Yes, to be successful the house share must meet your basic requirements in terms of beauty, orderliness, comfort and welcome, and the housemate must be sympatico.

Kale on its way into the oven to become kale chips
 House sharing is becoming more and more popular with older adults. There are a number of national and regional organizations that help match compatible housemates, such as the National Shared Housing Resource Center, a clearinghouse to help folks find a shared housing organization in their community--or start one. There's even an international homeshare organization based in London, which shares news about organizations in eight countries.

Confession Regarding Kale

My friend Sondra can make delicious things with kale, but I have never discovered how to do it. We have some beautiful kale growing in the garden, and I was happy to discover that not only could I make kale chips, but that they are incredibly delicious, so delicious that I simply finish them off in one meal. I am not one of those fanatics who eats kale 3 times a day, but now that I have found kale chips, I make a batch a couple of times a week. It is very easy. Just cut the center spine from the kale leaf and coat the kale leaf with olive oil. I like to do it with my hands, but you could use a brush. Put the kale on a cookie sheet and bake it in an oven set to 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Stay nearby and check it. It can burn easily. Very tasty and of course nutritious.

Butterflies, flowers, the beauty of the summer garden
The Dread Time of Much Zucchini Approacheth

I love vegetables. Kale and zucchini are not at the top of my list though. Now that I have discovered kale chips, I will endeavor to find some delicious ways to present zucchini, which is already very abundant in our garden. This is a good problem to have. We enjoy bountiful foods here. May all beings be this fortunate.

About the Earth

I just finished reading Joanna Macy's memoir Widening Circles.  What a life she has led, and what beneficial work she has created to restore and heal humans and the Earth. Though I do not speak of it much in this blog, I contemplate the state of our planet and our species every day. Lacking omniscience, I cannot foretell what will happen on the Earth. I do pray about it. I pray for those peoples displaced from their homelands, now so many millions of them, for the rivers, jungles, mountains, oceans, creatures, for the elements, for all of us living now in this era. And I highly recommend this book, and the engaged Buddhism of Joanna Macy. She is a real bodhisattva.

Severe Resistence to Oldness--May the Right Medicine Appear to Cure It

The other day I had a meeting with someone I admire and in the course of our conversation he told me that his 85-year old neighbor got very insulted and upset when someone in a social gathering complemented her on being an elder. Vehemently, she insisted that she was not an elder. She was a sailor and a tennis player. Ah, my goodness dearie. Some kind of soul sickness. I want to read her this quote from the African author and teacher Malidoma Patrice Some--but maybe she just wouldn't get it immersed as she is in grasping onto her vitality. Ah, I have plenty more to say on the subject of Elders in Denial, but will save it for another time. Here is the quote.

“Elders and mentors have an irreplaceable function in the life of any community. Without them the young are lost, their overflowing energies wasted in useless pursuits. The old must live in the young like a grounding force that tames the tendency toward bold but senseless actions and shows them the path of wisdom. In the absence of elders, the impetuosity of youth becomes the slow death of the community.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer bliss waves and creative fireworks

Crater Lake and the Milky Way: Photo by Tiffany Nguyen

Monday, July 6th. The 80th birthday of HH the Dalai Lama.  I celebrate his beautiful presence in this world. He is a being who inspires love in countless people, no matter their religion. What a pristine example of what a human being can be. What an outstanding elder, statesman, pacifist, living Buddhism so fully, so present, so open. I bow to him and thank him. Year after year, I continue to learn from him, no matter where he is, no matter who he is with, always the radiance, the love. It is wonderful.

Oregon is a very beautiful place, and the photo of Crater Lake above shows it in all its glory. The sky these summer nights is utterly marvelous.  I continue to be astounded by its beauty.
The Healing Waters of Jackson Wellsprings 

If I am at all fortunate tomorrow, I will make my way to Jackson Wellsprings, which to me is one of the best things about Ashland, Oregon.

This is the pool itself. Usually I head there around 9 or 10 when it is quite unpopulated. I love the quiet, the sky, the birds, clouds and of course, the healing waters, a mix of mineral spring water with well water in the big pool.

