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How Many Miles? Rolling Home Here I Am


9 Minute Read

So, my dear friend Rose nudges me to get writing something for AoA.

I say nudge, but it feels more like a poke. A benign poke, but a poke is more staccato than a nudge, and is always a gift. I always say yes, and then I’m writing to some kind of deadline, which serves the writing of the piece.

Maybe boundaries she says, something about boundaries.

Humm, says my mind, mind… yes, says my deeper and quieter voice. Just yes.

I mean, I don’t really write self-help, and that’s where my mind went. I come from a field of trauma so unspeakable that I didn’t know what a boundary was, and I certainly didn’t know I had any right to say no to anything. Especially, as it happened, anything sexual. I am a long way down the road from there, and I am in many ways, the more obvious ways, pretty good at saying no when required. I have had to say it a lot (too much) over the last 3 or 4 years before my back surgery in 2020, because so many simple pleasures became impossible to manage.

I teach, in a manner of speaking, some of my psychotherapy clients a few bits and bobs about boundaries.

So, the whisper of yes, that this is the thread to pull in the writing, well that’s me going down below what I think I know. What I do know, because I don’t want to disrespect the effort it has taken to learn about edges and space between, and the beauty and freedom to be found in the simplicity of saying yes, and no, and I’m not sure yet, let me think about that.

Underneath, and underneath more, there is a place where I am only a beginner at the slippery business of saying the no, that is saying a just born yes to what has been waiting a lifetime to see if I make it.

Yes, I do finally see you there, so utterly alone, so defeated. I finally see the disembodied homeless and hopeless. Me. Caroline the Compassion Queen with all my talk of welcoming and fields of kindness, only just got to the place where you became visible. I can see you through a vale of tears. I only just made it, and I know there is comedy in this. Tender comedy, tragicomedy… we are all, in the soap-operas of our little lives, trying to get home before we have to go.

My perspective. It might not be yours.

Remember, I am not in the self-help section.

I didn’t know how to listen to my body, though I probably would have told you I did… I got parts of me home. Dear God, my life has been a pilgrimage, and the many homecomings have been anchoring, rooting me into this earth, the ground, leading me to a sense of place that wasn’t defined by violence and self-murder. I found kin along the road. I wasn’t alone. I started to see myself in the mirrors of my ragged fellow travellers. The original mirror was argued with, bits of it fell off, shattered, got swept away.

If we lived in delusional Disneyworld, where all was linear and orderly, where we get a psychological fact and that’s that, well, we wouldn’t be human.

Nothing at all about my post-surgery experience has been as I might have written it. I didn’t write it, because I didn’t believe I would have a life rolling on for very long post-surgery. As many of you know, I had planned to leave – had surgery failed to significantly improve the constant agony that had become my reality. The chaos of my NHS surgery being pulled on the day, the despair, the undefended asking for help, the outpouring of generosity from so many through crowdfunding – like an enormous wave of unconditional love that had me 5 days later in my surgeon’s Harley Street Clinic, receiving the very best version of the spinal fusion that is currently available. All of this brought me here.

Here.

Here, to where I didn’t expect to be, so I hadn’t written myself in, I’d written myself out. It has been more than strange to turn back towards a life I wasn’t expecting, and find it full of fragments of old stories.

I have stopped tapping on my keyboard. Ground to a halt.

I’m looking for a word that captures that first year of afterwards. The one that won’t go away, even though I’m pushing hard, is torture. I don’t want to say it. Hyperbolic, my critical mind says loudly, but truth be told, it is the right word. So much of what and how I understood things started falling away. I probably spent that first year trying to hang on to them. That felt like torture.

With the love of some straight-talking mirrors, you know, my people. My kin. My heart buddies, I started to allow what was already happening. I stopped fighting. Not just like that, but I did turn a corner. I turned towards my most homeless, abandoned and separate self… the one that was turned away from at the very first breath, by a mother that could only feel hate, revulsion and horror. I come from that lineage.

Along to highways and byways of slogging onwards, of course I came to learn and understand that I had turned away from myself in that very same way. And, yet I had missed the embodied abandonment, until instead of deciding to take my own life because the NHS couldn’t give me what the same surgeon could if I paid him. At that point, I couldn’t not meet myself in the unoccupied house of my own ravaged body. The surgeon said my lower discs were dust, that he could sweep away and build structure and architecture. That this would hold me straight for the rest of my life.

I didn’t know this then, but only if I got it. Only if I saw the one I turned away from, because I didn’t know how not to, because I couldn’t stay with the overwhelming experience of arriving in the world in a tiny body, constantly flooded with sensation, if there was no-one there to stay with her. I internalised revulsion and absence. It was all I had to breathe in. I took that into every cell, fibre, blood and baby-bone of me. Understanding the absence and revulsion and the marks it left on me, I learned how to stay with much of what wasn’t stayed with. I found fields of kindness that caught me when I fell out of the fighting not to be depressed.

I just never, ever noticed that the pain in my body that has been as true and baseline as depression has – is the embodied expression of the same simple, unbearable, tragicomedy of my little life. I pushed on through everything, every moment of everyday, not listening to a single cry or whimper, not hearing my body pleading for mercy. Even on the dance-floors of redemption and in the kitchens of love, everything always hurt, and hurting got louder and I got deafer, and in the end the discs at the bottom of my spine were dust and I could barely move, and I literally could not continue to stay alive if this was my lot

Back to the boundaries.

I am surgically repaired enough to revert to pushing through, so I had to turn towards that baby that wasn’t stayed with, and ask her to forgive me for the very long wait, and ask her to show me how to listen. I had to stop fighting with ideas about becoming someone better (physically) and appreciate I am here already and that words like limits and capacity are love words, not dirty words. I live with pain. I never thought in my wildest occasional dream that I wouldn’t, but I live with pain and that is not all there is of me. That is a very big difference. I manage with medication, prayer, physical and energetic support, disciplined and simple core strength maintenance, but mostly by listening to this 63-year-old body that has been waiting a literal lifetime to be heard.

Attuned.

A word that brings tears to my eyes.

A word that shatters my heart into pieces of tenderness that are unfathomable because they belong in the tiny, helpless, wordless and lonely body of a baby, that I can actually feel from the inside of her.

I don’t fancy living many more years. I’m not going to get old, old.

And, I am here living now, and I am attuned to the SOS from the toil of getting here. I’m listening. The message is singing its purest note. I will work less. I am saying no, and I’m sorry I’m not taking any new clients for the foreseeable future. I am making the work – that I’ve come to love and trust myself in more and more as I land by my own fireside – fewer in numbers. If I don’t, I will spend the rest of my life giving too much holding, and spend the space in-between recovering rather than being Here.

Here to breathe.

Here to finish my one little book.

