11.22.2005

Keep Going

One of the blessings I get from my work in the ManKind Project is the constant reminder that my work is on-going. My striving for better, for honor, for integrity and accountability, for love and friendship are supported in this place called MKP.

Another is the blessing of elders. This work, this men's work, is open to any man of any age and any background. MKP supports a population of elder men who take on the special and honorable role with great care and vision. They are there for me to call on for wisdom, fathering, care, understanding, and challenging.

MKP offers me a place to stand among all men who are my Grandfathers, Brothers, and Sons.

I offer that there is richness and depth in MKP. I offer there is richness and depth for you. Will you take the challenge of getting what you need in your life?

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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Legend of the Warrior/Keep Going
Joseph Fire Crow and Joseph Marshall III
2001

The young Lakota asked his grandfather why life had to be so difficult sometimes.
This was the old man's reply.

Grandfather says this:
In life, there is sadness as well as joy.
Losing as well as winning.
Falling as well as standing.
Hunger as well as plenty.
Bad as well as good.

Grandfather does not say this to make you despair,
but to teach you reality.
To teach you that life is a journey sometimes walked in light,
sometimes in shadow.

Grandfather says this: You did not ask to be born, but you are here.
You have weaknesses as well as strengths.
You have both because in life, there are two of everything.
Within you is the will to win, as well as the willingness to lose.
The heart to feel compassion, as well as the smallness to be arrogant.
Within you is the way to face life, as well as the fear to turn away from it.

Grandfather says this: Life can give you strength.
It can come from facing the storms of life,
from knowing loss, feeling sadness and heartache.
From falling into the depths of grief.
You must stand up in the storm
You must face the wind, and the cold, and the darkness.
When the storm blows hard, you must stand firm.
For it is not trying to knock you down,
it is really trying to teach you to be strong.

Grandfather says this: being strong means taking one more step
toward the top of the hill, no matter how weary you may be.
It means letting the tears flow through the grief.
It means to keep looking for the answer,
though the darkness of despair is all around you.
It means to cling to hope for one more heartbeat, for one more sunrise.
Each step, no matter how difficult, is one more step closer to the top of the hill.
To keep hope alive for one more heartbeat at a time
leads to the light of the next sunrise and the promise of a new day.

Grandfather says this: The weakest step toward the top of the hill,
toward the sunrise, toward hope,
is stronger than the fiercest storm.

Grandfather says this: Keep going.

11.21.2005

Whatever happened to the men's movement?

Below is an older article with some valid points that speak about the importance of the men's movment.

How does this fit into the NWTA? Men are looking for ways to break out of the molds that they are experiencing. The NWTA is but one way to get that mold-breaking experience. What sets MKP apart is that it offers a place to continue your weekend exprience for as long as you want. These places are called iGroups. See this link for more about iGroups.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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Whatever happened to the men's movement?

Staff Photo By Corey Lowenstein
Members of the leadership council of the Men's Center of Raleigh and Wake County, from left: Gregory Blaine, Patrick Knox, Martin Brossman, Doug Lester, Doug Jenette and Dave Davenport.

Though critics dismiss and lampoon it, activists say they are making progress -- one man at a time.

By SARAH AVERY, Staff Writer

For a warrior such as Doug Lester, battling in the trenches of the men's movement, progress comes in increments that are difficult to plot on a map with red pushpins, as in here is where we started and here is where we are now.

Certainly, there has been some headway. In the 13 years Lester has been working to advance a movement that isn't so much about injustice as inertia, the Raleigh financial planner has seen the creation of a men's center in Raleigh, the establishment of a series of annual retreats, the rise of movement heroes such as Robert Bly, who will address a men's workshop this weekend.

And yet, for every win, there's a setback -- or at least a failure of progress. For all its promise, the men's movement remains, largely, a private, therapeutic phenomenon.

Despite a run in the national spotlight at the start of the decade, the men's movement is now largely in the shadows. Its members meet for candid discussions that are much along the lines of encounter sessions, where privacy is carefully guarded; their leaders note a skittishness among some participants over the prospect of being "outed."

It's odd language for heterosexual men, and yet it's not without reason. For one thing, the movement has been the butt of jokes about men beating drums and running naked through the woods, prompting some men to avoid the movement. Also, the men consider their work deeply personal, not political. What they hope to accomplish, in the end, is a level of intimacy with other men based on trust, not competition.

It's an uphill campaign: "There are one million people in the Triangle," said Lester, a founding member and part of the leadership council of the Men's Center of Raleigh and Wake County, "and we're touching, like, maybe 100."

