12.27.2005

Time

It's that time of year...the time I hear people say they will change their lives this next year. Have you ever said that to yourself? I have. Ever actually done it on a conscious level? I have.

It is time, ya know? Right now, it is time. You can feel it in your groin. You can feel the pull to change your life. Is this year the year you walk the talk? Is this the year you wake from the slumber and become the man you meant to be?

I can only speak for me. I think it’s time for you. It’s time for another man to step into his potentials and fears of potential. The time is now.

So, is it your time?

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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Warrior as Archetype
The Prince and the King, Michael Gurian

The Warrior is that part of ourselves that protects emotional boundaries and asserts our needs in the world. Where exactly it should stand to protect our boundaries depends on where the King tells it to stand. First a mentor initiates it, as a drill sergeant is the first initiator of the young soldier. But then the King initiates it, gives it a cause, a mission -- as a general gives the soldier his mission.

The Warrior serves the King and follows the King's instructions to the letter. Key words to describe the Warrior are duty, honor, loyalty, discipline, boundaries. The Warrior's tool is the sword (or any equivalent weapon of protection and assertion, including, in martial arts, the human body).

There is a dance to fencing or sword fighting that dramatizes the Warrior's role. You have danced it in your life without realizing it. We all carry a sword (or its equivalent) in a sheath at our belt, even if we never identify that that is what protects us. And we manifest that dance in many more ways than the physical. The dance is internal, hidden behind many of our interactions.

The Warrior, then, is that part of ourselves that guards our boundaries and asserts our needs. It is activated throughout childhood and especially in adolescence. If Kings and Magicians in our lives don't do a good job, our Warrior will be activated in its shadow aspect, falling easily to rages and bullying; or it will barely be activated at all.

The Prince and the King, Michael Gurian

12.16.2005

Transformation and Stretching

For me, the more I stretch the more I see I am capable; as a man, a father, a son, a brother. I see that stretching is everything in the ManKind Project.

Considering the training is a stretch. Doing the training is a stretch. Integrating the training is a stretch.

How far are you willing to stretch? Will you allow yourself to be open in the face of fear and the not-knowing? Come stretch.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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The Way of Transformation by Karlfried Gras von Durkheim (ASIN: 0042910145)

The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a "raft that leads to the far shore." Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of (spiritual) practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him.

On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered - that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.

The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world. When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the demons which arise from the unconscious, a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces.
Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of annihilation can our contact with Divine Being, which is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more a man learns whole-heartedly to confront the world that threatens him with isolation, the more are the depths of the Ground of Being revealed and the possibilities of New Life and Becoming opened.

12.12.2005

Out of the Womb, Into the Comfort Zone

This post is from a Canadian e-zine called the Void. It details a man’s experience visiting an Integration group (iGroup).

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf
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Out of the Womb, Into the Comfort Zone

The Mankind Project Turns Men into Warriors
By Philippe Gohier

Very few men are comfortable with the possibility that they are failures at simply being men. Then again, very few men have answered the call of the Mankind Project on this grim Tuesday evening to seek out… apparently, to seek out each other.

Tormented by the dead ends and wrong turns on the road of manhood, and lured by the promise of an alternate path (one of integrity and responsibility), seven men have gathered in this church basement to share an existential crisis, to communalize their displeasure with the human condition.

Though each and every one is unmistakably male, their Y-chromosome is like a prison tattoo on Martha Stewart; it is entirely consistent with their experience and context (five of the seven are or have been husbands, fathers or both), and yet it is somehow completely irreconcilable with their broader identity. Theirs is isolation like no other: amongst the hordes of round holes, they stare down at a square peg. So, they shamefully reach out for the platonic comfort of one another. Failing that, they meet here for the certainty of being surrounded by other men who understand the grave realities of modern masculinity.

This evening, however, is not one of the group's regular circles. It is for the "uninitiated"-those men who have yet to emerge from the matriarchal cocoon and blossom into "New Warriors," those men the Mankind Project (MKP) seeks to transform one at a time, those men who have yet to undergo the New Warrior metamorphosis. This is the MKP's Warrior Light evening, a sort of primer for the two-day New Warrior Training Adventure.