Here to see more of the ones I love.

Here to not know what’s going to happen next.

Here to yield to This, over and over until This is the end of being in my forgiving body.

My body will always hurt.

Sometimes that feels overwhelming.

At this moment, really allowing the truth and the grief to be here, I am flooded with something I don’t have one single word for. I find myself here more often though and am so very grateful. In the absence of one word, or anything elegant, it’s the ‘Everything in This’.

I don’t often spell this out, but a lifetime of clenching against embodiment has left pain everywhere. It was my back that collapsed, and that has been the doorway to Home, but everything hurts: head, neck, hands, fingers, shoulders, arms, eyeballs, joints… That’s how it rolls, and all of the hurting has been so lonely, and isn’t anymore.

I listen, imperfectly, and love, imperfectly, every hurt, every clench, every soften and re-clench and soften. I have given up fighting to be a different me, though sometimes I forget I have, and then I remember again…

Gratitude.

Humility.

Hilarity.

It’s all I’ve got.

Writer Michele Kirsch declares herself open to time wasters and adverse to the hurry, hurry culture


8 Minute Read

Here is what is helpful to know about me before you read the rest of this. Two things – One is if you have a copy of that New Yorker cartoon that shows a guy looking through his diary while he is on the phone and saying something like, ‘Nope. Tuesday is no good. How ‘bout never? Is never good for you?’ THEN I LOVE YOU and we will be instant friends. What makes you laugh, makes me laugh. Like all the best jokes, it speaks an essential truth we find a bit uncomfortable. That everyone is busier than you are, or, they just don’t wanna hang. They are JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.

The second thing and this is weirder, is that my favourite ads, either personal or jobs (and I have no cause to look for either as I have a person and I have a job) cry out: ‘No Time Wasters, please’.  Well jeez, Louise, who gets to decide who is a time waster and who is a time spender? And who gets to decide which is the better thing to be?

Wait, I’m not finished. OK, I imagine the first scenario, the job seeker out to waste your time, would say something like, ‘No, I’ve no experience in astrophysics, but as a server in Greggs, I feel I have many transferable skills….’ And you know they COULD be right. Maybe at some point in an astrophysicist’s job, they have to wear a Rayon uniform, and not sweat too badly in it. Bingo. It’s a Greggs thing as well, or could be. In the second scenario, some octopus on Octopus.com or some such dating site says he or she likes walking, (like the special kind with those hiking stick things), going out for meals, pubs, and watching films. No time wasters, please. Ergo, no octopus (don’t ask why octopuses, I just like ‘em, all those HANDS!”) who did not like hiking (this would be so interesting, octopus hiking, they’d need so many sticks!) or going to  Octopus Express for a pizza or Octospoons (preferably one in near a mainline station) for a nice pint of ink, or watching Betty Blue (not an exclusively Octopus related film; I just really like it) and you thought I was going to say the one about the love affair with the Octopus would be a time-waster, i.e. a bad Octopus, probably destined to wind up as a little frozen ring in a freezer compartment of Lidl.

Now that you know I have a fairly relaxed attitude to time-wasting, and that I question not only the entire concept of time wasters in general but also, more specifically, those who feel I am wasting their time. I have to tell you, I think all of you who say you are busy all the time, are lying. And if you are not lying, you should make more time to lie, plausibly.

Lately, I have been told ‘Gotta go now’ by more friends and acquaintances cutting a conversation short, than feels strictly necessary, or truthful. They will meet me for tea, but only for an hour. They will instant message me, but only until whoops there’s the porridge boiling over. I am not one for the waffle, the pregnant pause, the chatting just for the hell of it (though I do quite like the latter, I like small talk) if I know someone is very busy. I get that. Time is money, time is short, etc, but I resent the notion that the other person’s time is shorter than mine, more valuable than mine. To be fair, I work part-time now, and I do like sitting around, staring at stained coffee mugs and wondering if and when I should soak them in a solution, or even sitting in a chair, staring at my feet, wondering which one will move first, and which will fall asleep. These things are not important, but I like doing them, which means, it’s possible I have more time than my friends do. I have a tendency towards idleness, and I’m OK with that, even if others are not. But what compounds my irritation of other people being busier than I am, is their itemisation of that being busy. They’ve got to do this, and then that, and then the shopping, and then the cooking, and then they are meeting so and so (not you) at such and such and heck yes, call again, soon, we’ll make a plan. Some day. Not Tuesday. Never.

Hey, I’ve done it myself. In my long life, I’ve been both agoraphobic and alcoholic. Both are occupations where the job description includes cancelling at the last minute, being passed out at the last minute (and the first one, come to think) or just not showing up at all, and before mobile phones, this was even a bigger deal than it is now. In fact, I have sympathy for those who are similarly afflicted, with, I guess now they call it social anxiety, or some addiction, or other mental or physical health issues. And I also understand not everyone is comfortable or open about saying stuff like that if that is the reason they can’t or won’t show up.  I still have agoraphobic tendencies, but I try, and my agoraphobia is not consistent. I remember often making the train journey between Liverpool and London and my mate Julie would meet me in London, me with all my suitcases, and say, ‘You’re rather well travelled for an agoraphobic,’ and this I could not deny, having flown back and forth between New York and London more times than I can count on my fingers and toes.

But now that these afflictions, though still present, do not run my life, I guess I try harder, to show up, to go for that coffee, to go to that gig, to get on that train, to meet even in rush hour, without snivelling as I used to, ‘Buuuut, it’s rush hour….’

When I was in rehab (you knew I had to get that in somewhere) one of the main things that stuck with me was that addicts are really bad at showing up for their own life. I sobbed my heart out at that one because it resonated more than any of their other slogans. Now that I am older and less addict-ish, I get baffled by people who are NOT addicts but have what I would call, time management issues. I say, take the time to see me. Make the time to see your pals, do fun stuff, or waste time with me or someone else. All of us at A of A is not getting any younger, and time is going by faster, so rather than spend all your time being productive, seeing important people and doing important stuff, why not waste a bit of time with someone you can stand, or someone you quite like? I say, which would you rather, hitting targets, or shooting the breeze with a buddy?

I get that this is not so easy. Particularly for freelancers, where downtime and work time melt into one giant puddle of busyness. Chase the work, get the work, do the work, repeat.

I also get that we are coming out of two years of time fuckery, the pandemic, the isolation, the Brady Bunch screen view of the outside world. Hell yeah, it’s time to get back into the land of the living, real people in real-time in real places. My gosh, if this stupid virus has taught us anything, it’s that, we are social animals, for the most part, and that friendship is for the grasping and keeping and doing. We’re not perfect, and lots of us, myself included, have more stuff to pack in, stuff we had to put off because the world was having a sickie.

