Recipe To Make A Man Cry

1. Bring him to a circle of men.

2. Have him pick a man to play his father.

3. Have that man, his father, look him in the eyes and tell him, “I’m proud of you.”

4. Repeat, “Son, I’m proud of you” until, after maybe fierce silence or nervous laughter, after, perhaps, anger, and then shame … the tears break.

Tears of sadness — because his father never said it.

Tears of joy — because that’s all the ever wanted to hear … and now he has.

From the book The Song Of Father-Son by Peter H Putnam

Posted in Men and Their Fathers | Comments Off

My Initiation

Hungry for initiation

I have felt a deep, ferocious hunger for that elusive sense of maturity for years now – never having been able to shake the unpleasant feeling that I am still but a boy in the body of a man. And I knew I needed help to get past a masochistic, pervasive undercurrent in life which always made every action feel not quite right, not exactly authentic. In many ways, my life was great – and improving. Yet, my suffering was undeniable. And so I was ready. In the evening of June 4 2011, at The Comb in Northumberland, I finally embarked on my life’s first Hero’s journey. The ManKind Project Initiation – the NWTA or, as it is now called, the Weekend Adventure. (NWTA means New Warrior Training Adventure, ed.)

It was an intense experience; over in a flash. Yet contained within those brief moments was a journey through grief into rebirth. That is more than literary symbolism – I was reborn, surrounded by initiated men, losing my masochistic beliefs on the way. It was a surreal, yet deeply impacting experience – and one I had not prepared for. All the visions of a hero’s journey that I’ve entertained myself with, looked very different to mine.

As the facilitators circled us on the last day – bidding us farewell in silence – I felt my heart so strongly. Rare are the moments in life when I have felt so alive. Tears flowed down my face. I stood there an initiated man – having been through a ritual for which my entire soul had hungered for years. The look on the faces of these men – each featuring a unique mixture of love and acceptance – confirmed that I had indeed received what I longed for. Some missing part of me was starting to pour back in. I was happy.

Journey to Initiation

I run a webpage called Masculinity Movies. It emerged out of my own search for maturity and manhood and running it has brought me much learning and satisfaction. As my exploration of movies, spirituality and psychology deepened, the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Archetypes of the Mature Masculine showed up on my radar. The authors are Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, men of some familiarity to you, I suspect.

As my understanding of these archetypes grew, I started applying them to my movie reviews – with outstanding results. People loved what they read – and I learned so much.

The ManKind Project was mentioned with increasing frequency and eventually my reviews became featured content on both the ManKind Project’s Facebook page and their journal on www.mankindprojectjournal.org It was clear that I had found an organization full of men who shared my thoughts and passions, and I felt excited by the growing possibility of global brotherhood.

I connected with MKP men such as Kenny D’Cruz, Boysen Hodgson and Mark Guildford and my participation in the weekend was inevitable. Speaking with Boysen on Skype one day pretty much cemented it. There was nothing more to think about – I took a leap of faith and I don’t regret it.

I was afraid when I knocked on the door and entered the darkness behind it, but boy am I happy that I did! 

Back to Normal?

I returned home with a slight concern that the experience would just be a workshop high, my freedom slowly dwindling with every passing day after returning home. But I do feel different. Something has remained. In fact, some hard-to-describe feeling of being a man and not a boy has strengthened and I feel more confident overall. Most importantly, I feel freer to express myself. In fact, my voice has changed. It has opened and become deeper. Several people have commented on it.

I want to write briefly about my shadow, identified on my weekend as I create a more alienated world by being judgmental about others. The number one inner conflict in my life is my desire to connect, combined with the fear of rejection. My need to connect is tremendous. I love going to deep and rich places with people. Yet for many years, my spiritual practice was a solitary affair which served to strengthen this shadow.

Before I move to criticize it, I want to honor my many years of sitting meditation practice and my deep inroads into worlds such as Buddhism, integral theory and tantra. They served me well for many years. Yet, I remained divorced from life itself. So in my feelings of unfulfillment, I learned that I could protect myself from the fear of rejection by condemning people who I might otherwise wish to connect with as unworthy, less spiritual. Absolutely wonderful. Served me well. And I’m so fucking done with it.

The new openness that is unfolding in my life allows me to go deeper with others. The key for me is the ability to share impact combined with a deeper realization of my ability to be self-sufficient in the love department. Now, when someone impacts me in a way I like or don’t like, I can simply share my experience of it. It’s not a defense, and yet it’s the best defense of all. Shared humanity. What a concept!

My relationships have deepened considerably this year, yet the experience of intimacy in the interpersonal spaces of my life has dropped to an even deeper and richer level since the weekend at The Comb. I feel nourished.

The path ahead after initiation

In two weeks’ time, I go to Edinburgh for my PIT. I feel inspired to facilitate at a training adventure not too long from now. To experience it from the other angle. To give it. My mission statement involves curiosity and blessing and so, the path is lit.

