Posted on Leave a comment

Celebrating International Youth Day 2014

Celebrating International Youth Day 2014 | Photo: Minerva Studio

My favorite day of the year is coming up and I honestly cannot wait for it. It’s going to be the celebration of International Youth Day! This year’s celebration of International Youth Day focuses on Youth and Mental Health. The slogan for this year’s celebration of this wonderful day is that Mental Health Matters. My goal for this day is to help people realize that youth with mental conditions are not different from youth without. I would like to promote the issue of efforts that need to be made to ensure that these youth go on to live full and healthy lives free of isolation from others around them. The United Nations is even running a campaign to further raise awareness from the 12th of June to the 12th of August in order to further reduce the shame. They need youth to help raise awareness with hashtags #MentalHealthMatters and #UN4Youth to raise awareness for youth that are affected by mental health.

Mental health has never been a joke and never will be. If you ever see someone being bullied because of a mental health issue, please go out of your way to help him or her out. Encourage that individual to speak out and tell their story because sharing a problem with others always helps to find better solutions. I myself know of a family that has an autistic child and understand the hardships and difficulties they have to go through. There is nothing wrong with the child but he just sees the world from a different perspective. He is able-bodied and functions fine, in fact he enjoys drumming while creating music with his singing. He even enjoys sports and likes to greet people a lot showing his friendship. Remember, autism is not a disease but it’s a neurological disorder in the brain that allows the individual to act different and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Social media is your best friend on August 12th and I want everyone to encourage his or her friends to celebrate this in an extravagant way. A sample could be to hold an event to celebrate this day in your community, school, youth club or even workplace. On the idea of the workplace, you could even encourage your boss to discount youth on this day to show your appreciation for them. Let’s spread the message and raise awareness on this issue through social media services such as facebook, twitter, instagram, photobucket, myspace and even linkedin.

This day is all about youth, which includes your favorite writer ever, me! Youth range from the ages of 12-24 so if you are out there looking for some fun, then why not celebrate the accomplishment of yourself this August 12th. It’s time for you to sit back and relax as well as others to finally appreciate you for the person you are.

It’s time to chillax for a day, have fun this International Youth Day.

Posted on Leave a comment

Celebrating International Youth Day 2014

Celebrating International Youth Day 2014 | Photo: Minerva Studio

My favorite day of the year is coming up and I honestly cannot wait for it. It’s going to be the celebration of International Youth Day! This year’s celebration of International Youth Day focuses on Youth and Mental Health. The slogan for this year’s celebration of this wonderful day is that Mental Health Matters. My goal for this day is to help people realize that youth with mental conditions are not different from youth without. I would like to promote the issue of efforts that need to be made to ensure that these youth go on to live full and healthy lives free of isolation from others around them. The United Nations is even running a campaign to further raise awareness from the 12th of June to the 12th of August in order to further reduce the shame. They need youth to help raise awareness with hashtags #MentalHealthMatters and #UN4Youth to raise awareness for youth that are affected by mental health.

Mental health has never been a joke and never will be. If you ever see someone being bullied because of a mental health issue, please go out of your way to help him or her out. Encourage that individual to speak out and tell their story because sharing a problem with others always helps to find better solutions. I myself know of a family that has an autistic child and understand the hardships and difficulties they have to go through. There is nothing wrong with the child but he just sees the world from a different perspective. He is able-bodied and functions fine, in fact he enjoys drumming while creating music with his singing. He even enjoys sports and likes to greet people a lot showing his friendship. Remember, autism is not a disease but it’s a neurological disorder in the brain that allows the individual to act different and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Social media is your best friend on August 12th and I want everyone to encourage his or her friends to celebrate this in an extravagant way. A sample could be to hold an event to celebrate this day in your community, school, youth club or even workplace. On the idea of the workplace, you could even encourage your boss to discount youth on this day to show your appreciation for them. Let’s spread the message and raise awareness on this issue through social media services such as facebook, twitter, instagram, photobucket, myspace and even linkedin.

This day is all about youth, which includes your favorite writer ever, me! Youth range from the ages of 12-24 so if you are out there looking for some fun, then why not celebrate the accomplishment of yourself this August 12th. It’s time for you to sit back and relax as well as others to finally appreciate you for the person you are.

It’s time to chillax for a day, have fun this International Youth Day.

Posted on Leave a comment

Celebrating International Youth Day 2014

Celebrating International Youth Day 2014 | Photo: Minerva Studio

My favorite day of the year is coming up and I honestly cannot wait for it. It’s going to be the celebration of International Youth Day! This year’s celebration of International Youth Day focuses on Youth and Mental Health. The slogan for this year’s celebration of this wonderful day is that Mental Health Matters. My goal for this day is to help people realize that youth with mental conditions are not different from youth without. I would like to promote the issue of efforts that need to be made to ensure that these youth go on to live full and healthy lives free of isolation from others around them. The United Nations is even running a campaign to further raise awareness from the 12th of June to the 12th of August in order to further reduce the shame. They need youth to help raise awareness with hashtags #MentalHealthMatters and #UN4Youth to raise awareness for youth that are affected by mental health.

