Posts Tagged ‘Maturing men’

The integrity of the Trickster

Sep 24 2015

I was brought up to be a good boy; eat what I’m given, say the right things and above all do what I’m told. Over the years I’ve realised that there are more of us around than we realise. Good boys, working to a set of rules imposed on us by someone else. Someone who thought that they were doing the right thing by making us good boys because someone had told them to be a good boy or a good girl.

Time passes quicker than one realises and it doesn’t take long to go from being a good boy in a school to becoming a man who has learnt to do as he’s told. One of the things that keeps us on the straight and narrow path is the fear that if you’re not a good boy then you may be banished remain lonely and lost. So for years, we’ll do what we’re told, at first by our parents, then by teachers and others in authority and finally our partners. As that’s what good boys do and are trained to do, what we’re told. However there is something in the background, something that tries to pull us away from the straight and narrow, something that wants us to stop and play in the sun, splash in the puddles or just watch the birds circle and soar. As we’re good boys we don’t; we hurry home as there are books to be red, instruments to be practised, someone to be looked after or some other kind of work. We’ll do this again and again because we’re good boys, until life feels as if it’s something mundane, something to be endured. However I believe that in the heart of every good boy there is a part of us that longs for us to be taken away from the life that we live; away from perfectly combed hair, clean shirts and the prison of being a good boy. I believe that we both long for it and fear it equally. I’d read about the trickster in all his/her forms both in myth and legend and also how the archetype manifests in Jungian and other forms of Psychology. All the stories I’d read had convinced me that the trickster be it in the form of Loki (Norse god of Mischief) or Eris (Greek Goddess of discord) and a whole host of others weren’t people I wanted to cross my path. I’d come to believe that like Jack in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk I’d lose a cow and end up with a handful of beans which I’d throw away, or worse.  Losing both the cow and any profit that I may have gained from it. As a good boy, I’d been happy with this state of affairs, as I’m far too sensible to be taken in by the trickster’s wiles, or so I thought. Perhaps it’s a part of growing up, maybe it’s part of being a writer and needing to understanding someone’s motivation, even if that someone only exists in myths and legends or our subconscious. However I could feel the trickster calling from the shadows and recently I’ve answered his (for me the trickster energy manifests as a man, for you it might not) and what I’ve learnt has surprised me. This may feel like the stuff of fairy tales and myths or depth psychology. I am coming to believe there is a part of ourselves, somewhere deep in our subconscious that rallies and rails at the way we treat ourselves as well as others. That notices each and every time we put other’s needs before ourselves or each and every time we sell ourselves short and keeps score. I believe that this is how the trickster is born into our awareness, all that disappointment and sadness about how we are treating ourselves manifests something in the shadows of our soul. Something that tries to hold up a mirror to show us the life we are living. The trickster’s work starts gently and subtly;  you may forget your keys or wallet, which makes you stop and take a different way to work or miss your usual train to work and things go on from there. Or the trickster interrupt your train of thought in a meeting and tell you that the person you are listening to and you’ve admired for so long isn’t the wise and wonderful person you thought and their persona and finery only exists in their (and possibly your) mind. I think at times like these that the trickster is trying to remind us good boys that there is more to us than the good boy that we’ve become. There is a man who is wise and has experience beyond his acceptance or knowledge. I believe that the internal trickster is trying to remind us that there is more to life and more to us than the place we are in right now; more than a life of service to others at a cost to ourselves, more than a life of constantly working and not stopping to see the wonders of the world around us. At his heart, I believe that the trickster is saying “stop, you’re better than this, worth more than this” and that isn’t always easy to hear. So, the trickster will try again and you forget our keys or forget to grab your wallet so you can’t pay for that oh, so needed latte again and again. Until you begin to wonder what’s going on, what happened to my life, how did I get here and do I want to be here? Like the trickster of legend our trickster wants us to change ourselves, the way we look at the world and our place in it. However it’s not easy for us to do as we’re good boys and good boys don’t rock the boat or do anything crazy or weird, but when we do he cheers and celebrates as he’s a part of us. This is the journey I’ve been on for the past few years; at I was committed to my identity to be a good boy, then I got confused when things started to happen that I couldn’t explain such as misplacing items which when I stopped looking were just where I’d left them, then I started to look at the people around me and realised that some of the people I’d looked up to weren’t as wise or wonderful as I first thought. When all else failed the trickster came into my life through a friend asking me the question “If money was no object what would you be doing?” Each time the trickster seemed to be asking the same questions. Questions that made me to see my existence in a different light and begin a journey that has helped me to change things I believe, for the better. There are still times when I revert into the old ways of wanting to be a good boy and if I seem to be going too far the trickster reminds me of his presence. I’ve now learnt to be patient and look at what’s going on in my life and identify what it is that I need to look at differently. Which leads to the title of this piece. I think the trickster sometimes gets bad press. However for me he has been a very useful part of my makeup. I believe that when he appears in our lives the trickster is asking us the questions – Is this really where you thought you’d be? This thing that is so important to you at the moment, how important is it really? Are you being the man that you want to be? I believe that the integrity of the trickster is that he wants us to be more content and happier. It’s just that as good boys we’re so busy being good that sometimes he needs to take us out of our comfort and that’s not fun for any of us.   by Shaky Shergill

Is it OK to tell boys to “be a man”? Time Magazine 13th Jan 2014

Jan 30 2014

Time Magazine has the world’s largest circulation for a weekly of about 3.3 million. So it is a big event when it leads with a major article ‘Masculinity Is More Than a Mask.