I have gathered four MKP initiates and three other good men who live in the Oslo area and our first real gathering is planned for August. I am moving in three weeks, to the first flat I could ever call truly mine, and will be happy to host them there. This is deeply significant for me, contributing to a general feeling of increased groundedness and embodiment. I feel pleased with myself. My heart opens when I write that.

I’m also feeling big openings in my quest for my true mission in the world. So many good things are happening. I feel stronger and more peaceful and I’m even sensing that a woman is going to come into my life again soon. I realize that I have held the belief that if I get to be with a woman, I somehow automatically get the better end of the deal. And having seen it, I realize how bullshit it is. I can now own how lucky the woman who gets to have me will be. We will both be lucky, gifts to each other.

Would these things have happened if I didn’t do my Adventure weekend with the ManKind Project? Hard to say. I think it probably would have eventually considering the intensity of my yearning for ever-increasing maturity and insight. But it’s not important. It is what it is and I’m happy with the way I arrived here. I have worn my talisman almost every day since returning.

E.S.

Posted in Men Supporting Men | Comments Off

Awaiting The Adventure in a Comfortable Seat…

It’s four weeks now until my NWTA weekend with the ManKind Project. I’m excited. (NWTA = New Warrior Training Adventure. New Warriors are men who are in touch with their deepest selves and embody values such as truth, honesty, loyalty, maturity, strength, responsibility, accountability, integrity. Being a new warrior means using masculine strength for peace, and having a mission which serves the world and the man himself. It is the converse of the emotionally immature warrior man so prevalent in our society today.)

My friend’s latest issue of Spearhead always lives by the loo in our house. That’s where I’ve been reading about men’s experiences of The Adventure and the challenges they’ve faced in their lives that have led to them taking part.

Not to dishonour the cause in any way. Some of my best reading has been done on the loo. It’s definitely a place to take one’s time and really consider things while doing another important type of work… 

For a while after my friend became an initiated man and began recommending it to me, I didn’t feel ready to investigate it. I didn’t know what the reason was for me to apply.

Both of the friends I live with would say that I might have been experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul over the past year. I would agree with them. I would say that I know myself and my challenges very well and this year has been about trying to start facing them. I’m trying to unlearn the habits of the past that have masked the real me for years. I’m afraid. There’s a lot to lose.

This might continue for some time. But I’ve realised since the New Year that I now feel ready to try The Adventure. I’ve realised why I want to take part.

In Spearhead, men write about never having loved themselves or being able to genuinely love others perhaps because of experiences that have prevented them from doing so. They then write about being able to really connect with other men for the first time, to find and release their feelings, and be accepted and held for doing so. I want this too.

My contact with Nick, the enrolment coordinator, regarding payment for the weekend, included this piece of advice from him: “Ask yourself what you want from the weekend and think about what your intention is for the training.”

I have it now. I want to open up. I want to open my heart and start loving myself and others. To start living.

My friend who took part is excited because once I’ve taken part, we’ll finally be able to really share our experiences. He has always held back from telling me too much about the weekend for fear of giving me expectations that might unhelpfully affect the way I approach it.

He has also warned me that anything could happen. He said that after his weekend he felt angry about the process. He released anger during his adventure. But since then, since he has spent time processing his experiences, he couldn’t recommend the weekend more highly. He might even say that it was one of the most important things he has ever done. He feels that I’m ready. He just wants me to go with an open mind.

My intention is connected to an expectation. I can’t help that. Improving myself, becoming able to love myself, and to start actually loving others means so much to me. But MKP isn’t responsible for me. I am.

No matter what my intentions or my expectations or perhaps even my experiences are, this has to be done. Something can be learned from everything. Just trying is a step in the right direction.

Nick also said: “You are already on your journey.” I know I am. 

Martin K

Posted in Male Initiation, Men Supporting Men | Comments Off

My Father: Warrior King

Some call them the hero generation, the ones who grew up in and survived the Great Depression and then fought to save democracy in World War II. My father was one of those heroes.

I had the honour of spending his last few weeks with him, supporting him and honouring his brave passage into the next phase of his life on February 6, 2011.

Many years ago, as a boy in the Depression, he sold newspapers and magazines to do his part to contribute to a family with an unemployed father who had lost his job, house and car all in the same week.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he reported for service in the US Army, in which he served in the Pacific Theatre as the rangefinder of an anti-aircraft battery.  He took part in numerous amphibious landings on various islands including New Guinea and the Philippines. Then he served as a Military Policeman in occupied Japan. He did his Warrior duty for his grateful nation.

When, as a boy, I asked him about how the war was, he would say he thought of it as protecting his mother and sister back in Chicago. That is all he would say on the subject.

He returned from the war, like so many of his fellows, wanting to prepare for a job, meet a wife and have kids – the 1950s American dream. After an apprenticeship as a wood and metal pattern-maker, he began his career and met my mom. Soon they had me, and a few years later my sister came along.

His idea of what it means to be a man and father was to be the best provider. He did that very well throughout his life by working hard, always seeking better paying jobs, overcoming unemployment four times, and ambitiously buying a house in a higher income suburb of Milwaukee to ensure that my sister and I would go to the best school system in the area. For me, this was a combination of his Lover and Warrior energies – caring with intention.

