Coaching on the Boat
Row, Row, Row the boat, gently out of a wage
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, life is the Third Age
What a glorious weekend at enso Beach House. Not only was the weather on this beautiful island spectacular, but also spending a weekend with a group of women gracefully entering their Third Age—the Age of Fulfillment (aka Retirement). This age is a time in a professional woman’s life where she has launched the kids, dedicated long hours to a successful career, managed finances responsibly and now keen to engage unencumbered on herself, health and well-being in this next phase of her life. This new generation of women are the part of the first cohort in history where women who chose a professional career are living longer in active, healthy lives. They are interested in living, learning, trying new things and being part of an entire community. Successful aging is no longer measured in chronological years but in the style and purpose, value and direction. The next 10-20-30 years must be thoughtfully planned for, scripted and lived fully, keeping brains and bodies active.
As we grow and develop as humans, we generally move through four ages of development:
· First Age: era of dependence, immaturity, learning, socialization)
· Second Age: time of independence, maturity, responsibility, working
· Third Age: moving into personal achievement, fulfillment
· Fourth Age: final dependence, preparing for leaving this human existence
I was fortunate to co-host a retreat, A Shade More…Enlightened, with women eager to be intentional about their time and energy in this Third Age. Research on retirement has shown that women in this phase of life need to focus on and plan for:
· Financial health
· Health and well-being
· Developing a social network and establishing relationships
· Sense of purpose (paid or unpaid work)
· Sense of home and community
As guests made their way down the epic driveway towards the bamboo fence, they eagerly made their way through the gate, triggering the familiar cow bells signalling their arrival. Each guest was shown to their room welcomed by a little bit of Salt Spring DNA: hand-made greeting card, fresh flowers, Harlan’s chocolate, routine deodorant and KamaSoap, Snacks from local merchants, tea and coffee were served as guests familiarized themselves with enso House, the property and the beach.
The design of the retreat program was purposeful to a range of activities, ideas and experiences to instill a sense of possibility and promise. These included reflection, dialogue, kundalini yoga, music, art, hiking, nourishing food and water activities. Our opening circle provided an opportunity to learn more about each other and dive into our reason for gathering: becoming intentional about the Third Age. After some introductory reflections and ‘academic’ work, we meandered up to the newly renovated studio for a kundalini yoga class led by yours truly. My recent Kundalini teaching certification served to offer a soul-filling reprieve. Teaching for the first time in my own studio was very heartwarming and gratifying. We focused on a pranayama kriya, and a beautiful mantra meditation to project the heart. A deep savasana is always soothing for the soul and a great reset for the parasympathetic nervous system (calming effects).
Our evening of sharing an artifact and connecting on a deeper level was preceded by a nourishing meal of Buddha bowls and lemon curd dessert paired with a glass of wine or two. As we closed for the night, we all felt like we had been together for days. The energy between and among us was palpable.
The morning greeted us with a breath-giving view of clear blue skies, and a pinkish hue dancing on the ocean. After a hearty breakfast, we continued the reflective work of our life timeline, identifying the roles and identities we assumed in our various transitions throughout life, both planned and unplanned. We identified with roles that were in service to others, in an empathic, compassionate and choice-ful way, often meeting others’ needs before our own. This awareness led us to a sense of validation that our Third Age ‘work’ was to focus on self, especially health and fitness, and activities that nourished the soul and heart.
The reflection work was balanced with a divine hike up the mountain. Practicing Shinrin-yoku, with a bit of visioning work helped make the steep pitches a little less daunting and arriving at the summit with another breath-giving view. The clear outline of the hills, coupled with the deep blue sea and clear skies made a nice backdrop to enjoy an acrobatic raven dance in the sky. A brief rest of tea and chocolate was just what the fairies ordered before making our way back down Mount Erskine.
Keeping with the international cuisine theme, the all-in-one meal of Vietnamese Salad rolls with a peanut cilantro dip hit the spot after our hike. We were ready to dive back into the intentional planning of the Third Age and use the forest as a metaphor for learning:
· What is blossoming right now?
· What old growth do we want to tap into?
· What will we prune ?
· What are the new sprouts we want to try?
After a bit of reflection, the studio was calling our names to create, dream, vision, and celebrate. We made our way up the forest lined driveway, champagne in tow, to claim our spots on the mat for wee bit of yoga. After a quick but effective yoga set, we were ready to channel Emily Carr and put the brushes and colours to work to create Shades More…. Our forest artifacts shaped our mixed media canvas to create works of sheer art.
Feeling very proud of our creations, we enjoyed a hearty meal and closed the night with a round of poetry.
The next morning greeted us again with the stunning views, colourful seascape and an ocean beckoning our presence. The row boat seemed the most viable option to navigate the glassy, clear waters. With our tea, chocolate and snacks on board, we pushed away from shore to row into the sun and light, channeling our inner Silken Laumann. A perfect place to take those inspiring visions from the night before and action a do-able plan for the next days, month and year ahead. Coaching on the boat helped the participants solidify their plans and garner accountability partners. Our only distractions were the seals bobbing their heads up hoping to get in on the action and an occasional eagle swooping in the distance hunting for breakfast.
Our closing circle brought gifts of gratitude and honouring each other and ourselves for being present, being real, being true to our quests and navigating the ‘path inward to a truer you” in this Third Age.
After a hearty bowl of butternut squash soup, guests departed for the ferries leaving “A Shade More…Enlightened” and engaged in their journey, paddling into the Third Age with confidence, validation, direction and comraderie.
As one participant said: