The ageing process begins at birth and never stops. Ageing has the potential to become the agent of change throughout life and often is. Yet there’s something particular about the later years of this process that throws many of us.
Often, in our fifties – and certainly by our sixties – we realise we’re moving through middle life, but don’t yet feel ‘old’. Something deep within us is shifting that it’s difficult to name or understand. We may feel alone in this uneasiness or that something is ‘wrong’. We begin to realise one phase of life is ending and we’re not sure what will replace it.
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will save us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.” Jung
We live in a first half of life culture. In the first half of life we are concerned about surviving successfully – establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and reproducing – and making our mark on the world.
This workshop is for those who realise that there is a second journey, a very different second half of life. It’s for those who want to explore what this means, step into it more consciously, and embrace what it has to offer. After all, to age is to live and to be anti-ageing – as so much of our culture is – is to be anti-life.
We are bombarded with advice these days. (Just go on Facebook.) If you want a prescriptive model of ageing or course, check out the American www.drnorthrup.com or the British www.positiveageing.org.uk both of which have much to offer. I may well pop in my experience or opinions but – as on my ‘death and the only beauty that lasts’ workshops – mostly I facilitate a process that helps you to find your own truth and way forward.
On this workshop we use three simple yet powerful tools: writing exercises, the way of council, and some time alone in nature.
Through a series of led writing exercises we’ll begin to gently uncover our life journey and our issues. (Please note this has absolutely nothing to do with being ‘a good writer’ and you don’t have to share what you uncover.)
In the ‘way of council‘ we sit in a circle, with a ‘talking piece’ to focus attention. It’s a deeply authentic and heartfelt form of communication that was natural in many indigenous communities. It provides a container for honesty, empathy and witnessing. We’ll use council (possibly different forms of council) to shed light on the ageing process, explore themes of the second half of life and listen to each others stories.
“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away when they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.” Barry Lopez
With the third tool we’ll approach the re-connecting and healing power of nature. Because we’ve lost any sense of the need for rites of passage in our modern Western culture, most people have no clear crossover to the second half of their own lives. Some time alone on the land, with a simple assignment, will – I trust – provide a gateway for you into this transition and further clarify how to live it.
“There is no place at all that is not looking at you.” Rilke
To do the second journey some falling apart of the first journey is often and usually necessary and may be painful. (Please note – if this is where you are at, you are not alone!)
This workshop seeks a rediscovery of the soulful possibilities of ageing, a falling into growth – after all, so much about ‘growing’ older is often new, rather than old – and, hopefully, a move towards elder wisdom that is so badly needed in our society.
I imagine most people who are interested in this workshop will be over 50. I’m reluctant to make being over a certain age the criteria for coming – more to the point is what direction do you feel you are facing?
When you book on to this workshop I’ll send you my recommended reading list to help you look into this topic in more depth before the workshop. I’ll also ask you do two exercises before you come. They’re not compulsory (I don’t work like that) though I will encourage you to do them as they will help you to get more out of the w/e workshop. Scroll down for testimonials and details of forthcoming workshops – I look forward to hearing from you…
“Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.
From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter of more invisible game.”
I’m always venue hunting for this event, especially for residential venues. If you know of appropriate accommodation (that sleeps seven or more and has a workshop space) that’s on or very near soulful land, please contact me.
www.ageimmaterial.org British blog on issues affecting working women over 50
www.yoisthisageist.com post and read examples of ageist comments seen and heard (american)
www.ageuk.org the largest UK charity that helps older people make the most of later life
www.owch.org.uk the first older women’s co-housing project in the UK (first project completes late 2015) – pioneering a model for all older people.
www.growingolddisgracefully.org.uk founded 1988. national – and now international – network of older women’s groups and events. g.o.d. for short
www.newdynamics.group.shef.ac.uk/charter.html the largest and most ambitious research programme on ageing ever mounted in the UK. Some great material.
www.representing-ageing.com UK project challenging stereotypical images of older women
www.centerforconsciouseldering.com (american) articles, courses including rites of passage in nature, part of the conscious ageing alliance & links to loads more radical groups
www.mymenopausemag.com (american) insight, information and inspiration for women over 40
www.theelders.org an independent group of world leaders and change-makers who work for peace and human rights in the global village
What participants have said
“I felt I’d already worked quite a lot on my second half of life issues. After counselling I’ve changed careers in order to follow my passion rather than my purse, downsized my house, developed a simpler way of life – and done a death workshop with Jan! So I was surprised how much I got from this workshop.