His Lover side had a fun side too. He would fly kites with me, go fishing with me, and we would sled wildly on some very steep hills, at night even! He also supported quality family time together with numerous family vacations – sometimes staying in lake cottages, sometimes taking us on cross country tours fromWisconsintoColorado, or through Wyoming or South Dakota, and also visiting our nation’s capital to teach us about our government.

My father’s Magician energy was in his hands. He could make or fix almost anything, achieving true wonders with wood and metal. He had intuitive talent, and this extended to building bedrooms for us in the unfinished attic of our home, building his own garage and a basement recreation room, and also adding a carport/porch combination. He did extremely precise tool and die work, and just before his retirement he was making exact models of prototype electric tools that were in development.

His decline in old age was hard to watch, but his magnificent King energy showed in the sovereign way in which he dealt with his death. It was a lesson in bravery.

After a heart attack damaged a valve in his heart, my 87-year-old father was at peace with the realization that at his age an operation was not possible and that he would walk the path to his next life in a period of weeks. As King/Patriarch/Elder of our family, he blessed us all: my sister and I, his grandchildren and baby great-grandchild, grateful for our time together with him. He had only the necessary pain medication and bravely went through his process with dignity and loving kindness and appreciation for his caregivers.

In his life he walked his talk, and lived his ethics. He was a good man, son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was not an MKP brother, but I feel his life was a good example of being one.

Peter

Posted in Men and Their Fathers | Comments Off

Glorious Masculinity

The ManKind Project (MKP) offers male initiation, male rites of passage, and men’s personal growth and development groups. For MKP in the UK and Ireland, see www.mkp.org.uk.

On of the most sinister trends in society in recent years has been the demonization of men. Men are castigated for being men. They are mocked in adverts which routinely portray men as stupid, with women getting one over on them. They are shown on billboards and in adverts in a sexualized way that would never be acceptable if the object of the advert was a woman. They are pilloried without compassion in a fanatical, even insane, right wing tabloid press whose own values lie somewhere below the gutter.

Men are the victims of job losses and divorce court settlements, they are seen as potential rapists and child molesters, and I judge they are blamed for most relationship problems. (And blame themselves for these things too.)

We hear women criticizing men for “raping the planet”, but we hear no defence of men for their creativity, their dynamism, their ability to get things done, their inventiveness. We hear no defence of the young men who are forced to register for duty in the Armed Forces or be excluded from social welfare – try getting a driving licence or social security in many American states if you don’t want to register on your 18th Birthday as a potential military recruit.

We hear no pleas for the working man who has devoted his life to a company only to find it casts him aside in favour of cheaper labour inAsia. 

We hear no cries of outrage at the feminization of the education system, the lack of male teachers, and the widespread inability to understand what boys need to be motivated in school. In a system with so many female teachers, despite their best efforts, no wonder boys underperform.

And does the system make any effort to understand the young men in their care, for whose welfare they are responsible? Not often, no. Usually they are blamed – for being boys, and ironically enough, for being irresponsible.

That is the male problem: we are criticized just for being who and what we are from the day we are born. Criticized by many women and by feminized, adapted men who do nothing to help young men take their rightful place in society and achieve their full potential. And, of course, by uncompassionate right wing politicians who themselves exemplify the immature archetype of the “Puer”, the eternally adolescent boy-man.

Of course, I’m not defending the obscenities of war and the military system or the rape of the planet. I’m pointing out the unjustness of expecting young men to suffer trauma and agony in battle, then damning men for being war-like, aggressive, or cut off from their feelings; the iniquity of taking jobs off men who only want to work hard and provide for their families, then blaming them for not providing for their families or contributing to society; of expecting them to adapt to what women want on every front.

Contrary to what society seems to portray, men are not naturally aggressive, or rapists, or drunken thugs. That is not what masculinity is about, and to portray masculinity as being essentially those things is an obscenity. 

The truth is that men have lost sight of what it means to be a man in the face of an onslaught of criticism and many outspoken critics of masculinity in the last few decades. And while it’s true we have some terrible examples of maleness in our political leadership, it’s about time we men stood up and defended ourselves and said: “No, we will not adapt any more. We will be masculine, true to ourselves and proud of it!”

And in case you are wondering, I think true masculinity resides in compassion, caring, strength, integrity, honesty, consistency of purpose, having a life purpose, a goal, protecting the family, raising decent boys and girls, adding something back to society, and having a spiritual awareness. No doubt you could add your own list of qualities that sums up masculinity.

The problem is we have lost our maleness. We gave it away to our mothers – and our fathers (who had probably lost their masculinity as well) never helped us to find it again.

Boys raised by single mothers really need a man around to show them how to be a man. But then so do all boys – they cannot learn how to be a real man from their mother. They can only learn how to be a feminized male, an adapted man. Boys need to learn maleness from a man. When men adapted – as they so often do – to what women said they wanted in the “New Man” era of the 1990’s, it wasn’t long before we discovered that actually women don’t want a New Man at all. That softness, that adaptedness, is not what women want: they want real masculinity, and men need to give it to them.