Does this sound like sour grapes, like someone who has been cancelled too many times, and I mean cancelled not as in culturally, but as in the old-fashioned sense of being blown out, stood up, postponed, relegated to the C list of friendship, or just ‘Meh’-ed out of someone’s bursting social diary? Well, yeah, it kind of does. Even to me, and I’m writing this, and I have a good amount of friends, some of whom, I blow out, still.

I’m just saying, even if the pandemic is not as over as the government would like us to think, let’s all try harder. Go for that coffee. Go for that walk. See that movie. Ring your pals. Make definite plans and try to keep ‘em. Try harder. You might be busy, you might be busier than I am, but what are you all doing next Tuesday?

Michele Kirsch is the author of CLEAN (Short Books) – a memoir about killing time badly, and cleaning flats, also not brilliantly.

AofA People: Gilly Hanna – Dancer, Advertising Copywriter


4 Minute Read

Gilly Hanna is a founder member of Grand Gesture, a performance company of older dance artists in London. She’s also an advertising copywriter; and in past decades has worked as an aerobics teacher and library assistant.

What is your age?   63

Where do you live?

Central London, in Wapping. I’ve lived here for over twenty years and love this quiet, historic, riverside neighbourhood. Like many older Londoners, I did once consider downsizing to a place by the sea but soon realised I’d miss London too much. No other place is as diverse, multicultural, buzzy, green, fashionable, arty, walkable, villagey, and old, yet always new. I just hope Brexit and the Tory government won’t lead to London’s decline.

What do you do?

I work as a freelance copywriter, on an ad-hoc basis. I was a creative director in advertising for several decades. Sadly, the ad world is notoriously obsessed with youth and I was edged out of full-time employment in my early fifties. Only 6% of people in ad agencies are over 50, yet people in their fifties are the UK’s largest age group! I’m also working on Grand Gesture projects, such as choreography, filming and running our website.

What’s it like to be your age? How do you feel at this age?

I’m starting to settle into the idea of being in my sixties. It’s an interesting time, but rather daunting too when you realise how ageist our society is. In Grand Gesture we’re campaigning to have more age on stage. Older people need to be seen and heard a lot more.

What do you have now that you didn’t at 25?

Wrinkles. Nearly forty more years of experience and memories. Self-acceptance. I always wanted to be an extrovert and was often criticised for being stand-offish or too quiet. Finding out that I’m an INFP, one of the Myers-Briggs personality types, has given me peace of mind that it’s okay to be an introvert!

What about sex?

Hugging, holding hands, touching, being close makes you feel good, I do need physical affection. I’m also into erotic art forms like burlesque, celebrating vintage showgirl glamour and the 1940s pinup. I’d love Grand Gesture to do a fabulously theatrical exotic dance performance one day! I think it’s important to express your sensuality and sassiness as you grow older.

And relationships?

My closest relationship is with my husband who I met in ‘76. He’s a guitarist and we had a band and wrote radio commercials together in the eighties. We recently wrote and recorded a song for Grand Gesture, called We Love Living. As an introvert, I only have a small circle of friends. Being reserved and shy, I find it hard to make new ones.

How free do you feel?

I thrive on structure and routine, so lockdown restrictions didn’t bother me too much. Having a stable routine keeps me grounded and frees my imagination. I’m a minimalist and feel freer with fewer choices.

What are you proud of?

Co-founding Grand Gesture and helping to push boundaries in creatively staging ageing. Having a successful career and winning awards. Learning new things in lockdown, such as cutting my hair, editing videos and baking tasty sugar-free, flour-free cakes!

What keeps you inspired?

Curiosity. Being open to new ideas. I’ve recently discovered Wabi Sabi, the Japanese philosophy which celebrates imperfection and the passing of time. I’m also seeking inspiration from age activists like Gang des Vieux en Colère and Ashton Applewhite; older bloggers like Alyson Walsh (That’s not my age) and dancers like Charlotta Ofverholm. I’ve started exploring elder tales for a Grand Gesture project too.

When are you happiest?

I’m happiest when I’m absorbed in a creative project. But I’m pretty happy most of the time. I don’t like feeling down or negative, and if I do, walking or dancing will usually boost my mood. Motion is lotion!

And where does your creativity go?

A lot of things. Marketing, choreography, writing, the house, the garden. I’ll put my imagination to anything that needs a great idea or a new solution.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

It’s harder to shock or scandalise these days. But in Grand Gesture I’m releasing my inner rebel and rejecting the norms of ageing by having fun and being audacious. It’s time to rewrite the ‘rules’ of what it means to be older. Ageism is unfair and unnecessary; we all need to confront it and laugh at it.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Keep an open mind. Find your passion. Do your best, and that can be good enough – I’m always fighting my perfectionist tendency. Follow the Golden Rule, which is the principle of treating others as you would want to be treated. Appreciate oldness. Stay playful. And remember, you’ve got to be in it, to win it.

And dying?

Quickly, quietly, painlessly, and feeling content that what I’ve left behind is in good order and in safe hands.

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, it’s never too late to do something great. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.

The Culture Interview – Jan Day, author Living Tantra


10 Minute Read

Jan Day is one of the UK’s leading Tantra teachers. She trained for 15 years with Art of Being founder and, like her, former Osho follower Alan Lowen in Europe and Hawaii, as well as being a CTA certified coach. Jan encourages men and women to learn to trust their own unique journeys, to embrace and move beyond the limitations of their own wounds and to move towards their potential. She is happily married and lives with her husband, Frieder, in England. Her book Living Tantra – a journey through Sex, Spirit and Relationship is out on Nov 9th. You can pre-order it here – https://smarturl.it/livingtantra

Can you tell me about the evolution of Living Tantra for you as a teacher?

I started teaching Living Tantra 1 which is a seminar in about 2006 and began the Living Tantra Training in 2009. Prior to that I’d been teaching for about seven years, since 1999, mostly in Switzerland with some workshops in Hawaii (where I was based at the time) and some in the UK. I was offering workshops on a range of topics such as intimacy, touch, being in love, relationships, forgiveness and of course including sexuality.

When I started the Living Tantra Training in 2009, the work developed very quickly and the topics we explored during the seminars evolved a lot because in seminars we were (and still are) responding to whatever arises in the group. I carried on exploring and learning for myself and incorporating anything I found useful. I did some Gestalt training, worked with Genpo Roshi at a Zen retreat learning Big Heart, Big Mind which developed further the Parts work I had already started working with. In one seminar we needed to work with conflict and it became important to dive deep into listening with the group, and that became a process that we incorporated going forward. Of course, the increased understanding of trauma work and attachment theory has become

important to incorporate.

Why was it so important for you to write Living Tantra – a journey through Sex, Spirit and Relationship?

