Perhaps you too have been experiencing the winds of change in recent weeks and months. These winds can be strong and unpredictable: they transport us into new landscapes and unfamiliar terrain in our lives. In my own case, I have been laying down and leaving behind 42 years of a professional career, with all its many jobs, roles, achievements, status and earnings. I've chosen to step out again, over another threshold, and into an "uncertain void". For a long time I've been drawn into a more contemplative life where I can serve others without the pressures of work. In this issue, I'm sharing some responses to the changes in life that affect us all.

Self Portrait, by David Whyte

This poem from David Whyte's collection, Fire in the Earth, speaks of the transformations within me, and amongst many with whom I work.

It doesn't interest me if there is one God
Or many gods.
I want to know if you belong -- or feel abandoned;
If you know despair
Or can see it in others.
I want to know
If you are prepared to live in the world
With its harsh need to change you;
If you can look back with firm eyes
Saying "this is where I stand."
I want to know if you know how to melt
Into that fierce heat of living
Falling toward the centre of your longing.
I want to know if you are willing
To live day by day
With the consequence of love
And the bitter unwanted passion
Of your sure defeat.
I have been told
In that fierce embrace
Even the gods
Speak of God.

In the rest of this newsletter, I focus on some of the ways in which I am offering service to you, and the wider community, through retreats, spiritual mentoring and counselling, and writing and publishing.


Entering the Silence: a desert experience  There are still a couple of places available on next month's adventure into the amazing stillness and silence of the desert. This is the experience of the 4th century Desert Fathers and Mothers. In the empty spaces of the timeless desert, we begin to clear ourselves out. The day-to-day anxieties fall away as we experience the world in the cosmos and the world in a grain of sand. With comfortable accommodation, good food, and compatible company, our retreat takes you across the Atlas Mountains to the edge of the Sahara Desert. Full details and a booking form available here.


The experience of being deeply listened to by someone who has travelled along similar paths in life can be profoundly reassuring and supportive. More and more men and women and now working with me as a mentor, counsellor or spiritual director to explore the fears, anxieties, uncertainties and experiences of their lives in order to deepen their insight and find a more reassuring meaning and connection. Through reflecting back, through mirroring, through companionship and spiritual guidance, together you can open to greater insight and awareness.  Click here for more ideas and information about this approach.


I plan to spend more time in reflective writing. A couple of recent articles include Retirement Bi-pass exploring all the limbo experience of preparing for retirement, and the various ceremonies created to ritualise and mark this transition.  On a related theme, The Sagacity of Transformation examines the patterns within each cycle in our lives, and how these can be seen with hindsight but not foresight, whilst the wisdom that comes with age provides reassurance about these cyclical patterns without revealing their form and content.

As you navigate your own winds of change, I hope you find some reassurance here; and if I can accompany on the way or support you from my own path, please do get in touch.

In peace, Tim

After more than a year of preparation, R-Day has arrived. Retirement Day. The last day of my professional career after 42 years of adult work, study and earning. A career that has spanned teaching, youth work, project management, consultancy, writing, publishing, company director, web services, and latterly community facilitator. For over half this time I have been self-employed working with over 300 different organisations in the public and not-for-profit sector.

The Death Lodge experience in May has been a major part of my preparation, helping me to ritualise this latest transition. More recently I have been undertaking some completion work with my current staff team at One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, and only a few days ago I returned to the site of my first employment as a teacher at Ghyll Royd School in 1970 to complete this cycle with another small ritual. Today there have been several symbolic elements to complete this final career assignment including some housekeeping, phone calls to colleagues, and disconnection from various electronic networks.

My ministry will continue as before - with retreats, ceremonies, clients and contemplative meditation. As the 'doing' diminishes, I trust there will be more opening into simply 'being' - to being more present and Present. As has been the custom of the past year or more, this ministry through receiving donations rather than fixed fees.

I also anticipate having more opportunity for writing and publishing into the future, on the themes to which I am most drawn.

Whilst my professional career is ending today, I am still responding to invitations to use my professional consulting skills with individuals and organisations, when approached, and rather than contracting in the way that I have done in the past, I will respond to such invitations in a similar manner to my ministry, and discuss with clients any appropriate pro-bono or contributory arrangement to suit all parties.

I've been considering the possibility of retirement from my 38-year professional career for some years. The first mention of it in these pages was in 2007. Last year I decided upon an end to my serious income-generating in 2012, and I announced my decision in January to retire from professional consulting work with OSIF this summer. It's a strange experience of entering a long limbo: seven months is too much notice to give; sustaining the energy for creative work over that period is too difficult to manage in any consistent way.

It's particularly interesting to notice the reactions of other people to the announcement. Most ask: "What are you going to do next?" It's as if I were moving from one job to another. There is a default assumption that if you are putting one thing down, you must be simultaneously taking up another. In recent months I have been doing considerable preparation work on myself to make this transition, not least with the Death Lodge in May. Of one thing I am very clear; retirement is very much an ending and not a substitution or replacement. It is a life transition, from work to non-work, from earning to enjoying, from accountability to others to accountability to self, from commitment to freedom. There is nothing that I plan to 'pick up' and start doing. Sure, I will use my time in different and interesting ways. But this next phase is all about how I am in life, not what I do with time.