Here is a statue of Ganesh that sits at the head of the swimming pool there. And the photo below shows one small part of the gardens that sit behind the pool area.
Gardens behind the pool area

A story from long, long ago

I love this photo of Swami Satchidananda sitting with a tiger. Swami Sachidananda was the first holy man I ever saw. I was living in NYC in the 60s and working for Conrad Rooks, who had just made a film called Chappaqua. Rooks was hosting a huge party in a nightclub to celebrate the opening of the film. Satchidananda was in the film and made an appearance at the party. As I wrote in my book Songs of the Inner Life,

"...a man dressed in a long saffron robe walked into the room, walking slowly and gracefully. His long silver-gray hair spread over his shoulders and his long silver-gray beard flowed down over the front of his saffron colored robe. I don't think he looked directly at me as he passed, but I remember his dark, peaceful eyes. I had never seen eyes like those on a living person. The most remarkable thing about him was a golden light that seemed to radiate from his entire body."

Yes, that is something one does not see every day, more's the pity.....

Meanwhile in the laboratory.....
Our new online course on life review, Into the Mystery, has begun and will run through the month of July. Now I am working on developing a one-woman show, which I plan to call Bolder and Wiser....It will include some of the songs from our musical revue A New Wrinkle...Stay tuned....hope all is well with you in this gorgeous time of year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Old at Heart: Reframing How We Talk about Aging and Being Old

It's not like anything
they compare it to--
the summer moon.

Though that poem has nothing to do with this photo, I had to start out with it. Summer, and we are moving toward the full moon. Glorious. Now let's proceed.

I am a fan of Tao Porchon-Lynch, the nonagenarian yogini and ballroom dancer, whom I have written about before in this blog. She is a wonderful example of vitality and joy in old age.

But what is wrong with this picture, or rather the quote that is included with it? Like Tao, I believe in energy, certainly. Energy. Vitality. Being uplifted. All that.

But I believe in age, too. And isn't Tao's comment a bit off key? To me it is. Perhaps it just needs a few more words. I think it would read better this way.

"I don't believe in stereotypes about age. I believe in tapping into cosmic energy."

I think that is what Tao is wanting to say here. I am sensitive to how words are used about aging. I don't really warm up to being addressed as 74-years young. I will not be happy to be called young at heart. I have live! live! lived! as Auntie Mame exhorted a repressed character to do in the wonderful old flick of that name.

I have 74 years' of life experience. I am old at heart. I don't want somebody who believes that youth is the main stage of life to be telling me I am young at heart. No thanks. Youth is not the pinnacle of life experience necessarily. Perhaps for some it is the peak and everything afterwards is downhill. But for many of us, life after youth contains a great deal of uplift, ecstasy and richness.  I am happy to be old at heart, with everything I know at this age. Which is certainly a great deal more than I knew when I was in my twenties, thirties or forties or even fifties. Just writing that line and taking a brief retrospective reminds me of how I have changed and matured. I am not perfected, but I have certainly changed and matured.

The experience of maturing, the depth a person can come to in maturity is something worth recognizing, not one to deny or ignore. I aspire to more maturity, to being even older at heart. To becoming more altruistic, kind, to having a more integrated, panoramic awareness, to being more loving.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know I am on a campaign to reclaim the word OLD from the trashpile of corrupted words. Old has a lot of power, a lot of rich qualities. Be happy to be old at heart, my friend. Young at heart has delightful qualities. Old at heart is another territory, one whose qualities are deep and worthwhile--let's honor it!

Meanwhile in the Laboratory

"Into the Mystery," the 4-week online course on life review I've developed, will have its virgin run in July. Folks are arriving to register and it is  fun to do the last minute tweaks on the course material, preparing to send it out. Life review is considered one of the important tasks of later life, and I am happy to be able to offer this course, which I plan to offer again online  this winter.

I am developing a talk titled "In Praise of Old Age" and will offer it for the first time on July 12th at the Unity Service in Ashland. Looking forward to this new way of sharing the Sage's Play pro-aging perspective--at churches and synagogues.  And it may be that a song or two from our musical revue A New Wrinkle makes its way into these church presentations. That would be fun, too.

With my focus on connecting with people through their church, one of my current adventures is meeting with ministers and rabbis.  I had a delightful meeting with Nan White, the minister at the Unitarian Church. She is so direct and down to earth. I really liked her. I am looking forward to more conversations about creative aging and aging as a spiritual journey with clergy.

