Writes of Passage

"To understand one's world, one must sometimes turn away from it! To serve men better, one must briefly hold them at a distance. But where can the necessary solitude be found, the long breathing space in which mind gathers its strength and takes stock of its courage?" - Albert Camus

Writes of Passage Retreats is founded on the conviction that something wonderfully alchemical occurs when the following elements combine:

  • A sabbatical, or moratorium from a treadmill existence
  • Time in nature and quiet spaces
  • Writing and reflection aimed at de-scripting & clarifying core values and passions
  • Mentoring, collaboration and the importance of a fresh set of eyes
  • Rites of passage which explore key milestone periods

 sabbatical burnout


Rites of Passage

Many of us are understand the importance of time away from busyness or typical routines as well as the power of writing and clarifying our goals and vision. But the notion of a rite of passage is foreign to many people.

Ancient cultures recognised that the survival and health of their tribe depended on each member contributing in the most suitable way. Trying to make a warrior out of someone whose affinity was for medicine served neither the individual nor the community. Native Americans believed that each person had a unique gift to offer. One’s task in life was to determine what that gift was and how best to develop it.

To find their life’s purpose, Native American adolescents embarked on a vision quest. This rite of passage involved solitary immersion into the wilderness, which one Native American described as “an arduous journey into the core of our being.”

Deprived of ordinary social supports, these adolescents could focus on discovering their calling. Success depended on how diligently they had prepared for their quest and how dedicated they were once it commenced. The reward for those who embraced it was to be granted a vision indicating what they should do with their life. This vision would guide their development for the rest of their life.

rites of passage

Formal rites of passage no longer present themselves from within the culture.

Australian author Tim Winton recently expressed his dismay over the impact of this on us as individuals:

“Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. We’ve scraped our culture bare of ritual pathways to adulthood. We’ve left our young people to fend for themselves...the poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding.

In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young people are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. Liberation – a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal – isn’t just desirable, it’s desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and in our politics.”

Modern Day Vision Questing

While few of us follow the tribal way of living today, we can still adopt one of its best principles - when a person is encouraged to discover and utilise their gifts then it is to the betterment of us all.

Indigenous cultures did this by promoting rites of passage, such as a vision quest and then upon returning to the community, deliver the initiate to experts in their chosen craft who would provide tutelage. Elders would oversee the integration of the young person into the tribe, while everyone else offered support and encouragement. Every member played a part in nurturing the development of the next generation.

For too long we have taken a wholly different approach. Any sense of being part of a community has become discounted, while the role of elders is often usurped by corporations’ intent on enfeebling young people and moulding them into compliant consumers.

vision quest

As Bill Plotkin remarked, “This neglect of our human nature constitutes an even greater impediment to personal maturation than our modern loss of effective rites of passage, and it has led to the tragedy we face today: most humans are alienated from their vital individuality.”

The essayist Paul Graham once recounted the pitiful attempt at a rite of passage he experienced in adolescence. With the end of his education looming the school he attended would have students listen to various people in the community speak about their jobs. The unspoken sentiment was that everyone enjoyed their work. Going on to enter the workforce he began to wonder just how much the bank manager and others actually felt connected to what they did. He conceded the private jet pilot may have but no one else.

My experience of education also reflected this lack of transparency. It took me a decade of career malaise before I found myself on a makeshift vision quest, sifting through jobs to determine which elements would create an ideal mix.

The Writes of Passage approach endeavours to deliver a meaningful rite of passage in areas that I have both personally worked through and developed a real passion for, birthing your business, writing your life story and navigating the middle passage of life.

Traditional rites of passage were provocative physically. The edginess of these Writes of Passage is more psychologically challenging as you become called into question around playing it safe and settling for too little. For as Jay Deacon once said:

It is not given us to live lives of undisrupted calm, boredom, and mediocrity. It is given us to be edge-dwellers.

edge dweller