May 2022 – May 2023
May 25-29; Aug 17-21; Nov 16-20; Mar 29-2 Apr; 1-12 May
Dart Valley, Dartmoor
‘William Blake said that the garden of the soul is already planted and is waiting for the water of life. Call it the water of attention. There are innate ideas, dreams, stories, buried in people. When we don't water those seeds, culture loses ideas. It loses imagination. It loses the capacity to dream itself forward.’ Michael Meade
We used to ‘know’ our belonging in our bones. As a culture we have grown away from intimacy with the more-than-human world, yet it waits for us. This initiatory journey is an invitation to remember what we most deeply belong to, what we have always belonged to.
WildWise are excited to be offering a year-long training in contemporary wilderness rites-of-passage. This programme is directed toward people working with all ages, from youth into elder hood.
Throughout the human story people have made use of wilderness and the ‘mirror of nature’ as a means of gaining clarity in life or marking significant life transitions. Individuals have crossed the threshold into wild places to attend more closely to the movement of soul, to remember what is at one’s core, what is most important. Such transitions in a person’s life were often marked through ceremony as initiatory events or passage rites as a means of reinforcing both to the initiate and the community the new orientation, direction or phase of a person’s life.
This training draws on the work of pioneers in the field of contemporary wilderness rites of passage and will attend to both the experiential work of learning the skills and approaches to holding initiatory work, as well the theoretical underpinnings of this work. The training is based around a four-directions eco-centric wheel of development (see Bill Plotkin’s general overview and a summary below) and the approach to the vision fast that comes through the School of Lost Borders. https://schooloflostborders.org/
The four directions developmental wheel draws on generations of indigenous cultures’ intimacy with the wider natural world and is a model of human development that is based on careful observation and a depth of relationship with the more-than-human world. In this training we utilize the ‘wheel’ both as a model for personal development as well as a framework around which we organize the modules. Using this template, we will travel around this seasonal wheel, embarking on four threshold crossings that correspond to a particular direction and developmental task on the wheel over the course of a year. Culminating the year’s training will be a traditional twelve-day vision-fast ceremony in the wilderness.
Each of the four courses of the ‘wheel’, as well as the vision-fast will include a land-based component supplemented by specific readings and media that underpin each module. Each module will also include an on-line webinar that precedes each course, contextualizing and preparing participants for the experiential work as well as allowing us to connect with each other throughout the year. In addition, a selection of core texts for the entire course will be offered for trainees to choose from depending on their particular areas of interest within the training.
It is important to note that as trainees, you will be required to wear two ‘hats’, being both in the role of participant and trainee facilitator for each course. This will entail working with fellow curse participants in both the preparation (intent) and incorporation (mirroring) phases of each threshold crossing on each module. Integral to this training is the willingness and capacity to engage with a depth of personal introspection and to attend to the processes that arise for oneself as part of this work together - this is actually the ground that matures our own ability to facilitate such work with others. In support of this the development of a supportive peer-learning community of individuals drawn to the field of initiatory land-based practice is one of the intentions of this training, and we hope that meaningful friendships and collaborations will be born out of our time together. Individual mentorship and personal guidance with the program facilitator will be encouraged throughout the year and is included as part of the program.
This course will be of particular benefit for those offering any type of wilderness solo or initiatory experience to young people or adults, through gaining exposure to and competence in the practical tools and approaches as well as the theoretical underpinnings of contemporary wilderness threshold crossings.
The wider context of this training is the inseparability between our own well-being and empowerment, and the health of our people and the wider Earth community to which we belong. Initiatory work is at heart about belonging; finding our particular place and deepening our capacity to engage in the work we are called to do in attending to the times we are living through, so that we can become a good ancestor to those who come after us.
Areas of learning
- A Deepened sensitivity, appreciation and sense of belonging to the wider natural world including the significance of our own life as an expression of nature.
- Exploration of an eco-centric model of human development as a theoretical framework from which to facilitate programming in Nature base practice.