Next week, I am getting together with Daniel Sperry, a cellist. I have never met him, but like the things he shares about music and poetry on Facebook. We are going to play music together, with his cello and my tamboura and voice. I want more singing and music in my life now.

I've been experimenting with Facebook ads. Right now I have one running to let folks know about the Audacious Aging Kit I've developed.  It's a process, it's a process, and one must have patience with the unfolding of it all.

Another event I am offering in July is "The Poetry of Aging" which I will present on July 19th at the Ashland Library. I did a similar event there two or three years ago. In it, I will share poems by many wonderful poets and talk about the experience of aging as a poetic and spiritual journey.

Living here at Kate's place as I am these days is quite wonderful. Though I do find myself in daydreams walking on the streets of Oaxaca at times. Yesterday morning, a beautiful fox darted out at the far end of the garden and darted here and there-- looking for fallen cherries probably--before disappearing. There are many many birds here and the variety of their songs and forms fill my days with delight. The deer appear daily, nibbling this and that and moving on. There are blue dragonflies and red ones, snakes, butterflies, and the old lavender bushes are bursting with bloom at this very moment. The fenced garden is filled with vegetables and flowers. I will take some pictures in a few weeks and share them with you. Every night as I lie in bed I can see the stars in the skylight directly overhead. It is quite glorious. Hope that your summer is glorious, too. Right in this very moment.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

In Praise of Oldness: Longevity, Vitality and the Fulfillment of Meaning

Since I returned to Oregon from Mexico in early March, I have plunged back into the creative development of Sage's Play, and in the process of that, I have naturally found myself immersed in contemplating and considering our culture's perspective on oldness, aging and elders.

Desmond Tutu dances at the Dalai Lama's birthday party
"Why does our society believe old people need help?" asks author James Hillman. "They are the ones who would be, in some other society, passing on help to others: teaching skills, telling stories, leading rituals, caring for children. They have a contribution to make, and instead they are segregated as sick people who need to be nursed. This is ridiculous."

With all this I wholeheartedly agree.

When I am sitting here with my Sage's Play hat on, and my Sage's Play glasses on, I am often inspired to sing praises to oldness, to its value, richness, depth, and the essential resonance of oldness, which we find so powerful and comforting. Oldness, staying power, lasting, the accumulated pile of life experience, of knowing, caring, leading, setting a good example, keeping the faith, passing on the old stories, showing how to plant the seeds and cultivate the garden of this life.

Maya Angelou
As I have said before, I believe it would do us all good to create an Elder Hall of Fame!  I have a list of many people I have been collecting and all of them are worthy candidates. Of course there's the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, both of whom are great examples of sages at play.

And poets Maya Angelou and Stanley Kunitz. Comedian Betty White, along with Yoko Ono, Mick Jagger, Pablo Casals, Pablo Picasso, Bernie Sanders, Tao-Porchon Lynch, teaching yoga in her 90s,  Robert Redford, Leonard Cohen, Jane Goodall, among others. Because I am interested in art, many of the elders I chose are artists of one sort or another.  Who would you want to add to the Elder Hall of Fame if there was one and you were on the panel?

Perhaps you might find it useful, as I have, to take a long look at the old people you admire. What is it that you find most fascinating or touching about them? What kind of oldness do you want to embody? What qualities do you want to continue to cultivate in yourself as you age?

Twyla Tharp
This morning, I listened to a great talk by Ashton Applewhite, a pro-aging activist based in NYC whose work I admire and support. In her talk, Ashton discusses prevalent stereotypes about aging and how they impact older adults and society at large. Because let's face it, not all older people are as clear in their life mission and work as are those I am mentioning here. Many elders find it difficult to push through the age prejudice in our society to contribute their valuable skills and knowledge.

Age discrimination and prejudice are bad for our health and the health of our world. It's as simple as that. You can watch Ashton Applewhite's incisive, information-packed talk on ageism here. I highly recommend can also take a look at her website This Chair Rocks.

Incidentally, I post a lot of great articles and observations about aging on the Sage's Play Facebook page.

Well, that's a collection of links for you to explore...and here is one more,  just for good measure. Have you taken a look at our revamped Sage's Play website? There are some delightful changes and additions you might like to see.