We see a host of books like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,  many of which set out to illustrate the differences between the sexes and end up telling men that they are the ones who have to change to improve matters: that they are the ones who need to learn how women communicate, and speak their language.

Well, I’m telling you it’s about time we said we’ve had enough of this!

And fortunately there are advocates on our side who will support us in recovering our masculinity and telling us what we actually need to know to become real men again. Consciousness raising is not just for women – once you understand why you feel as you do (powerless, depressed, weak, unfulfilled, lacking balls, or whatever) you’ll never want to adapt again. And you know what?

The amazing thing is that women and men will really respect you and want to be around you. That, my friend, is what women and men want: a real man, consistent and true to himself, with integrity of purpose and able to take responsibility for himself and his actions. 

If, like so many men, you missed out on the teachings that you needed to fulfill your potential, then this is the organization that can show you what it means to get in touch with your own masculinity, take full responsibility for your life and find your true purpose. The ManKind Project

The ManKind Project in England, Scotland and Wales offers male initiation, male rites of passage, and men’s personal growth and development groups. 

These are some books you might like to read, to help you see things as they really are. And find yourself a good group of men to support you. You need it. That’s a great place to start – meeting with initiated men who understand you and your maleness.

Visit www.mkpuk-newsletter.org to buy these books (and anything else) from Amazon.co.uk

Iron John by Robert Bly  The original men’s consciousness raising book, forerunner of all men’s work. Absolutely unmissable.

Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men – by Steve Biddulph, Paul Stanish  A superb explanation of why we need to treat boys in a way that suits them, and how and why this is different from the way you would treat girls. Boys are special creatures, and their special qualities need to be respected (and so, of course, are girls). Boys need things girls don’t – especially they need to learn about self-discipline and respect for others. This is the one book you must have if you have a son.

The Myth of Male Power by Warren Farrell  Think men are the victimizers? Think they run the world? Think they have any real power? Think again. Read this shocking, truly shocking book, and then judge for yourselves. The chapter about women in the Armed Forces is particularly enlightening.

Why Men Don’t Iron by Anne and Bill Moir  Thank heavens for an intelligent defence of masculinity and a review of the evidence about why men are men and women are women – and why they behave differently. And that it’s OK to be a man and just as good to be a woman – truly, without compromising your own integrity!

Rod 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Overjoyed

I have been feeling quite overjoyed of late. Happiness overflows. Bliss, rapture, ecstasy…

Where does this come from? And why am I experiencing such wonderful feelings within my being? It is certainly not that I have particular “reason” for such feeling – not that a reason should be needed, I suppose.

But here I am, five years down the road from a cancer diagnosis (which has not yet been pronounced “cured” by any “powers-that-be”), and it is not that I have won a lottery or anything else especially rewarding has happened in my life. So what is happening? And why would I tell myself that I should have a reason (or possibly reasons) for being so wonderfully happy? What is happening?

Well…let me back up a bit. What is true is that I HAVE made quite a number of significant changes in my life in the past 3 or 4 years. And going back to my cancer diagnosis (prostate cancer, for those of you who are wondering), I was certainly hit pretty hard by the news. VERY hard, in fact. Cancer was something that happened to OTHER people – not to ME!!

And so, the present journey began. After falling into a kind of black hole and finding myself in a very dark space for quite some time, I began slowly to crawl my way back out of the cave again – starting by reaching out, reaching out to friends and others from whom I could share my pain (emotional, more than any physical), my grief, my sorrow and my fear. I found what came back to me from such openness, was love and caring – genuine support. And thus I began to look for ways to expand that support network – which was where I came across the ManKind Project, attending the Warrior Weekend Adventure in England in June of 2006, some 8 months after receiving “the news”.

Out of this arose my very own healing ritual, which I set up for myself with the wonderful assistance of a great number of caring men from the ManKind Project from all over the world, but in particular England. This ritual took place in London (Richmond) in May of 2008 and an article appeared in Spearhead about it in November of the same year. The journey continues . . .

Upon re-emerging from my cave of doom, I began to look at what was happening in my life (bigger picture) and re-evaluate a few things. Having always been a man of great (in the sense of “large” or “strong” here, and not amazing or famous) faith, I had always believed that things happen to me for reasons which I am sometimes – generally, perhaps – not always aware of. Others might refer to such a belief as karma.

Whatever it may be called I found such a cancer diagnosis to be the mightiest challenge to my faith that I had yet to face. I could not let go of the idea that this was, if not something that I created for myself, then at least something which I attracted to myself. It is such a belief that has given me the strength to not only continue living, but, in fact, to actually take a very good and hard close look at my life, where I was going, what was working, and what was not – for if I attracted this, then certainly I have the power to do something about it.