So many people had been asking if I had written a book that they could read either before or after a Living Tantra workshop and I also realised it would be a wonderful and very accessible way to reach people who couldn’t do a workshop. Although group work is a very powerful and effective way of learning and has the advantages of learning with other people, of course it is more expensive than accessing information in a book.

I’d been asked for book recommendations but there wasn’t anything that I could say represented my work fully. Many tantra books are focused on sexual technique and Living Tantra is much broader than that. It really is an embodied form of spiritual and personal growth.

How do couples and singles benefit from your tantra work?

The majority of people who come to my workshops are singles. Couples can attend together but I usually recommend that they come individually to most of the workshops because it is deep inner work. Having a close partner there with you can reinforce old patterns of behaviour and it can also be a welcome distraction from going into your inner world and facing difficult situations. When couples attend separately, the intention is that they do their inner work so that they can bring all the gifts of that learning back to their relationship. So the relationship can thrive and become more fulfilling. I’ve seen it light up both individuals and the relationship with a new sense of meaning and aliveness.

The workshops give people a powerful sense of connection to themselves, a coming home to themselves, to become more sensitive and aware of the sensations, feelings and energies flowing in their body. They develop their capacity to stay present in their own body and to hold themselves in all that is happening within them, so they feel more grounded and confident in their own being.

Because they share a very deep experience, it also leads to an ongoing connection to each other. This happens even in the 7-day workshops but is especially powerful within the 18-month training groups where a strong sense of community develops. It is much easier to grow and let go of old patterns when you are part of a group that is supporting you and cheering you on.

The workshops give people an opportunity to explore their relationship with touch, how they receive it, how they give it, what they expect, how to know and communicate what they want and don’t want. When those things are established, we can find our own unique natural sexual nature, an innocence with it and we can begin to more fully enjoy the pleasure of giving and receiving touch and being sexual. For so many people touch and sexuality have been damaged by insensitive or abusive touch or by distorted beliefs about what touch means. We all need touch to thrive. If it has taken on a false meaning such as ‘this is what you have to do to get loved’ or ‘it’s really unpleasant’ or ‘I’ll be used’ or ‘any kind of touch is going to lead to sex’ etc, then we can’t enjoy the benefits of touch or sex. In the process of learning about touch, we learn about communication, we learn to feel and stay in connection with ourselves, we learn to hold ourselves, we learn to care and to develop empathy. One of the main teachings is the weaving together of body, heart, mind, higher mind and spirit. For body, we include the lower chakras, our sexual nature and wanting. Heart includes our feelings, care, compassion and love. Mind includes our intellect and understanding. The higher mind is about a deeper listening, sensing, a connection to source and intuition. Spirit means we are open to the transcendental realm, the sacred, Source, God, the Divine, the Beloved. It’s a journey. It begins with weaving together sex and heart because these are often split.

People also learn to feel into and attune to others, to stay in connection with themselves, to see and be seen, to understand and experience intimacy and discover how they sabotage that. They learn to listen and feel into the perspective of others. So in short, they learn how to be in deep connection and intimacy with themselves and they learn how to be in deep connection and intimacy with others. Which affects every aspect of life in every moment of our lives.

How is your teaching different to that of other Tantra teachers?

People say they feel safe, they know there is no pressure to do anything or have anything done to them, but rather to keep feeling into what is right for themselves moment by moment. They feel accepted and able to show up and not pretend to be some ideal or other. There is more general work to explore and expand the whole person rather than a narrow focus on sexuality. When we are exploring sexuality, our focus is on integrating heart, sex and the sacred in one dance.

Who has inspired you the most as a teacher and why?

I’ve been inspired by so many teachers. I worked with Alan Lowen for a long time and his creativity and courage was very inspiring and I still use many of the processes he developed. I certainly learned a lot about leading groups from him. I was inspired by Genpo Roshi in the way that he applied Voice Dialogue and included the transcendental realm. Recently I’ve been inspired by how Martin Ucik applied Integral Theory to relationships and how he presented it with such humility and generosity. I was deeply touched by Amma many years ago by her devotion, love, dedication and humility. Different teachers have inspired me in such different ways.

Have you seen a sea change around sexuality in the past ten years that you’ve been teaching in the UK? What does that look like?

Two things stand out.
I think men are now more wary about doing anything that could be deemed inappropriate and that can lead to a loss of confidence and an unwillingness to own their sexuality or show desire. Moving through this to attune to women and understand what it means to honour both themselves and a woman, is important learning.
There is also a lot more mainstream interest in BDSM since 50 Shades of Grey came out. For a few different reasons, we don’t work with that in our workshops. But now I have to be explicit in asking people not to start spanking in touch structures.

What is the number one teaching in Tantra?

To weave together an embodied aliveness that includes sex, power, heart, being, mind and spirit, which means we can be fully present to all experience and all that happens.

What do people misunderstand the most about Tantra?

The biggest misunderstanding is that Tantra is all about sex. It does include sex for very good reasons, but it is absolutely not limited to sex.

How does learning Tantra enrich our lives and relationships?

By making us more embodied and alive, being able to stay present to our whole experience and so to open in love, care, understanding and compassion for all beings.

Could you describe one exercise that we can all do that would help us be more connected?

EXERCISE from Living Tantra, the book – Touch yourself with love

Lie or sit comfortably and put your arms around yourself. Hold yourself as if you were holding a small child who is in pain. Use your hands to soothe and stroke yourself. Gradually over minutes, allow your hands to move further over your body, sensing what feels good, what you’d like. You may find yourself stroking your face or putting your hands on your heart, running your fingers through your hair or exploring a hand or an arm as if you’d never seen one before. Give yourself the fullest attention you can. Stay connected with your feelings using your breath to bring focus and attention to the different areas of your body. Try opening and closing your eyes. Notice if you can be more present and connected with yourself with eyes open or closed. Notice any thoughts that arise. End as you began by holding yourself and find some encouraging words that feel true to say to yourself.
Make some notes about the experience in your journal.
How did you feel about doing it?
How did you feel afterwards?
Did it feel familiar or strange to hold yourself and give yourself loving touch?
Could you enjoy it?
Could you relax into it?
Was there any difference when you had your eyes open or closed?
Did you have any feelings that surprised you?
Did you include your genitals and breasts?
Was it easier or more challenging than you expected and why?
Did you feel more or less connected to yourself after this exercise?

This Wednesday, Nov 3rd at 9pm, she is being interviewed by psychotherapist Noel McDermott for the Well-Being podcast. You can access it here https://www.youtube.com/c/NoelMcDermott/live.

She is being interviewed by Jo Good on Radio London on Nov 9th at 11pm.

