Posts Tagged ‘Events’

Jeremy Thres: Questing Guide

May 20 2013

Jeremy is a charmingly modest man who wouldn’t sing his own praises, so I’d like to do it for him.  He is one of the MB50 Core Team of facilitators and guides.

Jeremy ThresTo give you a flavour of Mr Thres, it may help to describe where he lives: a rambling cabin on Dartmoor, at the very end of a long track off an old, little-used lane.  His cabin is strewn with outdoor clothes, deer antlers, and wise books.  I don’t know Dartmoor well, but I’ve realised that it’s a haven for eccentrics and folks who follow their own path: Jeremy fits perfectly.

For many years, Jeremy’s main work has been guiding small groups on vision quests and other processes where you spend time alone in Nature.  The land you work with is vitally important in such work, and he is deeply rooted in the Dartmoor landscape.  As soon as I met him, I realised how great it would be if Jeremy could lead such groups at Hazel Hill, and after several years of pondering, he began to do so in 2006.

There are many aspects of Jeremy’s approach to guiding groups and processes which I value: for example, he engages deeply with the people and place he is working with, and is brilliant at shaping rituals and traditional wisdom to fit the current situation.  He has a light, gentle approach which he somehow combines with an ability to be quite rigorous and disciplined when this is needed. 

The School of Lost Borders in the US has played a major role in the resurgence of contemporary rites of passage, conveying the essence of these rituals that have been kept alive by more earth cherishing cultures and lain dormant in our own, bringing traditional rituals like the vision quest to the rest of us.  This is one of the places where Jeremy trained.  Like them, he has a great talent in transmitting the essence of a tradition, and adapting it to a current context.

The vision quest is a rite of passage, used especially for the shift from adolescence into adulthood, found in many cultures. It can serve to support and inform a shift in whatever stage of life one is passing through, but it feels good to offer one more specifically tailored to meet the needs of those moving into their mature years and ripening to elderhood. Jeremy and I are evolving the Wisdom Quest to serve that need.

So how will our Wisdom Quest differ from a typical vision quest?  We can’t be fixed about this, as we will respond to the needs of those who come, but here are a couple of its likely features.  Facing your dying to enrich your living becomes especially important at this stage of life, where it takes on a deeper significance.  Likewise, harvesting the gifts of your life to date, shedding any anger and resentments, moving forward more lightly, may be relevant at any age, but especially entering elderhood.

I have helped guide both teenagers and elders, and there are striking differences and similarities.  In both cases, the past is not enough to guide the future: people have to find a new sense of who and why they are.  But for adults becoming elders, this can build on decades of life experience (mistakes and successes!).  And it has to include facing old age and dying.  By coming to terms with the end of life, you can hugely enrich the present. 

Jeremy and I are co-leading a Wisdom Quests at Hazel Hill Wood July 3 – 8.  This is open to men or women.  Jeremy works with a maximum group size of ten people, so early booking is advised.  Click here for details.








Jan 15 2013

Exploring Elderhood: Creating the map

Jan 03 2013

The idea of elderhood may sound good, but where do we find the role models, the route to this destination?  These days, we need to create our own map.  The place of elders in tribal society offers some useful ideas: but our own times are so different that we can’t start from here.  People just aren’t waiting around to receive the wisdom of the elders any more.

If we think about the maiden-mother-crone model of three ages of womanhood, it shows us a big part of the problem, for men and women: getting old is not seen as desirable or fruitful.  The media assail us with the cult of youth.  So how do we start the map-making? One relevant feature of tribal elders is the way peer groups would evolve a wise response to new challenges.  I have helped create such gatherings for maturing men and women, and they can start the process of finding yourself as an elder.  Discovering your identity through a group, not individually, may be novel in our society, but it’s relevant in elderhood.

Carl Jung said that in early adulthood, we choose to fulfil a few parts of ourselves, and if in midlife we don’t open the door to the other parts, they’ll break in through the window.  So there’s an inner collective involved in elderhood as well as an outer: your inner voices not only need to be heard, but also gathered and guided in a positive direction.

I believe adolescence is a useful model for entering elderhood: both are major transitions where the past can’t really guide the future.  And in both, some people step into the new stage smoothly, as if born to it, and others struggle.  I haven’t found elderhood easy: partly because I was still hooked on being a warrior, a role that suited my readiness for heroic struggle.

So you may find that your threshold into elderhood is a loss or a shipwreck.  Some women experience menopause as a loss that needs grieving.  Or it may be a more general sense that you are losing a level of health and energy as you age.  Episodes of loss like this are good to face, and can move you through to gratitude for all the capacities you still have.

Recalling Jung’s comments, elderhood is a time to find new aspects of yourself, and new skills which can replace what’s lost.  For me, one of the painful changes is having less control in my life, less power to make things happen: but the gift in this is learning to influence situations by the qualities I embody, and the reflections and support I offer others, which I believe is the way of elderhood.  The good thing about the lack of role models for elderhood is that you’re free to figure out how you want to do it.  Just beware of being limited by the attitudes of society, family or friends.

It’s a fair generalisation that most adults in their 20s through 40s narrow their focus: marriage, kids, work, home take most of their attention, although we now see more individuals taking a different path.  One of the gifts of the years beyond 50 is the chance to raise your head and look around more widely.  This can include deeper links with your local community, new friends, exploring a spiritual path, and finding ways to meet the big issues of our times.  One of the vital roles of elders is providing a role model and wake-up call on issues where society is in denial, and this is urgently needed for humanity’s addictive consumption patterns and loss of connection with the earth.

Another navigation point which I suggest in mapping your elderhood is how you can serve the tribe.  As you look at the troubles and beauty of today’s world, are there issues that arouse you or inspire you?  If so, be persistent in finding ways to act on your passion and invite other elders to act with you.  Our world may not be calling for the help of the elders, but it certainly needs it.


Alan Heeks and Ineke Vollebregt are leading a week-long programme at the Findhorn Foundation on the theme of Exploring Elderhood, 23 February – 1 March, 2013.  For further information and bookings see