This is a reposting of an article written by Ann Cason in the Shambhala Times.

It is easy to get caught in the suffering of old age. There is a temptation to collapse, or to resist by overdoing.  Fortunately, for Shambhalians, our practice is very much about auspicious longevity; we can continue with discernment to practice, study, and work with community. Still, we ask ourselves: will our Shambhalian brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, be willing to care for our wise and elegant old bones?

To work with these transitions, we will need to listen to one another, seeking out those who can show us the way. With this in mind, the Shambhala Trust, funders of our original survey, has just now also funded a key project of the Shambhala Working Group on Aging’s response to the survey: a new website called the Aging Hub. Under the guidance of the new Kalapa Media Group, we will be gathering and posting a great deal of material about the Warriorship of Aging:  what it is, how to do it, and how practice can help, with warrior stories of aging and care-taking from around the world that we have gathered from our Shambhala Centers, Aging Groups, and reporters at large.  How are we aging?   What is helping us?  What are the challenges and how do we meet them? How are we spending our retirement years?  How are we caring for each other?  What educational programs do we have to support healthy aging?  What do we still need?  The Aging Hub will also serve as a place for local sanghas to find support and suggestions for developing and enriching their aging programs.  We will also welcome questions about individual situations in a question and answer section.

A Shambhala Aging Group

A Shambhala Aging Group

One of our first offerings on the Aging Hub will be a salon class open to the sangha, a class called “Aging in Enlightened Society.”  The class was designed by Jenny Warwick and Ann Cason.  It consists of three five-week sessions spread over six months.  It has been successfully piloted in Bellingham, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  Our first segment, “The Landscape of Aging,” uses the best-selling book Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, in conjunction with Sakyong Mipham’s book The Shambhala Principle.  Discussions revolve around the challenges of aging in a society of imbalances: between safety and freedom, between long life and quality of life. The salon explores a setting sun view of aging, compared to the Great Eastern Sun view. Too often in our society, old age is seen as a diagnosis rather than as an opportunity for human dignity and possibilities.

woman-1031000__340In the second segment, titled “Raising the Jeweled Banner of Victory,” we contemplate our inner world.  This section is based on the discussion of Feeling from The Shambhala Principle, and also on the book Let Evening Come, by Mary Morrison, a lovely Quaker woman who used to come to Karme Choling in the summer.  In this part of the course, we contemplate our worthiness as aged people in a society where we often feel marginalized – or as they say, “old and out of the way.”  We ask ourselves: How are we not to slink away, give up, or complain?  Instead, we encourage ourselves to take the view from the top of the mountain.  Our goal is to raise a banner of kindness, human connectivity, and celebration, looking at the possibilities of fresh mind.   The third segment, called “Creating a Caring Culture of Profound Kindness,” uses both The Shambhala Principle and my own book, Circles of Care.

13130521_1469668268.4379In its Bellingham and Portland pilot offerings, the Aging in Enlightened Society class has led to ongoing Aging Study Groups, continuing conversations of interest to both sangha and non-sangha people who are wanting to find or promote community.  The class series will come with a facilitator’s guide to help the salon leaders, providing suggested topics and questions that have been effective in sparking good discussions during the pilot offerings.

The Aging Hub is currently under construction, with plans to launch in the fall.  The Shambhala Trust has generously supported the early phases of our project; we are looking to our Shambhala sangha to help us bring it to fruition by contributing an additional $1800.  We ask for your help to get the wheel turning!

The Aging Hub resources are being designed to help alleviate the confusion and suffering inherent in aging, and to guide us toward an uplifted view.  Please let this article guide you to, where you will find additional information on the project and how to contribute. The Working Group on Aging is so appreciative of the Shambhala Trust for their patronage. We invite you to join in with whatever contribution you feel moved to make.

0Ann Cason is Co-Chair of the Shambhala Working Group on Aging.