The Zoom Launch is on Nov 10th and Costa Prize-winning author, Monique Roffey is interviewing Jan and has been her student. Should be fascinating. You can register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/living-tantra-a-virtual-book-launch-tickets-182697803047?fbclid=IwAR1tpryYP7VBZOiewj10Q6XZwl3iwx19jRgH0w3Lq3TarPd2Y22vIg_i-jI

Being at LoveJam, a festival where Baby Boomers are in the Minority


10 Minute Read

I felt cynical on the way there. I knew I was going to be a rarity. Festivals often feel as though they belong to my generation. Talk about entitlement. Yep, that was me. Putting out festival entitlement.

Oh no said a loud voice in my head, not young facilitators, young teachers of yoga, young breathwork teachers. Hell is a festival like this. It’s going to be endlessly rosy in the worst way. Spiritual bypassing with the flowers intact. What do they have to say to me at 68? Been there, got the Make Love Not War T-shirt.

At least we had a bell tent. I’ve always aspired to own a bell tent and now I could pretend with this delightful borrowed five-metre lovely from my friend Jake. I could at least relish that. I’d even taken fancy lights to adorn it. Not to mention a puce pink garland.

Here we are – arriving on a field in Cambridgeshire, using our grand age to take advantage of passing through the barriers (we can’t park here and pull a cart full of our stuff across the field, we’re too old) and something else happens.

The clouds darken, a rainbow appears. It is a heavenly portent. A message from the festival gods. A double rainbow. We bathe in this extraordinary light, this is a sign of the times.

I still have my ‘observer’ hat on. Vegan cafes, a sober festival with no alcohol, an upcycling clothes stall, a lot of Hemp talk and products. A main marquee with the Hemp Redemption stage – all huge pagan drapes and hangings, a van which half made up the stage, tassels, fairy lights and a very young technician. At first, I thought he was a small person and then I discovered it was Xi, a thirteen-year-old ‘lege’ – as my niece who is co-creating this LoveJam Camp Out 2021 puts it – who plays didge, juggles fire and tends to the musical equipment on stage. In his spare time.

As the light fades, we – I am with my other niece, Mils, and Asanga, my partner – wander over to the sacred fire, which is located behind some odd mounds. A dandy poet declares words of love and honour. There seem to be Vikings amongst us as well. Long haired young men with bare chests and long coats. Violins. Accordions. A young woman sings into the wind, laments, stories of freedom and connections to the ancients. I realise quickly that ANCIENT is a very important word at this festival. It’s everywhere – on lips, hips and in philosophies.

I’m not listening to their hearts yet, I’m still on their style. Modern medieval, I conclude. But there’s Rasta thrown in there. And a lot of natural fibres. No makeup, just face paint.

The next morning is the Opening Ceremony – we gather (maybe 100 of us out of the 600 that will be present on Saturday), Nathan, my niece Zena’s boyfriend, who’s 27 and founded LoveJam by inviting a few people to Victoria Park in London to drum together– starts us off with acknowledgements. He’s also had his grandfather die in the last few days so is trying to cope with that as well as running the camp. He invites offers to lead it and up steps PK – short hair, black humour, a lot of it and a wolf at her side. Well, okay a dog. PK takes us to the four directions and we honour their qualities and what they will bring to the camp while we move around this axis. Someone else invites us to freesound (new verb to me) and lo there are wild, cascading sounds. The dandy poet proclaims our virtues. A blonde-haired young woman sings with passion. That’s it we’re ready to go.

There’s a lot of Nathan-venerating, I worry slightly and hope there isn’t a guru-type situation brewing – after all, that’s where so many communities in the 70s and 80s went awry. By giving too much power to one person and pedestaling spiritual leaders.

One of the joys of LoveJam is that in attendance with my family. Invited by Zena – niece and co-visioner of LoveJam – my other niece Mils is here, my son, Marlon, and his girlfriend, Lina are soon to arrive. We’re an encampment. My sister, Ro, and her husband, Martin, are staying in a Shepherd’s hut a mile away. We’re eating together outside. We’ve made roast vegetable tarts and blackberry – from the hedgerows of Wales – pies. And we’re toasting the proceedings with tonic and lime. They are so tasty. Who needs gin? What a pleasure! And a blessing to be able to do.

And then there are the workshops and the dancing. Tonight we go exploring in the woodland music village. A relic from the Secret Garden brigade, it is a wonderland of trees with a pink neon heart stage called funnily enough New ANCIENTS stage. There’s some psytrance whirling – not my kind of sounds so we find a pathway which leads us to another new world – a fire, wooden structures, huge ones all around, more lights, mandalas specifically made around an oak tree, a young man turns up with a flute and blesses the arboreal altar, a few naked beings scamper towards the sauna in the next area. It’s cinematic. One from the Heart.

The red sign on one of the other trees says – not all those who wander are lost. 

Exactly my ethos.

A quixotic creature with a swirling light tail passes by. A mythical reminder that we are in fairyland.

We walk back to the tents, past so many bell tents, and gatherings of musicians. Guitars, flutes, drums – they regale us with their haunting tunes as we meander.

One of the advantages of not having alcohol is that I’m up and ready for Phil’s yoga at 8 the next morning. He’s a Scouser, who is part of the organizational trio – Nathan, Zena and himself. He also seems to know an awful lot about mudras and Sanskrit. His session is fast and furious. Backbends, front bends, warrior poses, full wheels if you so desire, sun salutations. I do what I can do which is quite a lot. I observe Mils doing some great binding in front of me. My arms are too short for binding but I’m a star at bending. It is dynamic and I appreciate that as well as his devotion to the practice.

And then there is a highlight. Naked swimming in the lake. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be socially possible. I’m with my partner, and my son and his partner. But Asanga and I decide to go for it. And Marlon and Lina lie down and look away!! It’s that thing about the freedom of strangers and the boundaries around family. But I’m so glad we did ditch our clothes and allow that cold water to seep over our bodies. There was hardly anyone around and it was a holy moment. In homage to water and bodies. Amid the water lilies. And so refreshing. There was even a wonderfully positioned carpet over the stones so that walking in can be graceful!

There’s lots of nakedness over the weekend at the lake and it’s so welcome. And lovely. And innocent. These gorgeous bodies. I change my dress code when more of my family is around – brother in law, sister – and opt for a costume. I notice and feel proud that my LJ co-visioning niece strips off and jumps in when her dad is in the water. Great confidence and knowledge of what is right for her.

Nathan is running a Breathwork and Intimacy workshop next. He developed it himself. Impressively – and this is one of the key differences with younger facilitators – he stresses that intimacy doesn’t mean that fire of passion, that it’s not about exchanging that fire and asks for our consent on that front. Everyone’s hands go up. Which really clarifies and distinguishes sexuality and intimacy and prevents blurry lines.

