Alan Heeks

Composting: the upsides of your downsides

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Jan 082024

Imagine that you can tap into a major new source of energy and insight, that’s already within you: it’s free, abundant, and just needs a bit of effort to process it.

What’s more, you’ll be creating benefits out of problems that drain energy and pollute your inner ecosystem.  This is what composting offers you.

The ancient alchemists sought to turn base matter into gold.  Composting in gardens and farms achieves this.  It starts with rubbish, animal crap, rotting vegetable matter, even weeds.  All this “waste”, useless in these forms, ends up as humus, highly fertile, rich in biological activity, able to renew the earth’s vitality.

Recycling your waste gives your garden a free source of energy which raises the vitality and resilience of your soil, and avoids the pollution and depletion caused by artificial fertiliser. Physical composting takes several months – but the human equivalent can happen in minutes, days or weeks.  Plant and animal waste usually looks bad, and smells worse.  Yet it’s a major supply of natural energy, if only we can change its form.  And the same is true of human energy waste: composting this is a vital element of super-resilience.

This may be a new idea for you, and it’s an example of how the natural happiness approach can help you see your life differently, and discover new resources.  By human energy waste, I don’t mean car exhaust fumes or old plastic cups: I mean personal energy that’s stuck or stagnant in a negative form.  Here are some examples:

  • Physical: stress and toxins that build up in your body, due to anxiety, unhealthy food and drink, etc.
  • Emotional: negative feelings like anger or depression, and unresolved conflicts.
  • Mental: habitual worrying, going round in circles in your mind, about big issues or everyday ones.
  • Inspirational: a sense of hopelessness or pointlessness about aspects of your own life and work, or the state of the world.

Most of us carry a lot of negative energy, stuck in our ecosystem.  The first two steps are starting to notice it, and having faith that you can compost at least some of this into a source of positive energy.

Five Tips for Good Composting in Practice

There are several methods of composting.   In this chapter, I’m referring to hot aerobic composting, because it offers the best parallel for the human system.

This summary of the main principles of hot aerobic composting shows how they can apply to human energy waste.  To get the benefit of the composting process, waste materials have to be gathered, sorted, and brought together.  This is an investment of labour, and when you’re dealing with smelly waste it may not be very pleasant!  In the same way, your first step is to identify and gather some of the waste in your life and work.  This requires patience, good observation, and resilience.  Your waste may include difficult feelings and festering situations that smell nasty, and you might rather bury them.

1.     Gathering your rubbish

You need to see where it has been buried, suppressed or thrown out. Start with physical waste, reviewing tensions and health issues.  Then consider mental waste: insoluble problems, unresolved questions.  Why did that friendship or that project fail?  Facing such questions reveals their emotional content: many issues that may seem quite rational also involve our feelings.  Observe your feelings as clearly as you can: this is part of the collection stage.

Next, gather the emotional waste, identifying negative feelings and where you feel stressed.  Go into this, identify the sources, such as particular situations or relationships.  Keep breathing as you do this, aerating the compost.  Explore any negative feelings, such as fear, anxiety, uncertainty, anger.  Think of these waste feelings as a flow of energy that is stuck, and see what outcome would unblock them.  Possibly you are angry because someone has not acknowledged you, or fearful because you haven’t faced the implications of a problem situation.

Negative inspirational energy can be the most depleting and difficult to face.  A sense of pointlessness is like a major pollution problem: pervasive and hard to clear.  Use the parallel with air pollution: it can arise from one main source like a dirty factory, or from a diffuse problem like road traffic.  Either way, a systemic change is probably needed: a switch to clean energy sources and processes, and more recycling.

In counselling it is often said that expressing a problem is already half way to resolving it.  Gathering and identifying your waste issues is a significant step in the recycling process.  And avoid judging yourself or the issue as far as possible.

2.     Sorting and Heaping

If you’ve done your gathering thoroughly, by now you may be feeling rather daunted and overwhelmed.  The sorting stage should help.

