3.30.2009

The Heart of a Man

by Jim Mitchell

From the time we're in diapers, adults socialize us to the ways of the family and the culture at large. What the family doesn't accomplish is usually driven home in our teen years by conformist peer pressure, through the powerful forces of shame, ridicule and judgment. On top of that the mass media through movie characters, ads, and icons sets other standards against which we judge ourselves, others and our relationships. Women and men learn very different ways of behaving and develop very different expectations about love, marriage and intimacy.

THE HEART OF A MAN

Male socialization teaches boys to minimize and ultimately deny feelings and emotions that make them appear vulnerable, such as fear, sadness, grief, and to a great extent, joy. These feelings are boxed up, put away and seldom spoken of again in the company of other boys or men. By the time most boys reach early manhood, they are comfortable only with feelings such as anger and lust. Power, sex, women, possessions, money and success take the place of any authentic emotional life.

Boys learn to play by the rules of manhood from the older boys and men in their lives. Such 'rules' may never be actually spoken. Instead they are learned mostly through observation and inference. Any random group of college-aged young men asked to describe the rules on how or what it means to be a man, will likely include:

  • Don't trust other men, especially with anything personal

  • Every other man is your competitor for food, stuff, women, employment, promotions, grades, etc.

  • Don't talk about what you really think

  • Don't feel...anything

  • Never let them see you sweat

  • Never ask for help

  • Be rational

  • Control is your friend

  • Toughen up! Don't show sadness, fear or anything soft

  • No mercy!

  • Go it alone. It worked for Dirty Harry, Superman, John Wayne, it will work for you!

  • It's all about you (get what you want out of life; other people's needs, feelings, desires don't matter)

  • And on and on
Is it any wonder then, that men are challenged to create successful and fulfilling relationships, no matter what their partner brings to the relationship table.

The Way Out

So what then is the way out you ask? Go ahead, ask. Well I'll tell you. For men the way to truly successful and fulfilling relationships lies in recreating our relationship with ourselves first and foremost, then, from that new place, recreating our relationships with everyone else. That means coming to terms with my socialization as a man and the discerning the parts of it that do not serve me or take me towards my desired life and desired relationships. It also means doing the hard work of reclaiming the parts of me that I abandoned as a child or young man in my desire to fit in and gain approval. And here comes the scary part. You ready? It means dealing with the part of me that is still a hurting, wounded, scared little boy. Except now the boy is trapped in your adult body. You know the part I'm talking about don't you. Yeah, you know. You never talk about that part do you? But it's there, scratching at you from the inside every day. And you keep trying to relate to women from that place? That is never going to work, Chachi! If you think the ole Jimmeister doesn't know what he's talking about here, go and ask the last 2-3 women you've been involved with. See what they say about it. Go ahead. Go! Don't be scared.

Here's what I've found it my life as a man. It is only in doing work on me as a man, men's work, and beginning to heal myself that I discover something really magical about myself. I discover I have everything I need to create the kind of relationships I want. I have. I have always had, at my disposal a full complement of emotions to help me to connect deeply with others and to build authentic relationships and communities. I find an emotional range and fluency I was certain had be lost to me a long time ago. I discover that as a man I am fully capable of being fierce and loving, strong and tender, rigorous and compassionate, tenacious and giving. I discover I can feel all my feelings and emotions, maybe for the first time since I was a child. I discover a new strength, powerful masculine strength, in my openness, vulnerability and tears.

In working on myself and my inner life as, a man, I make another discovery. This one is as important, if not more so, than reclaiming my emotional life. I see how I have spent most of my life as man projecting my boyish needs from women on to them, rather than truly engaging them as equals in an authentic partnership. I find that I need to reframe how I see the women in my life, be they mother, friend, lover or spouse. Through my self examination and discovery I withdraw and transform my projections that every women somehow needs to be my mother, my comforter, my nurturer, my place of solace and refuge or my sexual fix. I see that I need to work on my 'stuff' as a man in the company of men. I can no longer expect that somehow the women in my life can fix what ails me as a man. I learn that the real power and my own grounded sense of self as a man comes from having authentic, grounded, vulnerable relationships with my own gender first. It is in men's circles that I find myself and the man I want to be and to become. Only then I can relate to women from a place of mature
masculine energy.

To assist me in bringing all this new wisdom to life and rebalancing my
inner life I focus on:

Five Simple Truths

  • Integrity: I create for myself a true, grounded sense of integrity. I am who I say and I am...and you can trust that. I do what I say...and I say what I do. My thinking, feelings, words and actions are congruent. I choose behaviors that will raise the trust level in my relationships, not lower it. I give up my need to self promote and self protect. I keep my agreements and promises with others. When I can't keep a given agreement, I renegotiate a new agreement before the old one expires. My integrity is never in question. I am who I say I am.