Ultimately what it came down to was a simple reminder of my own mortality – the clock of our lives never stops ticking and I realized that I had been living my own life in a sort of “holding pattern” for quite some time. In fact, if I was being completely honest with myself – which I was attempting to do – I had sunk quite deeply into a state of overwhelming resignation.

OK. So what next? And where to go to from that point? Slowly but surely I began to re-evaluate my life and make some changes. A great WAKE-UP! call had rung. If I am going to die (which, of course, I certainly am – I just don’t know when), then I have a limited amount of time to actually live my life. Perhaps it was time to “get a life”, and in particular, the life that I wanted. One of the greatest gifts that I have been given through all this, is the gift of freedom – freedom to do what I want to do – something which we all in fact have, but which we often forget, or give away to others in our lives – thinking perhaps that we don’t deserve, or others should come first…. or, well, any number of things.

And so the changes continued to happen…over the last 3 years I have completed a career and left a job which I had done for almost 20 years, left a marriage of 28 years (which I had known for quite some time needed to happen), moved countries, fallen in love again, found new work, and much, much more. I am now living in a place where I want to be, and doing what I want to be doing and sharing this life with someone whom I want to be with. Perhaps there are, after all, reasons for my joy.

As Paul Tillich said in The Courage to Be:

The affirmation of one’s essential being in spite of desires and anxieties creates joy. Lucillus is exhorted by Seneca to make it his business “to learn how to feel joy.” It is not the joy of fulfilled desires to which he refers, for real joy is a “severe matter”; it is the happiness of a soul which is “lifted above every circumstance.” Joy accompanies the self-affirmation of our essential being in spite of the inhibitions coming from the accidental elements in us. Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous Yes to one’s own true being

Is this then not the same joy that Joseph Campbell talks about in The Power of Myth when he talks about “following your bliss”? This cannot help but lead us to our essential self within, for this is where we are unknowingly drawn to – with a force as inexorable as gravity. Is this not what we all want? I would wish all of you such bliss in your lives.

Brad

Posted in Male Initiation, Men Supporting Men | Comments Off

Shadow Leaving

“Shadow Leaving” turns to gold

I thought this piece was about a minor incident in my life. It turned out to be about how I’ve been keeping a bad dream coming true.  

My I-group meets in Fulham on Wednesday nights, fortnightly. On December 8, 2010, I clean forgot we were circling up. I wrote what follows, addressed directly to my I-group, after we’d met again two weeks later. 

******

South of South Wimbledon, past the junction withMerantun Way, past the backside of a Wickes and a Big Yellow Storage, a low, brick-built 1920’s industrial estate sinks away, and I rise up the slope of the railway bridge and I’m home – or nearly home.

The dual carriageway ends at the bridge, the street lighting dims, and as I descend, the dark over Morden Hall Park is a relief, seeming to flood in and clear my mind…… which then fills with the circle we make, with Jim standing opposite me, and now I’m remembering my words, and now with a jolt I see the man I don’t want to be.

Earlier, holding myself accountable, I’d realised that having decided – though not yet communicated – that I’d be leaving our I-group next month, I’d “jumped the gun” by “forgetting it” a fortnight ago, enacting my familiar way of leaving.  

Jim had suggested I take a fortnight to consider my enrolment onto a Wednesday night Counselling and Psychotherapy Foundation Course that will take me out of our I-group for a year. 

I’d barked back, “This doesn’t come into it! The choice is whether I’m doing the therapy course! If I am, I’m not doing this.” 

The jolt I felt wasn’t due to recalling the bluntness of my words so much as how I’d said them, sensing something leaking out of shadow that I didn’t want the other men to see, an arrogance or fear carried in my tone, saying something like, “You’re daft to imagine I’d even think of my decision that way, weighing up our I-group against me studying…You think you count, that this matters?” 

I saw my shadow way of leaving, of completing or evolving even the good things in my life: not with heartfelt gratitude, respect, sadness or joy. Oh no. Instead, I’ll not turn up, just disappear with off-handedness or cut you off with a barked defence, negate and diminish whatever we’ve had – then not now, it’s history, mate – leaving feelings devalued, killed off, dead.

My handling of good things in my life: a little cold, inhuman? But is there any gold in this shadow?

******

I rue keeping notebooks, my record of inertia. A proper little student of science I was, beginning my first, March 29 1986, “To note feelings and emotions, stimuli and responses, […] to replace habits and routines.” 

I later scribbled across the page, “Nothing’s changed!” but by then I had at least begun this work, this leaving work specifically. I was a twenty-eight year old valuer at Chesterton’s, surveyors. I’d rearranged a flat and made some bucks. My gorgeous girlfriend was the nicest person and willing to go the distance.

And in September 1986 I arrived home, parked my immaculately restored Hillman Minx, went upstairs and wrote: “Leaving…Leaving Tiger Rocks and Isipingo Beach – I’m four – leaving the sea, leaving Tiger and Tiger our dog and cat, and on the back seat of daddy’s Triumph Herald, sister leans over and whispers, ‘They didn’t run away. They killed them.’