In garden composting, you don’t put all waste on the heap: some stuff is hard to break down, or simply unsuitable.  Especially when you’re starting on human energy composting, pace yourself, and don’t tackle the big issues too soon.  Build up your skills and confidence by starting on smaller, easier issues, and getting some early wins.

Typically physical and mental issues are easier to compost than emotional or inspirational ones, and work or practical problems may be easier than family and community issues.  In human composting, some issues may be so big that you need professional help: for example a marriage breakup, or a life-threatening illness.  Be realistic about the issues you can tackle yourself.

You build your compost heap by facing your waste issues fully and deeply.  If this leaves you feeling overwhelmed or despairing, just allow the feeling, observe it, and don’t deny it or judge it.  Keep your sense of purpose and perspective: remember that you are more than your feelings.  Adapt the Buddhist mantra: “I feel fearful, but I am not my fear.”  And ensure that you have support available to you.

3.     Air Supply

A plentiful supply of air is essential to fuel the biological activity in the hot aerobic composting process.  If the air supply is inadequate, some or all of the heap will not reach peak temperature, and some waste material won’t break down.

For your own composting, this means that when you feel strong emotions, keep breathing! Deeper breathing is a classic way to stay steady amid intense, difficult feelings.  Mindfulness methods are just one example, so if you feel tense and distressed by your composting, try to slow your breathing and deepen it, for several minutes. Try deep, ‘circular’ breathing where you imagine pulling negative energy up from your belly into your lungs to cleanse it, and breathing clear energy back down again.


4.     Turning

To get the full benefit of the composting process, it is common to turn the heap after a few weeks.  Turning the compost heap increases the air supply and renews the recycling process.  The effect is to achieve fuller breakdown of the waste and higher humus content.

You may find that composting your energy waste takes anything from minutes to months: some issues are bigger and tougher.  In human terms, turning your compost means reviewing your progress, and linking what may be a grungy process of recycling to a bigger sense of purpose.  When you remind yourself this is about feeling happier and re-energised, it will help you persist.  Aeration is about connecting to your inspiration and the bigger picture, and using deep breathing to gather the positive energy from your tensions.

5.     Group Composting

A lot of negative human energy arises and gets stuck in our relationships with others, both individuals and in groups. Composting in these situations requires some different skills, as well as adapting the methods just described. In particular, skills in clear communications and listening are important, such as assertiveness or Non-violent Communication (less drastic than it sounds!). The other key technique is conflict resolution, see separate Resource for this).

Nourish Your Roots: The Tree Test

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Jan 082024

Life and work get more confusing year by year, and that’s unlikely to stop in future. Spending time in Nature is a great way to reduce its stress and find clarity, but what do you do when you have to make a decision, in your workplace or at home, within the next few minutes? The Treeheart process can help you do exactly that.

I have been creating and running a woodland retreat centre for the past 27 years (, so it won’t surprise you that I personally find trees a great source of strength and clarity. However, it has been very satisfying to see that the same is true for hundreds of people who visited this wood over that period.<

You don’t need to be anywhere near a physical tree to do the Treeheart process, but it does help to visualise a tree before you start. Perhaps you have a favourite tree that you visit sometimes, or a picture of a tree on your wall… Once you have pictured a tree, use that to imagine yourself merging with the tree, and imagine that you yourself have roots, trunk, and branches, then take yourself through the following four stages.

You can use this process to help yourself get calmer and clearer about all kinds of situations which may be perplexing you. For modest challenges, this can hopefully help you get some clarity within a few minutes, for bigger issues, you may need a longer time, and it could be really helpful to take yourself outdoors for a walk while you use this process

Roots: Starting where you’re at, recognising the truth of the situation, the ground you stand on. Imagine that your roots are spreading out into the substance of the challenge you’re facing.