A movement is born

By most counts, the men's movement began in 1982, during a conference of men in Mendocino, Calif., that had originally been part of a men's and women's retreat. But the men spun off on their own, acknowledging that they had separate and compelling issues to consider.

Before that epiphany of that conference, there had been a few books lamenting the state of manhood, prompted in part by the feminist movement's successes. After the conference, there were more books and more conferences.

But it remained a largely fringe movement until Bly came along in 1990 with his best selling book, "Iron John." Bly, who will be in Raleigh for a fund-raiser at the Men's Center today and Saturday, used the Grimms' fairy tale of Iron Hans to outline the problem facing men in the late 20th century.

That problem, he argued, is a profound disconnect between old expectations of manhood -- men as stoic hunter-protectors -- and modern ones that demand a greater emotional arsenal. As women have made strides toward equality, men have had to learn to share: Share the workplace, share power, share more family responsibilities -- share, even, their emotions. The silent tough-guy role suddenly fit like a pair of shrunken knickers. But what could fit?

"It's a terrible thing that has happened to men, and most don't even notice it," Bly said in a recent interview at the Men's Center. "There's an old joke about a man walking along and his guts are hanging out and someone asks him if he's OK, and he says he's fine. That comes from a long history. Men endure. That's the way it is."

For Bly and others, the better course of action is to acknowledge the emotional wounds, even study them, to learn how they got there.

To do that, Bly's particular branch of the men's movement, called the mythopoetic, relies on poetry and myths, fathers and heritage. By contemplating mythic, historic roles, men can better understand the true essence of what it is that makes them uniquely men -- even as they shed outdated models.

The message and method caught on, particularly among middle-aged white men who -- often moved by a personal crisis such as divorce or job layoff -- questioned the meaning of their lives and the emotional isolation they imposed on themselves.

Droves of them attended retreats and conferences and workshops, many of which called upon men to shed, literally and figuratively, their worldly clothes and get in touch with their bare souls.

Through 1991 and 1992, the men's movement was the rage. In the Triangle, 80 to 100 men each spring made the annual weekend retreats to commune with each other around campfires. And while the Men's Center had been in existence in Raleigh since 1986, it enjoyed record membership -- 160-some men in various discussion groups and workshops -- during the early 1990s.

Bly himself was featured on the cover of Newsweek and in a lengthy interview with television journalist Bill Moyers. And other factions sprang up, notably the Promise Keepers, a religious movement that called on men to regain control of their lives by keeping their promises -- those they had made themselves and those that are simply implied by birthright -- as sons, husbands and fathers.

Fodder for parody

But the men's movement's limitations, and its own excesses, began to draw criticism.

As attendance to the retreats soared here and across the country, the sessions suddenly became fodder for parody, particularly in their liberal use of drums. It's still a touchy subject.

Lou Lipsitz, a Chapel Hill therapist who has been involved in the area's men's movement for 10 years, says the cartoon images severely damaged the movement: "That's a way of trivializing what is actually deep and meaningful work," he said.

For Bly, who used drums in his poetry readings and mythic presentations long before he became associated with the men's movement, the stereotype became a personal affront.

Some time ago, he said, he was in New York and noticed an advertisement for Dewar's Scotch whiskey painted on a public bus. It said, "You don't have to beat a drum or hug a tree to be a man."

"What does that mean?" Bly asked. "Does that mean the measure of being a man is by being an alcoholic like all the others in the past? That is hostile."

Bly said such ad campaigns scared men away from the movement. Participation dropped, seemingly overnight: "Men are very sensitive to being shamed."

Many of the men who weren't driven away became less open about their participation. The problem lingers today, said Martin Brossman, who has been leading a men's inquiry group from his Raleigh home for three years. "Absolutely there's a stigma."

The movement that wasn't?

Critics, however, contend that issues beyond image worked to slow the movement's momentum.

Strictly speaking, a movement, to be a movement, needs a political agenda -- a clarion call for some change in the collective cultural dynamic that soldiers in the trenches can fight for.

The feminist movement sought, among other things, economic parity for women; the civil rights movement sought, among other things, social parity for African-Americans.

Critics of the men's movement say it isn't a movement at all, because it lacks that key political element -- despite the successes it has had in getting many men to take their emotions seriously.

"As long as they think of these things as individual problems, instead of looking at who has power in our society and how the power is used, it isn't a movement, it's a therapeutic endeavor," said Michael Schwalbe, a sociologist at N.C. State University who spent three years attending men's movement sessions for his book, "Unlocking the Iron Cage."

If white middle-class men feel powerless, Schwalbe said, it's incumbent upon them to figure out who, then, is in power and how that power is perpetuated and what cultural forces need to be changed to balance the power.