Mental health has never been a joke and never will be. If you ever see someone being bullied because of a mental health issue, please go out of your way to help him or her out. Encourage that individual to speak out and tell their story because sharing a problem with others always helps to find better solutions. I myself know of a family that has an autistic child and understand the hardships and difficulties they have to go through. There is nothing wrong with the child but he just sees the world from a different perspective. He is able-bodied and functions fine, in fact he enjoys drumming while creating music with his singing. He even enjoys sports and likes to greet people a lot showing his friendship. Remember, autism is not a disease but it’s a neurological disorder in the brain that allows the individual to act different and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Social media is your best friend on August 12th and I want everyone to encourage his or her friends to celebrate this in an extravagant way. A sample could be to hold an event to celebrate this day in your community, school, youth club or even workplace. On the idea of the workplace, you could even encourage your boss to discount youth on this day to show your appreciation for them. Let’s spread the message and raise awareness on this issue through social media services such as facebook, twitter, instagram, photobucket, myspace and even linkedin.

This day is all about youth, which includes your favorite writer ever, me! Youth range from the ages of 12-24 so if you are out there looking for some fun, then why not celebrate the accomplishment of yourself this August 12th. It’s time for you to sit back and relax as well as others to finally appreciate you for the person you are.

It’s time to chillax for a day, have fun this International Youth Day.

Posted on 4 Comments

The Peel Watershed – Frack It Or Leave It

Joseph O'Brien - Northern Tutchone citizen speaks at a Peel Watershed protest in May 2012.

By Norm Hamilton

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.

– Ansel Adams

Antagonists in the confrontation in Yukon over the Peel Watershed are polarized between protecting the environment and creating economic opportunity. The Peel Watershed is not only a pristine wilderness; it is potentially rich in fossil fuels that could be extracted using a hotly disputed method.

Hydraulic Fracturing—“Fracking”—is the shattering of rock, usually shale. A cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is introduced into the earth under high pressure causing the shale to split and allow the oil or natural gas to find its way to the well. While the industry claims safety, there have been many instances of poisoned water wells and pollution of the air around the fracking. Extraordinary amounts of water are required to implement fracking, reportedly around five millions gallons per well. In some US states it is now illegal to state what chemicals are used.

In the quest for economic increase we create pipelines, perform fracking and allow careless mining. All these have been responsible for adulterated water supplies and polluted environments. At the same time, because we live and die based on economic circumstances, jobs are necessary to the working public.

Dave Loeks, former chair of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission at a Peel Watershed protest in May 2012
Dave Loeks, former chair of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission at a Peel Watershed protest in May 2012

There is more to the argument to protect the Peel Watershed than retaining the pristine beauty vs monetary growth. The watershed is one of the few remaining vestiges of pure, clean water left on earth. Plundering it for imaginary wealth may be a death knell.

Will the Peel Watershed be fracked?

The Peel Watershed Planning Commission (PWPC), was established in October 2004 with the express purpose of providing recommendations for the Peel Watershed. Their mandate was to maintain “wilderness characteristics, wildlife and their habitats, cultural resources, and waters” while managing resource use. Seven years, countless studies and consultations resulted in recommendations that 80% of the area be protected with 1% available for minimal development, up to 11% be used for conservative development – and 8% for major development.

However, the Yukon government has a different agenda.

“This remote area holds resources that have the potential to be of great value to Yukon’s economy, both now and in the future,” said Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Scott Kent.

The Yukon government’s unilateral plan protects up to 29% of the region rather than the 80% recommended by the PWPC. Government’s focus on the economy, ignoring the environment, causes people to wonder if their decisions and information are disingenuous. The press release includes the term “enhanced regulatory and permit processes,” ostensibly designed to assure people of the safety of the development.

The Yukon Conservation Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon along with the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in have filed a lawsuit hoping to protect the 42,000-square-mile watershed. They argue that the government breached the planning process as provided by the PWPC.

Prominent lawyer, Thomas Berger represented the Plaintiffs in court in July 2014. Berger said the lawsuit is unwanted but the government has forced the issue. The plaintiffs wish to defend First Nation and environmental values as well as principles rooted in the Constitution.

Joseph O'Brien, Northern Tutchone citizen and Stephanie Sidney, Teslin Tlingit Council member sing at the Peel Protest on May 5, 2012
Joseph O’Brien, Northern Tutchone citizen and Stephanie Sidney, Teslin Tlingit Council member sing at the Peel Protest on May 5, 2012

Then there is the much ballyhooed billion dollars plus budget presented by the Yukon Party. The budget address presented by Premier Pasloski states, “The Government of Yukon’s Budget for 2014-2015 is $1 billion and $318.4 million. ($1,318,400,000).