Trunk: A tree is both solid and flexible, and it grows slowly. As you imagine the trunk of your own tree, feel your own solidity, and use this to bring in the quality of patience, giving space to the problem. Although you may feel time pressure, take a few deep breaths, and imagine that you can give yourself even a minute or two of spaciousness to allow clarity to emerge from the tension.

Heart: Imagine your own heart is deep in the trunk of your tree: breathe into your heart, let yourself smile and relax a little, and call in the quality of trust. Have faith and trust that there is a good outcome to be found here, and maybe you don’t have to make it emerge: if you relax, it might arise naturally

Fruits: A tree reaches up and out to produce its fruits, nuts, berries and blossoms. Imagine your tree producing a fruitful outcome to this challenge, like a shower of blessings, which is helpful to you and everyone involved.

I use the Treeheart process to help deal with everyday problems in a few minutes, and I also use it at more length, repeatedly, to help me handle my feelings of alarm and overwhelm about big issues like climate change. The form of the process I have described to you is my own creation. It draws upon a Sufi meditation created by Neil Douglas Klotz, author of my favourite book, Desert Wisdom.

The Seven Seeds Ecosystem Model: Cultivating resilience and sustainability for people and organisations

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Jan 082024

The Seven Seeds is a unique approach using parallels with cultivated ecosystems to help individuals, teams and organisations to grow their resilience and their sustainability for both human and environmental resources. Alan Heeks has evolved this model through many years of workshops, and can facilitate tailored sessions for a range of client groups, from a half day to two days.

About the model

It’s clear that most of the situations and resources we’re engaged with can’t be controlled, only shaped. From his experience of starting an organic farm from scratch, Alan realised that cultivated ecosystems are a powerful model for people and organisations: they show us how to steer and shape a complex natural system to achieve outcomes we need, in a co-creative approach which adjusts to the realities of the situation.

Alan’s first book, The Natural Advantage, uses organic farming as its model, and applies it for managers and work organisations. His fourth book, Natural Happiness, due for publication in March 2024, uses organic gardening as the main model, and is focussed more on individuals and community groups. For a summary of the current Seven Seeds model, click here.

About Alan

Alan had a highly successful business career, starting in marketing with Procter & Gamble, followed by a Harvard MBA, and including seven years as Managing Director of two businesses. He was a founder-director of Caradon plc, which has been described as “the most successful management buy-in ever”. Since then, Alan has worked as a consultant and group facilitator with businesses and non-profits. He has used some of his Caradon capital to set up two environmental charities: a 130-acre organic farm, and a 70-acre wood. See more at and

Workshop options

These are indicative: Alan is happy to tailor content to the group and its needs. His aim is always to make sessions highly participative, so the learning is experiential. Access to outdoor space is desirable: ideally a city farm or market garden, but anywhere with trees or plants will do.

Alan with a Seven Seeds group at Hazel Hill Wood

Seven Seeds: train the trainer

This workshop would guide participants through the whole model, showing how to deliver it experientially, and how to tailor it to different needs.
Duration: preferably 1 day.

Seven Seeds for managers

This would help participants to cultivate their own resilience and human sustainability, and to understand and nourish systemic resilience and wellbeing in the organisation.
Duration: preferably 1 day, but a half-day taster is possible.

Seven Seeds for coaches

Here the focus is on enabling coaches to use elements of the model with their clients, addressing both clients’ own sustainability, and the organisational issues they are facing.
Duration: 1 day preferable, half day possible.

Change management, leadership, strategy

Alan has wide experience of using the Seven Seeds as a catalyst for these and other themes, often co-facilitating with a consultant or manager familiar with the client organisation.
Duration: overall 1-2 days.

Seven Seeds for non-profits

Alan has led workshops using the Seven Seeds model for NHS professionals (doctors and administrators), community groups, and NGOs and climate adaptation projects, shaping the model to a wide range of learning outcomes.

Contact: for an exploratory discussion, please contact Alan: email, phone 07494 203014.