Durban– urban life, aching for the sea. Older brothers scarce. Daddy leaving, daddy ache – weeks, months dimming into years. Papa back, out of the blue one sunny afternoon, my heart singing. Late night arguments, awakening, staring down through banisters at tottering drunkenness and raging mother’s bread-knife threats. “Get out!” Daddy gone.

Sister leading me into the pantry, showing me a divorce announcement in a newspaper. “So?” Eight, nine, ten – real close to my best friend Rob, looking forwards with him and the gang. And taken away, far away to where I hid in shame my love of Springbok green and gold, leaving behind that boy brimful of hope and his dad and warrior men shrouded then in the darkening shadows of alcoholism and apartheid.

Home from a new school and sister telling me “Daddy’s dead,” bitching I didn’t even write the last time, wasn’t in dad’s last letter at all. And onwards to life with good new friends, seventeen, eighteen, good at leaving with clean cuts by then and with not much of a clue of who I am, dropping out of college soon – hanging out, then into work, a workaholic blue-eyed boy, only never quite there and always soon with my all-too-often glassy-eyed stare, off the boil with crap building up, and stuck – never – leaving again, onwards and upwards, year after year after seventh year.

We lost Ma somewhere in the years before, ten, fifteen, twenty back, lost her to keeping a lid on pain while seeing us through, and sis’ and I moved on and Ma tried and tried, and tried again, then gave in, did her leaving thing, twenty three floors up and one step off, and my perceived part in that.

Then I didn’t do leaving no more. Stoned at her cremation, frozen. A passing interest in the munchies.

******

So, like many before, since, by twenty-eight I’d suffered more loss than I was built to cope with. Shadow took care of it. We did a deal, Shadow and me, that he’d hold all that stuff, keep it in shadow exactly as much as I could avoid attaching to, connecting with anything that’d risk us feeling loss on leaving, that’d risk us, you know, touching it, that shit.

The golden flukes of my job and A’ sweet smiles and divine breasts were flies in Shadow’s ointment: I blew them out and never looked back, partied on.

Nobody’s fault. Certainly not Shadow’s, forever diligently doing his best to keep me safe, defended, with notable agility and skills in fact. Took seventeen more years for Shadow’s way to take me down, enough for me to crawl out of the rat’s-hole of a crack den and surrender, opened up to trying a different way.

Oh Lucky Man! Fellowships had grown up all around me. I was held and carried while I tested out giving up doing it all alone, then gave up my secrets, thawing, thawing. 

And in time I found the ManKind Project, our wider community, and most importantly to me in recent years I found you, my I-group brothers, who’ve accepted everything I’ve brought, who’ve welcomed me and kept on welcoming me until one night I heard I am welcome, and began to trust.

So it is – not alone – I’ve grown strong enough to reclaim the share of pain that’s mine. And my right to love again – to see the gold in shadow here.

Simple really. I care. I was just another kid who cared too much about too much stuff before I’d had a shot at growing up.

I’m still scared – I could go on about it – when I say that as a man amongst men, I’m open to loving…though never minding that today. Regarding being here, now, with you, there’s a man I want to be who steps up when it’s time for leaving.

I’ve now signed up and paid for a course on Wednesdays and so won’t be in our next three cycles, for 2011.

A shadow thought did cross my mind, “I’ll join an I-group that’s not on Wednesdays.” Now another sensation, feeling, seeing…No. This is my I-group. This is where I come back to because this is my circle because you, me, we, the work I’ve done, we’ve done, do here, is worth something. I’m really grateful for the journey I’ve made with you. It means a lot to me.

I honour M, S, F, R – growing, giving, facilitating men, part of this circle’s strength before and into my time, and men who’ve visited, passed on through…D, E, M, more.  

I honour B, his hand on my chest, pushing me to get present and stand my ground. I honour Br’s mellow presence and the insight he whispered to me that so strengthened my forgiveness of my mother. I honour U and his good heart, mirroring me standing on the edge at times and keeping coming back, stalwart. I honour J’s strength, challenging, supporting, teaching me clean anger and courage and integrity again and again. I honour M for his inclusive strength and wise presence, for his deeply nurturing, generous fellowship. I honour J’s “Cut the crap” clarity, reminding me that action talks the way Jim walks his fathering, heroic path. I honour N flourishing into mission, creating and holding the space for new energy to enter and regenerate our circle: I welcome new men, P, N, I, more – I challenge you to get skilled up, to step into the middle and make your circle thrive.

Knowing I may not get it, I want to stay in touch through 2011, and attend circles or socials between my course term times. I feel sad writing this ending, facing a new beginning. I feel sad – I guess that’s part of what it feels like – for me today – to feel my love for you.

You know where I am. I bless us all.

Your warrior brother.

******

On January 5 2011 I read that to the men who were present that night. I was concerned about the length. I was given time to read the whole piece and heard in silence. We took a pee break and I thought it had gone OK and that was likely that. “Like history, mate.”

