Washington’s next EROP is September 11-15, 2019, at Ekone Ranch outside of Goldendale, WA.
This was one of the most formative experiences of my whole life. I LOVED it.
– Belden Lane, St. Louis MO
Raising up Elders
One of our many poverties in the Western world, a deep one yet on the periphery of our awareness remains our abject lack of Elders. This barren dearth stretches so far back, we can scarcely imagine what we’re missing. With few glorious exceptions, Elders are the stuff of legend. Worse than extinct, more than lost to history, Elders have been gone so long, the absence threatens our hopes that they ever actually were. Thank God, they did, and do yet live.
Elders exist not only as archetypes of our collected aching, holding wisdom, wild love, and holy folly in characters we have loved since time immemorial. To be sure, Elders are these. And they are so much more…and less. In the end, the fleshy humanness of a living breathing Elder, flawed, glorious, mundane, incarnate, fierce, tender, beautiful, and so much more, bests the imagined Elders of our mythic stories.
Until one has been around eldering energy, you may not be aware you were holding your breath. Once encountering an Elder, a great releasing of something you didn’t know you were holding comes over you. We are invited to a new way of breathing, of being, of living, of moving through our daily existence.
“Eldering is an active listening to the needs of future descendants and creating space for them now. It is a dance transcending all traditions while affirming the best in each and pushing us to celebrate our own. It is a shifting focus from transformative action to transformative presence, from doing to being.”
The elder fiercely speaks truth to power and richly blesses at the same time, making them one and the same. We may feel challenged by their “No” but because it is coming from a deeper “Yes” that is radically for our own wellbeing and the wholeness of all, we are penetrated, stirred, changed. What is more, desire awakened, we can’t go back to life as before. If we are lucky, we are ruined forever for anything less than an authentic life that serves the whole, the kind of life Elders embody and elder the rest of us into.
This EROP was a fantastic guide in the transition from adulthood to elderhood, one of the two or three best experiences in my life.
– Lou Flessner, Kansas City MO
In a world greying with seniors, a growing awareness around our need for Elders, (an altogether different thing), is burgeoning up. Men and women are hearing the call to begin an eldering journey on behalf of the world; it is a recovery that offers great hope to the healing of the world. And those already down the path are showing us images from the journey, and stories of how they found their way.
On this journey, elders find that their conversation with life has lifted their eyes to a greater horizon. Their center of gravity has shifted from familial, national, religious and many other wonderful concerns to tend to a growing cosmic awareness that holds a place for absolutely everything.
Eldering is an active listening to the needs of future descendants and creating space for them now. It is a dance transcending all traditions while affirming the best in each and pushing us to celebrate our own. It is a shifting focus from transformative action to transformative presence, from doing to being, and maybe back again! Eldering’s constant refrain of letting go, of releasing, of non-doing is not about withdrawal, but rather a step into radical and deeper engagement in the world in a different manner. It is a re-entrance into the conversation with a new slate of gifts to offer, a new song to sing, a new understanding to share.
In Illuman one of our goals is to raise up elders, and to attend to inner work that makes a difference in the world. Every month now, Illuman elders in Washington and around the nation are gathering to deepen this work. May it continue and grow…
An unexpectedly compelling experience of communal eldering; mind, heart and body fully engaged and a felt sense of being commissioned, just as I am, to elder.
– Brian Sullivan, Vancouver BC
The Elders’ Rites of Passage
The Elders’ Rites of Passage (EROP) is a five-day intensive retreat that serves those beginning or already on the eldering journey. Eldering like all of life, has its own seasons, beginning with the most socially active and energetic eldering years, through the release of roles and responsibilities, the lifting of the eye to a broader more distant horizon, and the dawning of the Holy Fool within. The EROP holds all these seasons of the Elder, tending to each in turn.
Thus for some the EROP serves as an entrance into the journey, and for others it is a deepening of work that has been ongoing for a long time. Using ritual, story, time in nature, council, and image, participants are invited to harvest all that has been, sit with death, practice deep listening to the cries of the world, and discern what is theirs to do (and not do) in their final chapter. It is an encounter with life and death that is uncontainable, and calls one deeper into their own story as well as The Great Stories.
After the EROP one finds they have been ushered into a community of Elders, who have gone before, and are welcomed into a council of elders in which the work began can continue. In the end, how each Elder chooses to bless the world is as varied as their fingerprints, but one thing in common is that one cannot elder alone- there are no solo journeys into the sunset, eldering is a communal experience.
“Elder” by definition is a relational word, naming a sacred connection and responsibility on behalf of others. On whose behalf are you being called to elder? It is not (only) for or from one’s own self that the call comes. The call is on the lips of descendants, in the dreams from the ancestors–even the more-than-human world is crying out for men and women to rise up as Elders: to give, live, die, laugh, bless, on behalf of all that is…
The MROP or the EROP?