The breathwork was simple in a good way – six breathes in and then out. A grounding support. To recorded bells so we could be in unison. And then the intimacy exercises which most I am familiar and comfortable with. It’s about being open, in your heart and just receiving and giving from that place of love. But wow, what a gift to do with this community. We give each other heart words/appreciations while gazing right into the other person’s eyes. We are walking slowly around the tent until Nathan invites us to stop in front of someone. After a few times around the tent, I realise that Marlon, my son, is in there still. Some people faded away as we came to these structures. And then we’re in front of one another, and unconditional love is pouring forth. I am crying first and then tears roll down his cheeks slowly. We use the breath to ground ourselves and carry on looking deeply into one another’s eyes with such everlasting tenderness.

What a supreme moment!! How blessed we are to both be in the same workshop and get to do this exercise together. This is a first for us. Being in a workshop at the same time.

I honestly felt after this experience, I didn’t need anything else from the festival. It had given me this precious witnessing. But the festival went on giving.

At 5 pm, a band sets up at the end of the pontoon which extends into the lake. It is like being at a wedding, the perfect location. They play Brazilian tunes and a Forro class with partners starts in the middle of the lake. I joined briefly but I am not feeling it so I go rogue and solo

I dance in the breeze. Giving everything to those minutes.  Surrounded by fresh water and naked loveliness, caressed by eddies of air, it is rapturous. My body spins around, limbs twirl, head bobs. It is an utter joy. A sumptuous young woman joins me, we go wild together. We let go into melting and communing. And laughing with our flesh.

In the evening we make our way down to the Hemp Redemption stage and Mobius Loop, these Lancashire musicians who have songs about veganism and death, get the entire tent dancing. And singing. Rollicking, proclamative, political, humorous, they are like crazy cabaret dervishes. My favourite song is Dance Dance Dance while you can, We’re all going to die, Dance Dance, Dance while you can. I sing it very very loudly.

It could be an Advantages of Age anthem. I sing it with determined abandon. I couldn’t agree more. Dance now while we can. We break out into ceiliad -stripping the willow. The joy of dancing and singing about death at the same time. The next day they are down at the protest nearby which is about closing down the beagle puppy farm where they are sold for animal testing. Mobius Loop sing about ending slavery of all sorts, including these puppies. Campaigning and dancing at the same time.

On Monday morning, there’s the closing ceremony. We gather around the sacred fire. Nathan, Zena and Phil do their thank-yous. People stand up and declare themselves grateful. PK does a closing speech – speckled with expletives, honesty and fire. I decide that I need to speak. To honour the young that have created and facilitated this festival. I mention that it’s often the elders/olders that are respected and honoured, but that I also think there’s a fallacy about older people having all the wisdom. We are not automatically wise because we have lived for a long time. We can learn so much from each other.

And then I simply thank them for creating a festival so full of love and kindness and inclusivity and sweetness. That it has enabled me to expand into my better self and also to fulsomely be here.

You will gather that I am no longer cynical about a festival run and peopled mostly by young people, instead I am inspired and ignited on an intergenerational level.

www.lovejamcommunity.com

Midlife Women’s Discovery 3 Day Retreat in Cheshire, UK


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Do you find yourself wondering what life’s about at times, or struggle to find your purpose? Maybe your lacking passion and inspiration or want a new direction.

Our retreats are designed to help you tap into your emotions with journaling, look for opportunities in the universe with tarot and unblock your energy with reflexology and Qi Gong.  Also included are 3 yummy vegetarian meals a day plus homemade vegan cake, because life is always better with cake. The cottage is located in stunning nature with an award winning pub nearby – just saying! Walking, talking, laughing, the odd drink and a dance if the mood takes you, are all on offer.

Dates: 10 – 13 July & 13 – 16 July. Prices from £295 with discounts for AoA members.  Soul Sisters looks forward to having you.

https://www.soulsisterscommunity.com/retreats-for-women

AofA People: Hanja Kochansky – Writer


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A refugee during the Second World War to Italy, in 1948 Hanja Kochansky went to Johannesburg as an emigrant. In 1966 she played one of Elizabeth Taylor’s handmaidens in the film Cleopatra. In 1972 her book Women’s Sexual Fantasies was published by Ace Books in New York and became a best-seller. She is currently writing a novel and editing her memoir.

What is your age (in years)?

I’m 82, will be 83 on the Ides of this March.

Where do you live?

In Sheltered Housing, just off the Caledonian Road, in London.

What do you do?

I write. Have just finished a novel about the love affair between two septuagenarians. I’m also re-editing my memoir Now and Then.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I’m much more chilled out now, which is a blessing but find it difficult to cope with the deterioration of my body (my mind seems to be ok.) Legs hurt and I can no longer go for the long walks which once were a pleasure to do. I have also become slightly incontinent, which I hate. On the whole, I find what happens to the body in old age humiliating. But I say to myself, it is what it is and you are so lucky to be in good health (I take no big-pharma medication), so stop complaining. But I do complain. I do not like getting old. Although I’m not concerned about no longer being beautiful and having put on some weight.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Everything. Beginning with self-confidence. I had a very unhappy childhood living with a violent alcoholic father. It took me years of reading self-help books, starting with Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, which I read when I was already 50, to turn my lack of self-esteem into love for myself. Also, now I’m always given seats on public transport. At first, given that I don’t see myself as old, I found that surprising, but now I’m grateful for it.

What about sex?

I had my last affair, at the age of 72, with a man of 78. It lasted for two and a half years. The sex was good, but he turned out disappointing. I’m pretty sure I won’t be having any more lovers. I still have sexual urges and masturbate, but have no desire for a man.

And relationships?

I’m happy to say that I am constantly making new friends. Mostly they are a bit younger than I am, but no one seems to be prejudiced towards my age. I’m lazy and happy about being at home, but I make an effort to go out and meet people. I love good conversation, and I never hang out with someone who is banal.

How free do you feel?

Totally free, especially as I don’t have to pay rent and am given Pension Credit and a few other perks. This is such a blessing and I wish everyone in need would have my good fortune.

What are you proud of?

My (almost) daily exercise routine which consists mostly of Tai Chi and Chi Kung. And that, even in bad weather, I go to my Tai Chi class.

What keeps you inspired?

The philosophy of the Dali Lama is inspirational.

When are you happiest?

I am always happy, as I live in gratitude, most of the time. I don’t want to be on my death bed and realise I spent time being unhappy.

And where does your creativity go?

Basically towards writing.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

And dying?

‘I will not go gentle into that good night.’ However, I could easily change my mind about that and hope I will pass away gently and painlessly.

Are you still dreaming?

I dream all the time and should I ever find a Jungian dream therapist who doesn’t charge a fortune I would love to consult her.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I have no desire to be outrageous.

