The Seminar/Retreat Happened!

By Judy Eda

The 39 participants at ElderSpirit's first annual seminar/retreat on late-life spirituality enjoyed four days living in a learning community of mutual support and self-care. The first evening program revealed an array of creativity, from the talented administrators Dene Peterson attracted to create ElderSpirit cohousing, to the painters, poets, musicians, writers, weavers, and stained-glass artists among us.

Jean-Marie Luce recalled the diverse mentors whose work informed her conception of late-life spirituality and led to forming ElderSpirit. The evening's prayer recalled the wise elders Simeon and Anna (Luke 2).

Our days began early with eucharist in the prayer room, or tai chi outdoors, mindfulness meditation / yoga --- or extra sleep. At meals made by the loving hands of the Jubilee House staff, longtime friends greeted one another joyously and just as warmly welcomed the newcomers who came to learn more about ElderSpirit and cohousing.

Gerontologist Anne Glass opened the full seminar day by showing us new options for elder self-care, and palliative care for the dying. (Activists note: U.S. laws need changing!) She distributed copies of the excellent "Five Wishes" planning document, and addressed telling one's life story. Anne Leibig, a Gestalt therapist, explored the many ways to make support truly mutual, then sent us off in small groups to experience it.

Jean-Marie opened the retreat day by inviting participants to describe their many spiritual paths and practices. Glenmary member Ray Orlett traced his evolving understanding of God and the spiritual life. Monica Appleby showed several exemplars of living simply with the earth, then invited us outdoors to attune with the trees.

During the second and third evenings' prayer, Mary Schweitzer encouraged us to write our own psalms, and Mary Roten recalled her own healing experiences and convened a healing circle. Afterward, Bill Mashburn's lively piano had us singing some very old favorites (next time we'll make it to the Beatles), Charles Kennedy reminded us how to dance "The Twist," and emcee John Rausch called a few brave souls to perform solos, including twins Dene and Gerald Peterson.

On the final morning we focused outward again, on service to the larger community. Catherine Rumschlag spoke of leaving retirement to work on behalf of ElderSpirit cohousing, and Mary Schweitzer described her joy teaching in Central Asia. Dick Austin's spirited promise to work for peace and social change reflected the urgent feelings many of us had brought to the retreat.

I left the closing ceremony feeling encouraged, renewed, and truly blessed by the insights and caring shown by everyone at the retreat. I also felt enabled by the carefully organized binder full of practical, thoughtful information. As many of us said, "Must we wait a whole year to do this again?"


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