Staying Creative and Engaged Later in Life: A Conversation With Author Karen Roberts

By Ann Brode   |   August 15, 2023
Author Karen Roberts

Recently, I sat with author Karen Roberts on the Bonnymede deck listening to the soft sounds of surf nearby and talking about her new book, The Blossoming of Women – A Workbook on Growing from Older to Elder. Always curious about the experience that inspires the writing, I asked Karen to share a bit about herself and her journey.

With degrees from Wellesley and Berkeley in economics and management, Karen landed a job on Wall Street as director of research for a French-owned firm. It seemed as if she was well-suited and positioned for a successful life in finance. A decade later, however, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and her life took a decidedly different course. She’d been so certain of her future and now she felt uprooted and scared. Her arms didn’t work, she couldn’t even sign her name, and, at that time, there were no medicines for her condition. To deal with her loss and find a way forward, Karen looked for alternative ways to heal.

Over the next couple of years, Karen’s search took her on a wild, transformative journey – trance dancing with Sufis in New Mexico and doing shamanistic healing rituals and plant medicine in Northern California. 

Since this was about as far from mainstream as you could get, I asked Karen to say more about her participation in these extraordinary experiences. She responded: “We were in the middle of nowhere, living in tents and not being intellectual about our lives anymore. Coming from Wall Street, this was a huge, huge change.” Over and over, she was challenged to get out of her “mind” and listen to her internal knowledge. For her, this knowing was a kind of spiritual sensibility, coming more through her senses than from her senses. As Karen learned to trust this spiritual sensibility, as well as her intellect, it changed the way she saw and lived in the world. 

“It is the blending and the balance between spirit and the material that makes life fulfilled and complete.” –Shaykh Adnan Sarhan, one of Karen’s teachers

A gentle wind and pelicans in flight reminded us to pause and savor our lovely connection on this beautiful summer day. After a few moments, Karen reflected, “My healing crisis was such a gift for me – although, at the time, I didn’t know it.” Although she still manages money, it’s not life’s sole purpose anymore. Now, she finds time to care for herself and her loved ones, spend time in nature, and share what she’s learned and continues to learn with others. As part of her PhD research into the spiritual journeys of women, Karen interviewed creative women who’d continued to grow and evolve spiritually well into their later years. Inspired by these women and wanting to invite others into the conversation, Karen decided to write a book rather than a dissertation.

Recently published, The Blossoming of Women – A Workbook on Growing from Older to Elder encourages us to embrace the unknowns of becoming older and see them as opportunities to continue growing and becoming. Full of valuable information about how to change your assumptions and the steps to personalize your experience, this is a guide book for discovering the beauty and wisdom of your inner elder. It doesn’t have to be esoteric. When you shift your expectations and tune in, a sense of elderhood can infuse a walk on the beach, a talk with a friend, or a casual encounter at the grocery store. You become an elder when you listen without judgment, volunteer to help others with an open heart, and prioritize time for quiet reverie. It happens when you soften to love yourself – flaws and all.

When getting older means becoming an elder, your understanding of being alive expands. This changes the way you think about your body; the way you approach a healing crisis (yours, theirs); the way you feel about the past and future. Each day, whether engaged in a hum-drum routine or out on a bucket-list adventure, includes the possibility of being at one and at peace – of blossoming beyond your imagination. Hearing Karen’s story reminded me that our lives so often don’t follow a predictable course. A health crisis, death in the family, loss of house or job, a natural disaster, or just the process of aging asks us to find the courage to be bigger than our small selves. The Blossoming of Women encourages us to stay creatively engaged as we live into our 60s, 70s, and 80s. Then, perhaps, you’ll discover that becoming an elder is “the crown achievement of your life.”

Karen Roberts lives on her ranch in Santa Ynez and near the sea at Bonnymede. She’s the author of three books: Passions and Patience – Fostering Earth’s Future through Unlikely Partnerships (2004); Journeys – Healing through Nature’s Wisdom co-written with Dana Jaffe (2015); and The Blossoming of Women – A Workbook on Growing from Older to Elder (2023), also co-written with Jaffe.

Give yourself a treat and join Karen and Dana for their book event at Tecolote Book Shop on Saturday, August 12, at 3 pm.


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