In reality, $898 million of the budget is federal money provided as Health Transfer, Social Transfer and Territorial Formula Financing. That leaves $410,400,000, approximately 31% of the total, to be collected from citizens, industry and commerce. At one time mining provided $300 million, but that figure is now closer to $85 million.

Statistics of July 2013 show 19,000 people employed in Yukon, 700 in forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas. This is less than 3%; not all Yukon residents. To be fair, there are some jobs in the businesses that supply mines as well.

Economy is artificial, existing because we agree it does. Environment exists whether we agree it does or not.

When only the economy is taken into account, the environment suffers. Conversely, if we consider just the environment there may be a lack of employment and economic growth. Governments at the federal, provincial and territorial levels are taking the paternalistic position of entering into agreements contrary to the wishes of constituents.

An example is the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) signed September 9th, 2012. Some of the highlights of concern are as follows:

  • The negotiation was conducted behind closed doors.
  • It is a 31 year agreement with 1 year release clause effective after the initial 15 years have lapsed.
  • The FIPA causes us to relinquish control of our labour laws, natural resources and removes full ability to protect our environment.
  • Chinese corporations (owned by the Chinese government) can sue any level of government in Canada for creating rules or regulations that interfere with their ability to create profits.
  • The hearings for those suits will be before an international tribunal, rather than courts, and the resulting decisions will be paid for by Canadian Taxpayers.

This was not the first agreement of its kind, nor was it the last. To get an idea of the full extent of these go to  http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/a-z.aspx?lang=eng

Peel Protesters in front of the Yukon Legislative Assembly May 2012.
Peel Protesters in front of the Yukon Legislative Assembly May 2012.

Today’s issues include the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposed by Enbridge and promoted by the federal government. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Chiefs, said this project is destined to cross critical watersheds, streams and rivers, placing the environment in jeopardy. Enbridge claims there will be 3,000 construction jobs and 560 long-term jobs, all here in B.C.

In 2012, Marc Lee wrote a paper that questions the accuracy of these claims. Recently, the citizens of Kitimat, BC have voted against having this pipeline in their area.

Meanwhile the BC Liberal government is pursuing Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) agreements under protest by numerous environment groups.

So, the question remains, “Does the economy trump the environment or can equilibrium be reached?”

Posted on Leave a comment

Go Gadget Free

Go Gadget Free

Certainly, in our modern society, technology plays a very prominent role. However, not all gadgets are good for you and can cause a multitude of problems like myopia and back pain from being hunched over a device all day. That’s why it’s good to sometimes just unplug and get away from it all. You may wonder how it could be done short of going off to somewhere remote, but it’s actually very easy if you pick the right time, are kept busy, and have the discipline to go tech free.

Picking the right time is very important. After all, it’s very unwise to forgo your computer when you boss is mass emailing everyone on your team instructions on the project. Depending on how long you want to stay tech free for, pick either a non-busy week or a relaxed weekend. Then, you can tell friends and family you will be not available through texting or Facebook, but would gladly answer their phone calls from an actual phone (not Skype). After that, it’s time to put away the Smartphone, turn off your computer, and wave goodbye to you iPad.

Obviously, at first, you will find your day to be very empty. If you’re anything like a modern person, about two hours of your day will just have opened up. Be aware that you need to fill in the time with constructive hobbies, or the phone will be back in your hand in no time. Going outside and being active, meeting face to face with friends, and picking up a good book are all suitable activities for filling in your time. If you’re really diligent, fill the time by finishing up that report or project. One thing’s for sure: your day will get a lot more productive.

Discipline, for this exercise, is especially important. If you are weak willed, you will find yourself back to where you started in the blink of an eye. It won’t be easy at first, but once you get into the swing of things, you may actually enjoy a life without technology. Most likely, your boss would never say the angry texts they just sent you to your face, and you will never buy clothing items in the wrong size because you’re actually trying them on in store. All it takes is breaking the habit.

Going tech-free may sound great, but remember to keep a few exceptions. Your phone should still be on for calls only, and for safety reasons. All other limits are up to you to set up. Removing gadgets from your life leaves spaces for more productive and rewarding things to come in. After your tech free days, evaluate your experience. Did you enjoy life more? Did you get more face to face contact? If the answers are yes, feel free to schedule another device-free period. You know you want to.

Posted on Leave a comment

Go Gadget Free

Go Gadget Free

Certainly, in our modern society, technology plays a very prominent role. However, not all gadgets are good for you and can cause a multitude of problems like myopia and back pain from being hunched over a device all day. That’s why it’s good to sometimes just unplug and get away from it all. You may wonder how it could be done short of going off to somewhere remote, but it’s actually very easy if you pick the right time, are kept busy, and have the discipline to go tech free.

