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April 2, 2013


Exploring the Experience of Aging for Those 55 and Older

Article by Sachico Ohanks, Communications Coordinator at SFZC
Photos by Florian Brody

Jisan Tova Green, Zen Center Vice-President, and Kyosho Valorie Beer, City Center Ino (temple coordinator), are launching a new dharma group at City Center for people 55 and older. On Saturday, April 20, they will speak on the theme “The Practice of Aging and The Aging of Practice”, at 10:15 am in the Buddha Hall at City Center. Please join us for the talk and share your thoughts and insights by responding to our online questionnaire on The Practice of Aging. We would like to hear from you!

blanche_gasshox350pxAs aging practitioners, Tova and Valorie recognize the relevance of Zen practice to the experience of aging. Practice can help us be present with the changes that come with aging — changes in health, loss of friends and family, aging parents, becoming grandparents, retiring from a career, and reaching a sense of completion or clarity about lifelong pursuits. Practice can also heighten our awareness of the preciousness of the time we have in this physical body and inspire us to focus on what is most important in our lives.

As our practice ages and matures, Valorie notes, “Perhaps slowly we have more and more courage to look at the deep and hard parts of our lives, such as changes in physical capabilities, changes in relationships and recognizing death. Those things may become more interesting.”  Within this expanding awareness lies the possibility of cultivating greater intimacy with life. As Tova further illuminates, “We become more aware of how interconnected we are with one another and all of life. This can sustain us during difficult times and amplify our experience of joy.”

Valorie and Tova hope to offer practitioners who are 55 and older a place to explore common concerns from the perspective of Buddhist teachings. Like the affinity groups Young Urban Zen and Queer Dharma, this group will provide a space where people can acknowledge their full expression of being—including the ways in which they may not feel completely seen or included, and perhaps even marginalized.  “This groups offers a valuable opportunity for those of us in our 50s and beyond to come together to sit, study, discuss and celebrate our place in the family of practitioners,” says Tova.

lucy_kogan2x350pxFollowing the Saturday talk will be a Question and Answer period in which Tova and Valorie will begin a dialogue with those interested in participating in the new group. We will explore the level of interest in forming a group at Zen Center, the nature and focus of the group, and possible formats and meeting times. By responding to our online questionnaire on The Practice of Aging, you can help us plan the next steps.

Please share this information with anyone you feel might benefit from hearing about our new group.

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  1. Delilah Hansson
    Apr 3 2013

    Hi would it be possible to have these sessions podcast for those of us not able to attend. I would certainly be interested but living in Melbourne Australia makes attendance prohibitive!

    Thank you

    a great fan of the talks already provided

    • Tova Green
      Apr 17 2013

      The initial talk will be podcast. We don’t know what form or forms the group will take after that. Thanks for your interest!

  2. dawna foreman
    Apr 3 2013

    At last! I’m in! Looking forward to this voyage and meeting with many others. Thanks Valorie and Tova!


  3. Kathy Barr
    Apr 3 2013

    How wonderful! As a woman in my 60s,I’m very interested in this group . I won’t be able to attend on the 20th, but I do hope to participate in future meetings.

  4. Judy Lennon
    Apr 3 2013

    As someone in my 70’s I feel that what you are considering is wonderful.
    As you said in your article older people do feel that with old age comes so much loss and I think having a group with whom I could share both loss and joy would make me feel connected.
    Unfortunately I now live in Del Mar Ca. but it I were in S.F. I would attend such a group.

    • Tova Green
      Apr 17 2013

      You can take part in the Saturday dharma talk via live stream!

  5. Ippeki Ookami
    Apr 4 2013

    This seems like a fine idea. It would be nice if there were some consideration given to how such a group could accommodate those who wanted to participate via tele-commute– e.g. They’re located in areas distant from SFZen Ctr. but could join via conference call for meditation, dharma talk and sharing. You certainly won’t have trouble filling it with people who could travel and be present from the SF area— but this expands access to this wonderful concept to a broader group. Just a thought.

    • Tova Green
      Apr 17 2013

      Hello Ippeki,

      The talk this Saturday will be live-streamed so you can watch it from a distance. It will also be available later as a podcast. Thank you for your suggestions.


  6. marylee mcneal
    Apr 5 2013

    I am wondering if this group is open to people such as me who sustain a long term interest and study of Buddhism but have not established a regular sitting practice. I am nearly 70 and would love to explore both aging and developing a practice. Thank you,
    ML McNeal

    • Tova Green
      Apr 17 2013

      Yes, please come and see if it will meet your needs.

  7. Marcos Revérberi
    Apr 8 2013

    I congratulate you! As it was suggested, i wonder if the idea could be followed by a very distant group… Really “just a thought”.
    But maybe the concept could reach zen practitioners that live thousands of miles south, know about you and your existence by the web, and doesn’t have English as a first language.
    We have three very important factors in common with you, though.
    Two of them are zazen and time. You know, our eyebrows are mixed together while sitting… and the wall is always in front of us.
    I’d like to know about your feelings and the way zen meditation creates a difference as one grows older. I grow older speaking Spanish here, but i grow older anyway. “Just a thought” too…
    Many thanks.

    • Tova Green
      Apr 17 2013

      It’s great to know that you and others in distant continents are reading Sangha News. Please look for the podcast of our talk a few days after we give it on Saturday.


  8. Apr 9 2013

    Been dreaming about such a group. Here i am in Savannah being so sad it’s so far away, but would like to underline the request made by the person who spoke to her wish for having some of the fruits of the group available tele-commute to those of us who live on the opposite coast in the southern hinterlands.

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