Natural Happiness: Use Gardening Skills to Cultivate Yourself

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Jan 082024

April 19-21, 2024 at Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking, Stroud


In these uncertain times, this workshop will help you deepen your roots and grow your resilience. With sessions in Hawkwood’s gardens, you’ll experience how organic skills like composting, mulching, and co-creativity can feed your wellbeing amid daily stresses and big issues like climate change. Based on Alan’s new book, which harvests his work in organic farming and forestry.

Facilitator: Alan Heeks

Alan has been exploring resilience with people and nature for many years, and has led many groups on this theme, drawing on experience of resilient natural systems from creating an organic farm and setting up Hazel Hill Wood, near Salisbury.

Cost: Accommodation at Hawkwood is available if required. Please be sure to select the ‘Residential’ option when booking.
Residential (single): £400.00 (£150 deposit)
Residential (shared): £350.00 (£150 deposit)
Non-residential: £280.00 (£150 deposit)

Timings: from 4pm on Friday April 19 until 4pm on Sunday April 21.

Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking: read more about the Centre, its stunning location and beautiful outside spaces:

Bookings: available via the College website:

Book blog: Still Here by Ram Dass

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Nov 222023

A heart and soul view on conscious ageing

In the 1970s and 80s, Ram Dass was a leading international spiritual teacher: a classic fusion of California and India, where he had met his guru. His books (such as Be Here Now), talks and workshops were inspiring, and his zest and charisma carried you along.

Suddenly, in 1997 at the age of 65, he had a stroke which left him paralysed, with impaired speech and memory loss, and needing care 24/7. The power of this book is how honestly he shares his journey from loss and anger to composure and self-acceptance as a spiritual elder.

Probably most of us will have health crises as we age, and the extreme nature of his crisis means he can help the rest of us authoritatively. He draws a useful distinction between curing and healing: a cure would mean restoring the way you were, whereas “healing means allowing what is now to move us closer to God”. Perhaps the central message of the book is to have faith that whatever comes to you is grace from God.

Ram Dass is eloquent about the ways the ego tries to run us, with its self-centred focus on material needs and emotional comfort. He explains that “the stroke cleared away ego distractions and brought me back to soul purpose”. His book offers ways for us to do this without a major health crisis, although his comment that “suffering raises consciousness” is challenging.

Still Here is a compassionate, perceptive guide to the many issues of ageing. One is doubt about the meaning and purpose of later life. He comments that wisdom can keep growing as we age, and whilst society may undervalue it, wisdom is a vital quality in these crazy times. He beautifully defines it as “the emptying and quieting of the mind, the application of the heart, and the alchemy of reason and feeling”. The benefits include seeing the whole picture, discerning what really matters, and using our limitations.

Ageing can bring up many fears. He quotes Gandhi: “Before you can get to God, you have to face your fears.” Ram Dass urges us to talk with our fears, befriend them. And he links this to our sense of time. He values Buddhist teachings on impermanence, and uses them to limit fears of the future by focus on the present moment to “awaken ourselves to who we are now”. He also urges us to learn how to grieve, so that we can release the past.

He also offers some wisdom about dying and beyond. The doctors and even family around us may be preoccupied with physical illness and treatment: we need to stay focussed on the soul, and find support for this. He is sure that physical death is just a transition for the soul, and points out that people who have had near-death experiences report them as joyful, moving towards the light.

Amazingly, I once had breakfast with Ram Dass. We were at a conference in Switzerland, around 1983. We had a brief, friendly chat, and he suggested breakfast together. I don’t recall what he said, but I do still feel his presence: his vitality, and the depth of perception in his eyes. So I can really imagine how shattering the stroke was, and his account of the faith and the soul focus which helped him reinvent himself as an elder is truly inspiring.

The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux

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Apr 212021

What joy: a train lover writing for train lovers

Settling down with a Paul Theroux train book is like a long rail journey with a well-loved friend. You know what you’re in for, and it’s a treat in store. Theroux is great at evoking landscapes and people, and his own love for trains shines through.

