Welcome to Regenco’s Blog

Welcome to Regenco’s blog!  Regenco is a UK not-for-profit organisation formed in 1998 and operating primarily in the North East Dartmoor area, committed to furthering the regeneration and reintegration of Land, People and Spirit.  We offer rites of passage, “Land Time”, and other programmes.  We will be posting on these topics, our work and related topics here.

Winston Churchill evidently said “I have eaten many of my own words and the diet was very nourishing.”  What we share in this blog may not reflect the views of all involved in Regenco and is shared in the recognition that there is always room for us to learn and grow.

For more of an intro to us and our work, please see our only occasionally updated site at http://www.regenco.info. Please note new phone number 01647 432638, and email landtime1@gmail.com.

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What is needed for a Citizen’s Assembly to be like an indigenous one for which they are sometimes compared? Part 1.

Some people compare a Citizen’s Assembly with the ways more Earth connected primary cultures (often referred to as “indigenous”) than our own, have met and undertaken governance.

Though there may be some element of truth to the comparison, I want to flag three areas however which need more thorough attention and integration for them to be more so:

  1. The First is Humility. Those participating need to fully recognize our total dependence for life on that which is around us, and that we cannot be here, yet alone live healthy fulfilling lives, without the world around us – Earth can carry on without humans, though perhaps with mixed feelings, where as humans cannot carry on without the Earth. We are its children, and hopefully one’s waking up to our dependence on it, and potential to work with it. It is not as some say a case of jobs or the earth, it is ultimately the earth or no jobs, period.*

Scan_20191007 (3)It is also essential that the citizen’s assembly fully recognize, not just this dependence, but also that it is our current ways of living and underlying ways of thinking which are what is destroying the very foundations of life, ie these ways, that have destroyed 60% of our wildlife and brought us to climate breakdown, simply are no longer sustainable.

So those participating in a citizens assembly, if they are to emerge with wise choice, need to have the humility to look for new and older deeper ways and underlying principles to live by.

 

 2: those participating in an “indigenous assembly” would not only know their total dependence on the wider animate world, they would feel connected to it and know and actively use ways to access its wisdom.

Northern Europeans tend to live in ways it can be easy to forget our source. We are regularly pulled away from it (“weapons of mass distraction” as one book called it) – life giving water comes from a tap versus a sacred spring or river, food in plastic packaging from a supermarket shelf. In both cases of fundamental needs being met, there is an in between barrier to the original sources of sustenance, contributing to an amnesia of the healthy Earth’s life giving qualities and how intrinsically these matter to us. Entertainment is piped to us more often than co created, alongside advertising and media which regularly deliberately promote happiness to be about consumption and accumulation versus sufficiency, relationship and meaning.

In more earth cherishing culture each generation would be supported to know themselves and their relationship to the land well, through not just learning directly how to healthily grow and gather food, water and shelter, but also through ceremony, mythology (as renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell suggests, one of the purposes of a healthy mythology is to support “accord with nature”) and significant supported sojourns in the wilds, such as are often at the heart of many rites of passage.

We are just one fruit of the tree of life, totally dependent not just on the tree and its many leaves. In our ignorance we imagine the tree itself and other leaves and fruit to be unintelligent and we the zenith.

Buried within northern European culture and mythology is an ancient understanding that the King or Queen must be married to the Land. For, when that which rules is not allied to the land, but just to people and their wants and whims versus deeper needs, the kingdom goes astray and the land will become the Wasteland. We are in such a time now.

There is a need for those who are making decisions to connect at a deeper level than has been the case or else there will be more “BUSINESS AS USUAL,” AND THAT WE ALREADY KNOW IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. It is not just business as usual that has to change, but also “education as usual,” for to date it has often been those with the supposed best education and phd’s who have contributed just as much, if not more to the problems. As David Orr asks at the conclusion of his important article what is education for?:

“Do graduates in Aldo Leopold’s words, know that “they are only cogs in an ecological mechanism such that, if they will work with that mechanism, their mental wealth and material wealth can expand indefinitely (and) if they refuse to work with it, it will ultimately grind them to dust.” Leopold asked: “If education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?”

In terms of marrying, even beginning to form a healthier relationship to the earth, the need is to not just take council of each other within the assembly, but also the Land, and find ways to do that, and, though they maybe from a different paradigm than our modern one, so require humility, there are tried and tested time honoured ways to explore and experience this.

And three, 3: not just the needs of current humans but also future generations and the conditions that can support them to thrive, not just survive, need to be taken into account.

photo-1567205862297-445c63b02db0Now this one is just beginning to gain a better foothold in northern europe. Though it would seem pretty obvious that as humans we would want to take future generations deeper needs into account, pervasive ideas and a media so often celebrating excess and accumulation, preying particularly on the young, contribute to average consumption in many countries well exceeding the bounds of our beautiful home planet.

It is relatively well known that some Native American tribes actively consider the well being of the next seven generations in their decision making. Putting “the Children’s Fire at the centre” is becoming increasingly known language for this, particularly seeded through the voice of Tim (Mac) Macartney amongst many others, and the children at the centre, includes all children, not just human, for all beings are of course as relatives and intertwined in their well being.

The Welsh have been leading the way on this in a couple of far sighted moves, establishing a Future Generations Commission which feeds into decision making (so the voice of future generations is considered and heard) and recently a Future Generations Bill is being brought forward by John Bird (founder of the Big Issue) also for the Uk. This is currently seeking support from cross party members both leading up to the election and afterwards, currently there is a notable absence of conservative mps but be great to have some of them on board also. We all need to work together, and caring for young people’s future is surely a place for common ground, so if you know any who might be interested do encourage them:  See: https://www.bigissue.com/latest/nicola-sturgeon-says-our-pledge-shows-the-direction-we-want-to-go-in/

Wales was also the first to bring forward the idea of One Planet Planning, which as it evolves to its best, will be able to actively support planning applications that work with and minimize their footprint on the Earth, and more heavily scrutinize, adjust or block planning that does not.

