History of CAN-NM

CAN-NM was founded in 2002 by a small group of interested persons.  This section presents a detailed history of CAN-NM for its first four years.  We hope that this may provide you with some ideas for forming a similar group in your community.  Another history of CAN-NM over the same early time period is found in an article by Gary Carlson.

Since 2002, CAN-NM has been a primary voice of conscious aging in New Mexico, along with the Sage-ing Guild (now Sage-ing International), a conscious aging organization with an international focus.  During this time, we have  sponsored workshops and encouraged Elder Circles.  Currently, we are sponsoring two half-day workshops each year on conscious aging topics.   A few years ago, we decided to align ourselves more closely with Sage-ing International by becoming a Chapter of SI.  This decision was made after SI encouraged the formation of local groups (Chapters) around the US and Canada.  Because of our close philosophical agreement with SI and because a number of our members were already SI members, we voted to become a Chapter of SI.  We now call ourselves the Conscious Aging Network of New Mexico, a Chapter of Sage-ing International.  We encourage those interested in CAN-NM and conscious aging to become members of SI.  We currently have over 100 members of SI in New Mexico, making us one of the most active states in terms of SI membership.  

The information below is based on a presentation by Phoebe Girard, given at the March, 2006 ASA Conference.



ABOUT US: The Conscious Aging Network of New Mexico (CAN-NM) is a gathering of individuals who believe in the potential of Conscious Aging to enhance the quality of our lives.

We share a belief that our later years can be a time of growth, discovery and joy, a time in which we seek wisdom, participate fully in the human family, and create a legacy for future generations.

We meet regularly to network, gather and disseminate ideas, and support each other in our individual and collective endeavors.  We welcome others who share our vision to join us at our gatherings.


Summer, 2002                      First exploratory discussions by Mike Milstein with a few others

December, 2002                   First monthly meetings in Albuquerque;                                                Selected name—Conscious Aging Network of New Mexico

April, 2003                             Mission statement drafted

August, 2003                         Conscious Aging Track added to NM Conference on Aging annual meeting

Feb, 2004                              First community offering, Tao of Aging, Albuquerque

May, 2004                              Began alternating meeting places (Alb and Santa Fe)

June, 2004                             Albuquerque Elder Circle begins meeting

August, 2004                         Proposed keynote speaker on Conscious Aging for the State Conference (Rick Moody)

Jan, 2005                               First planning retreat

April, 2005                             Co-sponsored The Muse of Aging with NM Jung Society

August 2005                          Proposed keynote speaker at NM Conference on Aging (Richard Leider)

Sept, 2005                             Second Retreat:  How Vitality and Passion Can Be Part of CAN-NM

Nov, 2005                              CAN members presented seminar “Conscious Aging: Because     Your Life Matters,”   with mini workshops

March, 2006  Presentation at ASA “Promoting Conscious Aging at the Grassroots Level”


A Brief History of CAN-NM

Phoebe Girard

In early 2002, two individuals met to discuss their interest in working with professionals focused on aging issues.  We were open to whoever wanted to join this conversation.  This open stance has characterized the growth of the network.  In early fall, we called together an informal group of friends and colleagues to begin the conversation.  By Dec 2002, ten people began meeting monthly, selected a name for the group, the Conscious Aging Network of New Mexico and located meeting space in a member’s home.

We use a shared leadership model.  Mike Milstein, one of the founders, facilitated meetings for the first six months.  We established a format for meetings.  After a check-in time at the beginning, members took turns making brief presentations about their own interests in the field and discussing various kinds of programs they had done in conscious aging (CA).

By April 2003, we drafted the mission statement.  That year two of our members were part of the Planning Committee of the State Conference of Aging.  They encouraged the Planning Committee to add a CA track (focus area) to the annual meeting.  That year, we contributed about 8 workshops, roundtables, and a panel on CA.  In subsequent years, we have had from 15 to 20 workshops on CA, panel discussions each year, and have been able to choose CA proponents as keynote speakers for the Conference.  Rick Moody, Richard Leider and William Thomas were keynote speakers in 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively.  Our group was able to spend quality time with each of these speakers (usually over a dinner that we sponsored), which was personally fulfilling for us, and helped make our presence known beyond the New Mexico area.  We currently have four members on the Planning Committee, and feel this annual Conference is one of our most important outreach activities.  Working at the Conference has also provided us with an interest list (gathered at our CA workshops) of nearly 700 persons which we use for publicity for activities and events.

I began my turn at leadership in January 2004.  Although we have formalized positions such as secretary, treasurer, chair and chair-elect, we don’t have elections.  These positions are filled by mutual agreement.

That year, we also began planning for our first community offering, the Tao of Aging, with Drew Lederer and David Chernikoff.  This proved to be a big success and a very solidifying project for the group.  We worked hard to organize this one-day workshop, which included a meal.   We had over 100 participants, thanks to wide publicity, including articles in the local newspapers.  It was financially successful, and gave us a financial cushion to work with.  The evening of the event, the two workshop leaders had a celebratory dinner with us, which was also very affirming.

We continued to attract new members, and by Dec 2003, we had about 28 members on our CAN-NM members list.

With the addition of new members we became more evenly divided between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, so we started alternating the location of our meetings (thank goodness!!!!) between the two cities.  Also we added many names to our email list of persons interested in Conscious Aging activities and used that to start an Elder Circle, a self-directed group facilitated by one of our group members.

In January 2005, we held our first one-day planning retreat, Looking Back and Looking Forward.  This gave us renewed energy and direction.  We decided to try to offer two events a year, including one that would feature the work of our own group members.  In April, 2005 we co-sponsored (with the NM Society of Jungian Analysts) a workshop called The Muse of Aging, presented by Linda Leonard, a nationally known Jungian Analyst who lives in the area.  About 40 people attended.  In November 2005, we conducted our own daylong workshop called “Conscious Aging, Because Your Life Matters.”  This was held at a local retirement center, which had great space, great food, and did not charge us (except for food), because one of the members was on the staff there.  The workshop was well received by about 40 attendees.  We made a little bit of money above expenses on both events.

In early 2005, we set up a web site for CAN-NM with the help of a member’s husband.  In September, 2005, we held our second retreat, which was more of a renewal and revitalization time for ourselves.  In 2006, we set up a Speaker’s Bureau to encourage our members to speak on CA topics, and to publicize our speaking offerings.  Currently (early 2007), we are expanding our website significantly, planning our next public offering (a one-day workshop on Community and what that means as we age), and continuing to be involved in the Conference on Aging.  There are currently four Elder Circles in New Mexico that are loosely affiliated with us, but not necessarily organized by us.  One Circle in Los Alamos began about eight years ago, preceding our CAN-NM group by several years.  Another Circle in Santa Fe also is older than CAN-NM, but its members are closely aligned with us and we have sponsored joint activities.  A third Circle in Albuquerque was organized by CAN-NM members, and a fourth, in Silver City, was organized recently by a new CAN-NM member who became associated with us after attending a workshop given by another member.

CAN-NM has been a great organization for us personally, but more importantly, it has given elders in New Mexico many opportunities to learn about more beneficial ways to live as we grow older.