The article looks at the old-school brutalising messages US adolescent boys still receive about how to be a man – “Toughen up”, “Don’t cry”, “Stop with the emotions”, “Man up” – and the long-term harmful effects of these aggressive messages. A new documentary to be released later this year The Mask You Live In has sparked the debate. And it is BIG: the YouTube preview has already had in excess of 1.5 million views!  mqdefault

 Read the’s good! It is also well worth looking through the 100 or so comments (so far) at the end of it. There’s arguments on both sides, supportive and against, and some complaining that there is a ‘feminist anti-man’ thing going on, although I would guess the full blown raging conspiracy guys have been moderated out.

 What’s the place of older men in the debate? MB50 has a clear answer. The role of older men on this issue is to give voice, be present, listen and be heard, and help us rethink and move beyond hard “Yes/No” divisions. Let’s do it!


Out of the Woods; the book and one man’s journey.

Oct 14 2013
I met Alan for the first time early in 2012. He had been on a desert walk in North Africa the previous Autumn, and I remember him saying that in the emptiness of the dunes a BIG QUESTION had come to him – Where are the older men? And then related questions; Where are the older men meeting; Where do older men go to get help; Where are older men being seen, and bringing about positive change in the world. To all these questions (and more) there appeared to be a resounding silence. So the idea for the book was born in Alan’s mind because he felt – and still feels passionately – that the answers to all these questions are there, and need to be written about and told. So the chapters of his book were organised, topics thought through, and the words began to tumble out on to Alan’s PC (…and I was asked to write the Health Chapter, which I was happy to accept and got me into the project). DCIM100MEDIABecause as well as the idea for the book, there was now a Men Beyond 50 project, the other related big question now going on in Alan’s mind in 2012 being – How do we spread the word to older men? The answer to that was a website that could become a resource gateway for older men, events that focussed on providing for the older men’s sector, and a posse of like-minded guys to help support, encourage and energise getting the message out there. Several Men Beyond 50 workshops at Hazel Hill Wood and elsewhere later, and a slow learning curve of how to create an attractive user-friendly website, do social media, enewsletters online and more, and things are beginning to bear fruit and the word about Men Beyond 50 is starting to spread. And now the best fruit to date: the launch of Alan’s excellent book Out of the Woods: A Guide to Life for Men Beyond 50 – the culmination of one man’s vision and one man’s journey. May it sell well and bring the author the rewards he deserves for the 3 years of hard effort! May the book also be the ground-breaker, bringing focus and attention on to the older men sector, as well as being a very practical and inspiring help to the many older men who read it! And thirdly may the book also act as the herald and catalyst for many more older men to join in our ongoing play at Men Beyond 50, for us all to tell our different stories, meet in groups and gatherings, and come together to grow the conversation in collaborative community. Finally, what next for Alan after his three year journey from North Africa desert to printed page and published book? We are all waiting to hear the next BIG QUESTION that I have every confidence is at this very moment being generated in the spaciousness of his delicious mind and caring heart!

Top 10 tips for maturing men – by Alan Heeks

Sep 24 2013 The Maturing Times has recently published an article written with Alan Heeks, author of “Out of the Woods : a guide to life for men beyond 50” giving his top 10 tips for maturing men. Each of the tips covers topics featured in his book, and are so much of what  MB50 is about! Together they are a great summary of what affects so many of us and we hope that through events, blogs, links and news we can embrace these tips and ‘make them real’ in our every day lives. Everyone that reads them will no doubt identify with at least one of them, and let’s be honest.. probably more than half! Have a look and see if you recognise anyone :)…  

The Wisdom Quest: A Rite of Passage into Elderhood

Jun 07 2013

Rites of passage are activities and rituals to recognise, enable and celebrate the move from one life stage to another.  We can see a faint vestige of this currently for teenagers finishing secondary school.  Traditional tribal cultures placed great importance on rites of passage, and I believe modern society would benefit too: including the start of elderhood.

The Vision Quest is a traditional rite of passage for adolescents moving towards adulthood, and I have helped lead several of these at Hazel Hill.  Central to these is spending 24 hours or more alone in a natural setting, with the support of older guides to prepare for and come out of this time.

hazel hill wood quest image

Hazel Hill Wood


Since 2011, I have led several groups for older men and women, and have been working on my book, Out of the Woods: A Guide to Life for Men Beyond 50.  This has led me into a lot of pondering about rites of passage for the move into elderhood.  I’ve concluded that this is a very different process than approaching adulthood.

The initiation of teenagers into adulthood is typically led by older men or women, and includes instructing them in the norms, values and codes of adult society.  Whereas my sense of initiation into elderhood is that it should be more a self-guided, gradual process, which a mentor can support rather than direct.  There are many other differences: for example, a teenager may seek a vision around personal fulfilment, whereas new elders are often moving towards being, presence and enabling.  And in a Wisdom Quest, the level of physical challenge/comfort can be tailored to each person.

My main ally in exploring this is Jeremy Thres, who is the best guide I know for Vision Quests, and similar processes.  We have coined the term Wisdom Quest to describe a rite of passage for elderhood, and we are offering the first of these at Hazel Hill Wood on July 3 – 8. 

The maximum group size will be 8, so that we can tailor the event closely to the needs and life situation of the participants.  We are intending to have a solo time of up to 48 hours as the heart of the event, and the wisdom and healing of Hazel Hill Wood will undoubtedly play a big part.  Our intent is to create a process suitable for men and women approaching elderhood, entering it, or already well into it.  Facing our dying to enrich our living is also likely to be an important part of the event, and is a major theme which Jeremy and I have already worked on.

WisdomQuest pic

For more information and bookings:

contact Alan on 07976 602787 or,

or Jeremy on  07717 853967 or  You can see more details about the event here.