Then I was asked if I’d like feedback. And I heard I’ll be missed. I was welcomed to stay in touch and visit. I saw men moved to tears. I met with gratitude and respect. This wasn’t leaving as I know it – a little cold, inhuman. This was feeling, and meaning, this was a man changing. And men with him.

Jacob

Posted in Male Initiation, Men Supporting Men | Comments Off

The Eyes Have It!

On staffing the ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure for the first time.

Men aren’t generally known for their ability to make sustained eye contact. Walking down a street of strangers, I instinctively avoid looking directly at anyone for more than a glancing moment, in case my gaze is misconstrued as a sexual come-on or an invitation to a street brawl. It’s an unspoken urban survival code which both protects and isolates me from my fellow men.

That’s why my experience of the ManKind Project feels so revolutionary. Of all the rich, challenging and bizarre moments that filled my male initiation in July 2010, what has stayed most in my memory are the faces, only inches away.

All those powerful, wise eyes locked onto mine at first with implacable warrior connection, and then later with fierce love and acceptance. The goodbye ceremony in particular was unforgettable and deeply healing. No flinching, no shame, no apology. Just the open gazes of men who had embraced their own shadows and now seemed big enough to welcome mine.

Yet just over a year later, as a rookie staff man at the Comb in Northumberland, I’m back in a very different experience of eye-contact. The initiate currently staring into my face looks like he would very much like to punch it – and I can’t say I blame him. One of the last to come through the door, he is the most resistant to the path ahead.

I must fight the urge to soften my blank expression and rescue us both from this face-off, to smile and tell him everything will be alright. Because I know from my own experience last year that what lies ahead of him is anything but reassuring – that he will need to descend into some of his darkest, most exiled places in order to complete this journey. So I simply hold his gaze – those angry, frightened, defiant eyes – and gesture him onwards in the registration process to the next set of eyes: “See that man.”

As if this isn’t tricky enough, a good friend has also signed up as an initiate following a late-night conversation we had on holiday in July. So it feels almost perverse that in his case I am advised to avoid eye contact – indeed, avoid him altogether if possible. I lose a lot of sleep on the first night, worrying that I am deserting him when he most needs reassurance. I try to lose myself in kitchen work, but keep projecting my fears onto him, wondering how he is getting on, up at the coal-face of the initiate work.

At last, I seek help from the staff circle of men, who challenge me to trust that they will look after him for me. I look into their eyes, allow myself to fall back into their physical and emotional support, and feel a wave of relief that all will be well. Wonderfully, one of these men is my blood brother Mark, himself staffing for the first time, and it occurs to me that he too trusted me enough to be initiated, and now shares my passion for this work.

A familiar MKP mantra comes to mind: Trust the Process. I throw myself into chopping carrots for our benevolent kitchen god, Odu, and keep a symbolic distance from my friend. Later, finding myself in the same circle as he begins his personal journey, I step out of the building to give him the privacy I judge that he needs to dig deep into himself.

Meanwhile, the unflinching honesty of other staff men – particularly the leaders themselves – continues to amaze me. They hold out shadows I recognise as my own, and ask for my support as I ask for theirs. I look into their unguarded eyes as we all participate in hard, rich work together with brave initiates. Not for the first time, I watch the male myth of autonomy crumble before the beautiful, demanding reality of our interdependence.

Later, under a flawless star-speckled sky, I watch new men dance the hard-won liberation they reveal. I glimpse my friend and grin at the memory of a conversation we finally snatched after his work: he was angry and confused and ready to leave on Saturday night, until a well-placed leader talked him round. Now he’s hooked, and grateful that I kept my distance – his work was deep and strong.

I’m flooded with relief, and energy, and awe that we are here together – all 90 of us – when we could so easily have stuck to the safe, familiar rituals of pub or telly sports or office banter instead. It feels a long time since I even saw a comfort zone, let alone stepped out of one!

Sunday morning brings a strange, sacred experience, eyeballing a vivid green grasshopper in the sunshine. Elemental connection, timelessness, thanksgiving: a sort of prayer. And then, almost before I realise it, we’re circling up for the goodbye ceremony. Before me, in close succession, stand my dear friend, and the stranger whose anger so challenged me at the start of the weekend. In both cases, their eyes are different: wet with a kind of benign brokenness, and wide open to anything and everything life might bring.

Despite knowing my friend for nearly two decades, and sharing a lot of laughter and invigorating existential conversations along the way, I realise I have rarely looked properly into his face.

How different it feels now: to be holding his gaze wordlessly, my heart aching and open, and connected through the vulnerability we have shared. And what an incredible privilege.

Nick

Posted in Male Initiation | Comments Off

The Journey Home

I came into contact with MKP about a year ago. I wasn’t looking for a group. Or a teacher. Definitely not a teacher: I’d had 9 years of teachers and teachings in a spiritual community. I wasn’t looking for anything that required me to be a follower, or to put part of myself aside while trying to be “in the moment”. In fact, I wasn’t looking for anything except reinforcement of what I felt dimly inside my own being: my own truth.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I was still struggling to find my place in the world of work and creativity. I’ve never felt I’ve been doing the right job. I’d walked away from my bench in a cabinet maker’s workshop a couple of years before and was doing a bit of this and a bit of that – I packed some hand-tools into the back of my car and took on handyman work where it arose; I also made puppets for a puppeteer friend. In 2010 I saw a therapist for a series of sessions specifically around the theme of vocation.

