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Review by Martha McClellan for the Durango Herald
I was honored to be asked by the Durango Herald to write the review for Conscious Living, Conscious Aging, as Ron Pevny is one of the foremost leaders in the movement as to how to age well. A local Durangoan, Ron has been doing this work for years, and has founded The Center for Conscious Eldering, serving those of us in the last third of our lives who seek passion, purpose, growth, and service as we age. The center’s programs incorporate the power of nature in support of personal growth as an elder, with retreats, workshops, and pilgrimages. I was excited to read this book, and felt lucky to get an advanced copy for the review.
This is an easily readable and logically organized guidebook for aging with awareness and intention: aging consciously. Ron’s personal journey is interspersed throughout, and we can see his process and passion for helping people find meaning in these later years. The book addresses the preparation needed when we yearn for something more than just drifting into old age, with perspectives, strategies, practices, and stories to help us prepare.
To move from middle age into elderhood, Ron suggests three important stages: severance, leaving behind that which will not serve us in the next years; a neutral zone, where we look for the gifts, talents, and qualities which will serve us as we move forward; and reincorporation, discovering and embodying new gifts and potentials that expand our ability to find fulfillment. It’s sort of a letting go of one life stage, jumping into the void, and then incubating a new beginning. Exciting stuff if we want to live to our fullest.
Part of the severance stage can be doing some concrete things such as a life review, a legacy letter, and some forgiveness and grief work, a “healing the past.” This work gives us meaning from the stories of our lives, and can open our hearts as we let old stories go and “re-contextualize” (reframing the way we understand our painful life experiences) others. There are detailed directions for all of this work that seem more healing than laborious.
When we’ve done some work letting go of who we were in middle age, we may want to build into our lives times of quiet and solitude (especially in nature), look at nighttime dreams, pay attention to odd synchronicities, and engage in some form of creative expression. This is a time of being aware on a deeper level, and those small voices from within can be powerful tools for our opening into our true elder selves.
The reincorporation phase brings us to finding people and opportunities to align with us as we work, step by step, to bring our gifts to the world. This is the new growth we can find as we age. It may show itself as a specific passion for work in the community, or out in the world somewhere. Or, it may be quietly creating some form of art, or a deepening of spirituality, or all of these. We find expressions of our deepest being that will lead us to an end of life with no regrets, no unfinished business, no loose ends.
The book offers practices for staying conscious, a great look at the confidence and joy vs. fear and negativity story in all of us, a suggestion to create “Ten Intentions for Ten Years,” tips to keep a broad vision of these years, and how to find support in our community. Believe me, there are many of us on this path - there is strength in numbers!
Review by Judith Helburn for the Sage-ing Communicator
Ron Pevny’s book, Conscious Living, Conscious Aging is sensitive, well-written and important for Boomers, as well as anyone who wishes make the most out of the rest of his or her life. He writes of “our desire to thrive as well as survive.” To do so, takes intention, preparation and action. Conscious Living… points out the importance of stepping back and reviewing past actions and patterns. Pevny feels that one can focus best in nature, away from the distractions of everyday life and throughout this book, he offers suggestions ” Being in the natural world reminds us of wholes, of interdependency.” Rites of passage, for instance, which guide us in the transition from one stage of life to another, are offered.
Conscious aging necessitates inner work—work to guide us to being the best we can be. Forgiveness and letting go are major components and require commitment. “It is work that seeks to connect us with the deep knowing of ourselves as spiritual beings, living in bodies and having personalities that enable us to function in the world….” It releases us from old ways of being which no longer benefit us. To do so, on his retreats, he gives a detailed example of using a “Death Lodge” for release and contemplation. As we transition from one life stage to another, Pevny cautions, we often find ourselves in a liminal, in-between mode, which as within a cocoon, is part of our growth. He encourages patience.
As we become more conscious, the desire to serve others may well become stronger. Service may be no more than being there for others. Or it might mean going out into our community. We must decide the balance point. What and how we do will be our legacy.
Throughout the book, Pevny has suggestions on how to accomplish each action. A later chapter is entitled “Practices for becoming and staying conscious.” Commitment, he says, is primary. Each chapter ends with a “story by the fire” by elders who have engaged in Conscious Eldering retreats and benefited from them. [Included is one by the reviewer]
A thoughtful and positive book.
Review by Mary Ann and Frederic Brussat for Spirituality and Practice Website
We are very impressed with Ron Pevny's book which is right in sync with our positive view of conscious aging and "the challenge of creating an elderhood with meaning, passion, growth, and service." Recognizing the immense value this visionary work will have for older people who are yearning for inner growth and spiritual renewal, we highly recommend Conscious Living, Conscious Aging to you and hope that it finds a huge audience. It is a substantive resource that both covers the whys and wherefores of this movement and gives practical guidance of how you can incorporate this way of being into your daily life.
Pevny begins with a description of his own personal journey to serve as a teacher and enabler for those who are willing to commit themselves to becoming wise conscious elders. He has created rituals and practices to empower older adults "to live with more fulfillment, intention, and joy as they age." Or, to put it another way, conscious eldering is the definitive journey to wholeness.
As we navigate the move from middle-age to elderhood, we will experience three stages. The first is severance as we let go of all that will not deepen us in the coming years. The second is a neutral zone where we search for the skills, talents, and virtues which will help us become all we were meant to be. And in the third stage of reincorporation, we find and explore new gifts and possibilities as we move forward into uncharted territory.
With substance and flair, Pevny examines the stepping stones to the inner work of conscious aging: life review which is the key to healing the past: forgiveness and grief work; the rewriting of disempowering stories; coming to terms with death and the end of our lives; confronting the Great Mysteries in solitude and silence (especially in nature); courting synchronicity; coming alive through creative expression; and strengthening your spiritual connection.
Community is crucial for the full flowering and flourishing of conscious aging and Pevny covers discussion groups/wisdom circles; working with others on conscious aging practices; finding a life coach or counselor; co-housing; communities of shared passions; and exploring the sharing solution.
In a special chapter on exercises, the author presents the art of writing a legacy letter; working with a Death Lodge; understanding and using the wisdom of dreams; and the practice of Ten Intentions for Ten Years. Pevny ends on a high and holy note:
"There is no greater legacy that we can leave for the generations that will follow us, and no greater gift that we can give to ourselves, than to aim high as we age, ever reaching for our best. The world needs the wholeness, wisdom, and gifts of conscious elders."