From: The Healers - Lansing's Monthly Mindy, Body & Spirit Newsletter
"The Mankind Project: Reclaiming the ‘sacred masculine’
By BARBARA LOYER and SAM CRAWFORD
“We are an order of men called to reclaim the sacred masculine for our time through initiation, training, and action in the world.”
— ManKind Project Creed
The year is 1984. Fate brings together three men with very distinct personalities: Ron Herring, Bill Kouth and Richard Tosi. The first, a psychotherapist and social activist for peaceful change, the second a teacher working with intensive retreat-style accelerated learning events, the third an executive and former Marine — a “man’s man.”
Their discussions focused on what they perceived as the crisis of male identity —contemporary men were losing a sense of personal mission, responsibility to community and their connection to the inner world of healthy emotion. Initially, the result of their discussions was a weekend retreat called “Wildman Weekend,” which later became known as “The New Warriors Training Adventure.” Men who experienced the retreats were reported to be so profoundly changed that follow-up seminars began to be scheduled and soon “The ManKind Project” (MKP) was born. MKP now has certified centers at 27 communities in the United States, Canada, England, and most recently, Germany. MKP participation is inclusive, non-political, and non-sectarian, and programs are designed to capture the essence of what it means to be male through discussion, bonding and mutual experience.
Today there are more than 100,000 people who have been directly involved with this group. There are several offshoots of MKP, including a women’s version, “Women Within,” which was founded by wives of MKP participants. Bosses have endorsed and even required the weekend for their employees. In at least one known case, a judge refers repeat offenders to the Mankind Project. Perhaps the most dramatic and ground-breaking spin-off is the “Inside Circle,” where correspondence between a Folsom Prison inmate and a friend on the outside who became involved with MKP, led to a Weekend Warrior- influenced program being conducted in the prison. The program reported a great deal of success and a similar program is now being used in prisons in Massachusetts and Kentucky.
The “New Warrior Training Adventure” (NWTA) is an initiation process that includes three parts: “The Descent,” “The Ordeal” and “The Homecoming.” Confidentiality is highly stressed in all MKP events. “The Descent” incorporates a radical departure from the man’s normal life into a completely different realm. “The MKP Web site states, “Men are asked to ‘pull the plug’ on their mainframe computers (heads) when they reach the training. Everything that occurs takes place in a totally different realm. The man is challenged by a staff of 25 to35 men to unshackle his belief system and step into something new.”
For “The Ordeal” aspect of the training, the man must look closely at where he is in his life — whether he’s holding his own or having a hard time — and look at what’s working and what isn’t. The “Wildman” metaphor of the original name for the training speaks to the major shift that participants are called upon to make. The “Wildman” aspect is loosely based on the “Iron John” story in Robert Bly’s classic book of the same name.
Claude Winton, local Mankind Project veteran and director of Serendipity Group, a local counseling center, said, “In the ‘Iron John’ story a little boy cuts his finger on the lock that jails the Wildman. This is the wound that we use as a metaphor . . . the MKP Warrior’s Weekend is about finding parts of ourselves that get in the way of being who we really are. These issues come up as wounds. To be true to myself, I need to look at where I received those wounds and learn from them.”
For “The Homecoming” a man is called upon to find and articulate a personal mission for his life. “The best analogy is in nature, where every plant that grows comes from a seed. In order for the seed to manifest a plant, whether that plant be for our consumption and nurturing, industry, or simply something beautiful to look at – that seed has to ‘burst’ open,” according to the MKP Web site. The weekend retreat takes an inside-out approach to fostering positive social change. Optimally, each man will come back and positively affect the lives of each person with whom he comes in contact.
For Winton, MKP became an integral part of his personal mission. Winton believes his experience with the project has allowed him to affect others in a more positive manner on all levels of his life. What he has gained in his experiences with MKP, he is able to pass on to people in his support groups, clients, friends and family.
At the heart of The New Warrior Training Adventure is the “sacred masculine” model. Along with the “Iron John” story, other allegorical stories are used in the teachings, such as the mythic Green Man and Oak King. The “Sacred Masculine” model calls for men to create a vision of a world in which they would like to live. In “Integration Groups” conducted after the initial weekend training, men’s progress toward their vision is considered. “We are held accountable for our actions through the integration groups,” Winton said. “There are other empowering seminars and weekend retreats that do the same kinds of things. It is the eight-week integration group, led by a trained facilitator, that sets MKP apart.”
Both Winton and Ross Lucas of “Shepard Staff Counseling Services” in East Lansing are graduates of NWTA and active participants of MKP. Their varied backgrounds highlight the diversity of backgrounds of the average MKP participant. Part of the MKP training is to accept individuals for who they are rather than considering their racial/ethnic/cultural background or sexual orientation. One of the main points of the weekend is that individuals can completely disagree on major issues and still respect and support each other.
Winton, a Detroit native, had been in and out of trouble for years. He found MKP through a member of a 12-step program he attended. Lucas holds several degrees, including a doctorate in philosophy, a master’s in divinity, a doctorate in psychology and accreditation as a pastoral counselor. He found out about MKP through his position as a counselor.
Despite feeling well-adjusted and in a good position in his life, Lucas said he joined MKP because he wanted closer and more meaningful relationships with other men. While attending the first “Warrior Weekend” ever given in Germany, he found himself in a profoundly meaningful experience with another man. He had gone to Germany with a team of MKP veterans and during a discussion with one German man, discovered that each of them had family members two generations before in opposing prisoner of war camps. Even today, the experience of being in that mutually supportive relationship with someone whom had once been considered an enemy gives him strength.
“The thing I value most . . . is being with men and being able to completely be myself and not be judged,” Lucas says. “The people sitting next to me may completely disagree with what I’m saying but they do not judge.”
Both Winton and Lucas are convinced that the Mankind Project is a successful vehicle for change and personal growth. In their experience with the project, they testify to seeing men who had been near suicide back away from that decision, men near divorce rescue their marriages, and men come to terms with their sexual orientation. Although they describe the weekend as emotionally strenuous, Lucas reports that only one in 1,000 or so men does not finish the training. There are only two types of people who aren’t good candidates for this program, Lucas said, “those who have not had enough life experience and those who do not yet have the emotional stability to take an honest look at themselves.”
Lucas also said that through MKP a man can become aware of his emotions and how the emotions manifest in the physical body as posture or as symptoms of illness. He warned, however, that despite the great benefits and dramatic changes MKP can make in a man’s life, it should not be a replacement for therapy with a trained counselor.
“At its core, this is about celebrating individuality,” Winton said. “It’s about sharing and growing together.”
Whew-weeee-ye-haaaaa! Good stuff. I about know about the 100,000 people statement, but the rest is pretty good.