One of the gifts he offers to fellow train lovers is explaining why we feel this love, articulating and justifying it. Here’s an example:

“The feeling I had on the Khyber Mail was slight disappointment that the trip would be so short – only twelve hours to Lahore… The sleeping car is the most painless form of travel… Robert Louis Stevenson writes,

Herein, I think, is the chief attraction of railway travel. The speed is so easy, and the train disturbs so little the scenes through which it takes us, that our heart becomes full of the placidity and stillness of the countryside; and while the body is being borne forward in the flying chain of carriages, the thoughts alight, as the humour moves them, at unfrequented stations.

I find this splendid, but it gets even better in the next paragraph, as Theroux continues: “The romance associated with the sleeping car derives from its extreme privacy, combining the best features of a cupboard with forward movement.”

The book is a bazaar in the best sense: a vivid sequence of episodes, as we travel right across Europe and Asia, from London to Tokyo, and back through Russia.

I’ve long believed that a country’s character is embodied in its trains, and this book supports my view. Like Theroux, I prefer the sociable trains of India and Pakistan, whose leisurely speed means you can sit in an open carriage door and enjoy the scenery, to the antiseptic bullet trains of Japan, where you’re sealed in, and the landscapes go by in a blur.

Some of the most striking episodes of the book are in South Vietnam. He’s there at a poignant time, after the Americans have pulled out, and before the North clinches victory. The railway along the coast was often attacked by the Viet Cong, but Theroux bravely travels the three segments still operating. He comments:

“From the cruel interruptions of war, they had stubbornly salvaged a routine: school, market, factory. At least once a month the train was ambushed. But these passengers made their daily trip.”

He also comments on the outstanding beauty of the landscapes and coast, something rarely mentioned about Vietnam by anyone. “Of all the places the railway had taken me since London, this was the loveliest.”

The most elegant train shows up in an unexpected location:

“Here, on the Vostok, parked on a platform in what seemed the most godforsaken town in the Far East, was a compartment that could only be described as ‘High Victorian… I had an easy chair on which antimacassars had been neatly pinned, a thick rug on the floor… my pillow was full of warm goose feathers.” Sadly, the Vostok was only a one-night prelude to the Trans-Siberian, where the train, the landscapes and the people were all dismal.

In these times when exotic foreign travel is near-impossible, this is about as good as it gets for the armchair train lover.

Victorian carriage on the Vostok Express

Resource Toolkit – Change the Story

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Nov 222020

One of my biggest insights since turning 60 has been the way repeating stories shape our lives. The older we get, the more of a limitation our stories become, and the harder it is to change them. If you dig into your worries about problems in many parts of your life, it’s likely that a Story is fuelling them.

So what do I mean by a Story? Most of us have one or two major repeating, difficult patterns in our life. We may not be aware of them, we may not call them a Story, but they really shape our experiences. Most often, a Story beings with a major upset in childhood. Our subconscious mind tries to explain and justify that first upset by repeating the situation. See Paula’s Story for an example.

Paula’s Story:
Men always put you down:

When she was a young child, Paula remembers how her Dad was angry and dissatisfied with her Mum, on the rare times he was home.

Paula’s Dad left altogether when she was six, and her Mum became depressed and unsupportive. In adult life, Paula’s partners put her down and left her repeatedly, and she had similar bosses at work.

By her late sixties, Paula had a long history of depression, but eventually realised she was repeating a Story she could choose to change.

This kind of Story is not logical: it’s usually not even something we’re aware of. It’s a primitive survival tool from early years. If you’re still repeating a Story like this when you’re over 60 or over 70, it will be a deeply ingrained habit, and you’ll need a sustained effort to shift it.

You may know about neural pathways: old habits become physically imprinted within our brain, so they truly are hard to change. But the payback to doing so is that it can transform the way you handle old age.