Picking the right time is very important. After all, it’s very unwise to forgo your computer when you boss is mass emailing everyone on your team instructions on the project. Depending on how long you want to stay tech free for, pick either a non-busy week or a relaxed weekend. Then, you can tell friends and family you will be not available through texting or Facebook, but would gladly answer their phone calls from an actual phone (not Skype). After that, it’s time to put away the Smartphone, turn off your computer, and wave goodbye to you iPad.

Obviously, at first, you will find your day to be very empty. If you’re anything like a modern person, about two hours of your day will just have opened up. Be aware that you need to fill in the time with constructive hobbies, or the phone will be back in your hand in no time. Going outside and being active, meeting face to face with friends, and picking up a good book are all suitable activities for filling in your time. If you’re really diligent, fill the time by finishing up that report or project. One thing’s for sure: your day will get a lot more productive.

Discipline, for this exercise, is especially important. If you are weak willed, you will find yourself back to where you started in the blink of an eye. It won’t be easy at first, but once you get into the swing of things, you may actually enjoy a life without technology. Most likely, your boss would never say the angry texts they just sent you to your face, and you will never buy clothing items in the wrong size because you’re actually trying them on in store. All it takes is breaking the habit.

Going tech-free may sound great, but remember to keep a few exceptions. Your phone should still be on for calls only, and for safety reasons. All other limits are up to you to set up. Removing gadgets from your life leaves spaces for more productive and rewarding things to come in. After your tech free days, evaluate your experience. Did you enjoy life more? Did you get more face to face contact? If the answers are yes, feel free to schedule another device-free period. You know you want to.

Posted on 4 Comments

Conscious Eldering: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older

Larry Gray

By: Larry Gray

It is no measure of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society.

– J. Krishnamurti

Frail. Incompetent. Slow. Long in the tooth. Clumsy. Over the hill. Having a senior moment. Grumpy.

Have you heard any of these stereotypical words or phrases in reference to you? Or someone you know? These are phrases and messages that make judgements of the inevitable fact that, like every other living thing, we are all destined to grow old and eventually die.

Aging, dying and death are completely natural – as right as rain. Yet, we live in a culture that is profoundly disconnected from the natural world. This disconnection shows up in myriad ways and one of them is in the prevailing cultural attitudes towards aging, dying and death. Part of that attitude is simple denial.

In western culture, we sometimes disparage “seniors” or “elders” (these are sometimes just convenient labels that convey little about real people) and even treat them in condescending and demeaning ways. This is a means of distancing ourselves from them for they are reminders of our own inevitable aging and death, which we would rather not think about.

But there are other reasons why our attitudes towards older people, as reflected in some of the cultural messaging, are distorted and disempowering for both the elders and for the people around them.

And that lies within the very body, heart, mind and spirit of the elder him/herself.

Let’s consider our bodies, for example. One of the courses I teach at Yukon College is called Environmental Change and Community Health. One of the models of health is called the biomedical model – essentially, Western medicine. If you have a broken leg, there’s not much a naturopath or holistic healer can do. You want to go to a Western-trained medical doctor who can put your leg in a cast. That’s because doctors are trained to focus on the physical body.

There are many other models of health and probably the most powerful (and empowering) one is based on and rooted in indigenous wisdom. That is the medicine wheel – a model of health that recognizes the Circle of Life (and death) and considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions.

As we age, there are inevitable changes in the physical body. But these changes need not defeat us or disempower us at all. Sometimes these changes accelerate simply because we believe they will – we are told by the surrounding culture that, after a certain age, our bodies are in a continual downspin and there is nothing we can do about it.

None of this is necessarily true, but many people do buy into such beliefs because these beliefs are so prevalent. And so a self-fulfilling prophesy is set in motion. The fact that millions of people believe something doesn’t automatically make it true.

The truth is we can maintain optimal physical health, strength and vigour well into our 70s, 80s and beyond. My First Nations teacher says that we are not allowed to say we are tired until we are at least 70!

But consider also that we are more than our physical bodies. We have a mental life – thoughts, reflections, memories. We are full of stories that need to be told. We have an emotional life – a complex one, so much more nuanced and balanced and rich than a younger person’s. And we have a spiritual life – a relationship with something greater than ourselves – whether that be Nature itself, God, the Creator or whatever one’s belief system is.

The later years offer a tremendous opportunity to develop all these aspects of ourselves. And so we need not worry so much about growing old. The chronology of one’s life – the passing years – will take care of itself. We can focus not so much on growing old, but on growing whole.

We can train our attention inward, on developing our inner life, healing our inner wounds and traumas, harvesting our hard-earned wisdom, letting go of emotional baggage (and material clutter, too), reframing our life’s experiences in ways that empower and inspire us going forward, creating a legacy for the world, preparing for our inevitable dying and death.

All of this and much more are part of a profound, inspiring and transformative vision of growing older. This vision is called “Conscious Eldering”. This is a process – a way of living in the latter third of one’s life – that counters and reverses the negative and disempowering stereotypes that are part of the surrounding culture. It is, therefore, counter-cultural.