It seems to me in both these steps that Wales are demonstrating a very active care for the well being of the Land and its people, not just a privileged elite.

Arne Ness, the Norwegian philosopher who coined the term deep ecology, described the overall situation along these lines: It is as if the leader of an expedition realizes that they have been leading the people in completely the wrong direction and so they will all soon be heading over a cliff, but because of the thickness of the jungle it is hard to see exactly when that will be. There is a need for 180 degree turn, but for fear of upsetting the people they don’t tell the truth and instead make a turn just 25 degrees. They and the people are all of course still heading off the cliff.

One can imagine that If the “leader” had had the courage to own the situation with humility and tell the truth (as xr demand), considering the situation together, a different outcome could have been created, including compassion for the erstwhile guide.

A Citizen’s assembly is a step in the right direction but the citizens within it need (as xr asks) to be told the truth, and for obvious reasons, be introduced to better maps and compasses than have been being used to date, and also, to recognize that a map is not the living breathing territory on which we depend and are a part, not apart.

Be great if this article could be a seed to greater understanding of what is needed at this time for a citizen’s assembly to actually address the ecological imperatives that are upon us and encourage further steps towards achieving that, for as Arne Ness also said, “f we don’t change the way we are headed we will end up where we are going.”

For All Our Relations;

Jeremy Thres. 18/11/2019 landtime1@gmail.com

*There is NO Planet B. Some people fantasize about living on another planet but it’s good to remind ourselves we are currently collectively failing to live well on a planet that has, established over millennia, already all the wonderful conditions for thriving life. How, and how many of us are really going to survive and live well on another planet that doesn’t have these conditions? And also how much money, resources and significant damage to the atmosphere be committed to pursuing this egoic individual or national ridiculous bunker fantasy, versus directing energy to the common good?

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Council for educators –

councilcircleProfessional Development: An Introduction to Council for Educators  be they parents, youth workers, teachers or wider community.

April 16th & 17th 2019 The High Heathercombe Centre, Dartmoor, Devon

With Joe Provisor, MFT, Founder, Circle Ways

There is no learning without relationship. Council is one of the foremost practices for strengthening relationship across diversity. We are delighted to be welcoming Joe Provisor, one of Council in Education’s most experienced practitioners, to High Heathercombe.  Joe was a secondary level teacher for over twenty years and was deeply inspired by Council when it was brought into his school (Palms Middle) following the LA riots, not just in Council’s ability to inspire caring, engaged school communities, but also to improve and connect academic and social-emotional learning.

This training is for educators, parents, and youth workers, and prepares participants to begin circle facilitation in classes, schools, families, youth organizations, and with peers and colleagues. The two day residential workshop is participatory, fun, relevant, and useful. It covers the history and basics of circle practices, formats and modalities, framing effective prompts, and how to use circle ways to further academic goals, social-emotional skill building, student chosen and directed curriculum, and youth leadership. Introduction to Council for Educators also provides the foundation for a restorative justice approach to discipline. The workshop is appropriate for Pre-school through post secondary education.

Workshop fee (sliding scale): £180 low waged – £270 better waged! £50 – £80 deposit. This includes all the workshop costs, facilitation, accommodation on site in small dormitories, and all meals (vegetarian and organic / locally sourced where possible). More detail overleaf.

To book contact:   Jeremy Thres on 01647 432638 / 07717 853967 landtime1@gmail.com  For further information contact Jeremy (07717853967s above) or Heidi 07891 062769

The Presenter, Joe Provisor: As a secondary teacher Joe developed his understanding and practice of Council within the school setting. In time he became a trainer for the Ojai Foundation in 1994, providing Council training for educators, therapists, and business people nationally and internationally. From 2006-13 he was Director of the Council in Schools Program in LAUSD’s Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Support. He is the author of stories, training curricula, lesson plans on circle ways in school and the forthcoming book Teaching and Learning in Circles: Council Practice in Education.

“I’d highly recommend Joe as a warm and very experienced Council facilitator and guide, particularly in working with young people and the whole diverse community of a school or youth organisation” Jeremy Thres, rites of passage guide, consultant and council practitioner for 20 years.

What happens in this 16-hour training? Participants will…

  • Enjoy a fun-filled, relaxing, rejuvenating time, sharing stories, experiences, and play with colleagues and others while learning skills that support a positive and engaged classroom culture.
  • Be introduced to council and other relational practices and their applications in communities, classrooms, businesses, personal relationships, and other settings.
  • Learn how to link council to academic standards and social emotional learning competencies
  • Experience multimodal forms of council (mindfulness, art, movement, improvisation, music), accommodating multiple intelligences, learning styles, ELL, and Special Education.
  • Learn to use council for adult staff meetings, parent and community meetings, classroom norming, content delivery, content processing, assessment of understanding, determining course corrections, setting intentions, accountability, restorative justice, alternatives to suspension, and celebrating transitions and successes.
  • Understand the core components of a sustainable school council program.
  • Receive a 200-page pdf training manual.

In this Professional Development, participants will experience council in several forms, learn how the practice is used in classrooms and school communities and how circle practices are foundational in communities that want to embrace a healing paradigm such as Restorative and Transformational Justice.

Practical Information

To book contact Jeremy Thres: by email landtime1@gmail.com  or text 07717 853967. Numbers are limited so we encourage you to do this sooner rather than later.