During these sessions my therapist guided me into a conversation with my father in which I told him how angry I was that he hadn’t been there for me. We explored the thing that was missing – and the word “engagement” kept ringing out – my father had never engaged with me in a way that showed me how to be in the world.

My parents divorced when I was 7 and time spent with my dad usually meant a few hours at the weekend – we played squash as I grew strong enough to hold the racket, or met up in one of his favourite drinking places and talked – or rather, he talked and I listened. I learnt it was better not to have my own ideas; easier to be silent or ask questions. I can do listening quite well.

In the therapy sessions, I had some profound conversations with my shadow-dad. With my therapist’s encouragement, I showed him the door and insisted that he left. I then engaged with my own inner teenager and practised being the father I never had. Following the session my therapist gave me homework: to find ways to be with my own inner teenager and take that process forward.

Well, that didn’t stick well with me. I didn’t have any reference points – it seemed abstract and I wasn’t about to continue paying for therapy sessions to do it. And then, two weeks later, a friend told me about an American organisation called Boys to Men, and a training weekend that was happening to bring the work to theUK.

The work was about mentoring teenagers, and the training involved reconnecting with one’s own inner teenager. Well, the idea of hanging out with teenagers scared the pants off me, but I knew enough by now to see that what was scaring me was something I really needed to explore. And clearly life was giving me a nudge here! I booked a place.

The day was in London; I found myself sharing a lift with 5 other men from the Stroud area, who all seemed like really good men. On the training the work was uncompromising, challenging, and honest. We examined our shadows, our father issues; we spoke to our fathers as they were then and as they are inside us now; we found a voice for our fathers and spoke as they were then and as they are now.

As we drove back home that night, exhausted but inspired after this rich day, we found there was a common interest in taking this further and starting up a group in the Stroud area. And so it started – our connection to JourneymanUK (as it is now called).

Yet over the coming months, I noticed my bigger interest was in nourishing the connection I’d found with these men and the way they worked together. I heard the name MKP – The ManKind Project – and started to see a connection: 4 of the 5 men in the car were MKP men, and so were many on the training day. I went along to the Stroud iGroup and found I was hooked. It was only a matter of time before I did my New warrior Training Adventure ….. March 2011 at Embercombe. This was a Modern Day Rite of Passage, a modern day initation for men.

So what was important for me about MKP? I had come from a singularly spiritual path. I had been immersed for 9 years in a Tantric teaching which gave huge importance to the honouring of and devotion to the Divine Feminine as a way of finding my own Divine Masculine and being my own Divine Self. A beautiful path.

But I couldn’t continue along it whilst standing in the shadow of any teacher. I had to find my own way. It was clear I wasn’t going to have the enlightenment experience any time soon, and yet, whether through arrogance or willfulness, I couldn’t stomach the idea of serving a “Guru”: I want to be my own man and I wish the same for all the men around me.

So I explored teachings which seemed somehow democratic or consensual, which served each man’s right to be the leader of his own life, his own destiny.

Now democratic and consensual are not the first words that spring to my mind when I think of MKP. There are leaders, and by definition, followers. But there are many leaders, and they work together with marvelous speed and skill and common purpose. And sometimes they fuck up and they admit it and work with it. I find this is a kind of leadership – a way of being a man – that I can trust. It is earthly, not superhuman, in fact very earthy and rather limited in some ways, but I am enjoying getting my hands dirty in this work and feel I’m engaging more and more fully with my life.

I want to be engaged with people, to be part of the change that is needed and is happening in our world. The spiritual truths I have learned seem integral to this change: that I am not my body or my emotions or thoughts, that I am not who I think I am, that I am ultimately the creator of my own reality. These truths seem to me to underpin this work, yet are not expressed in this way.

All I know for sure is that there are some things I must do in order to be fully here in my life. If I don’t I am just drifting. Speaking my truth seems to be one of them.

I did my first staffing on the September 2011 warrior training. I helped to set up a series of recycling bins in the kitchen area for all the staff food and drink waste. I was appalled to find men chucking stuff into the wrong bins in ways which I judged to be either lazy or hugely unaware. As I stood up to speak to the staff group about it my stomach turned to jelly and my brain stopped working. My tongue glued itself inside my mouth. The usual signs!

But I found a new strength and spirit to say what I felt had to be said and found that men were listening to me. There was strong, unsentimental support from the whole body of men. I felt empowered and humbled.

And so this is my journey now. My goal is no longer enlightenment. My goal is to be the man I know I already am inside, and to live that here on the outside. And I have a wonderful joy and anticipation for what lies ahead on the journey.

 Matthew

Posted in Male Initiation | Comments Off