The minimum age is 60 for someone going through the EROP, a somewhat arbitrary number admittedly. However, for decades men have being going through the MROP while in their 60’s and 70’s—should those men instead begin going to the EROP? and is the MROP a pre-requisite?
“The answer as to EROP or MROP lies in the details of your life, not your age. It is found in the conversation you are having with life, not the conversation you think you should be having, or want to have some day.”
The EROP is not more advanced nor “better” than the MROP. To be an elder is not “better” than to be a man or woman of 30 in the middle of the first half of life. Where you are is the best stage to be working on for you, and all that the world is asking of you! The answer as to EROP or MROP lies in the details of your life, not your age. It is found in the conversation you’re having with life, not the conversation you think you should be having, or want to have some day. While the MROP itself is not a pre-requisite for the EROP, the material, the inner work done at the MROP is a sort of pre-requisite. For the many who have done that same work in other contexts, attending the MROP might be deeply meaningful, even life altering, but somehow not essential for them before they attend the EROP. So just what is that work?
The MROP serves a number of purposes. For some it is what Bill Plotkin calls an “eco-awakening.” This is that moment when you wake up and realize you are not the center of the world, and not even the center of your world, but rather just a small part of a much greater whole called Life. In this awareness, humans are not the most important part of Life on earth, all of creation is sacred. You know life is not about you—and this is understood as wonderful news! This insight reorients everything as you now are unable to live selfishly nor from a strictly human frame of reference, you are ruined for a life of consumption and private goals, and begin to seek to live in tune with these new insights (a challenge to which you are still getting accustomed!) However disruptive, the knowledge that at your deepest level you are beloved combined with a sense of your relative insignificance, is deeply grounding, freeing, even relieving.
The MROP for many also serves as an invitation into the Path of Descent or the Wisdom Journey. It dawns on you that your efforts to build identities through roles and accomplishments (the false self), while a necessary and healthy endeavor in the first half of life, ultimately hold very little of who you really are and are increasingly unsatisfying. Thus you are invited to jump off the towers you have built, to fall through the circumstances of your life, into who you really are (the true self).
For many men the MROP is the first time they have ever seen other men deeply grieve, and the first time they themselves have grieved in any kind of communal setting. A person cannot begin the eldering journey until they are familiar with their own tears. Indeed one who is ready likely has ongoing conversations with the truths carried in their physical bodies and their emotions, which are taught to be suppressed and ignored in western expressions of masculinity.
I was held by loving hands through hard labor and given birth into the fullness of life as a holy fool through these expertly crafted and beautifully led Elder Rites of Passage.
– Keith Kahle, Madison WI
There are a large number of profound MROP experiences coming from Elders in our community, who went through the MROP while in their 60’s and 70’s. Given this, we would say that a desire to forgo the MROP and go to EROP is something to sit with and inquired upon before a decision is made. We will help with that decision process.
Am I ready for the EROP?
Are you feeling drawn to leave the conversation you’ve been holding with life and begin a new one? Are the maps that define your life stale, tired, and you feel called to (again) go beyond the boundaries into the wild? Are ready to let go of old roles and patterns that seem to hold you back from what you feel in your heart you are to be about? Do your concerns and values increasingly reflect the needs of the whole world, not the familial, tribal, national, or even human? Are you seeing more beauty everywhere, and finding more laughter in what used to bring only despair? Are you moving beyond dualism and appreciating the cosmic union that undergirds all? Are you increasingly more concerned for your great grandchildren than if your retirement savings will last? Can you read the Elders’ Offering and find more resonance than resistance? Are you tired of people knowing you for what you do for a living? Do you know your place in the family of things? Has the impulse to fight, protect, secure, grow, started to fade and the desire to give, love, and play grown? These and more are good questions to engage.
If needed, we will help you in discerning the timing of this for you. In the registration process, you will talk with other elders who may be of aid as well.
A life changing experience that every elder man cannot afford to miss!
– Jim Olsen, Spokane WA
Step One – Take Stock
The EROP is not just another event to attend. It is a decision that for many comes out of a sense that they are ready for to release an old way of life and begin entering a new era in their evolution. Discern what your gut is saying, read, pray, listen, discuss this shift and call with friends both young and old. Review the application and begin to write.
Step Two – Submit Application & Deposit
Complete and submit your EROP application, along with a $150 deposit. You’ll be contacted for a phone interview and if you are accepted, the deposit becomes non-refundable and is applicable to the final payment. After the phone interview, if accepted, a full confirmation package will be sent to you with further instructions for preparations.
Step Three – Get Started!
The EROP is less a five day event, and more a process which involves preparations, the 5 days onsite, and ongoing work afterwards. Thus there is no time like the present to begin your own EROP, even if your actual rites might be some time in the future. Consult the preparations page for thoughts on how you might choose to approach this.