In this model of aging, the latter third of life becomes the pinnacle of one’s development as a human being. It is the very summit of human development – not the decline we are told it is.

I am a baby boomer. My father was on the battlefields of Holland in World War II. He was traumatized by his war experience (who wouldn’t be?) and he never did recover from it. He led a broken life after that because he himself was broken. There was little support in the surrounding culture to help him heal his wounds. So he became trapped in them and never grew whole. He just grew old and not very old at that. He died at the young age of 73.

But the generation that came after his – the baby boomers – have other ideas. We are the first generation in human history to have the potential for long life. There are many reasons for this, including advances in medicine and our knowledge and understanding of health – of the importance of diet, exercise, rest, stress management, work-life balance and other healthy lifestyle factors.

So there is now in western society a huge wave of baby boomers entering their sixth decade of life – their 60s – and they have access to new perspectives on aging. As a group, these perspectives or approaches form the conscious aging movement.

Within this movement, there are several streams each with a slightly different focus. Some focus on healthy lifestyle. This includes healthy eating, daily exercise, periods of rest and often travel – retired baby boomers love to travel!

Another stream focuses on developing an encore career. In this model, you may retire, but you don’t put your feet up – you focus your energy on some new and fulfilling endeavour.

Another stream focuses on volunteer work. Research shows that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer lives. And a fourth stream focuses on inter-generational enjoyment and sharing of wisdom. This usually involves a focus on grandchildren.

These are all valid and empowering approaches.

The beauty of conscious eldering is that it embraces all of these visions of aging and goes even further. It is based on a vision of human development that sees the elder as, to use psychologist Carl Jung’s term, an archetype that is built right into the human psyche. It becomes activated sometime in our middle years – the mid-life period. The middle of your life becomes a starting point for a second journey through life, a journey that becomes the realization of your full human potential.

So the call to become a conscious elder is an ancient and archetypal call that can be found in indigenous cultures around the world – cultures that are embedded and deeply rooted in respectful relationship with the Earth, with Nature. And this call and this model of aging have now been discovered by a Western culture that is also now re-discovering its own relationship with Nature – the living Earth.

Conscious eldering is a choice each of us must make. Do we want to just grow old and become elderly? Or do we want to grow whole, do the deep inner work that this requires and become the very best version of ourselves in the latter years? Each of us must ask, at some point in our lives, do we want to become conscious elders?

Posted on 4 Comments

Conscious Eldering: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older

Larry Gray

By: Larry Gray

It is no measure of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society.

– J. Krishnamurti

Frail. Incompetent. Slow. Long in the tooth. Clumsy. Over the hill. Having a senior moment. Grumpy.

Have you heard any of these stereotypical words or phrases in reference to you? Or someone you know? These are phrases and messages that make judgements of the inevitable fact that, like every other living thing, we are all destined to grow old and eventually die.

Aging, dying and death are completely natural – as right as rain. Yet, we live in a culture that is profoundly disconnected from the natural world. This disconnection shows up in myriad ways and one of them is in the prevailing cultural attitudes towards aging, dying and death. Part of that attitude is simple denial.

In western culture, we sometimes disparage “seniors” or “elders” (these are sometimes just convenient labels that convey little about real people) and even treat them in condescending and demeaning ways. This is a means of distancing ourselves from them for they are reminders of our own inevitable aging and death, which we would rather not think about.

But there are other reasons why our attitudes towards older people, as reflected in some of the cultural messaging, are distorted and disempowering for both the elders and for the people around them.

And that lies within the very body, heart, mind and spirit of the elder him/herself.

Let’s consider our bodies, for example. One of the courses I teach at Yukon College is called Environmental Change and Community Health. One of the models of health is called the biomedical model – essentially, Western medicine. If you have a broken leg, there’s not much a naturopath or holistic healer can do. You want to go to a Western-trained medical doctor who can put your leg in a cast. That’s because doctors are trained to focus on the physical body.

There are many other models of health and probably the most powerful (and empowering) one is based on and rooted in indigenous wisdom. That is the medicine wheel – a model of health that recognizes the Circle of Life (and death) and considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions.

As we age, there are inevitable changes in the physical body. But these changes need not defeat us or disempower us at all. Sometimes these changes accelerate simply because we believe they will – we are told by the surrounding culture that, after a certain age, our bodies are in a continual downspin and there is nothing we can do about it.

None of this is necessarily true, but many people do buy into such beliefs because these beliefs are so prevalent. And so a self-fulfilling prophesy is set in motion. The fact that millions of people believe something doesn’t automatically make it true.

The truth is we can maintain optimal physical health, strength and vigour well into our 70s, 80s and beyond. My First Nations teacher says that we are not allowed to say we are tired until we are at least 70!