A repeating Story takes away your power of choice, and means that you don’t see situations as they are, because you’re unconsciously shaping them to fit your Story. Changing a major life Story is unlikely to be instant, and you may do well to get professional help from a counsellor or therapist.

Most of us have at least one major Story, and some minor ones. For example, look at your beliefs and habits around money, or food, or health. The self-help process below is designed to assist you in seeing and changing your Stories. Try it on a minor one first!

Self-help process 12: Changing a Story

Set aside at least 40 minutes for this process, and find a quiet time and place where you won’t be interrupted.

Take some long, slow breaths. Make sure you breathe out fully. Let yourself relax.

Now start to remember a few significant experiences in whatever aspect of your life you’ve chosen to explore, or for your life as a whole.

If this is distressing, keep breathing deeply, aim to witness the emotions and let them go.

Now start to look or listen for a pattern, a repeating feeling or Story. Give this time, be patient and receptive. If nothing comes up, go back over the scenes again.

What you’re aiming to find is a simplistic, sweeping statement that feels horribly powerful to you, and probably makes you tense up. A good sign that you’ve found it is words like always, never, can’t, no good.

Be very gentle with yourself, don’t blame or judge yourself for carrying this Story for so long. Be grateful you’ve found the courage to name it and face it now.

The next step is to find an antidote to your Story: a simple, positive statement that you can affirm whenever the negative beliefs come up.

Here are some examples of negative Stories and an affirmation as an antidote to them:

·         Men/women always let me down: I fully deserve love and loyalty

·         I’m just not good enough: I always do my best and deserve support

·         People never respect me: I have all the strength and safety I need

It helps to repeat frequently the affirmations you’ve chosen. And if something upsets you, use the situation to see what Story it’s showing you. Trust that you can change your Story, and choose a happy one.

Happy endings

People love stories: it’s how we make sense of life. So remember, the aim is to replace a negative Story with a positive one. Look for a simple, hopeful statement which lifts your spirits, is easy to remember, and which you can repeat to yourself often. It will raise the prospects of a Story with a happy outcome!

 This is an excerpt from Alan’s forthcoming new book: Not Fade Away: Staying Happy When You’re Over 64! For more information on the book click here…

Timeline insights

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Nov 222020

It may give you a sense of where the plotline is, of what you’re still seeking, or of missing pieces in the picture, which become a goal to complete in the future. This process of finding meaning, of giving perspective, is part of the elder’s role. If you do this, you’re probably serving others too: your family, friends, and even strangers may learn from your insights, and be inspired to seek their own. The self-help process below is one way to do this.

When you’ve done this process, notice what events were most vivid for you, and what kind of memories came up most: was it happy times or hard ones? Remember, you can change the story and choose your reality!

Self-help process: Timeline Insights

This exercise can help you review your life story, and gain perspective from it. You could do this in an hour, but more time would help you go deeper.

Start by guess at what age you’ll die. Then calculate your whole life-span as a day or a year, and work out where key events in your life would appear in this. (For example, if I am 69, and expect to live till 84, a year in my life equals 17 minutes in a day, and my current age is 7.42pm. The birth of my first daughter, when I was 29 is 8.12am.

Create a physical timeline to represent your whole life-span.

You can use rope, cable, even loo roll. Mark key events into the timeline. Now, stand at the start of the line, your birth point. Try to experience the story of your life, walking very slowly along the line, pausing at each point where a memory comes up.

You may want to repeat all or part of the journey. Spend some time in the present moment on your line, seeking meaning for the journey so far, and picturing your hopes and intentions for the years ahead of you.

Love me do: reinventing partnership in later years

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Nov 222020

The pop songs of the sixties gave us one ideal of love – a boy and a girl, together forever. Now, the possibilities are endless. In this chapter, we’ll explore four main ones:

  • Long play: a partnership which has lasted for much of your adult life, probably more than 30 years.
  • Re-release: people in a second or third long-term committed relationship.
  • Single singles: those who are not in a partnership, and are not looking for one.
  • Seeking singles: people wanting another relationship, possibly through online dating sites and blind dates.