When: 9am Tuesday 16th April – 6pm Wednesday 17th 2019. Please arrive from 8 am on the Tuesday. If travelling from further afield High Heathercombe can offer b and b at a favourable rate the night before.

Workshop fee: (sliding scale) £180 low waged – £270 better waged! £50 – £80 deposit. Your generosity will enable those less able to afford places and further concessions to be offered as able and needed. This includes all the workshop costs, facilitation by a team of 3, accommodation on site in small dormitories, and all meals (vegetarian and organic / locally sourced where possible).

If you can pay more on this scale please do so – it will enable us to keep the work accessible.

If you need a bursary place, or to pay in instalments contact Jeremy on 01647 432638, or at landtime1@gmail.com.  We don’t want money to stop anyone from coming, so please be in touch if need to explore an arrangement with us.

Where: The High Heathercombe Centre, Manaton, Devon, TQ13 9XE a beautiful location on the high moor with long views and trails from the door.

A couple of short films sharing teacher and student experience of Council on youtube are:

Council in Schools; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKSh73dO49s (8minutes) & A short film about the beginning of Council at Crossroads School (you may recognise one of the ex students): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5B373I03pw (4 minutes)

Information about making payments – please do just check there is a place for you before paying deposit – 07717853967 or landtime1@gmail.com

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Landtime – a modern version of an Ancient Practice.

audhandsnow 033LandTime is a modern version of an ancient practice. An opportunity for deep reflection and to practice and learn a variety of land living skills, whilst fed from the rich wells of myth, indigenous wisdom, Quest work & rites of passage, time-honoured guides to support us in our unfolding lives.

We all need time to land, time closer to the earth, to learn who we are in relation to it, how it not only feeds but can inform and support, indeed is in us, and this particular landtime, with at its centre a quest for vision and self-healing, three to four days fasting alone yet supported in the wilds, will to an extent be an Initiatory experience – initiation (meaning beginning), and initiation always has to be into something – for example it could be into learning to read or to write.

Our culture already does those things pretty well – but at this time, with mankind standing so clearly out of synch in relationship to the life support systems of the planet, it is clear that there is something we are not doing so well…and that is supporting each other into a healthier relationship with the planet and all its myriad of forms – Nature.

Part of this is as Anthony de Mello said, “we have learned the art of reading printed books,” but in doing so “we have forgotten the art of reading unprinted ones!”

So this is something we want to play a part in opening further for you to explore, ways that support us in relation to reading the unprinted books of Nature – both inner and outer, and to explore the relationship between the two, “clear up the inner pollution and the outer pollution will take care of itself” one elder suggested!

So to this end, woven in with some sharing of practical skills and experience of living with the land, are other, at least in the long term, equally important practical skills for humankind, ways of relating to the Land. Fresh and ancient ways that we have tried and tested and offer for you to experience and explore. Ways gleaned from inspiration of a number of indigenous elders both of this land and elsewhere, and many years of study and experience as well as the land itself. Ways which can support us into a deeper relationship with Nature, to support us in Life, for Life.

Like other rural skills, be they hedge laying, green woodwork, or fire making, these may well be new to you or things you already have some familiarity and experience, and in the same way as learning to play the piano, tennis, or a new language, even if you are a natural, these things still take practice, and sometimes humbleness before we can become accomplished in them, yet alone gain mastery.

“The first people had questions and were free. The second people had answers and were slaves!” WindEagle

There is a Creation story from Central America in which all is going well…

….that is till the Earth gives birth to humans.

This is a step too far as far as their Father the Sun is concerned. He threatens to scorch them back to dust.

The Earth turns to protect her new children, pleading for them. The Sun is softened by her words, relenting, but offers a condition. “People may stay on this Earth” he says, “but only if they Listen.”

Whether people have been listening enough is certainly open to question at this time, be it with holes in the ozone layer, species extinction or climate change.

Nature has been having to shout pretty loud for many to hear that we are out of step with it, and some of what we offer in Landtime is based on the deceptively simple practice of Listening. Listening and observation. Listening to stories, ancient stories and the ones we tell ourselves, listening to each other, and the World around us.

It is heartening at this time, that more and more people are now taking heed of what is occurring around us. Looking up from Mouse ways – a perspective which though precious and valuable, tends to focus only on that which is right in front of one’s whiskers, to the more visionary and equally important perspective of a Hawk or Eagle. This offers a wider vision of how the parts fit together and actions affect each other.

It is the balance of the two that has spawned movements such as the Transition Town one, offering a guiding framework enabling people to come together in this case to face the twin perils of global warming and peak oil, which for an individual alone understandably can seem disheartening and overwhelming.

Clearly there are transitions and changes that we can make on our own if we feel empowered and are determined visionary individuals, yet there are others which are more difficult without the wider support of community, family and friends.

Here is the Book of thy Descent,

Here begins the Book of the Sangreal (the Grail),

Here begin the terrors,

Here begin the marvels.

Parzival

So begins a version of a quest for that symbol of grace the Holy Grail. Quest stories such as this follow an archetypal pattern underpinning mythology and rites of passage around the world. In many cultures deliberate rites of this nature were offered to accompany individuals of each generation through the natural transition phases of life with the support of a wider community.

One of the consequences of this support, which offers both challenge as well as welcome, is that those who face themselves and pass through, are more likely to feel connected to community, have a sense of empowerment, of their own gifts and vision, gained from and to bring to the Greater Whole. To be more conscious self-determining individuals, contributing their gifts to wider community rather than otherwise potentially having less impetus to move out of and beyond a more prolonged childhood/adolescent phase.

“if we’re unable to notice our passages, the old ways cling to us, and leave us less able to grow into the next season…” Jeffrey Duvall

The reason the support is there is that these transitions, though natural are not necessarily easy, for they can involve as the quote above introducing a Grail story implies, not just gifts but also a degree of crisis and descent, and no doubt we have all met a degree of that already. Such consciously entered experiences can help us in integrating those we have already faced and often offer insight and help in preparing us to meet future ones.