  • Accountability: I am willing to account for and be responsible for the choices I make in my life, both conscious and unconscious and the consequences or impact of those choices. I stop making excuses. I stop blaming others. I give up my need to be a victim. I finally get that I create my reality and my life. I stop blaming others for what I've created or failed to create in my life. If I don't like my life, I know I have to change, not expect others to change for me.

  • Telling the Truth: I create a practice of telling myself and others the truth. Period. I get out of the denial, delusion and fantasy that I use to manipulate reality and get into the truth. I get out of the Matrix! I practice telling myself the microscopic truth about myself and my choices. I no longer accept half truths, partial truths, lies, deceit, manipulation, coercion from myself or others. I always practice compassion in telling my truth to others. I get that my truth is not THE truth, it is a truth. I don't have to explain nor defend my truth to others. I simply have to know and live what is my truth.

  • Emotional Literacy: I teach myself to feel and experience the full expression of my emotions. Joy, sadness, fear, anger and dozens of others. I grieve my losses. I use my feelings, as well as my brain, to help me make decisions, large and small. I express my feelings appropriately. I practice compassion and gratitude daily.

  • Mission and Purpose: I develop for myself a clear vision of the kind of world I'd like to see it and create a mission statement for myself that speaks to what I'm willing to do each day to bring that kind of a world into being. I live my mission truthfully and passionately. I ask others to support me in making a difference in my world. I support others in doing the same when ask. I stop waiting for other to take care of or fix what is important to me. I passionately and compassionately participate in creating the kind of family, relationship, school, community, government, country or world I'd most like to be a part of.
As you focus on these Five Simple Truths and manifest a bit more of each of them each day, you will discover a whole new way of being as Man. You'll feel a newfound sense of authentic, masculine power, grace and love. Now, what woman wouldn't want some of that?

NOTE: Jim Mitchell is a Certified Full Leader and Leader Trainer in the ManKind Project.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

3.23.2009

Creating My Own Reality

I think there is true wonder in the statement that "I create my own reality." I struggle with the meaning and depth of the statement. I love to live it when things are "good" and doubt it when things are "bad."

In my iGroup, I work on living this statement. I practice creating love and trust in the group by being loving, trusting, and trustworthy. If I am not these things, the reality I create is the opposite of love and trust; confusion and uncertainty.

I offer this from Gary Zukav, from Soul Stories, in the Earth School chapter:

The Creator gathered all of creation and said, "I want to hide
something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the
knowledge that they create their own reality."

"Give it to me," said the salmon. "I will hide it on the bottom of
the ocean."

"No," said the Creator. "One day they will go to the bottom of the
ocean, and then they will find it."

"Give it to me," said the bear. "I will take it into the mountain."

"No," said the Creator. "One day they will dig into the mountains,
and then they will find it."

"Give it to me," said the eagle. "I will take it to the moon. They
will never find it."

"No," said the Creator. "One day they will go to the moon, and then
they will find it even there."

Then Grandmother Mole rose. Everyone became quiet. They knew that,
although she has no physical eyes, Grandmother Mole lives in the
breast of Mother Earth and sees with spiritual eyes.

"Put it inside them," she said.

"It is done!" said the Creator.

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I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

3.16.2009

Pray

Readers

My wife's dear and beloved father has a non-cancer brain tumor. It appears to be operable and he is scheduled to have surgery Weds. morning (3.18.2009). He will be at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, CA (Orange County).

I need you to dig deep and pray hard for this good and loving man. I need you to dig deep and pray for his sweet wife, Diane, in this very hard time.

Breathe Deep! Send it out!

Vic Larson
Vic Larson
Vic Larson

Aho!


I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

3.12.2009

It's Not a Spa

This article reprint from the Lawrence Journal World & News (Lawrence, Kansas) reflects men's experiences in their iGroup and in the New Warrior Training Adventure.

Nobody has all the answers for you....except you. The ManKind Project is an organization that will hold space for you to find your answers...not anyone else's.

It's no a spa.

It's you and your life.

Ready?

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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Men at work
Controversial male-bonding movement building momentum in Lawrence

By Sarah Henning; March 15, 2008
Photo by Rachel Seymour

Mark Zwahl is tired of men making lame excuses for not being responsible - such as being late to dates.

"If I choose to meet you and I'm 15 minutes late, the consequences, they're not huge, but the consequences are that you won't trust me as much," the Lawrence resident says. "What's the message that I'm probably sending? Well, I'm sending a message that you're pretty far down my priority list. We say one thing and do something else."

These are the sorts of priorities Zwahl deals with as part of the ManKind Project, which has a chapter in Lawrence and has created controversy in other parts of the country.

