Up until then, I had thought older people were pretty boring. Like Peter Pan, I had no desire to “wear a tie, and a serious expression in the middle of July” and sink into colorless conformity. Then I met Donovan. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, he was grey-haired, wiry, and adventurous. He had the liveliest mind of anyone I’d ever met and actually cared about the question that fascinated me most: What is it to be a human being? He was the one who wrote the Chronicle’s stories on the human potential movement, the newest gurus, encounter groups. And he didn’t just report on them, he immersed himself in them.
Donovan turned my preconceptions about aging upside-down. Until then, my experience was that when we younger people were having a lively conversation, if an older person joined us the conversation immediately got toned down, turned to innocuous topics. But with Donovan it was the reverse. He’d come into the room and say something like “Why don’t you talk about how you’re feeling right this moment!” We’d all be electrified, and the conversation would become deeper, riskier, more intimate.
Donovan had pizazz, and he had it up until he died at 80 in Egypt, having developed pneumonia after catching a chill while dancing under the stars. He taught me by example what it is to be fully present, right now. And that’s the underlying focus of my Ageless Pizazz!® groups for women.
These groups set out to tackle the challenges of aging head-on. Through actively getting present with ourselves and each other in an ambience of trust, exploration, playfulness, and creativity, we discover and strengthen our own deepest self—our vibrance, courage, confidence, and power.
A Presencing Practice
We begin each meeting with a practice to get ourselves fully present. I use this practice every day and I find it to be a wonderful way of connecting deeply to the world and my deeper self. It’s easy. You might like to try it.
Sensing, Listening, and Looking
Close your eyes and put your attention in your toes. See if you can sense each toe separately.
Now, while continuing to sense your toes, expand your attention up into the balls of your feet, and then through your feet and up into your ankles, so you’re sensing your toes, feet, ankles.
Now expand your sensing steadily up your legs to your knees, then on up your thighs to your hip joints, and on up through your torso to your shoulders. Take it down your arms to your wrists, hands, fingers. Sense each finger separately. You are now sensing your whole body except for the neck and head.
Expand your attention up through your neck, throat, face, back of head, ears, top of head. Now, while sensing your whole body, eyes still closed, begin to listen to the sounds around you. Listen for the farthest sound.
Sense your body and listen to sounds for a few breaths, then slowly open your eyes and look at what you see. See how long you can maintain this sensing, listening, and looking as you go on about your life.