 In one of the very first recorded stories ever, Inanna, Sumerian Queen of the Upper World, chooses to descend and visit her sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Lower (a place it is said from which no one has ever returned) in order to assist her in the funeral rites of her husband, who has been seen dying in the night sky.

In so doing she enacts the archetypal hero/heroine’s journey. She undertakes a descent, in her case by choice (though it is worth recognising that if not by choice such a descent is often thrust upon us) and in the descent her whole upper world identity, her Queenship and outer things she relies on are stripped from her like Autumn Leaves.

All around the world stories similar to that of the descent of Inanna were company, guidance for people passing through change and life crisis, often enacted as actual physical journeys, rites of passage as they are commonly known, supporting people into Greater Consciousness as they grow into their next life stage. Greater consciousness particularly of the relationship to and between things – and the evolving Nature of this – to oneself, to one’s family, to the community, and to the wider Field of which we are a part. Evolving, in that we are not a fixed thing, and such rites support us and our families and community to recognise that, supporting us all in moving on from fixed labels, and ways of being that no longer Serve.

Crucially, although most of the cultures enacting such rites already live very close to the Land, the central phase of such rites deliberately takes place in the Wilds – for Wild Nature is the context within which we all must learn to Live.

LandTime is deeply informed by experience and study of health in such practices and has the potential for those interested to be expanded into one, “the ancient cultures knew how essential these gateways were, and the mythologies of world people are filled with stories of these passages, what they mean, why we must go through them as consciously as possible.” J.Duvall

 As a student and guide of rites such as these for now twenty years, I have worked with a number of people even in their forties and fifties who recognise that not formally marking their transition to adulthood at the appropriate time, not being welcomed as the man or woman unique as they are/were, playing a part in helping them recognise their gifts and moving to more healthily relate to their parents from this New Life Station, can still in some ways be holding them back, even if their parents have died!

For that reason we want to offer any participants coming to Landtime (of whatever age) who have not truly had their coming of Age/adulthood truly marked and honoured to have that opportunity, with the whole experience and particularly the solo, being the passage to mark the Transition.

We will explain more about this but those who come will all be offered the opportunity to do this if you choose to, you are welcome to let us know if this is something that particularly calls to you, in a letter/note of intent – it maybe that you already know you have not only passed, but marked this phase (the two are different) or are perhaps aware or not of a different transition, in which case don’t worry, we will talk further and you will be able to engage in what we offer in a different way, so it too may serve you in Life.

“Thankyou once more. It has been a truly empowering year and I am now filled with the courage to stand on my own two feet.” Student participant in a previous programme

Nb:

LandTime may not be suitable for everyone, people definitely need to be coming by choice and wanting to camp on the Land in potentially quite varied weather conditions, and have an enthusiasm and interest in learning from and with the Land – which carries through to a basic willingness to engage in the practical activities that support a community living close to the land to flow, shelter building, chop wood, carry water etcetera.

Though many specific activities are voluntary it is good to know that those who are joining us, do so with at least the intent and ability to potentially participate in all that is offered, even if when it comes a specific activity they realise it is not at that moment appropriate for them, and so are supportive in some other way, rather than directly involved.

Examples of likely ingredients which if you were likely to find very difficult we would like to know, include: some activities involving sharp tools, others involving quiet time and space for introspection, whilst still others a willingness to muck in, explore questions and listen to each other.

Sometimes such things are not possible for us all and it is good for us to have an idea who is coming and why they are drawn to LandTime at this time.

To that end we would appreciate everyone coming writes or talk to us directly, to give a sense of why you are interested in LandTime at this time, telling us a bit about yourself – be it things you have enthusiasm for, have done that may relate, or perhaps other things have achieved in life you feel proud or not proud of. It could include questions you currently hold and are exploring which you feel LandTime may offer you some window on, challenges or areas you are hoping for learning, or flagging things you are concerned about and may find more difficult within the experience.

Some may have concern around whether LandTime is suitable for you yourself (we work with more fully fledged adults of all ages as well as those becoming adult), or if a parent/godparent, for your son or god-daughter. Do be in touch and let’s talk. Though it is not our desire to turn people away, if it is unlikely to be suitable, it is better to have a sense of that before engaging in it, and it maybe we can co-create or point you towards some other programme which may be more suitable at this time.

Please send your letter/card of intent to Jeremy Thres, Regenco, at Epona, Week Down, Chagford, Devon TQ13 8ER, landtime1@gmail.com or if you would prefer to phone, call myself 01647 432638.

What participants in previous work of this nature have said: “I loved it, really loved it, and had a brilliant time. I felt as if I’d had a month’s holiday!” – “Never have I felt so close to my inner peace and so deeply interconnected to all that surrounded me.” – “I am continually amazed at the depth of this work” – “WalkAbout (a nomadic form of Landtime) was definitely the highlight of my summer.” “Thanks again for such a great few days. It was really really good and gave me just what I needed. Ten out of ten!” Student, “Thankyou for providing and facilitating such a wonderful experience! I have returned to Schumacher feeling more alive, more peaceful and much more enthused!  It was most certainly the kind of healing retreat that I desperately needed.” Msc student Schumacher College

“my son had a  wonderful experience with you on Dartmoor, truly visionary, and I am immensely grateful to you for helping it happen,” & later “inspirational work with my sons, so important, and I’m so happy they did this & that you were there to guide them” father of two boys who on graduation independently undertook a Landtime quest with us.