AofA People: Julie Williams – Dog Groomer, Reiki Master, Coach


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Julie Williams, 61, runs a mobile dog grooming business called Gentle Friends, is a Reiki Master teacher and the founder of Active Connection, a series of Soul Coaching sessions.

Age (in years)  

61

Where do you live? 

Stockport, Greater Manchester

What do you do?

I run a mobile dog grooming business called Gentle Friends with my partner Steve. We cover our local area. I’m also a Reiki Master Teacher, combining the Reiki with basic animal communication, I’ve developed a new modality for rehabilitating groom-phobic dogs that’s proving quite successful.

I’m the founder of Active Connection, a series of Soul Coaching sessions to collaborate with clients to find a connection to the wonder and fabulousness of the soul that they came here with.

I do Shamanic journeying, talk to trees, worship the moon, connect in ritual and gifting with Mother Earth daily, where I receive “downloads” of wisdom.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

It’s great. I feel so much more confident and brave to be myself, to dare to do new things, than I did when I was younger.

I had a hysterectomy at 43, so I went on the menopause, closely followed by a couple of bereavements,  redundancy and a relationship breakup, culminating at 44 with burnout from the corporate world. At that point, I realised that self care and genuine happiness was more important than ambition, acquisition and consumerism.

I got rid of everything that cost money to run and took four months off to recover. I took an evening job so I could go out in the sun, a dog and a bike. I read and read and read, philosophy, self-help books, spirituality, and basically self-healed.

I met my partner eight years ago, we set up a business together. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do any of that when I was younger.

I embarked on a series of therapy sessions at the age of 60 and regret I didn’t do it earlier. I had been on a spiritual path for 20 years prior to that, and I think the three things together – reaching 60, therapy and the spiritual journey – all clicked at the right time. Before that, I was scared to put my head above the parapet, to be vulnerable and authentic, so I wore my mask of “everything’s fine”, when often it wasn’t.

So what’s it like to be my age? It’s fabulous.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Much more happiness and laughter for sure. Wisdom and courage too.

I have my loving partner, the first relationship I’ve had where I believe we are both really equal.

I have in my life my three beautiful grandchildren who are teenagers now as well as two beautiful step grandchildren, three gorgeous stepdaughters, three lovely terriers, the business, the grooming modality, the new coaching business, lovely silver streaks in my hair and a much more solid sense of self-love and joyful entrepreneurship, leading to personal satisfaction.

I also have The Silver Tent. This is an international online community for women over 50, started three years by the visionary Francesca Cassini. There are nearly 7000 women in the group, and it’s a veritable cauldron of wisdom, creativity, projects and collaborations between women from all over the world. I’ve made some amazing friendships there and learned so much.

What about sex?

Yes, it’s great, really caring and nurturing. Not as often as when I was younger, as I might have had a somatic response to historical trauma during therapy. This diminishes as time goes by, and I’m getting back to my enthusiasm for sex.

And relationships?

I’m happily co-habiting with my life and business partner of eight years, Steve.

I reconnected four years ago with my dad from whom I was estranged for about 25 years. It went great at first, then “stuff” came up, therapy helped, and dad has been really supportive, compassionate and open. I’ve only just recently tentatively reconnected with my mum, our estrangement wasn’t total, yet our relationship was always difficult. She’s recently become quite poorly, and I’m starting to visit again. My own ability to respond rather than react, learned with the benefit of aged wisdom is softening our interactions. I’m hoping we can continue to see each other regularly.

My relationship with my 40-year-old son is, for me, a deep and open one. We have discussed issues arising from his childhood, my healing as he was growing up wasn’t that fast, and there were times where my inappropriate behaviours impacted on him. I have apologised and acknowledged my part, and he is very compassionate, intelligent and able to understand and forgive. He is an excellent father to his three children and a devoted partner to their mum. I’m very proud of him.

My relationship with my teenage grandchildren is as it is whilst they are discovering themselves. Contact isn’t as often as when they were younger, and I do miss them a little. I support their lives 100% and cherish the time when we can get together.

I have made some beautiful treasured friendships through the Silver Tent, which I hope will go from strength to strength, to even include working collaborations. There have been a few physical meetups that have been wonderful, online is great but face to face is far better. My partner and I recently met socially with one woman and her husband, we had a great time. This is a new experience for us.

How free do you feel?

In my heart I’m totally free and I enjoy my newly found self-sovereignty. I’m enjoying being free from a lot of the negative emotional burden I used to carry. I really do feel free to be me, I’m blessed to be loved enough to experiment and try new things too.

Yet I’m a Capricorn and ruled by earthy Saturn, so I do nod to the need to have an income, a roof over my head and security. Consideration of those things doesn’t mean the opposite of freedom to me, it means I’m free to recognise my needs and own them.  

What are you proud of?

I’m proud that I’ve learned to truly love myself, to do the inner work, which will continue until I’m no longer on this earthly plane. Also I’ve learned to stay strong in my own vision, a big one, as I used to put other people’s needs first to the detriment of my own.

I my really proud of my son and daughter in law and their family. Things were difficult for my son from the start as his father abandoned us when I was pregnant at 21, I married someone else, and that didn’t work out, my dad wasn’t around, so my son has never really had a male role model to learn from. Yet he has worked so hard to be a great and balanced partner and father to his three children, and he is amazing.

I’m proud of my relationship with my partner. We have learned to consciously co-create, both of us coming together in later life with a lot of personal baggage. We work through the difficulties of being together all the time, at home and at work, we work hard at it, and we make mistakes: we laugh and love a lot too.

I’m proud to have had the courage to start our grooming business and make a success of it. And I’m proud that I’ve brought together my skills that I love doing, my abilities and drive to create two new modalities that I’m bringing into being.

I’m proud of never giving up.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by the beauty and sheer joy of love and life, believing that there are so many wonderful experiences and discoveries yet to come for me and my loved ones in this life.

I’m inspired to be a strong role model for my grandchildren, this is very, very important. I’d like to say that my legacy will be to tell them to grasp the nettle and just do it, yet more importantly, it’s to show them the example that they are magnificent, very much loved, and perfect just as they are.

I’m inspired to share my story, to show that someone who had hidden, felt isolated and buried themselves under traumatic memories, can learn to balance the light and dark, and to love those two equally. For all our  experiences are what makes us our unique and wonderful selves.

And I’m inspired by the Silver Tent. I’m a passionate supporter of it. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that Western women will change the world if so, those of us over 50 in the Tent are making a really good attempt at it.

When are you happiest?

It’s difficult to single out one thing.

I love seeing my family happy and I’m happy working, laughing and loving with my partner. I’m happy when I meet up with loved ones and friends, laughing and hugging.

I’m happy walking in nature with my dogs, particularly communing with trees. I’m happy when I do my daily practice, an earth based ritual and offering, I receive from it such wisdom.