I made peace with my younger self – who I also thanked for getting me here – rather than looking back with regret at what I could have done sooner. I feel less compelled to try and stay young, and more accepting of whatever changes will come. I need to simply experience whatever feelings come with those changes, do my best, and be kind to myself when I hurt or feel down.
I don’t get lost in or explore nature. I don’t even walk on my own in the countryside. I found doing that on this workshop both exciting and peaceful. I felt closer to nature and able to learn from it all around me.
I was moved by the sharing in the councils. It was a privilege to share those deep moments with others facing similar challenges.
I’d recommend this to anyone who wants the space to explore the next part of their life and make their own decisions about how to live it to the full, in a safe, accepting and gentle environment, and with lots of prompts and different ways of working. It’s a very individual experience. If you can let go and truly ‘be there’ all weekend, I’m sure others will also reap rewards for their courage – and enjoy themselves too!”
Hazel Bamber, Homeopath, Anglesey/Ynys Mon
“Although I’d heard quite a lot about the Way of Council, I thought it was more or less just a way of having a more reflective discussion. Learning about and experiencing the Way of Council with Jan was both revelatory and deeply touching. I began to see that this deceptively simple practice leads to a depth of communication far beyond any workshop ‘discussion’.
What we have to say is as much in the space between the words as in the words, and the Way of Council enabled me to begin to listen to that communicative space. I slowly began to understand the sacredness inherent in communication. I feel indebted to Jan for opening up this path for me.
I had thought I was done with ambition, but through the writing exercises Jan introduced us to, I discovered that there is something I have to finish. The writing practice helped me to become more clear and more simple about what needs to be done.
Katie Morrow, teacher
“At 55 I have a growing awareness of my life moving into a new phase, of changing priorities, and a deepening spirituality.
I have some sense of where and how my life might be changing, and sometimes need affirmation that this will be OK. More importantly I needed some tools with which to re-shape my life.
That’s what Jan provided on the Second Half of Life workshop: tools, and an introduction to skills that would help me in the future. She balanced the steering of the retreat with clarity and fun, at the same time allowing space and time for contribution from those taking part to also have ownership of the experience.
I enjoyed the diversity of each day: time to talk from the c0re of my being, the uncensored writing exercises from the heart, and time to be centred in the heart of nature.
All of this was enlightening, providing me with glimpses of what is possible for my future. I can go forward using these new skills and tools and build on this experience, to fully embrace my newly emerging, second half of life. ”
Sue, Llyn peninsula, north Wales
“Jan had found excellent accommodation in a beautiful setting and started us off by introducing the Way of Council – an ancient and heart-centred means of listening and communicating with each other. This was new to all the group and she guided us clearly and gently as we initially stumbled with it.
Both days began with us exploring our experience through writing. Jan had prepared a number of questions prompting us into the heart of the matter. I found myself inquiring into my father’s life, in some detail, bringing me closer to him.
I don’t like ‘ritual’, and I love the outdoors. By the end of the week-end I experienced a way of fusing this contradiction. I tuned in more to my body, myself, and found deeper meaning in my connection to the living land.
Jan communicates her values and experience through how she is, as well as in the material she uses. As she opens her heart, she invites us to do likewise. Her workshops (I’ve attended a death one as well) are rich, intense, painful, funny, and life-changing.”
Berni Cavanagh, part-time carer, Porthmadog
“The owls sit and silently watch us as I find my way through the thicket of my thoughts…and come to a clearing, where streams flow, taking my past. In a moment of sharing, with those on a similar journey, I reflect on all the possibilities….
Taking us beyond the everyday, Jan facilitated – in a caring and sensitive way – an entrance to the first half of my life, through writing, followed by council with my fellow travellers, and then ceremony in the natural world, to clear and bid farewell to that which has been. With the unusual combination of both solitude and a sense of community, I then moved into a new realm – the second half of my life.
Nature and our week-end community combined to deepen my understanding of how things are, how things could be, and how I could enrich my life. And it felt safe to articulate that both to myself and to the others. It was a peaceful and beneficial week-end. Jan created a gentle and creative atmosphere in which to grow and learn.”
Carole Shearman, potter and teacher, Blaenau Ffestiniog