But consider also that we are more than our physical bodies. We have a mental life – thoughts, reflections, memories. We are full of stories that need to be told. We have an emotional life – a complex one, so much more nuanced and balanced and rich than a younger person’s. And we have a spiritual life – a relationship with something greater than ourselves – whether that be Nature itself, God, the Creator or whatever one’s belief system is.

The later years offer a tremendous opportunity to develop all these aspects of ourselves. And so we need not worry so much about growing old. The chronology of one’s life – the passing years – will take care of itself. We can focus not so much on growing old, but on growing whole.

We can train our attention inward, on developing our inner life, healing our inner wounds and traumas, harvesting our hard-earned wisdom, letting go of emotional baggage (and material clutter, too), reframing our life’s experiences in ways that empower and inspire us going forward, creating a legacy for the world, preparing for our inevitable dying and death.

All of this and much more are part of a profound, inspiring and transformative vision of growing older. This vision is called “Conscious Eldering”. This is a process – a way of living in the latter third of one’s life – that counters and reverses the negative and disempowering stereotypes that are part of the surrounding culture. It is, therefore, counter-cultural.

In this model of aging, the latter third of life becomes the pinnacle of one’s development as a human being. It is the very summit of human development – not the decline we are told it is.

I am a baby boomer. My father was on the battlefields of Holland in World War II. He was traumatized by his war experience (who wouldn’t be?) and he never did recover from it. He led a broken life after that because he himself was broken. There was little support in the surrounding culture to help him heal his wounds. So he became trapped in them and never grew whole. He just grew old and not very old at that. He died at the young age of 73.

But the generation that came after his – the baby boomers – have other ideas. We are the first generation in human history to have the potential for long life. There are many reasons for this, including advances in medicine and our knowledge and understanding of health – of the importance of diet, exercise, rest, stress management, work-life balance and other healthy lifestyle factors.

So there is now in western society a huge wave of baby boomers entering their sixth decade of life – their 60s – and they have access to new perspectives on aging. As a group, these perspectives or approaches form the conscious aging movement.

Within this movement, there are several streams each with a slightly different focus. Some focus on healthy lifestyle. This includes healthy eating, daily exercise, periods of rest and often travel – retired baby boomers love to travel!

Another stream focuses on developing an encore career. In this model, you may retire, but you don’t put your feet up – you focus your energy on some new and fulfilling endeavour.

Another stream focuses on volunteer work. Research shows that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer lives. And a fourth stream focuses on inter-generational enjoyment and sharing of wisdom. This usually involves a focus on grandchildren.

These are all valid and empowering approaches.

The beauty of conscious eldering is that it embraces all of these visions of aging and goes even further. It is based on a vision of human development that sees the elder as, to use psychologist Carl Jung’s term, an archetype that is built right into the human psyche. It becomes activated sometime in our middle years – the mid-life period. The middle of your life becomes a starting point for a second journey through life, a journey that becomes the realization of your full human potential.

So the call to become a conscious elder is an ancient and archetypal call that can be found in indigenous cultures around the world – cultures that are embedded and deeply rooted in respectful relationship with the Earth, with Nature. And this call and this model of aging have now been discovered by a Western culture that is also now re-discovering its own relationship with Nature – the living Earth.

Conscious eldering is a choice each of us must make. Do we want to just grow old and become elderly? Or do we want to grow whole, do the deep inner work that this requires and become the very best version of ourselves in the latter years? Each of us must ask, at some point in our lives, do we want to become conscious elders?

Posted on 7 Comments

Conscious Eldering: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older

Larry Gray

By: Larry Gray

It is no measure of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society.

– J. Krishnamurti

Frail. Incompetent. Slow. Long in the tooth. Clumsy. Over the hill. Having a senior moment. Grumpy.

Have you heard any of these stereotypical words or phrases in reference to you? Or someone you know? These are phrases and messages that make judgements of the inevitable fact that, like every other living thing, we are all destined to grow old and eventually die.

Aging, dying and death are completely natural – as right as rain. Yet, we live in a culture that is profoundly disconnected from the natural world. This disconnection shows up in myriad ways and one of them is in the prevailing cultural attitudes towards aging, dying and death. Part of that attitude is simple denial.

In western culture, we sometimes disparage “seniors” or “elders” (these are sometimes just convenient labels that convey little about real people) and even treat them in condescending and demeaning ways. This is a means of distancing ourselves from them for they are reminders of our own inevitable aging and death, which we would rather not think about.

But there are other reasons why our attitudes towards older people, as reflected in some of the cultural messaging, are distorted and disempowering for both the elders and for the people around them.

And that lies within the very body, heart, mind and spirit of the elder him/herself.

Let’s consider our bodies, for example. One of the courses I teach at Yukon College is called Environmental Change and Community Health. One of the models of health is called the biomedical model – essentially, Western medicine. If you have a broken leg, there’s not much a naturopath or holistic healer can do. You want to go to a Western-trained medical doctor who can put your leg in a cast. That’s because doctors are trained to focus on the physical body.