The New Warrior Training events are kept entirely secret. Otherwise, "it would lose some of its meaning," says Robert, a handsome man in his mid- to late 40s and the leader of the Montreal centre. The promotional literature nonetheless promises that the weekend will "enable men to live lives of integrity, accountability and connection to feeling." (Though the meeting's participants are not anonymous, they are deeply private; their names have been changed because none of them want to be identified.)

"The New Warrior is a man who has achieved hard-won ownership of the highly focused, aggressive energy that empowers and shapes the inner masculine self," reads the MKP's Web site. "Sustained by this new energy, the New Warrior is at once tough and loving, wild and gentle, fierce and tolerant," it continues.

Isolation is a key component to the moulding of a New Warrior. Spiritually threatened by the norms and demands outside, the men here commit to the creation of an emotional comfort zone.

"As long as Robert and I are still standing, there will be a place in Montreal where men can feel safe," says Paul, a smallish man in his early 50s.

Seduced by this metaphysical space they would describe insistently throughout the evening as a "container," each man integrates it by "checking in," by vocalizing two of the feelings that have led them here to these cheap, tweed-upholstered couches and chairs. With the lone exception of Paul, everyone invariably checks in with fear, mitigated by some conditional happiness or frustration. Paul, on the other hand, checks in with a smug contentment.

"I'm a men's work junkie," he offers as a possible explanation for his delight, or maybe just his presence. "I'm going to three circles this week," he says.

As each man progresses through the extended check-in, the "place of introspection" where the men are expected to publicly reveal and discuss the nature of their emotions, Paul constantly interjects with the evening's creed: "I hear what you're saying." He and the others repeat this at the end of every revelation, their left hand resting on their chests and their right hand held up with the palm facing outwards. The gesture is reminiscent of an oath-taking, only the men have substituted themselves for a Bible.

"I'm afraid I'm not a good father," says one.

"I hear what you're saying."

"My fear of success drives me to failure," says another.

"I hear what you're saying."

"I'm without a circle and I wish I had one to sit in," says a third.

"I hear what you're saying."

The cycle of sympathy breaks only when one man gets up and heads towards the door.

"Where's the bathroom?" he asks.

"It's just on your right," Robert answers.

"I think I heard a woman outside," Paul warns the man, as he is about to leave the room. "You should probably use the [italicize]men's bathroom further down the hall on your left, then."

The break provides Paul and Robert a few moments to reminisce about prior powerful circles, since this particular evening had been spared the usual bridge between the initial and extended check-in rounds. With their existential wounds freshly exposed by the initial check-in, the men generally proceed with a "clearing." The clearing consists of role-play exercises in which the participants release their repressed frustration with other men, either inside or outside the circle. This process is necessary to rid the individual of the "aggressive competitiveness" inherent to the contemporary masculine identity, explains Robert. Men cannot function with each other in an angry state because "people are a mirror of my life, of me," continues another.

"We had a doozy of a clearing the other night," says Paul, smiling and nodding.

"Oh, I love those nights," says Robert.

The MKP belongs to a segment of the so-called men's movement that came to prominence in the early 1990s under the influence of Robert Bly, the high priest of the mythopoetic men's work groups. Heavily inspired by Bly's 1990 book, Iron Paul, which mythologizes a Brothers Grimm fairytale to provide lessons to men, the MKP blames the dysfunction of the male gender on a failure in conditioning.

"The Industrial Revolution has meant that the boy is not taught how to be a man by a man. Initiation is a natural need for a young man," explains Robert. "The transformation component of the New Warrior Training contains processes that may be found difficult," he continues.

Despite its noble intentions, a remedial initiation may not be sufficient. For the past 17 years, Lloyd MacKenzie has been working with men who the court orders to attend group therapy sessions. He points to the powerful influence of the corporate economic model on the home life, rather than any past transgression, as the source of male malaise.