- Exposure to a range of experiential approaches within the four directions framework and how these serve particular needs and populations.
- Self-generated ceremony within the liminal space and meeting the land as ‘mirror’.
- Utilizing the practice of ‘Council’ throughout the training as a tool for the creation of safe container for sharing where diversity, vulnerability and honesty are foundational.
- Progressive training and competence in working with integration of threshold experiences through the practice of ‘mirroring’ for empowerment and the mythologizing of story.
- A deepening of personal agency through support of peer learning community and personal mentorship over the duration of a year.
- Familiarity with pioneers in this field through selected readings / texts.
- Experiential understanding of how the natural world can serve as a refuge and catalyst for personal maturation and individuation, supporting an increased resilience in meeting the challenges of our times.
- The role of initiatory work in creating a life-affirming culture that experientially remembers the embeddedness of humans within the larger web of life.
An overview of the four-directions wheel we will use as a template for the program
Module 1 - South: Spring to Summer (childhood) May 25-29 2022
Through the lens of the eco-centric wheel, life is born in the Spring and moves towards the full growth of Summer’s childhood. The healthy child develops through bonding with both the human and more-than-human community. Within our nature-based work the invitation of this season & stage of life is to become intimate with the sensuous body of the earth; coming to know the myriad forms of life as our extended relations and sensing that the land is not just a backdrop for our human experience, but rather an intimate companion in our own maturation. The love of the South is the love of the sensuous world, so needed in a culture that is dominated and driven by conceptual ways of inhabiting life.
Module 2 - West: Summer to Autumn (adolescence) August dates 17-21 2022
As Summer fades to Autumn so too childhood passes into adolescence. Here we experience the dropping away of playful innocence and an increasing introspection on who we are, what we bring to life, and what our place is within the world. The West is the love of soul, the willingness to descend into the shadows of the psyche and though this uncover a deeper sense of who we are and what we have to give. It is in this often challenging place that we are invited to attend to our wounding, and through this begin to harvest the gifts connected with these wounds. Within the eco-centric developmental wheel, we also acknowledge our embeddedness with the wounding of the more-than-human community, and are drawn to extend our circle of care to include this larger community of life.
Module 3 - North: Autumn to Winter (adulthood) November 16-20 2022
In the long journey of adulthood, we take up the challenging responsibility of developing the ‘delivery systems’ and the collaborative relationships that allow us to bring forth our unique gifts and offer our lives to our people and to this world. In an eco-centric model of development adulthood is about service to both human and natural communities, and in this module we explore what our lives are most deeply committed to, what the ‘centre of gravity’ is that our lives revolve around, what we most deeply care for and take responsibility for. Through our work together on the land we explore the role of community and nature-based practice in nourishing our resilience to engage with the magnitude of the challenges we are living through. The love of the North is the love of the ‘give away’ and what we find is that in giving our lives away, we ourselves are nourished.
Module 4 - East: From Winter to Spring (elderhood) 29 March-2 April 2022
The long Winter must at length give way to the freshness of Spring once again. In the cycle of the human journey this last stage is elderhood. Elderhood in this model is defined by an expanded sense of identity, and a deepening trust and surrender to the process of life or the mystery that holds us. An elder here is not just defined by years, but by the depth of their character and the quality of presence of who they are – others are inspired to live more fully through knowing them. In an eco-centric wheel, the elder’s identity and sense of spirituality is bound up with the wider natural world, and thus is an ecological identity and an ecological spirituality. The East is the love of ‘Spirit’ or ‘Mystery’, that which invites a surrender, trust and identification with the larger processes of life that carry us all.
Module 5 - the Vision Fast Ceremony 1-12 May 2022
“We do not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them: we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good.” – Thomas Merton
The wider natural world has long been respected as a necessary partner in initiatory journeys or rites of passage. The land offers itself as mirror, as ally, as fertile container in which to draw close to the roots of our life, to what is important and what so easily can be forgotten in the fullness of contemporary life.