There are many other models of health and probably the most powerful (and empowering) one is based on and rooted in indigenous wisdom. That is the medicine wheel – a model of health that recognizes the Circle of Life (and death) and considers the whole person – body, mind, spirit and emotions.

As we age, there are inevitable changes in the physical body. But these changes need not defeat us or disempower us at all. Sometimes these changes accelerate simply because we believe they will – we are told by the surrounding culture that, after a certain age, our bodies are in a continual downspin and there is nothing we can do about it.

None of this is necessarily true, but many people do buy into such beliefs because these beliefs are so prevalent. And so a self-fulfilling prophesy is set in motion. The fact that millions of people believe something doesn’t automatically make it true.

The truth is we can maintain optimal physical health, strength and vigour well into our 70s, 80s and beyond. My First Nations teacher says that we are not allowed to say we are tired until we are at least 70!

But consider also that we are more than our physical bodies. We have a mental life – thoughts, reflections, memories. We are full of stories that need to be told. We have an emotional life – a complex one, so much more nuanced and balanced and rich than a younger person’s. And we have a spiritual life – a relationship with something greater than ourselves – whether that be Nature itself, God, the Creator or whatever one’s belief system is.

The later years offer a tremendous opportunity to develop all these aspects of ourselves. And so we need not worry so much about growing old. The chronology of one’s life – the passing years – will take care of itself. We can focus not so much on growing old, but on growing whole.

We can train our attention inward, on developing our inner life, healing our inner wounds and traumas, harvesting our hard-earned wisdom, letting go of emotional baggage (and material clutter, too), reframing our life’s experiences in ways that empower and inspire us going forward, creating a legacy for the world, preparing for our inevitable dying and death.

All of this and much more are part of a profound, inspiring and transformative vision of growing older. This vision is called “Conscious Eldering”. This is a process – a way of living in the latter third of one’s life – that counters and reverses the negative and disempowering stereotypes that are part of the surrounding culture. It is, therefore, counter-cultural.

In this model of aging, the latter third of life becomes the pinnacle of one’s development as a human being. It is the very summit of human development – not the decline we are told it is.

I am a baby boomer. My father was on the battlefields of Holland in World War II. He was traumatized by his war experience (who wouldn’t be?) and he never did recover from it. He led a broken life after that because he himself was broken. There was little support in the surrounding culture to help him heal his wounds. So he became trapped in them and never grew whole. He just grew old and not very old at that. He died at the young age of 73.

But the generation that came after his – the baby boomers – have other ideas. We are the first generation in human history to have the potential for long life. There are many reasons for this, including advances in medicine and our knowledge and understanding of health – of the importance of diet, exercise, rest, stress management, work-life balance and other healthy lifestyle factors.

So there is now in western society a huge wave of baby boomers entering their sixth decade of life – their 60s – and they have access to new perspectives on aging. As a group, these perspectives or approaches form the conscious aging movement.

Within this movement, there are several streams each with a slightly different focus. Some focus on healthy lifestyle. This includes healthy eating, daily exercise, periods of rest and often travel – retired baby boomers love to travel!

Another stream focuses on developing an encore career. In this model, you may retire, but you don’t put your feet up – you focus your energy on some new and fulfilling endeavour.

Another stream focuses on volunteer work. Research shows that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer lives. And a fourth stream focuses on inter-generational enjoyment and sharing of wisdom. This usually involves a focus on grandchildren.

These are all valid and empowering approaches.

The beauty of conscious eldering is that it embraces all of these visions of aging and goes even further. It is based on a vision of human development that sees the elder as, to use psychologist Carl Jung’s term, an archetype that is built right into the human psyche. It becomes activated sometime in our middle years – the mid-life period. The middle of your life becomes a starting point for a second journey through life, a journey that becomes the realization of your full human potential.

So the call to become a conscious elder is an ancient and archetypal call that can be found in indigenous cultures around the world – cultures that are embedded and deeply rooted in respectful relationship with the Earth, with Nature. And this call and this model of aging have now been discovered by a Western culture that is also now re-discovering its own relationship with Nature – the living Earth.

Conscious eldering is a choice each of us must make. Do we want to just grow old and become elderly? Or do we want to grow whole, do the deep inner work that this requires and become the very best version of ourselves in the latter years? Each of us must ask, at some point in our lives, do we want to become conscious elders?

Posted on Leave a comment

Peel Guerrilleros

Mountains Blackstone River Watershed. Photo by: Damien Tremblay

By: Damien Tremblay

The fight for the Peel Watershed is like an old western movie: Cowboys vs. Indians; developers vs. tree-huggers; evil vs. good; a black-and-white confrontation. Who are the protagonists and what are their motives?

Let’s imagine that each protagonist has good reasons, and a true motive—the “true motive” being more or less conscious or unspoken. The Yukon Party and the miners want the Peel open for mining and for roads. They use terms like “development” and “balance” to justify their views. They have good reasons: create jobs, they say, and a strong economy of course. Their true motive is clear, however. It is to conform to a world of big money, profits and dividends.

