3.25.2008

Finding My Place in a Circle of Men

One man's experience in the New Warrior Training Adventure from peoplecanchange.com.

"It was clear from the moment I arrived at the New Warrior Training Adventure in a mountain camp east of Los Angeles that this was no recreational retreat. The volunteer staffers who met me at the gate of the camp that Friday afternoon in August 1998 created, from the very moment of my arrival, an environment that invited deep inner reflection. And more than a little trepidation.

Never had I thrown myself into the hands of strangers -- and certainly not straight men -- so completely, trusting blindly that this weekend experience would somehow offer me inner healing. Or, at least cause no further wounding at the hands of men.

I'd learned about New Warriors from the reparative therapist I'd been working with for more than a year. When, early in my therapy, he first raised the possibility of my attending an experiential "men's initiation" weekend, I was mildly curious but skeptical. Hadn't I seen these kinds of men's-movement retreats mocked in the national news magazines as a silly, male-angst response to the feminist movement?

Besides, it was far too afield of my comfort zone, a restricted and generally superficial zone that allowed room only for wife and children, church, work -- and, until I started therapy, the promiscuous gay underground. At that time, I was just beginning to allow my therapist inside the defensive fortress I'd built around me. But to put myself in a situation to blindly trust male strangers with my emotional core? No. Men were not to be trusted. They would never accept me, and certainly never understand me.

My resistance to New Warriors fell abruptly a few months later when I saw another man from my therapy group leave for the New Warrior weekend in a near panic over the unknown, only to return the following week visibly calmer, exhilarated and empowered. I resolved immediately to go.

I sent for information and poured over it. I found the brochure frustratingly minimalist and cryptic -- deliberately, I would learn, to preserve the "magic" or mystery of the weekend for "initiates." But the "identity statement" exhilarated me: "We are an order of men called to reclaim the sacred masculine for our time, through initiation, training and action in the world."

"The sacred masculine"? I'd somehow learned growing up that masculinity was, at best, something to be trivialized and mocked and, at worst, a villainy responsible for most of the world's corruption. Clearly, New Warriors could be a safe place to heal my lifelong, love-hate struggle with maleness. Especially when I read this mission statement from The Mankind Project, the non-profit sponsor of the New Warrior Training Adventure: "Healing the world, one man at a time."

I learned, too, that the three men who co-founded New Warriors in the early 1980s believed that modern men were emotionally handicapped by never having been fully initiated into an honorable and healthy masculinity and never having been mentored by other men. The weekend training was their answer to the contemporary loss of tribal community and masculine mentoring that had anchored our grandfathers for millennia.

Suddenly, the weekend training couldn't arrive soon enough.

Once there, I experienced the most powerful weekend of my life. I had been to countless religious services and conferences before. I'd been in a Twelve Step program for sex addicts. I'd been in individual and group therapy. All had helped immeasurably. But none had so quickly and deeply cut me to the emotional core and opened my heart to the brotherhood of men and to my own masculine identity and sense of masculine power.

For two full days and two evenings, working late into the night, 35 volunteer staff led me and 30 fellow "initiates" through a series of individual, one-on-one and group processes that invited deep introspection, total honesty, and a new, breakthrough-level of trust in other men. The focus was on learning to live lives of personal integrity, mission, personal power, deliberate intention, masculine identity and emotional healing. It was on getting in touch with our emotional lives -- living more from our hearts than our heads.

For me, the most powerful experience of the weekend came from seeing 30 other men share their deepest emotions and fears as they touched long-buried feelings about childhood hurts, bad marriages, death, addiction, even the suicide of a parent 20 years before. I felt like I was gazing for the first time in my life through a window into the souls of men -- whom I'd always viewed as so mysterious, closed off and unknowable. I drank in this awesome realization: men DO feel, men DO fear, men DO care. I saw at last that I was like other men, after all, or they were like me. I belonged.

In this "safe container," this place of remarkable authenticity, I entered a new level of trust. When my turn came, I dared to step out and enlist the support of these men in working through the two darkest "shadows" of my life -- my budding recovery from a 20-year homosexual sex addiction and double life, and the still-echoing taunts of adolescent bullies 20 years earlier. Pragmatically, I reassured myself, "If this turns out badly, I never have to see these men again!" But my fears were unfounded. Not only did they not reject me, these men honored me for stepping out into my fear and trusting them.

One of the simplest yet stunning experiences for me was quietly observing the interactions of the staff as they went about the business of the weekend. All of them had gone through the same initiation themselves and were returning for the first or tenth or fiftieth time to re-create their own weekend experience for new initiates. I was amazed at how comfortably these men expressed affection for each other, embracing and touching as openly and naturally as young boys on the playground. These simple manifestations of true brotherhood touched a deep longing of the still-wounded little boy inside me who pined for his father's caress. Clearly, there was a brotherhood here that could provide profound healing.

I drove down from the mountain late Sunday afternoon a changed man. My whole body fairly shouted with powerful new feelings of love, peace, masculine power, inner strength, connection to God and to my brothers. In tears of joy, I thanked God for leading me to this healing place.

How could I prevent this experience from evaporating into a pleasant but impotent memory? Returning home, I was welcomed by Warrior brothers in my local community into an "integration group" - a small group of initiated men who meet weekly to continue the work they started on the mountain during their own weekend training adventures.

These men know my "shadows." They know my "gold." They help me stay accountable. They help keep me in integrity. They are my brothers. My community.

Today, at last, I am a man among men."

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I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

3.13.2008

Imagine a Circle of Men

Imagine a circle of men where every one listens, not only to what you say, but to also what's behind that. Everyone is in tune with your voice, your emotion, your energy -- everyone is intent on receiving everything you communicate; where everyone listens to hear the very best in you, even when you can't hear it in yourself.