"That would be the most empowering thing the mythopoetic men could do," Schwalbe said. "But they'll never do it."

Instead, he said, they are content to keep discussions focused on personal feelings of emotional isolation, whether at small groups sessions or at the larger communal retreats, and they make no larger call to arms.

But to men such as Lester, that criticism ignores the grass-roots effect of change, one man at a time -- the very kind of progress that is difficult to notch with pushpins.

"We believe that as a result of being more whole men, we will change society," Lester said. "It's not a big cause, but if we can be better people individually, we will make a difference."

Bly said that the movement has had significant impact, and he pointed to progress among the baby boom generation of fathers who are more active and emotionally involved with their children than the fathers before them.

"The men's movement has had a powerful effect -- not on all men -- maybe 10 to 15 percent," Bly said. "But they, in turn, interact with others."

Men involved in the movement say they are proud of the work they've done and believe that their lives are significantly different as a result of their activism. Each meeting, they say, is a fulfilling experience in which they probe emotional depths that otherwise go unexplored.

"I experience a type of connection that I had only known in relationships with women, but it has nothing to do with sex," Brossman says. "It's a sense of intimacy and satisfaction."

Progress, Brossman says, is an incremental process, although there are hopes to expand the movement's presence in the Triangle. Lester says the Men's Center wants to hire a part-time administrator and begin more community programs for men in crisis -- if they can raise enough money at this weekend's fund-raiser. The Men's Center's new push for a higher profile comes at a good time: This fall the movement was again in the national spotlight with the publication of feminist author Susan Faludi's book "Stiffed," which takes a sympathetic look at some of the issues the movement is grappling with.

"The door has been open to where enough men have started to get in touch with what's missing in their lives," Brossman says. "It's still in a very infant stage. and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Making major cultural changes doesn't happen overnight, and it shouldn't happen overnight."

Staff writer Sarah Avery can be reached at 829-4882 or savery@nando.com

11.08.2005

Shedding the Legacy of Patriarchy

Men have looked for strength in themselves for all eternity; whether it be as warriors, lovers, magicians, or kings. There are times we need to be in council, in circle, with other men to help us decide what or when or even if an action is needed; times we need to see if changing ourselves is the road to travel on. The ManKind Project offers you that place. I offer you that place. Come and sit in circle with me.

Read on....

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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The ManKind Project opens its doors

by Steve Shanafelt, from Mountain Xpress

Richard Tomaskovic doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd bother with a support group. At 71, the former technical writer and engineer is a witty and engaging talker who seems more active than a lot of people half his age. The man positively radiates a sense of purpose and competence.

Yet every week for the past year-and-a-half, Tomaskovic and a dozen or so other area residents have gotten together to dig deeper into themselves and the challenges they face.

"We talk about our issues and feelings," he explains. "We support each other in looking into those areas of our lives where we want to change."

These men are members of The ManKind Project, a Malone, N.Y.-based nonprofit dedicated to helping every man become a better person. And if the mission sounds somewhat vague, participants swear by the group's methods (though the specifics are kept under wraps).

"What The ManKind Project does is provide a structure," says Tomaskovic, a kind of unofficial spokesman for the local group. "It is a forum to just hang out and talk about our real feelings, without being afraid of the pressure that we find in the rest of the world."

They aren't failures. They aren't crybabies. Many are highly successful in their professional lives, say group members. And for all the talking, there's a lot of listening, too.

"The male norm is macho," says Tomaskovic. "It's about presenting yourself as tough and unemotional. Everyone has to be competitive and in a pecking order." The problem with that view, he says, is that it's not realistic: Men aren't always tough. Men have emotions; men sometimes need help. But there aren't many places where they can learn how to recognize and process those emotions in a safe, supportive environment.
One key theme in their ongoing discussions is the need for personal responsibility. Other frequent topics include personal integrity and trust.

A rite of passage

There's more to joining The ManKind Project than simply showing up, however. Prospective members must first attend The New Warrior Training Adventure, a kind of emotional boot camp that the group says was inspired by a fusion of Jungian psychology and the initiation rites of many primitive cultures.

"It is challenging on many levels," says Tomaskovic. "But it's not an abusive situation, and there's no physical danger."

It also isn't cheap, costing anywhere from $600 to $800 for a three-day retreat, depending on the region and the number of participants. (Scholarships and payment plans are available through the local groups.)

Launched in Milwaukee in 1985, The ManKind Project now has 38 regional training centers and claims more than 30,000 members worldwide. The local groups are more or less independent and self-sustaining, though they make voluntary payments to help support the national organization, says Tomaskovic. His group, one of four in the Asheville area, has been meeting for at least seven years.