Another interesting observation is how the announcement begins to make you less visible to work-related colleagues and friends. It's almost as though, if you're leaving, you don't "count" as much. There are many complimentary expressions of regret at my leaving, of envy for the freedom, of appreciation for what I have been doing, but underneath this there is also a pattern of gradually being "dropped" from conversations. The volume of emails and calls is going down. At times, it feels as though my remaining contribution is somehow less important or valuable. People are already moving on, and looking beyond my departure to the context and relationship-building with others in the future. A part of me feels resentful at his bi-passing; yet at the same time a part of me acknowledges that my energy and focus has dropped, that I don't want to take on new responsibilities, and that I'm content to ease out quietly and unobtrusively.

There are four weeks to go until R-Day. These reflections will grow and change. It's a day to look forward to. Yet also a day when the fundamentals of life and Being continue unchanged.

I am struck just now by the confluence of cycles coming to an end simultaneously. Last week I attended the final year-end retreats for our seminary students, culminating in the sacrament of ordination. These are the final days in my role as community facility for One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, before I step back into the holding circle of our peer community. This move also marks the end of my 42-year professional career, and the entry into retirement. And whilst not strictly a 'cycle', Saturday was also the 90th birthday of my mother, with a series of parties and rituals to mark this landmark in a long life cycle.

When we look back over any cycle in our life, we can see the patterns within it. We can identify the signposts and waymarks that were often barely visible when first encountered. Yet when we look ahead from the outset of any new phase in life, all seems uncertain: we cannot know the length, nature or form of that cycle. We see clearly with hindsight, nor foresight.

A few weeks ago, I attended a gathering of 'spiritual companions' and for part of that time we met as two groups of Crones and Sages. These words have fallen out of common usage and yet they may be helpful in affirming the acquired wisdom of those of a certain age and experience who have travelled long on the spiritual path of awakening. In our discussions we made a light-hearted observation that few people under the age of 60 would be likely to approach the status of crone or sage. We even coined the words 'cronette' and 'sageling' for those still on the approach path to such wisdom. As someone who crosses the threshold of my sixth decade in a few months time, perhaps I might aspire to being a 'sageling'.

It seems to me that the Sage points to two fundamental aspects of all transitions in the cycles of our lives. First, that the form, nature and content of each new cycle can never be foreseen with any accuracy. No matter how much we seek to exercise self-control, the great Mystery of this universe will always shape the experiences we receive. Yet secondly, despite this unknown form, the pattern of each cycle will always be the same. The cycle begins with the crossing of a liminal threshold where all seems new and undefined. The cycle then carries us incrementally towards its centre, where there is greater comfort and familiarity in all that is happening. Until eventually, the cycle approaches its end, discomfort increases, and we move out towards the edge where another liminal threshold awaits to transport us out and into the next cycle.

Dear friends,

This issue of my periodic e-newsletter brings some responses to the question of how we cope with change. Many of us are surrounded by constant and ever-faster change. But change in itself on replaces one set of circumstances with another; it doesn't alter the fundamentals underlying the situation. Our experiences only fundamentally shift when they are transformed; when, quite literally, how we experience our life in the world is perceived and 'formed' in an entirely new way. And transformation tends to happen in liminal space, when we go to the very edge of our comfort zone, away from the customary physical and emotional environments that trap us in safe familiarity. Here are some great opportunities for transformative change in liminal space:

Entering the Silence: a desert experience

entering the stillnessIf you've never been to the desert, this is a wonderful experience. Throughout history, so many men and women have discovered deep insights in the vast empty stillness of the timeless deserts. In September, Freya Kennedy and I are leading this retreat across the Atlas Mountains to the Moroccan desert. With comfortable accommodation, good food and company, it will be a deeply memorable experience. This is a space to 'empty out' whilst being nourished at all levels of our your being. Come and join us and feed your soul. Click the link for more information.

Men's Rites of Passage 2012

There's just time to enrol still on this year's Rites of Passage being held in Scotland from 13 June. Male initiation is an ancient tradition of bring out immature nature into full male-hood and elder-hood; most men never make the transition. The Rites embody ancient wisdom teaching to connect men to their true selves.

Living in liminal space

death lodge wildernessMy own process of transformation and growth requires me to keep stepping into liminal space. Earlier this year I lived for two months in SE Asia, a region I know well, but where I always feel deeply out-of-control, where nothing is predictable, and where I am made to live in the present moment. More recently, I undertook a four-day Death Lodge in the Scottish Highlands, where I experienced 40-hours of solo wilderness living and contemplation, without food or distraction, in order to lay-down and release aspects of my life that are finished and no longer serve my purpose. For me, the focus was the ending of my professional career and all that this has meant in terms of achievement, status, income, driven-ness, goals, etc. I've written an extended reflection on the Death Lodge experience.

Natural Body, Natural Being

In September I'm part of the organising team for this week-long event at Laurieston Hall aimed at helping gay and bi-sexual men reconnect with their bodies and with nature. The programme weaves together intimate time in nature, bodywork, creative expression and ritual.

I trust you will find something to bring transformation to your life amongst these ideas. As always, you are welcome to be in touch.

In peace, Tim