©Jeremy Thres 2010

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Beautiful short highlighting five gateways of grief edited by Tom van der Linden

The New World: The Lost Art of Grief

Francis Weller says of it: “I recently came across this beautiful video, which featured passages from my book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow and some narration from an interview I did in 2013 at the Minnesota Men’s Conference. The video combines my words with scenes from the film, “The New World,” highlighting my ideas about the Five Gates of Grief. “

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An introduction to & seeds of a Practice group in Intergenerational Council & Listening Circles

leaping-salmon-falls-of-shin (2)Surfacing Wisdom, Creativity and Understanding for our communities & in education.

With Jeremy Thres (Smoke) and Kitty Jackson

Introductory evening Feb 22nd, then 3 Thursdays, March 22nd, April 19th & May 24th (tbc) 7-9pm.

The Together room, Haringey Community Hub, 8 Caxton Rd, Wood Green N22 6TB (Just behind Morrisons less than 5 mins Wood Green tube, Piccadilly line), exact venue for following nights tbc.

To book or for further information contact:

Jeremy 01647 432638 / 07717 853967      landtime1@gmail.com

or Kitty 07867 804731

£10/donation for introductory evening, £10-30 following evenings (contributing more will help cover costs and honour this work so if you feel too & are able, much appreciated, however also if £10 is too much for you but you sincerely want to join us you are welcome).

Please note, following the introductory evening, this is a series so do speak to us if you would like to come but for some reason can’t the earlier Jan or Feb one.

“Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”  Badger, in “Crow & Weasel.” Barry Lopez

A short film on Council in Schools from the Ojai Foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKSh73dO49s

Here are a couple of recent quotes from participants in the first practice group I initiated twenty years ago:

“I love the form of Council and still feel held by it now.”

“It was fantastic. This form of communication and meeting with others was deeply healing and expanded my understanding of how communication can be. I felt safe to communicate at a depth that nourished me on all levels and it deepened my ability to listen from the heart.”  

Some further words on Inter-generational Council:

We all know how important it can feel to be really heard and understood.

Many people who have had difficult childhoods share that it was often just one person who sincerely cared and listened to them that made all the difference to their lives.

In listening of that quality one can feel safer not just to share, but also to explore questions within ourselves, and as such it becomes a true learning environment.

So how can we create that quality of listening and exploration for more people?

Intergenerational Council and Listening Circles are one of the answers to this question.

Through their simple format and guidelines they create a dedicated space where participants can share and explore questions arising and all present learn from and with each other.

Western thinking can often polarise into linear, either or, perspectives. This frequently leads to an adversarial quality of communication, one which is so pervasive it is easy to feel frustrated, however it doesn’t have to be this way.

Within Council everyone’s unique voice and experience can increasingly be recognised as contributing to the understanding of the greater whole.

Though this is an era of change and great diversity, young people can be under tremendous pressure to conform, being even in danger if they do not. This is particularly so among their peers, (vulnerable adolescents can have great difficulty welcoming difference – mainly because their own has not been), but also through the online world, advertising and the media. Parents and schools also wish to guide and influence young people, and one of the most important ways they can do this is through helping them in “finding their own discerning voice.” This is ultimately what will guide and protect them beyond the family nest and school gate.

In practice to discover this requires space. Safe space which allows and supports self-exploration whilst also being enriched and informed by the experience of others. Council interwoven with other creative activities offers just such a setting. Its methodology support people to feel welcome and heard, and when people feel valued and accepted in their own diversity and uniqueness, then there is a greater possibility that they can bring curiosity and interest, not just feel threatened by another’s.

An older generation often struggles to understand a younger. They often wish young people would listen and be more respectful and are fearful of them and their new ways, yet how often are the circumstances there that mean the older generation really listen to the young people and what is going on for them. Without such listening one can be quick to judge yet as the Buddha said: “True love is born of understanding.”

Part of Council’s growth in the States was fuelled by the LA riots in the early 90’s. Palms Middle school had a huge diversity (39 languages spoken) and a thousand pupils. Following the riots it felt pupils were further dividing on racial lines and standing off from each other.

Inspired by the Council programme at Crossroads, an independent school in Santa Monica, council was introduced across the year groups. The success of this endeavour in turn inspired a council in schools programme across the greater Los Angeles area and now thousands of young people and their communities benefit from weekly council.

To quote Joe Provisor who worked at Palms at that time and later became Coordinator of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Council Practitioners Centre” and now “Circle ways” (www.circleways.org.): “In a school where the council process is deeply rooted, the school site is the nexus, the hub and the heart of the community…..The school is ideally the location for this work because it represents, quite literally, the reason and purpose of all community activity: the education, health, well-being and sense of efficacy of this generation and the generations to follow.”

A short film on Council in Schools – the first four minutes about Council at Cross Roads in Santa Monica https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5B373I03pw

The second more general: both from the Ojai Foundation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKSh73dO49s

Rachel Kessler was another person who took this work and grew its potential. Her great and insightful work can be read about at: http://passageworks.org/about/remembering-our-founder/soul-of-education/

One of the insights in her wonderful book the Soul of Education, is that it is emotion that drives attention, and without attention you won’t get learning. Therefore if you want learning it is essential for a school and community to pay attention to the emotional well being of their people. Council is one of the ways this can be healthily attended to, when young people begin to feel valued and cared about as human beings, not just pupils, they too will grow in respect. Rachel dedicated her book, “in memory of those brilliant young souls for whom it might have been different, and on behalf of so many today for whom it still can be.”

Here is something about my own and Kitty’s journey with Council:

Jeremy Thres: Already inspired about the power of listening to promote understanding and change through Joanna Macy’s seminal work (despair and empowerment in a nuclear age), I began weaving listening circles into supporting local young people to address Agenda 21 (an initiative that emerged from the 1992 Rio summit to consult communities, particularly women and young people, about their agenda for the 21st century).

