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Apr 09
Community Articles, Mandala Projects
Join Our New Network on Aging

By David Whitehorn

Each year more Shambhalians experience the delights and challenges of what is conventionally termed ‘old age’. Some of us are ourselves celebrating birthdays in our 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. Many of us have family members or friends who are.

A recent survey revealed that 20% of Shambhalians are already over the age of 60 and fully 50% are between 45 and 60.

Over the past two years, ten of us, convening as the Shambhala Working Group on Aging, have been contemplating the implications of this shift in the demographics of our community. Our thoughts to date are summarized in a “Statement on Aging in Shambhala” that was presented to the 2009 Shambhala Congress (see the box below ). The central message of the statement is that being older offers both (1) a rich opportunity for practice and contribution to creating enlightened society and (2) challenges and needs for support arising from illness, disability or financial difficulties.

Considering how to address the opportunities and the challenges, the working group concluded that local initiatives are needed, tailored to the needs and conditions of each centre and community. We are, therefore, inviting interested people to join a network of Shambhalians interested in working with aging related issues.

People who would like to join the network should be willing to (1) participate in a network phone conference once every other month, and (2) explore the opportunities and needs associated with aging in their own local center and community.

Please join by 15 May 2010.
To join the network contact: [email protected]

For further information and background documents see:
Our Blog
Our page on Shambhala.org

For those interested in aging, but unable to participate in the network, please join [email protected]

Members of the Working Group on Aging: Ann Cason, Aaron Snyder, Marita McLaughlin, Donna Hanczaryk, Jacquie Bell, Victoria Howard, Louis Fitch, Chris Rempel, Susan Stewart, Acharya Emily Bower, David Whitehorn (Chair).

On Aging in Shambhala
The following statement is intended to provide the emerging Shambhala society with an initial set of principles upon which to contemplate and build an enlightened response to the inevitable process of aging. The statement has been developed by the Shambhala Working Group on Aging, a working group of the Sakyong’s Council and a core working group within the Community Care Council.

Statement on Aging in Shambhala:
(1) The inherent nature of mind, basic goodness, being unconditional, does not change with age. No matter how old or infirmed we may become, basic goodness remains fully intact.
(2) Rather than viewing aging as leading to the fixation of long standing habitual patterns, with mind training (meditation practice), as we grow older there is the opportunity for mind to become more open and less fixed.
(3) Physical and mental capacities inevitably change with increasing age.
(4) In Shambhala we can simultaneously recognize both the opportunity to be more openly engaged with the world as we grow older, and the inevitable decline in physical and mental capacities, culminating in death.
(5) In this context, ‘conventional’ retirement is a misguided myth. The idea that as we age we can ‘retire’ from the world and become less engaged is not consistent with Shambhala vision. Quite to the contrary, as our responsibilities and time commitment for family and livelihood decrease we can devote more time and energy to building enlightened society, as well as to our personal practices. This is ‘enlightened’ retirement.
(6) As we age many of us will, at some point, experience physical ailments that will make it difficult, or perhaps impossible, for us to care for ourselves. At those times, other members of Shambhala society need to be positioned to come forward to be sure that what we are unable to do for ourselves is done.

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5 responses to “ Join Our New Network on Aging ”
  1. Juana Piney
    Sep 9, 2010

    Hello Natalie
    sorry I have been out of email for a while and now i have just saw your message. Please don´t hesitate to contact with me trhough this email [email protected]
    I have lived also in Palma de Mallorca for a few years.I was born in 1955 and have two girls and three grandsons and grand daughter .Didi and you have an interesting life and your project is also interesting.
    We can exchange experiences. We are begining our group now but we are so uplifted

    Un beso para las dos

  2. Natalie Drache
    May 28, 2010


    I am trying to contact Juana in the post above, and the email she has indicated is not valid. Can anyone help me with this.


    Message for Juana and her group follows:

    Hola Juana,

    Mi nombre es Natalie y he visto tu “post” en:


    Acabo de registrame en este grupo.

    I am Canadian but have lived in and out of Mallorca for almost 41 years. In collaboration with a Tibetan woman friend, we are creating a small retreat centre, here, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on the West Coast of British Columbia, outside Vancouver. The centre is called Saffron Lions Retreat Centre. I am interested in being in touch with you and as you wrote: diverse group – because, for one thing, Didi, with whom we are considering to host day workshops, is interested in building a hospice centre in her village in Tibet (China of course) where the recent earthquake took place. I think we could learn a lot from what you wonderful women are doing and learning together. Didi was born in 1950 and came out of Tibet walking over the mountains around the time of the 1959 uprising. I was born in 1942 and about four years ago, “he tenido un enfarto cerebral en España y entre mis amigos en la isla y los medicos en el Hospital Son Dureta en Palma de Mallorca realmente me han salvado mi vida”

    Bueno, por el momento, espero noticias tuyas,

    Un gran abrazo,


    Natalie Drache

  3. Juana Piney
    Apr 21, 2010

    Dear friends

    We are a spanish group formed by eight women who six years ago have decided to create an asociation in order to work on aging and help each other in the process of dying. We are a diversity, doctor, nurses, psychologist, finances, decoration, theatre and universal energy workers. All of us except one are Shambhalians, sacred path and vajrayana students. We have written down the Statement and now we are in the process of registering it. Even we have the name “ in Spanish: “ EL JARDIN DE TARA” ( Tara´s Garden)

    But is good news that this is already working in the context of Shambhala. So we would like to join your group in this project and know about what is already done and how to colaborate with you.

    We can do it trhough messages since our English is not enough fluent to speak by conference

    So we wait for your response . You can do it to my email [email protected]

    Thank you

    Juana Piney

    Shambhala Madrid

  4. Gary Kellam
    Apr 16, 2010

    In the “Statement on Aging in Shambhala”, point (4) speaks of the “inevitable decline in physical and mental capacities.” I think this point should be revised to be clearer about what is *increasingly-likely* and what is *inevitable* about aging, still speaking the truth about the realities while avoiding negatively-predictive presuppositions.

    Point (4) as it stands is accurate with regard to *physical* capacities. The latest scientific research into brain plasticity, however, has established that, with the appropriate ‘exercise’, *mental* capacities can be maintained at approximately age 25 right into extreme old age, barring some physically-debilitating condition affecting the brain.

    It is equally true that environmental conditions and/or genetic predispositions may, at any time, create conditions that lessen mental capacities (e.g., stroke), and that this likelihood increases as we age.

    I submit that the revised statement below is more accurate in light of what is now known, and more mentally healthy:

    “(4) In Shambhala we can recognize both the opportunity to be more openly engaged with the world as we grow older and, at the very same time, the increasing likelihood of conditions that lessen mental capacity and the inevitable decline in physical capacities that culminates in death.”

    For elders, this is an important distinction which encourages a positive attitude about a multitude of health choices, e.g., knowing that physical events affecting mental capacity become increasingly-likely, but are not inevitable for everyone, one might choose measures proven to support mental acuity and then might become even more diligent in the maintenance of physical health.

  5. This is wonderful and will be meaningful to so many of us, especially in a culture where aging is seen almost as a type of illness rather than an opportunity for deepening the joy our life can bring to us and others.

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