Seeking to boost enrollment, however, the national organization has been encouraging local groups to try something new: letting men who might be curious attend part of one of the weekly meetings. If they like what they see, the thinking goes, they might be more willing to shell out the money to take the New Warrior training.

"These men make commitments to change their lives," Tomaskovic explains. "They want to be better partners, more responsible, and to break old habits. We can't make people change their lives, but what we can do is point out to them when they aren't keeping their commitments."

Take Tomaskovic himself, for example. Before joining The ManKind Project, he says, he had trouble being assertive and always felt ill at ease with his own "peculiarities."

Today, however, Tomaskovic says he feels like a new man.

"People tell me that I'm different, even in ways that I don't see," he reports. "I've started to make changes in the relationships in my life. I'm more able to identify what I really want, and I'm more able to present myself as a complete person."

What kind of man does Tomaskovic think would be most helped by The ManKind Project? What kinds of problems does the training help to solve?

"It's not about having problems," he says. "It's just about men expressing who they really are. These men are no different than any other man. The only difference is that they are choosing to take a look at themselves and [try] to change their lives."

Testing the waters

In recent weeks, The ManKind Project has begun holding free, open meetings locally. Two more such gatherings are planned before the group's next initiation rite, The New Warrior Training Adventure (scheduled for Friday, May 20). The informal, men-only sessions will be held at the Unity Church of Asheville (130 Shelburne Road in West Asheville) April 27 and May 1. For more information, contact Richard Tomaskovic at 299-3924, or visit The ManKind Project's Web site (http://www.mkp.org/).

11.04.2005

Model of Manhood

This post is nabbed from the The ManKind Project--South Africa Web site. Another man's experience. How many men do you need to read about before you take the leap?

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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Paul Abramowitz takes a journey into Men's Work and discovers how we need to find fulfilment in our lives by finding our truth and living our dreams, rather than becoming trapped in the endless pursuit of what society deems as 'success'. Paul Abramowitz is a founding member The ManKind Project--South Africa.

Model of Manhood - The Sacred Masculine

My father would have loved this work; he was indeed a beautiful man. Like so many of his generation, he remained financially responsible to his family, and as a result, was over-worked -a product of the John Wayne generation. That particular model teaches that strength is found, above all, in a tough interior and exterior. I sensed that he struggled to connect emotionally with himself and so too with us, his family.

He had no place to outgrow his emotional negativity which he had lugged with him from a difficult childhood. Like so many of his generation and those men that followed, he remained somewhat aloof and disconnected. As I grew up I watched his life unfold in front of me and had a window into the often difficult lives of the husbands of his gynaecological patients. The picture that was formed was that society has placed great burdens on us as men. We often have to compromise our dreams for financial security, and that's just the way it is. Better to accept than fight; better to just knuckle down and 'achieve'.

My journey into manhood only confirmed my father's plight and the plight of those blank faces of the tired men that came anonymously to visit our dinner table.

So many men live with the quiet desperation of having sold out. Almost everything in our culture is geared toward the external, with the promise of happiness from yet another acquisition, or a better body. Pretty soon, too much attention to the external and surrounding chaos sees a slow dying of the soul, a little every day. We are encouraged, as men, to think with our heads and not to trust our feelings. Consequently, we tend to suffer from a deep loneliness, cut off from our own feelings, and, all too often, in fear of intimate relationships. We simply become numb. But life has a way of increasing the volume of the message it is giving until we hear it. So when the 'noise' of confusion and numbness becomes unbearable, it often is medicated to bearable limits through our addictions. We learn to modify the pain by drinking, drugging, eating too much and believing that the good things like lots of sex, can make the pain go away. Some who cannot quiet the scream inside their heads resort to violence which is mostly aimed at other men but, more shamefully, sometimes also at women and children.

It seemed to me that men and women start off on fairly equal footing as children, but that soon little boys experience what is called a 'diminishing in spirit', perhaps through the act of learning to endure physical and psychological pain without complaining. The result of which is a numbness and ambivalence found so commonly among teenage boys and adult men.

Sensing that this was happening to me too, I began longing to meet up with men who shared my vision of living another model of manhood. I wanted more; I didn't know exactly what but waited and trusted that the universe would provide.

In September 1998 I travelled, with five other South African men to Sopley, South London. There we took part in the ManKind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure weekend.

I have come to understand the process of that weekend's work a little more now after three and a half years involvement and see now why the men who have done this work for so many years refer to it as a masterpiece.