Soon after when on a training to guide wilderness rites of passage I was handed an introductory booklet about council by one of the co-authors Virginia (Gigi) Coyle.

Further inspired by this on return, I began offering monthly Listening Circles in my local community. A year or so later I went to visit the Ojai foundation the community where Gigi worked with Jack Zimmerman who had been key in distilling the essence of council and bringing it to the World. Jack and Gigi had just published their book the Way of Council which I’d highly recommend, and delightedly read on my journey to Ojai. Whilst there I met a number of carriers of such work and sat in Council with Jack. Hearing of and reading about the listening circle work, he honoured me as a “carrier of council” and gave me permission to publish the introductory booklet to Council he and Gigi had written, here in the uk.

On return home with the support of a friend I did so, and followed up on inviting Leon Berg who’d I met at Ojai to offer an introductory weekend in Devon. He did so and following this weekend we established an ongoing practice group locally which met monthly for the best part of three years.

My own work in this time was primarily land oriented and on developing wilderness oriented rites of passage, so though council continued as an essential element both within that, the organisation I worked with (Regenco) and in various groups I was part of, beyond them, though I fully understand something of Council’s potential, for a period I relaxed on trying to further promote it in the world.

Then in 2010 I worked with a very rounded young man who put me in contact with an organisation called Lifebeat who offer wonderful creative oriented camps for teens. I really liked the “creative supportive community”model they operate on, learning a lot from them, and they liked something of what I bring, and so I became one of their staff on between one and three camps every year since then. Gradually over this time I began introducing Council as a practice that could be complimentary and interweave well with what they already offer. In 2016 they invited me to play a key part in facilitating and establishing a quarterly council in London bringing together young people, staff and trustees, so particularly the adults can be informed by the young people. 

Parallel to this a friend hosted the European Council Network in the Czech Republic so I went there for further training in Council, first with a lovely Israeli couple, and then again at the ECN in 2016 with Joe Provisor, who shared very inspirationally about how Council has developed in schools in the States. I also further followed up Rachel Kessler’s beautiful work “the Senior Passage Course” which I first came across as a chapter in an anthology about contemporary rites of passage.  Rachel has died now, but not before sharing a beautiful body of work the soul in education, a number of chapters of which can be found on her web: http://passageworks.org/about/remembering-our-founder/soul-of-education/

Through this and Joe’s work I feel fully re-inspired by how Council as a very simple practice can serve our communities, schools and young people, hence my desire to share and further introduce the practice now..

Kitty Jackson: I have been involved in listening circles and Council circles for several years and have always found them to be powerfully transformative and deeply bonding for any group. In a world where deep listening is such a rare gift, I have found circles to be one of our strongest tools for bringing people together and encouraging reflection and honest dialogue. In an effort to learn more about this process, I embarked on a deep learning journey in California in September 2017, first visiting the Ojai Foundation for a weekend introduction to the process of Council. It was a humbling and rich experience to meet some of the great teachers and carriers of Council who are taking this work into schools, prisons and corporate environments across North America and beyond. After this initial course, I made my way through the Yosemite Valley and over to the beautiful Owens Valley, where I was lucky enough to take part in a School of Lost Borders course titled the Nature of Council. It was a deep-dive 8 day course into the practice of living and embodying the way of Council in all aspects of life, particularly our relationship with ourselves and the natural world. Having returned from this experience, I am extremely excited and full of energy to spread the practice of Council in the UK over the next few years and am keen to bring Council to those who would never expect to find themselves sitting in circle together. I have a strong intuition that Council practice is a tool that is deeply needed in our world at this moment in history, and I am eager to find ways and paths to offer people these enriching tools. 

I wonder if you will like us sense and find some similar inspiration here?? If so do get in touch to register your interest and join our introductory and practice group to grow the work for yourself and your community if you can, or do pass this info’ on to another friend or colleague to whom you feel it might call.

Best wishes

Jeremy Thres

07717853967

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Grief Tending in Community Dec ’17

Dec 8 – 11th 2017

High Heathercombe Centre, nr Manaton, Dartmoor, Devon

With Sophy Banks, Jeremy Thres and team

“Everything we love, we will lose”

This is an invitation to a rare weekend of tending our grief with others, in beautiful surroundings, held by an experienced team.

Grieving is a natural process, allowing feelings such as sadness, loneliness, anger, despair and many more. The more we open ourselves to love others, to celebrate the beauty of our world, to long for peace and justice, the more we open ourselves to the pain of losing what we love, or the destruction and the inequality in the world around us. Over this spacious weekend our intention is to journey together to gently allow our grief to surface, give it expression and come to a place of integration and readiness to return to our lives.

Previous participants say –

“The space we created gave me space to do some deep healing, and the expression of old grief found a much healthier, wondersome place to reside in me. I feel at peace – thank you so much.”

“I was very interested and curious of this work. I’ve come back feeling richer and inspired.”

 “Jeremy & Sophy bring great experience and insight into the holding of this work –grief tending in community – which is so valuable and indeed essential in our modern world if we are to find peace and harmony as humanity.”

About Grief Tending in Community

To register contact Jeremy Thres: by email landtime1@gmail.com  or text 07717 853967 asking for a booking form. Numbers are limited so we encourage you to do this sooner rather than later.

When: 3pm on Friday 8thth – 1pm Monday 11th Dec 2017. Please arrive from 1pm on the Friday.

Cost: £275 including £50 deposit to book a place (£250 for returnees).

This includes all meals, facilitation and accommodation. If you are able to pay a bit more to support someone else who is struggling financially, or on the other hand, if you need a longer term payment  plan or supported concession please communicate with Jeremy on 01647 432638. If we are able to support that we will, don’t let money be the reason you do not come.

Where: The High Heathercombe Centre, Manaton, Devon. High Heathercombe is a wonderful facility both on the edge of the moor with fabulous woodland.  http://www.highheathercombecentre.org.uk

Accommodation: Shared small bunk rooms. There are also fine B & Bs nearby, and camping on site

Food: will be healthy vegetarian and as much as possible organic and local.

More about Grief Tending in Community .

Creating a place where we can be heard and supported in our grief – and feel the support that comes from sharing grief with others – is rare in our modern world where grief is often hidden away behind closed doors, or in private settings with therapists or those close to us. Yet human cultures around the world have included shared grieving as a normal, even necessary part of staying in connected and loving community.

Such a process is not about resolving our grief or the sources of it, rather tending to and honouring it. And we may find that our grief is blocked, and takes time to find its way to flow.

Though as in any ritual we do not know exactly what will unfold for each person, from previous weekends many report reaching a place of lightness, feeling unburdened and deeply connected to ourselves, the beauty of the world, and the group who have shared our journey.

This weekend brings together many strands of grief work with elders including Sobonfu Some, Martin Prechtel and Joanna Macy, and draws on the work of Maeve Gavin and Wisdom Bridge.

If you have more questions please do get in touch.

Jeremy is on 01647 432638, landtime1@gmail.com.  Sophy is on 01803 732305, or sophyb@btinternet.com

Facilitators

Sophy Banks: Sophy has worked as a therapist, family constellator and workshop leader. Her understanding of the importance of grief work started through attending workshops of Joanna Macy and Sobonfu Some and has continued through more recent work with Maeve Gavin. In 2006 as Transition Town Totnes was coming into being Sophy co-founded the “Heart and Soul” group, addressing the inner aspects of reimagining and rebuilding resilient, local ways of living. As the global Transition movement came into life she taught people and groups around the world about this positive, holistic model for creating a healthy and vibrant future for everyone. Originally trained as an engineer and a keen footballer, in 2005 Sophy realized she was too old to carry on slide tackling on the football pitches of Hackney Marshes and moved to Devon, where she grows vegetables and can still just about get up the hills on her bike.

Jeremy Thres: Founder of not for profit organisation Regenco, Jeremy’s interest in regenerating and reintegrating Land, People and Spirit led him to be involved in wilderness oriented rites of passage work and it was within that that he first learned the importance of grief tending. Alone in the wilds he was able to release pent up grief held from many years before, and with that release something else could flood in. Internally though he was told he now had to learn how to do that with people, and it has been through this grief tending in community work that has most deeply made that possible. He found time with Martin Prechtel deeply inspirational in relation to this, as has been touching in with Malidoma, Joanna Macy and playing a support role and participating in work with Maeve. Community based grief tending has enabled the surfacing and release of layers of grief he didn’t know he held. https://regenco.wordpress.com

Links:

Sobonfu Some – indigenous teacher from Burkino Faso http://www.sobonfu.com/

Joanna Macy – creator or the Work that Reconnects for changemakers  www.joannamacy.net

Frances Weller, teacher and writer about grief work: http://www.wisdombridge.net

Maeve Gavin, significant inspiration of this workshop: http://wayofthevillage.co.uk

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Here are some reflections on Grief tending and some potential resources both locally in Devon and further afield…

Reflections on grief tending…..

Grief is natural, and to grieve is an active process. Sadness and other emotions such as anger are evoked when we or beings/things we love/depend upon are impinged upon, impacted or changed.

Circumstance and or cultural norms can lead to us putting aside our suffering and feelings (sometimes appropriately – it is never the wrong time to be informed by our emotions, nor to act on them to get yourself or another out of harms way, but it is not always the right time or space to fully feel or express them).

Having put our suffering or feelings aside for whatever reason, it can then really serve to find/create/co-create healthy circumstance in which we can come back to them…..if we never or very seldom do this, that is when something in us can begin to contract and harden and become unhealthy for us…. (one definition depression is ungrieved grief “depressing” us – weighing us down).

Something more could be said around the health of not having too thin a skin to function in a sometimes hostile world, as well as the ability to shed/put aside our harder skins when able….

So it is we need to create for ourselves, and with others, places where our pain, grief and suffering can be healthily placed/given attention – “tended” is the beautiful word I first heard Maeve Gavin use…it has a quality of attention, honouring and tenderness…..

We can certainly find places supportive for us to do this on our own – by  a stream or river, with a tree – in a wide open space, in the bathroom (sacred water)…(I notice how for me I include places where there is space or elements that support us in our tending). However doing such work alone may not be enough to support us to the deeper levels, hence the merit of potentially co-created/facilitated (facilitated for potentially close to these energies are others such as anger and blame so wise holding awareness is needed), held spaces where we can grieve, and also ritual space offering both a more spacious support and place to take and place our grief – eg to the water, to the earth,  to a shrine/altar (as works for us), with prayer I suggest for health in relation to these energies that are difficult for us to work with…that we need support with “let your grief cry move through me” says Rilke…

A number of cultures speak of the importance of community held ritual in this context, not only that we need each other to reach layers, but that our grief is not ours alone anyway, and to not bring it to work with in community can contribute to making it a poorer place….

Lastly I just want to share when I first began this journey I thought someone else, in particular another human had to both hear and understand my grief and “the story” behind it, and this is something I no longer feel in the same way and in a way this frees me to do it – to take my pain and suffering to a tree, to a shrine, to the Great Mother Ocean….paradoxically no-one else need feel burdened by it, yet also I both can and do as feels right share something of it with another or within a group circle and they can feel the common humanity of that. They hear my grief cry, alongside others amongst, or at least in some of the ritual I am involved in, within and carried by music both joyful, mournful, honouring and celebrating which supports the tending, mine and others for ourselves, for our children and for each other….