"We don't have an inclusive sense of what we're supposed to be doing because everything is so commodified and put into categories," says MacKenzie, 39. "The traditional corporate model basically tells you not to take any responsibility for anything that you don't have to and doesn't lead to the bottom line, back to the shareholders. I think that men maybe want to, or need to, take more responsibility."

Though the presence of the men's movement in the public arena has waned, the MKP claims to have trained over 30,000 New Warriors at a cost of approximately $500 and operates 38 centres in eight countries.

In their exceptionally earnest attempt to "own their wounds," as the pseudo-poem written by one of the group's elders encourages them to do (the reading of which anchored the introduction to the MKP and their Warrior Light evening), the men confine their experiences to a strict paradigm: they are the prodigal sons who rise from epic descents, the heroes of their own redemptive parables, ennobled by the healing power of their constructive feedback. This may, in fact, eliminate the need to relate the individual experience to a broader relationship with the external world. Manhood could just be a labyrinthine journey where experience is a continual diversion, and self-knowledge a comforting myopia.

"When I started doing men's work, my wife had told me that she had consulted a lawyer to start divorce proceedings," says Paul. "Seven years later, our marriage is better than ever." There may really be a few square holes after all.

12.05.2005

MKP Men Facilitate Growth in a Maximum Security Prison

Is it possible that one weekend can change the world? Is it possible for one man to change the world? Hell, yes! This man has done the NWTA and this man has changed the world.

I sat with this man, Rob Albee, in my first iGroup, about six years ago. He is a very powerful and loving man. I honor his work and dedication to supporting all men, inside and out.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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From:
http://mankindproject.org/m_insidecircle.htm

MKP Men Facilitate Growth in a Maximum Security Prison

The goal of the Inside Circle Foundation (
http://www.insidecircle.org/) is to create environments in which prisoners can explore the issues in their lives that have prevented them from living up to their full potential as human beings. It does this as a non-denominational, non-sectarian spiritual outreach under the auspices of Chaplain Dennis Merino at California State Prison, Sacramento. It conducts weekly circles, and occasional four-day intensives. Its facilitators are from the ManKind Project. This excerpt is from a December 13, 2002, report by Executive Director Robert Allbee:

In the past we have pretty much operated under the radar screen of the administration's attention. We would disappear into the Chapel and come out four days later and as long as there were no custody problems, which there weren't, they pretty much left us alone. That all changed in August 2002 when the prison administrator came in during the four-day training.

In our trainings we have told the prison administrators and staff that we create an environment where a man can experience any or all of his emotions in a new and safe way. On the one or two occasions when someone has asked, "How do you handle anger and rage?" we have always responded, "Carefully." I could see them wince as they signed off on the training requests.

I have always seen that no one has had a problem with allowing these men to feel and experience emotions like sadness or fear or any of the other emotions, but with anger I could always sense the apprehension. But the truth is we have found safe ways to allow a man to go completely into his anger and rage and not hurt himself or anyone else. And sometimes it does include restraining a man. For most of these men it is almost always the first emotion that has to be dealt with, as it is anger that keeps all the other emotions bottled up inside the man in the first place.

I have always been apprehensive about what the administration would think and do if they truly knew and understood what we were doing in the groups and in the four-day trainings. We go as deep as a man needs to, to get to the core of his life, and I have been afraid that the administration might not trust us, as well as the man himself, going that deep.

So on the day when a prison administrator walked in, we were separated into four circles with approximately 15 men in each circle. In one circle there was a grief/death process going on with nearly everyone in tears. In another, men of every color were laughing and hugging each other. In the corner of the chapel one group had a man pinned as he raged on and on. The last circle was on break with everyone wandering in and out of the other processes or sharing one-on-one with each other, paying little or no attention to whatever was going on around them. One of the convicts, a huge 250 pound black man, assuming the administrator was a part of the team, came over to him and squeezed him in a giant body hug, just saying hello.

During a second visit on the final day, the convicts and the volunteers were doing a naming ceremony, honoring the work they had done and professing the gratitude everyone felt about being there. The irony was that during that very touching moment the administrator was called to deal with an inmate suicide that had taken place in 5 block. Such is prison.

Later, I was told that during the regular Monday morning staff meeting the administrator spoke for over half an hour about what he had witnessed during the training. He said that in the twenty some-odd years he had worked for the Department he had never witnessed anything so powerful and promising as the training we had provided. He said that if the Department was to seriously approach anything even remotely resembling rehabilitation that this was the way to do it. He spoke about making it available to every inmate inside CSP-Sac and how to make it available to other institutions around the state. In other words, he understands and supports the work we are doing 100% and the Warden does as well.

For more information contact: Inside Circle Foundation at
info@insidecircle.org.

12.01.2005

Guy Talk Gets Deep -- Integration Groups

This post, from the New York Post, talks about a man's experience in an Intergration Group.

Intergration groups, or igroups for short, are men's circles comprised of men who have completed the NWTA, or have commited to doing so. You can usaully visit one to get a feel for the group. Contact an MKP center near you for igroups in your area that you could attend.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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GUY TALK GETS DEEP
By TOM SYKES
April 04, 2004

Traditionally, men aren't much good at talking. If they've got something on their minds, the usual forum for discussion is the bar. Their telephone conversations tend to go like this: "Hello. See ya."

Now one organization is attempting to change all that. The ManKind Project (MKP) is trying to get men in touch with their "inner warrior" and encouraging them to bring their deepest fears, hopes and dreams out into the open.

The MKP was set up in 1984 in Milwaulkee, and, according to its organizers, nearly 25,000 have enrolled. Programs involve spending a weekend at a retreat (at a cost of $650) and taking part in discussion groups.

To see what all the fuss was about, I attended one of the MKP's regular meetings in New York.

Seated in a circle, we began by "checking in" AA-style - saying who we were, then concluding with the phrase, "I'm in." There were 10 of us, ranging in age from 30 to 70.

Things started getting interesting when the group leader asked, "Does any man here need to 'clear' with any other man?" One guy - let's call him Dave - said he wanted to "clear" with another guy, who we'll call John.

The group leader asked for "the clearing stick," a 5-foot-long staff which Dave and John held onto while they faced each other. John began by reading an e-mail in which Dave had insulted him.

Then things got kind of scary. Holding the stick, John's voice got louder and louder, until he was bellowing, "I WILL NOT BE SILENCED BY YOU!"

The "clearing" session culminated with the leader asking John a series of questions aimed at getting John to acknowledge that his anger was not really at Dave, but rather an internal problem with himself.

Various other guys "cleared" with each other. Then we sat back in our circle, and each man in turn said, "If I was going to work on something today, it would be . . ."

The comments were intensely personal - about as far from the average "guy chat" as it is possible to imagine.

People spoke about their divorces, their relationships with their parents, their womanizing, and, in my case, drinking habits. Having been extremely nervous earlier, I now felt comfortable talking to a group of complete strangers about my life. I guess it was because I knew they would take me seriously.

It was time for the last ritual of the evening. We stood in a circle and drummed on our legs. The group leader said he wanted one person to step into the circle and do some "work." I had to do it. I stepped into the circle. The drumming stopped. I was asked to name the things that I felt were holding me back in my life.

I went for alcohol, laziness, self-doubt and fear. I chose four guys to represent these elements, who locked arms around me and each chanted, "Alcohol!" "Laziness!" "Fear!" "Doubt!" Another guy represented what I wanted in my life, which I named as self-belief.

Then I had to try and break free from the repressive elements to reach self-belief. Naturally, given that there were four of them, I couldn't do it. I was told that I needed to go on the weekend retreat to learn the tools to overcome these things in my life, which felt a bit like a sales pitch.

Still, getting men to talk is a tough task. For all its mumbo-jumbo and psychodrama, the MKP at least does that.

© copyright 2003 The New York Post