This final component of the training brings all of our previous work together through holding a contemporary wilderness rite of passage marking a particular life transition. The liminal experience of this passage rite will be a four day and night vision fast adhering to the traditional taboos: no company, no food and no enclosing shelter. This ceremony is offered as an opportunity to honour the gift of one’s life and will be divided into the three classic phases of a passage rite: Preparation, Threshold and Incorporation.
The first four days serve as our preparation as we come together as a community to clarify our intent. Here we listen to each other’s stories of where we find ourselves in life, what is needing to die, what is seeking to be born, what is the dream we hold for our life, the particular gift of our life? Specifically, we explore in some depth our intention for this passage rite, what is it in our life that is asking to be honoured or marked through this initiatory journey?
The threshold phase will be a traditional four day and night fast. Each person goes alone into the wilderness (with the support of guides at base camp), without food and minimal external trappings. The threshold time allows for one’s intent to be revealed and to be unfolded in the mirror of Nature. It is a time for self-generated ceremony, for becoming intimately receptive to one’s life and for experiencing both the challenge and the beauty of living for these days and nights with just one’s own human company, yet in relationship to the land and all it’s non-human inhabitants – our relations.
The final four days are devoted to incorporation. Here we share the stories of our threshold time and explore its gifts and implications for the life we return to. We sit in ‘story council’, sharing our stories and having them mirrored back to us by the community, offering the opportunity to see our individual narrative in a wider context. This can be one of the most touching and heartening parts of this ceremony: being witnessed and affirmed by those who have come to participate in and create this ceremony together.
The work we have explored in the previous four modules will have prepared trainees for the opportunity to work alongside the guides in taking responsibility for co-guiding principal components of this ceremony including preparatory work with ‘intent’ and the ‘mirroring’ of stories in the incorporation phase, as well as understanding issues relating to physical and emotional safety and assessment of participants. This final module offers trainees the opportunity to gain an experiential understanding of the principles and practices of a contemporary vision fast ceremony as a liminal experience within a modern-day rite of passage. Trainees will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in this ceremony as participants, whilst also exploring how it feels to sit in the guide’s seat and to take a measure of responsibility for holding this ceremony.
This whole training is offered as an initial meeting with threshold crossings and initiatory practices for those who are called to offer this work. In the tradition of this work, it marks a beginning, if one is so called, towards an extended relationship and apprenticeship to this ceremony.
Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
- Martha Postlewaite
Course Leader: Rupert Marques
My background is in environmental and outdoor education with an emphasis on experiential approaches to exploring ecological identity and personal agency. For several years I trained and guided with the School of Lost Borders (U.S.) in Contemporary wilderness rites of passage, and now offer this work here in Europe.
The other thread of my livelihood centres on contemplative practice. I have practiced in the insight meditation tradition for over 25 years in Europe, America and Asia, and teach at various retreat centres in Europe and beyond.
In recent years I have sought to bring the fields of contemplative practice and wilderness immersion together. This has been supported by living and working at Ecodharma, a contemplative retreat community in the Spanish Pyrenees dedicated to the movements for social justice and ecological sustainability.
I currently work with individuals and organizations offering a range of retreats and trainings that explore personal empowerment and resilience in service of creating a more just and beneficial human presence on this Earth.
- Participants will be camping using their own tents. Tents can be hired at a nominal rate if helpful.
- Food - breakfasts & suppers are included. Participants will need to bring food for lunches.
- Diets - we can offer vegan, vegetarian & gluten free options. Participants will need to provide food for any other special dietary needs
*3 concession places offered at £1995, subject to application and evidence of financial need.
We are now inviting applications for the 2022-2023 Bringing the Bones programme. As this programme tends to be oversubscribed, we have devised a series of clarifying questions to support us in offering places that promote a diversity of backgrounds and applications of this work. If you would like to apply or have any questions please email us here.
A £250 reservation deposit is required with any application (refundable if a place is not awarded).