Imagine a circle which will remind you of your commitments so you can hold yourself accountable and keep you moving forward toward your dreams and goals.

Imagine a circle of men which is totally curious about your dreams and aspirations, about what it is that makes you tick, what you value, what you are most passionate about in you life; a circle that will help clarify your goals and provide tools for action and learning that lead you to the life you want.

Imagine a circle of men who would absolutely tell you the whole truth about where you are strong, where you sell yourself short, and where someone knows you can handle it and knows that's what you want.

Imagine an experience where you finally break free of those limiting beliefs that sabotage and they are noticed for what they are and the powerful part of you is called forth with a new set of beliefs. Imagine a circle where you can experience and develop a new leader within you. A place that is safe to be who you really want to be.

This is how a ManKind Project iGroup works. Are you ready for this kind of relationship?

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

3.08.2008

Little Crow; Taoyateduta

I spent a good part of the weekend thinking about a man I knew and loved. His name was Little Crow and he has touched my life very deeply. To this day, his hands and heart guide me.

I met Little Crow shortly before my marriage in 1997. My best friend and I were looking for a spiritual person to marry us. One thing led to another and we found ourselves at the American Indian Church in Garden Grove, CA.

I was immediately touched by Little Crow’s honesty and reverence for all things. In the weeks to come he taught me about love, heart, honesty, reverence, hope, sacredness, connectedness, spirit, the four directions, elders, place, and time.

Little Crow has many writings that leave behind his passion and faith in his beliefs. You can find his Red Book here, and his Blue Book here.

Shortly before he died, he left the American Indian Church to move back to his native lands in Minnesota. I am glad he died there, among the land and air his ancestors walked and breathed.

His most enduring message to me was that with every breath I have a chance for change. Every time I breathe, I can take that moment and choose a way that is good and integral and loving, and make a difference with every thing I do.

A wonderful man, Thane Hake, wrote some beautiful songs about the American Indian Church and Little Crow. You can buy and hear Secrets of the Shaman and Many Faces here.

Little Crow…I remember you every day…with every breath. You live in my breath, my heart, my wife, my children, my very soul. You brought and bring joy to my world every day, with every breath.

Thank you for blessing me in this journey.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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3.05.2008

Feed the Good Wolf

I am always scouring the Web for articles that echo my experience in the ManKind Project. Today's post is an article reprint from the Northfield News.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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Changing the world, one man at a time

From Northfield News of Northfield, MN; 1/1/2008
By John Owens; Guest Columnist

A Cherokee grandfather, teaching tribal ways and philosophies of life to his grandson, spoke, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false-pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." Looking straight into his grandson's eyes, the old man continued: "This same fight is going on inside you and every person in the world." His grandson, thinking about this phenomenon for a moment, asked his wise old grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The Cherokee grandfather replied, "The one you feed."

In this day and age, many see a great confusion of our values and purpose. I call this the "Age of Gotcha!" It is a time where men are living in their heads, not their hearts, a time where getting ahead and staying ahead, accumulating 'stuff," seems to be our purpose in life. And everywhere we see evidence that males are not doing well: drugged in youth for ADHD, repressed in our emotions, worked excessively, addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex or something else, sent to war and physically or mentally traumatized (or killed), jailed for crimes or mistreated in a thousand ways. Men as a whole are not doing well. We die younger and in poorer health than women. Many of our boys look at what it takes to be a man in today's society and want no part of it. This is not true for every male. But take a look around, and you are likely to see boys and men that are deeply disconnected from their emotions and from their authentic selves.

When you come to the ManZone event this Feb. 1 at the Community Bank, you are likely to be greeted by a New Warrior, a man who has had the opportunity to see clearly the two wolves inside himself and who has made a decision to feed the good wolf. New Warriors are members of the Mankind Project, an international order of men, some 35,000 men strong, who are dedicated to reclaiming the sacred masculine for our time, through initiation, training and by living personal missions of service to others through action in the world. New Warriors have each experienced the Weekend, also known as the New Warrior Training Adventure, or NWTA. The NWTA is an intense inward journey that, for nearly all men who have experienced it, is a life-changing (and life-giving for many) weekend journey. The NWTA weekend provides an amazingly safe "container" where a man can consciously look at the essence of what it is for him to be a man in this world, what is working for him and what is working against him. Through deep exploration, each man creates his personal Mission of Service, and ongoing support though small groups, called Integration Groups, gives him the encouragement and support he needs to live his mission more fully each day. Northfield has two such groups, also known as I-Groups, meeting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week.

So when that man approaches you on Friday, Feb. 1 at the ManZone Event, take a moment to look into his eyes and see what is there. Is it the "gotcha!" look of a man in his head, trying to sell you something, or is that look of a man who has touched his heart, his core, and offers you a solid, authentic connection from that place of being? Men, are you looking for something more real, more authentic in your life? Are you still looking for something you can passionately dedicate yourself to? Are you looking for relationships inside and outside your family that are trusting, healthy and close? Do you want to live a life of integrity, connection to feeling and connection to community? Mankind Project is changing the world, one man at a time. We are non-denominational, non-religious, non-sectarian. All beliefs and non-beliefs are welcome, as we sometimes say.

If you are interested in visiting one of our weekly Circles of men, contact John Owens or Mark Mueller-Dahl to make arrangements to welcome you without a sales pitch or obligation.

-John Owens is a member of the Mankind Project.

3.03.2008

Testimonials

Here's a great page that has recently been posted by the ManKind Project. It's a collection of testimonials about ManKind Project and the New Warrior Training Adventure.

Enjoy!

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf