Ann Cason and John Smith speak out on aging and sustainable learning

Community member Ann Cason recently contributed The Words of the Wise in  Elephant Journal, which is very youth oriented, has had almost no articles about aging, seniors, etc., (i.e. what they have to look forward to) so this is somewhat groundbreaking in that regard.  Here’s a snippet where she reflects on a visit to a memory unit at an elder care facility:

Reverend John asked a question of B. It was her birthday. “What wisdom can you share with us from having lived so long?”

After a long silence, B told us, “Take care of yourself and others.”

The elders clapped their approval.

Then, Father John asked another elder to say a prayer. J said, “May we be better than before and keep our eyes on the future. Amen.”

For a moment, I glimpsed The Shambhala Principle in action. Even with all of our foibles and hurts, our aggression or dumbness, there is something soft and open and feeling within. It might be covered over, but can’t be taken away. In spite of all of the details of each individual illness, these lovely beings are old and frail because they have been born human.They will die (with wisdom intact) because they were born, as I have been, as human beings.

Community member John Smith was interviewed by blogger, teacher, and systems thinker Howard Silverman. They discuss sustainable learning, including the connection between Shambhala vision and learning in daily life.  Here’s a snippet from the interview, titled “How does the community we belong to help us learn, and enable us to shape our community?

HS: What’s the difference between book learning and — other forms of learning? Learning as practice? What’s the appropriate counterpoint?

JS: Book learning for me, at that time, meant discussing the books as we did at St. John’s College. Whereas the whole enterprise of Tibetan Buddhism was much more “mind-in-body,” asking: “How do I show up in the world?”

Early on, the social element was not so explicit. Trungpa Rinpoche’s students were very individually motivated: “I’m here for my spiritual practice and goals.” Now, in traditional texts, a Bodhisattva vow clearly is about “all sentient beings” — and that’s a great example of book learning. It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I take that vow,” and then go back to doing my individual thing.

Then, over the years, it became more clear that there was a kind of social learning component to what Trungpa Rinpoche was talking about. He was talking about transforming society on a deep level that contested the Western notion of individualism, contested the Western stance of mind-in-opposition-to-body, and communicated the idea that “I am the product of all the causes and conditions around me.”


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