First Nations, conservation groups and wilderness tourism operators all have excellent reasons for protecting the Peel: keeping alive a culture along with the ancestral land, saving a shrinking wilderness and beautiful mountain ecosystems for our own purposes and for the next generations. Are those reasons not enough already? There is another true motive we seldom discuss.

The Peel watershed, like so many mountainous areas, is a place of resistance—a highly political space. Mountains are an essential component of the geography of rebellion. They offered refuge to the maquisards in occupied France. They provided perfect forest and scrub cover for the guerilla warfare of the Fellagha during the Algerian war of independence. Rugged valleys and dizzy summits are still hiding the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It is a historical reality. Mountain ranges thwart the plans of the most powerful armies. They defy logistics; they defy heavily armed forces, challenge economy. Unpredictable and treacherous, they defeat some of the most potent human systems. The dissident, the terrorist, the guerrillero, all find protection in those untamed and remote lands. Far from the centres of power, their ideologies, their beliefs are safer. They are free to exist. Remoteness offers freedom.

If mountain rebels are often a minority and definitely weaker than their opponents, they have at least, the satisfaction of being higher than they. It is much more than a fact of altitude. It is often a philosophical position; principles that make them believe they are higher. They need to be mentally and morally stronger. They fight dominant ideologies, governments and economic systems that by nature are adverse to any type of dissidence—yes, even democracies.

In many ways, mountains are the last physical outpost for critical thinkers. The Peel River is precious because it is a space of alternative; the polar opposite of a world of consumerism, laws and self-destruction. Yes, it is worth being protected because it is a space where we can still say “no.”

Who is the Peel guerrillero of today? How does he fight?

A Peel River skirmish already happened in 1932. Albert Johnson, the “Mad Trapper” was chased by an army of pursuers in the Rat River area, a tributary of the Peel. He had killed a constable and wounded others. For weeks Albert Johnson was able to elude his pursuers. Many media followed his exceptional feats of endurance with great interest. The man fought a police force, a government. The Peel guerrillero of today shares a few commonalities with Johnson, but he is a different type of warrior.

Johnson was fighting in the Peel River area, the best place to escape for him. The Peel guerrillero of today fights for the Peel area—to keep alive the possibility of escape. Johnson’s world had no laws, only the law of nature. Kill or be killed. The Peel guerrillero hopes laws will protect the Peel. He believes in lawsuits. The Johnson’s chase only lasted a few weeks. The lawsuit may spread on several years.

Johnson was fighting a government, just like our guerrillero. But even if Johnson had some sympathy from the public, he was alone and isolated, completely disconnected from any sort of help. The Peel guerrillero is not alone, there are many like him and he can count on global sympathy with social networks.

Johnson followed ridges to spy better on his pursuers; he erased his tracks, sometimes starting gunfights to defend himself. The Peel guerrillero does not erase his tracks. He leaves them everywhere! Newspapers, both printed and online versions, films, photos, and comments on the web are all shared massively. He reaches Google immortality. The Peel guerrillero signs Facebook petitions and clicks “like” on gorgeous Peel Watershed photos. He puts stickers “Protect the Peel” on his car. He participates in peaceful protests in front of the Yukon Legislature. He is non-violent in his actions.

The Peel guerrillero believes in democracy. For him “more democracy” will save his cause. He believes in consultations, letters to elected officials and letters to the editor. Johnson, in all likelihood, did not care about the principles of democracy. He survived. If he believed in anything, it was probably in his bush skills. Paranoid Johnson did not need to believe in conspiracy theories; he was living them. They were all after him. But there is something more dangerous than conspiracy that threatens the Peel watershed—it is indifference. How many people really care about the Peel? A lot maybe; but not enough. The Peel guerrillero needs an even wider audience if he wants to win.

Johnson wanted to be left alone. Maybe a bit crazy, he had, however, outstanding stamina and the will to fight till the end. He was hard to kill. Peel guerrilleros’ lives are not directly threatened and all guerrilleros have not the same level of commitment to win. But many of them are smart and they are now angry. They want to stray off from a univocal path of “if you can hold it, it was mined.” They want to strip away the government’s hypocrisy. They want to see real balance in the world.

Technology, in the form of a plane, defeated Johnson in the end. From the air, he was found easily in the barren landscape of the Eagle River. The Peel guerrillero can take virtual shapes, he is super connected. He masters technology and the digital age. Johnson was surviving in a cold Yukon winter. The Peel guerrillero can live at the other end of the world, in a tropical climate, and still fight adequately. In fact many guerrilleros have never put a foot in the Peel watershed. The legacy of the Mad Trapper lives on. It has reached legendary status. The Peel guerrillero has still to prove himself.

The Mad Trapper has been dead for a long time now but we can wonder if the recent threats on the watershed will bring him back to life. His spirit is already here.