I felt invited to look at who I was, how I make choices, and how I live out behaviours that work or don't work for me. Through the magic of ritual, wisdom, myth and metaphor, I got to face myself and felt welcomed into a new paradigm, no matter which of my demons was waiting to meet me.

I had a felt sense that the 30 facilitators, who themselves had travelled the journey, had a powerfully authentic purpose about them. I sensed their deep respect and understanding for the process and their commitment to the healing work, which was immediate and consistent. I felt for the first time in my life, at the age of 36, the sheer transformational possibility of the power of non-judgement and love coming from 59 men -30 facilitators and 29 other initiates. How different from that place so often set for men in the outside world, that of compulsive competitiveness.

It was a weekend of insight, triumph and celebration. I got to meet a small part of the man I had begun to look for way back then, and had been looking for for most of my adult life. I knew too, and found great comfort in the fact, that I had finally found a body of men who so beautifully modelled real commitment to transformation in their own lives and the lives of people around them.

My continued involvement and development in the work with men in this community and our overseas brothers has taught me that each man takes something different from his weekend experience. If he stays on in the work and continues the journey inward, supported by his men's group -usually between five and nine men meeting fortnightly -working towards his own truth and passion, he builds a platform to bring about real and sustained transformation. It is from the circle, a place of shared blessing, honour, respect and truthfulness, that I have witnessed myself and so many other men springboard to that place of positive change, a place so deeply desired.

As we drove back from my first men's weekend on a cold rainy Sunday afternoon, I was beginning to get a small sense of how this work fosters brotherhood through self-understanding, something which I had supposed was one of the basic aspects of earthly plane existence. I have realised that, on a spiritual level, this work serves to offer me nothing less than the possibility for a healing of the masculine soul. What I could not have guessed when I began was the profound and deeply altering effect the work was to have, and continues to have, on my life. Indeed, my journey has allowed me to step into relationship more fully and discover the joy of intimacy more deeply. I have come to meet that part of myself that allows me to discover and speak my truth. I can more easily face my deepest fears which are no longer roadblocks on my journey. I have begun to experience a paradox of life my father could not have known; that in vulnerability there lies the strength I so desperately seek.

I have learned to trust my own feelings more and to live in that place of connection to others and myself. The journey to authenticity through my own learning of emotional literacy has brought with it a deep sense of joy and a renewed passion, which once seemed unattainable. Through learning clear communication, and with awareness of my own projections, I am better able to empower myself to stay accountable to others and to myself. The lesson of integrity and the knowing of when I am out of integrity with my own truth holds me closer to my path.

It has been through the sharing of experiences and the listening quietly to other men's stories that I have learned of the power of mentorship in community. I know the value of having friendships with other men which are intimate, nurturing and trusting, and how these friendships create the bridges necessary to mark and make smoother the transitions we men have to make in our lives. I have, through these friendships, been encouraged to follow my own truth and passion and bring about a tighter congruency between what I speak and my actions in the world.

The old models of man did not allow for a place for shadow to be addressed. The powerful ritual of naming my 'shadow', and hearing other men name theirs, putting mine out in front of me, and sharing the darkness that it is, has given me a clear vision of how and why I prevent myself from reaching my fullest potential. Such is the model of the Sacred Masculine.

While acknowledging both my 'gold' and my shadow, I have come to understand the controlling nature of my unconscious, my unexpressed anger, shame and grief. This understanding has allowed me to feel more comfortable within myself, expressing instead of acting out or 'spilling sad energy', as Rumi described so succinctly.

This work I have done, not alone, but with the support, blessing, honesty and love offered to me by the men in my men's group, my community here and communities overseas, and thanks to the teachings held in sacred space.

A circle of men is a mystical place indeed, where I have seen magic happen time and again, the likes of which all words fail to describe.

As change is facilitated in our lives as men, all things become possible, and so we become moved to look beyond ourselves, to be in service to our community. This is done in the spirit of blessing -that of the energy of the good king archetype. Our work strives to return men to society as better husbands, partners, fathers, sons and siblings. Therein lies the true proof of the success of such work.

There are gifts we were given by our mothers which our fathers couldn't have given. There are gifts we were given by our fathers which our mothers didn't know how to give. Even if we as men didn't receive those gifts from our fathers, perhaps because they knew not how to give them, or hadn't received them themselves, then we need not cheat ourselves of a fulfilled life.

There are men out there in this world who have helped me strengthen and deepen my connection to life itself — to passion and joy - and the hope and reality of a glorious life. I am constantly reminded how privileged and blessed I am to have found this.

My father would have loved this work; it would have made all the difference in his life. I know that because that is how it has been for me — and the thousands of men who are making this journey together.

From Odyssey Magazine, South Africa 6-2002