Right now, I am revising Your Audacious Aging Kit and  developing a new e-course titled Into the Mystery: The Healing Power of Memoir and Life Review. I feel rejuvenated and filled with fresh inspiration from my sojourn in Mexico. Stay tuned...and enjoy the magic of the approaching full moon!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Return: Rediscovering Home

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
                                       --Charles Dickens

People tell me that that have enjoyed following the tales of my travels, and I am glad that my reports afforded them some pleasure. I have cured myself at least temporarily of severe museum deprivation after visiting so many marvelous museums in Guanajuato, Puebla, Oaxaca, La Paz and Ensenada.
Japanese quince and white flowers of  mystery

I certainly refreshed my imagination with new vistas, music, architectures and colors. I took in the astonishing beauty of the brown people of Mexico, and was touched by their warm, courteous ways.  How mystifying and delightful it was to have my ears and heart saturated with the Spanish language, so eloquently suited for poetry and romance.

I had memorable meals of new foods, sometimes pushed myself out beyond what was comfortable and met some new friends along the way.

A flood of forsythias

As I have probably said at least once, I am not one of those glamorous gypsies who is always poised to head out on some new travel adventure. My own travels are mainly of an inner nature.

When I say that to people, some of them look at me quite quizzically, wondering what in the world I mean. In the US, we are not a culture that elevates the inner life. Ah well.

Having tasted the expat fantasy and found it was not for me right now, here I am again in the town I sometimes call Ashlantis, where I have lived most of the time since 1977.

Ashland, Oregon is a place of much beauty and deep community connection, a place ornamented with artists, healers and real estate agents. Property values are high, white is the primary skin color, and for such a small town, there is plenty of culture, punctuated with a bit of pretentiousness at times.

A photo of the Rogue Valley by Penny Roberts

With close to 40 years' experience living here, I have witnessed a great deal of change. I have lived on a great many streets. I have many longtime friends. There are people and places about which I have definite opinions.
I have decided that it would be enjoyable and good to look at Ashland as if I were newly arrived. To appreciate it in the way a visitor does. To take a fresh look at the place and at the people I meet, and as much as possible, to engage the kind of openness and curiosity that I had while traveling, and do that right here in the home place.

In the Midst of Real Life: The Heart's Calling

Fortunate me. I have been welcomed into the large, comfortable home of a woman around my age, who has lived in the home for 30 years. She is a gregarious, warm, generous person who loves kids and loves to travel.

My new abode is up in the hills, near a big nature preserve and close to many hiking trails. My room is airy and spacious with a high ceiling and a big window that looks out onto pines, willows and manzanita. Stairs lead up to a small sitting area. The carpeting is confederate blue. My bed has a skylight over it and if I want, I can lie there and look at the clouds or the stars. There's a deck right outside my door. The whole house is welcoming and relaxed. It's a very good place to land.

Four months of travel gave me the opportunity to air out and in the process I discovered afresh what is really important to me. My spiritual path. Being close to my spiritual community. Creativity. Art.

I am a woman who from youth has always settled down in the midst of a community of artists, and here I am.  Hallelujah.

If you are a romantic fool like me, you know what it means to go to extremes following your passions.

Perhaps that is what it takes to shake things loose at times.

Sage's Play Full Voice Revival

Before I left for Mexico in late October, I had sold my house and car and sold or given away most of my belongings. I was convinced I was Finished and Done with Everything. Everything!

I closed my Sage's Play website down, closed the Sage's Play bank account and disconnected from the fiscal sponsorship that had allowed me to receive tax-deductible donations for creative aging projects.

Now I discover it all afresh, as I  I return to the work I believed I was done with it for good.  I am in the energy of revival, and in the gospel spirit, that can be a powerful thing.

I am working on creating a one-woman show featuring a juicy collection of some of the songs from our musical revue A New Wrinkle. I also plan to develop some online courses based on themes and issues from my book Songs of the Inner Life. (Check out the link for more about the book.) I'll be talking more about these projects here, and also in my long-resting newsletter, which I will be reviving as well.

As Mr. Fred Rogers points out, kindness is the way to ultimate success, and of course that includes being kind to oneself.  I find it interesting and a bit amusing to reflect on some of the ways that I learn and grow. It is all just fine.