Long-term partnerships: the art of the possible

My first marriage lasted a creditable 25 years, but I slightly envy the couples I’ve met who are still together after 30, 40 or even 50 years. There’s no one answer to how to do this, so forgive some generalisations.

Unless both partners are emotionally dead, it’s likely that sustaining a really long-term partnership will need a lot of tolerance and creativity. As one man in a 41-year marriage told me: “We’ve had to drop the big and small resentments that build up. If you can’t focus on positives, love each other as you are, you’ll be living in an acid bath.”

The level of tolerance you need can vary widely. It might mean living through a partner having an affair, or both of you having a six-month sabbatical. It might just mean accepting that you spend less time together, because your interests are diverging.

As a long-term couple move into their late sixties and beyond, finding a new shared interest seems important. You need to renew the togetherness alongside giving each other more space.

Re-release: the second (or third) time around

Divorce statistics show that the fifties and sixties are now high-risk ages for marriages to end, and the average age at divorce is getting steadily older. Many people in their later years are in a second or third, long-term committed relationship. This can add new positives and new complications.

Having one major relationship fail seems to give people a strong motivation to make it work next time. Understanding habits and patterns which caused the original breakup is crucial: we’ve probably all seen new couples unhappily repeating old stories. There are a lot of good books and therapists who can help you to avoid repeating history: see Resources below.

The potential complications may include how each of you relate to your own ex and your partner’s, and how to navigate the extended family around you. Hopefully as you get older, you can focus on the good history not the old pain, and on happiness in the present.

One benefit of being a newer long-term couple may be scope for more dialogue, more give-and- take, in how you want the relationship to be, now and in the future. This should preferably include how to handle things if one partner has major health problems (see more on this in Chapter 10).

Single singles: the happy one

I meet quite a few people in their late sixties or older who are happily single, and expect to stay that way. I believe the secret to this is understanding what kinds of connection you do want, and setting up your life to provide them. Here are some examples:

  • –  A good circle of friends with shared interests
  • –  Having a companion: a friend who’s sometimes an intimate partner too
  • –  Being part of a faith group or other network who give you whatever qualities of community 
you need.

Seeking singles: silver dating?

I still recall how tough it was to find myself single at 50, plunging into soulmates ads and blind dates. Now, you’ll find plenty of soulmates ads from people in their sixties and seventies. There’s an extensive guide to mature dating and relationship skills in my book Out of the Woods. 
My top tip is to get yourself to a position where a relationship is a nice-to-have, not an urgent necessity. Learn to look after yourself, build up your friendships, and see every date as an adventure not an ordeal. And don’t pour out all your troubles on a first date!

Here’s looking at you, kid

A big adjustment for any relationship at this age is about looks. Neither you nor your partner will look young: if you struggle to find attraction when you look at a face with lines and wrinkles, realise the other person is looking at your face too. If you can find the humour in this situation, you’re doing well. 
My advice is, focus on touch and emotion to deepen intimacy, more than looks. If you can both find real love and compassion, for yourself and the other, as you are, you won’t mind the wrinkles.

Breakin’ up is hard to do

Major separations rarely happen by complete mutual agreement. More often, one partner is pushing for it, and the other resisting. Sometimes one partner looks obviously to blame, by an affair, addictions and so on. Probably neither of you will have any precedent for this crisis, and your emotional and negotiating skills will be overwhelmed. Whatever part you’re playing in the drama, find as much compassion as you can for both of you, and go many extra miles to maintain some goodwill in your separation. 
One reason this is traumatic is that you’re probably facing a deep emotional crisis at the same time as negotiating on a mass of financial, legal and other matters, ranging from who keeps the house to equally massive questions like how you share the DVD collection. You need good support on all fronts.