**** Here are some huge inspirations for me that others may also find of value, first wider ones that can be accessed in written form/online if not in person:

Martin Prechtel….key figure for me opening the importance of grief work for health both individually and collectively and how the invisible that feeds us is fed in turn by our heartfelt grief and praise…his most recent book “The smell of rain on dust” is just great and elaborates on his talk on  Grief and Praise: Martin Pretchel,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6h3JNOCTYc, http://floweringmountain.com/boladskitchen/index.html

Maeve Gavin: Sophy Banks and I met Maeve on a Joanna Macy (see below) training in Scotland in 2009. She was a key shaper and inspiration for the weekends we offer. I am very sad to share that Maeve has recently died.  Her dedication, huge heart and understanding of how to tend both grief and rekindle community have already spread way beyond her. Huge Gratitude to her, she will not be forgotten in our life times. Her most recent work was researching Keening as a grief practice particularly in Scotland and Ireland can be found here – the Keening Wake. 

Joanna Macy….is in my view a living bodhisattva, someone who has looked deeply into the causes of our suffering and damage we inflict on the planet, who through their insight shares practical processes and activities that help us have the courage to compassionately go where we need to go both for our own dignity and what is really needed at this time in terms of the common good.

You can find workshops rooted in her work here http://www.facilitationforlifeonearth.org/workshops.html

Active Hope– is a recent book written with Chris Johnstone on how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy, and online resources.

Joanna Macy’s website – www.joannamacy.net. In terms of written work I’d particularly recommend her recently updated Coming back to life – the work that reconnects book.

Sobonfu Some. I only met Sobonfu once in person, though a number of times have met people who shared more significant time with her. Maeve and Sophy in particular’s work has been deeply informed by the Wisdom, passion and understanding she brings to the table. This great teacher and elder recently died but her website still shares many beautiful resources www.sobonfu.com

Malidome Some. Sobonfu’s ex partner who like her played such a key role bringing the wisdom of the west African Dagara people to inform and support the northern European people’s who colonised and so abused their people and country towards healing our own ancestral grief and roots. http://malidoma.com/main/

Francis Weller….Francis has brought a beautiful mind and heart to support the re-emergence of grief tending in western culture, a great synthesiser of indigenous wisdom and poetic western mind, one observation of his wa salong the lines of: I know of no better way to reconnect with our indigenous root than time at the grief shrine. (5 gateways and more) www.francisweller.net  & http://www.wisdombridge.net/

Sophy Banks. Sophy is who i have primarily worked with offering grief tending in community in Devon. Sophy has played a great part in the inner transition movement, her work informed by training with Joanna Macy and Sobunfu among others. She worked closely with Maeve and has played a key part in holding and bringing forward grief tending work in Devon here is an events page for a site she has been putting together for our Devon team & if interested in transition movement email  innertransition@transitiontowntotnes.org to subscribe. (Mostly this is not about grief tending specifically)

Stephen Jenkinson. Outspoken character calling the culture to look at rather than avoid our suffering be that grief or death.  http://orphanwisdom.com/

Writing practice and grief work Natalie Goldberg http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Others i know who offer something in their own way in relation to grief work in the uk:

Azul Valerie Thome: initiated monthly grief composting circles in totnes and began to offer some sort of training around what she has learned (has had some support from Francis Weller for her MA exploration around the grief theme). She is a talented artist and her web has good links in relation to the theme) azulthome@gmail.com

Jewels Wingfield – has a centre in the wye area and offers occasional grief focused retreats. jewels@jewelswingfield.com

Guyano Shaw – with her partner Jason offers four or five day retreats her work quite informed by Nvc and Steven Jenkinson. gayano@ymail.com

Rebecca Card, Rebecca has recently initiated a once a month grief circle in Chagford, rebeccajoycard@gmail.com

Lifebeat: Lifebeat is a uk based organisation offering week long creative camps for fourteen to eighteen year olds. One part of what is offered within the week is a ceremonial space in which  young people are able to express some of what they have been carrying in life. www.lifebeat.co.uk

Myself. Jeremy Thres, to date involved in annual four day grief tending ritual seven years initially in Scotland (supporting Maeve in 2010) and then with her, Sophy Banks, and support of Fern de Castres, Mel Banbury and Ruth Jenni, playing a part in seeding this and growing community to hold it in Devon. Most recently Sophy and i offered our first apprenticing in relation to holding work of this nature. Both before and during this time i have offered outdoor ceremony and explored shorter offerings, from evenings to two to three days, both here and by invitation in Germany and elsewhere. I also offer individual rites of passage and ceremony supporting folks at transition seeking vision & understanding marking/exploring as they die to one stage of life and open to another www.regenco.wordpress.com      landtime1@gmail.com

I want to acknowledge Family constellation work as a key place I witnessed and grew to trust the value of grief work. In particular in this case the potential great health of tracking current issues to sometimes unknown and often ungrieved/integrated ancestral woundings, and how they can be affecting the present. This was in particular with Sarasi Rogers http://www.familyconstellation.co.uk/ who I’ve really enjoyed working with.

I’d also felt good about work with Julia Duthie in Devon. There are a number of people offering this work in Uk and much written about it. It is potent work and I’d recommend as with other therapeutic work that you feel carefully as to who it is you feel to work with on any particular occasion. One way to experience/check out a particular person’s way could be to attend as a representative. Here is a link to an article I wrote inspired by my work with Sarasi and how it interwove with other teachings: https://regenco.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/our-ancestors-wear-our-tears-like-jade-beads/

Best wishes

Jeremy Thres © June 2017

01647 432638

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