Older and Wiser

As I've reported in the past, scientists are starting to get a handle on what has been known for centuries. In the past 10 years, researchers have been discovering more and more about the remarkable integrative and altruistic capabilities of the older brain. There was a good article in the New York Times recently that reported on some current research in that area. Their headline was Older Really Can Mean Wiser. (Speaking of no-brainers, duh.) You may find the article interesting.

 So here's to spring, to home, to creativity and playfulness and to embracing aging with resilience and the deeper knowing that comes from having lived quite awhile.

P.S. I have a Sage's Play page on Facebook, in case you would like to connect with what I post there.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Some Slow Travel on a Budget

A restaurant in Oaxaca
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” 
       – Frank Herbert

I left Oregon at the end of October, feeling I had been there too long. I needed some fresh vistas. I wanted to escape the snowy clutches of winter and engage my Idyllic Beach Fantasy somewhere in Mexico.

Slow travel was on my mind, and to me that meant spending weeks in one place for much of the journey.

I was also thinking I could get some dental work done at much less cost than in the US, visit some ancient cities and soak up the culture there and in the process, check out whether I wanted to live in Ensenada, a town in northern Baja. 

The Idyllic Beach Fantasy never did manifest, but everything else came along just fine.  I spent just under a month in Guanajuato, 5 days in Cholula, then 6 weeks in Oaxaca and finally 6 weeks or so in Ensenada. Slow travel suited me well. It gave me enough time to relax and live more easily in each place. In fact, I found that a month was just barely long enough to begin to know a place. I could appreciate even slower travel, I thought to myself. Two or three months in one place.

At an art museum in La Paz, Baja sur

As one bumper sticker notes,  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.” 

Merry-go-round in Oaxaca
And I was on a budget. I didn't want to do the hair shirt and self flagellation form of thrifty travel, but I did want to move around on the cheap.  I booked most of my accommodations through Airbnb, with two exceptions--the affordable, delightful Al Sol Apartments in Oaxaca (highly recommend) and the petit pad I am living in now in Ensenada, which my friend Iridea found for me. My lodging averaged out to $15.50 a day. 

My Airbnb experience was varied and mostly good. All of my hosts were great people. The lodgings were all comfortable, though some were spare and lacked aesthetic appeal to put it nicely. Once I had to endure a long night of very drunk loud Germans who lived in a room nearby. But overall it was good.  I had an enormous view from the big deck at  Aunt Lucy's in Guanajuato, and enjoyed some marvelous country time at Amalia's Rincon de San Agustin outside of Oaxaca. 

Here's my Airbnb advice. Make sure to have conversations with your potential hosts to get an idea of what kind of folks they are. Look at their profiles. Talk via email. 

If I were going to do it again, I would have asked a few more questions of my Airbnb hosts, including: Do you smoke? (my host in Cholula did, though he kept it outside) 

Is this your only rental, or are there others on your property? Can you tell me more about that? What kind of cooking facilities are available?

A restaurant in Ensenada
I was fortunate that I connected with such good hosts, most of whom were older. In fact, that was one of my criteria. I figured it would make things easier and more interesting to live near some older people in Mexico. I am happy I did it that way.

“What am I doing here?” poet Arthur Rimbaud wrote home in a letter from Ethiopia. This is a question that naturally pops up when traveling and maybe even more so for the solo traveler, who is alone in a foreign country and not speaking its language except in a primitive fashion. Sometimes you become tired of traveling or you find yourself in a place you would rather leave, or both. 

Sunset, San Agustin Etla

With a medical tourism chaser

I have been getting some important dental work done in Ensenada and it is nearly finished. 

I was fortunate to get the recommendation from a woman who has lived here for over 20 years, whose husband is a retired orthodontist. I love the dentist, Dr. Marco Antonio Sam P. whose office is called Nova Dent. He is a lovely person and is providing world-class care for far less money than I would have to pay in the US. I was quoted $6,000 in Oregon, and am paying $1,650 here in Mexico.

Aside from the dental process, I have been attending some Buddhist practices and teachings, and trying my best to uncover the elusive (to me) charms of Ensenada. Maybe there are some beautiful villages nearby which I have not yet seen. It's possible, and I hope to check that out over the weekend.
“As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.”--Margaret Mead

Ageism in the News

Both Yoko Ono and Madonna have spoken out about ageism recently, especially that directed towards older women. Check out what they have to say in this article.