I’m happy working with dogs, I love Reiki and connecting to energy, particularly when dogs respond to the energy.

I’m happy when I create something that others enjoy. I’m happy when I coach someone and they benefit from my service.

I’m happy connecting with the women in the Tent and seeing new projects happen, friendships forming, new skills being taught and shared.

If I had to choose a when I’m happiest, I’d say very early in a morning when I sit quietly with my coffee thinking about my daily gratitude practice. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on my blessings, which are many.

And where does your creativity go?

I write – poems – and I’ve tentatively started writing a book. I’m restarting my blog that’s been neglected for a while. When I was a child, I loved reading and I wrote short stories. This was abandoned due to other distractions, career and so on, and I’ve recently returned to it.

I’d love to paint abstract pieces. That’s on my list for when I slow down a little.

I’ve also created the service modalities, so I suspect work and play overlap in my life. Work as play, play as work.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Connecting to my inner spirit and doing what brings me joy. Being kind rather than right.

Remembering that everyone has a beautiful soul inside, no matter how deeply they bury it. And remembering that it’s all about love.

And dying?

It’s a journey beyond the veil.

I’ll sign up for another incarnation please.

On Ageing With Vitality


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The first thing that comes to mind with the word vitality is someone who is leaping about, full of energy and health.

But in the process of ageing – I am now nearly 75 – I researched and realised the real meaning of the word vitality.

The free dictionary online gives the following descriptions of vitality;

  • The capacity to live, grow or develop.
  • The characteristic, principle, or force that distinguishes living things from non-living things.
  • Physical or intellectual vigour, energy, or force that distinguishes living things from non-living things.

From the age of 32, I have had a lot of experience supporting older people, in various capacities, as a carer in the care industry, Nursing Home proprietor, a friend and having elderly parents.

Along the way, I observed the values, beliefs, and characteristics of those people who were content with being older, and the differing ones of those, who made everyone’s lives a misery, including their own.

For example, when I worked in the local care home, there was a man who everyone dreaded attending to. I was on night duty at the time, and he was the last resident whose needs I attended before giving my report after a long night shift. He started to verbally abuse staff the minute we opened the door to his room. I found out afterward that he had been a cruel husband and father, and no-one came to see him anymore. He was now bitter, twisted and a very lonely man.

There were also those who professed to be Christians, yet they were among the bitterest ones.

The happiest ones were the ones that gave a smile and thanks when we did anything for them. They were the ones that the staff would love to sit and chat to, which is ironic because the bitter ones were probably the ones that needed the chat. But try as we may, we just heard them bemoaning their lot and that drove us away.

Among the most remarkable was a woman who had lost one leg, one eye, and her breasts. Of course, she needed a lot of attention. But far from feeling sorry for herself, she used to make us laugh. “They will get a big discount when they bury me” she used to joke. “Because there is only half of my left.”

From quite an early age – I decided to get rid of everything in my mind, body, and soul that would make my sunset years unhappy.

That meant forgiveness to those who had hurt me in any way — forgiving myself for the hurt; I may have caused too. I realise now that my strengths as I get older, such as patience, compassion, a way with words, staying cheerful, being grateful, will be much needed for the time I have left.

Life happens, and during my 40s, problems arose for me, and this was the time when someone said to me that I needed to find who Patricia really was, and where she was going.

That started the ball rolling; I realised how much I depended on the teachings and examples of others, and that I needed to start finding out how to be free.

I am now coming up to 75, and it has been a long journey of discovery. But in the last seven years, as I got nearer the top, my ascent became more enlightening. I am not quite there yet, but I have certainly found The Truth for me.

The journey has been one of a major loss, divorce, bereavement, but also love, forgiveness, finding out who I am, and a second very happy marriage.

Advantages of Age | The Advantages of Age

Ten years ago, I used to walk 25 miles a week, and I remember thinking and hoping that I would still be doing that in my 80s. However, now I am experiencing the limitations of some of the things that an ageing body can bring.

I have a vision impairment and fibromyalgia, but I am living with those conditions, and dealing with them, and avoid saying that I am “suffering” from them.

I do not believe in the anti-ageing industry but rather that we need to accept ageing; but in a vital way.

Society, in general, is afraid of ageing and death. People do all they can to look younger and ignore the fact that we all die.

I was amused this week when I saw an article about objections to planning permission for a funeral director’s office because it would be near shops, and where a lot of children go. Are we supposed to hide funeral directors’ offices away so that they only come out of hiding when someone dies?

During my research around vitality in ageing, I came across inspiring teaching from a Buddhist, about the grace of ageing. That if we can forgive both ourself and others, it will contribute towards being a gentle and compassionate older person. And also if we can learn to receive graciously, as well as give, it will help us to accept the care that we may need and make those who care, want to carry out their task with pleasure.

And so, I have reached a point where not only am I a full-time carer for my husband but I am also living with fibromyalgia and vision impairment which can at times make life more difficult.

I have found the grace to ask for help, from neighbours, friends and family. Rather than live in denial of my needs.

I have realised that being vital – stays with us until we die. I want to be a vital human being, in the way of recognising that I still have a vital force within me that will not go until I draw my last breath.

I can be vital by being gracious, grateful and knowing that even just a smile can make a difference.

Of course, I do forget at times, that is the human being that I am. I too can moan, be annoyed, irritated and worried. But I soon realise that I do not have to do that. My fellow humans all have feelings, past stories and experiences that make them who they are today.

I practice mindfulness and consciousness, and as my dear old Dad used to say; “Put yourself in their shoes.”

The biggest influence in my life before all of this was being a member of churches who preached the fundamentalism of Hell and Damnation if you were not “saved.” So I grew up feeling pretty worthless. The only way that I could be loved was to be a born again Christian and behave like those around me.

A big part of my growth, study and research from the heart over the last 27 years, has been learning how the teachings of these people, have done so much damage. I have studied the history of early Christianity and how the bible was written.

My complete story is in my upcoming book “The Truth Has Set Me Free.”

And it has set me free to be who I am and made ageing a pleasure instead of a burden. I am ageing with vitality.

I run a group, on Facebook by that name, (please note the e in ageing.)

And if you go to my website http://www.patriciacherrylifecoach.com you will find blogs about my favourite subjects, including weight and food management, ageing, death and macular degeneration.

Since becoming 67, I have gained two recognised diplomas— one as a Life Coach, and the other as a Funeral Celebrant. In the last 12 months, I also trained as an End of Life workshop facilitator, with the not for profit company “Before I Go” which you can find online — run by Jane Duncan Rogers. At the moment, I have had to go a little slower because of my husband’s health making every day a bit uncertain, but I am still going forth in the way I wish.

Patricia’s book The Truth Has Set Me Free is available here.

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