3.21.2010

Before the Men's Retreat

Men's retreats, including the NWTA, have long been mis-associated with naked men running around drumming in the woods. Such misconceptions have hurt the validity of the message and the soulful work that gets done at many of these retreats.

The NWTA brings great spirited work to many men. Isn't it time you looked past the rhetoric and to see what the NWTA is all about? For that matter, how about dropping the men's movement preconception you may have and take a leap of faith into the pool that is men working to change the world.

I am one of those men and I invite you to continue your journey.

The piece below came to me as an unattributed e-mail. With respect to whoever wrote it, I post it here.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf


Before the Men's Retreat

She asks: "What is it?"

And I say: "100 men naked in the woods."

She wrinkles her nose and says: "No clothes?"

And I say: "Sometimes."

And she says: "What do you do?"

I say: "First we removed the coat of corporate soldier, of worker bee, of boss, of coach, of business owner. Then we pull off the jacket of marriage. Toss aside the shoes of parenthood. The umbrella of son. The backpack of friend. The helmet of hero, savior, tough guy. We pull from our pockets the mantle of lady’s man, lover, slayer of the weaker sex. We check in our charm and toss away the pants of romance. All the roles and expectations we carry about in our lives, we leave behind like a pile of clothes on the floor."

She says: "On the floor? That’s what I thought. Then you’re naked?"

Says I: "Not yet. We promise not to engage in physical violence, then we strip off unnecessary civilization. Toss it in the pile with all the rest."

She: "Then you’re naked."

I: "No. We still hold onto our tattered dysfunctions and threadbare beliefs like a 10 year old pair of bikini briefs. That’s the last thing, but we hold fast, because, you know, those stinking little lies and truths, that stained and shredded pair of underwear held our life together for 10, 20, 40 years. And only when we can toss that old thing away are we truly naked"

She blinks and says: "So it’s 100 men in the woods in tattered underwear."

I say: "Yes. But over the course of the week, it washes away in the realm of ritual. Blown away by the breath of spirit. Cracked open under the scrutiny and support of men. Pried off by the power of story."

She stares at me, silent, and then: "Why? ... Why do you do it?"

I say: "So we can see what’s left. That’s us. Naked. We can hardly recognize ourselves, but that’s who we are. It’s blinding. Dazzling. Beautiful. Very painful, but very real. We walk with it. Work with it. Sing songs to honor and protect it. Wounds are revealed, healed, become our strength and our shield. Internal lands are explored. Monsters are banished. And in the end, we bring some of all this back into life, even as we put our clothes back on."

She shifts and settles, ponders and pads about the room, then smiles and says: "Well, have a good time then."

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