The project is an international nonprofit educational and training organization for men. More than 30,000 men from at least nine countries have completed the group's initiation weekends, called the New Warrior Training Adventure, according to the program's Web site, www.mkp.org.

Charles Gruber, a Lawrence resident and the center director for the Kansas City area, says 300 men from a region including Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita have completed the initiation weekends with the group. There are 100 active regional members - including 18 in Lawrence.

Lawrence's 18 members are split between two "Integration Groups" - or "I Groups" - that meet weekly.

Generally, members extend personal invitations to join the group. But as it seeks to become more visible, Gruber and Zwahl, the "leader body" for the Lawrence group, will lead an "Introduction to Men's Work" program at 7 p.m. Friday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Gruber says the group deals with issues of parenting, finances and, generally, how to be a better man. For Zwahl, this means taking responsibility over his own life - his relationships, feelings and emotions.

"In some ways what we do is somewhat of a departure from ordinary life. That's the point," Zwahl says. "There are some things that are missing in our culture, and I like to think that the men's work we do adds something back in that is really valuable, that is otherwise missing."

Becoming a man

Men who want to become involved with the local ManKind Project and the men's work group must first be initiated during a weekend event at a camp near Parkville, Mo.

The initiation weekend costs $675 per person, though Gruber says payment plans and scholarships can be available.

"The weekend is a portal to the community," says Gruber, who went through his New Warrior Training Adventure in 2003. "Now there are many boys and men who have never been honored in their transition from being a boy to becoming a man. And we try to fill that gap."

The ManKind Project and its members are secretive about what happens during the initiation weekends. Participants sign a confidentiality agreement as part of pre-weekend paperwork that includes a standard injury waiver. Gruber says the confidentiality agreement works in two ways. He says it protects the identities of the men involved as well as the experience of the weekend, which he says could be destroyed without the mystique.

Zwahl says the weekend is meant to be a challenge, and those interested in initiation should be prepared for a tough time emotionally and physically.

"It's not a spa," Zwahl says. "I didn't have a clue. I was all ready for a little bit of conference stuff during the day and (to) lay back in my cabin and read a book at night. I didn't know they were going to keep me busy the whole (darn) time. That's why we make sure people know it's an initiation and not a conference workshop."

Allegations

Making that distinction clearer has become more important to the group after a 2005 incident in Texas. Michael Scinto committed suicide after attending an initiation weekend.

Scinto had been struggling with alcohol and cocaine abuse and claimed the weekend unearthed a traumatic childhood memory, according to a 2007 Houston Press article. The suit against the Houston chapter of the group is pending.

"There was a tragic incident where a man committed suicide two-and-a-half weeks after he went through his NWTA weekend," says Gruber, adding Scinto needed outside help for his problems. "I have since talked to the men who ran that weekend, and (the claims in the suit about the weekend) were just ugly, perverted, twisted lies."

Zwahl, a former volunteer grief counselor with Headquarters Crisis Center, 211 E. Eighth St., says as a result of the Scinto case, he and other group leaders are more careful in screening men for the initiation weekend.

"We're going to try to screen out somebody who is significantly troubled or depressed or seems to be in a really fragile time in their life," Zwahl says. "And that's going to be a crapshoot, just like any kind of screening would be."

Emotional connection

Zwahl says "becoming a man" is more about psychology and less about morphing into a stoic John Wayne-type character.

"For men especially, culturally, stereotypically, we're encouraged not to show our emotions. 'Boys don't cry.' 'Buck up, be a man,'" Zwahl says. "The phrase 'be a man' means tough it out and don't show your emotions. That's dangerous because those emotions are there, we bottle them up and, quite frankly, they come out anyway."

To work on showing emotion, Zwahl says that as the men meet in their weekly I Groups they are as honest as possible - even when it comes to each other.

"Sitting in a circle of men who are being 100 percent honest with each other is a pretty rare event," Zwahl says.

The involvement in the group has been important to Zwahl, who got involved with men's work in 1990 and the ManKind Project in 2004.

"Men aren't particularly good at looking for help, let alone ask for it," Zwahl says. "You see the uphill battle we've got? We have a men's organization that involves men helping men and the convention of the culture is that men don't ask for help. For me at least, but I know for some men, it has been a real life-changing event."

3.10.2009

One Ungrown Little Boy

In this reprint of a Huffington Post article, the writer shares his deep self-honesty and experiences around men, the ManKind Project, and the New Warrior Training Adventure.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

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Men's Warrior Weekend

By Peter Clothier, from the Huffington Post

I have just returned from a men's training weekend. Okay, I think it's true to say that these weekends have come in for a lot of misinformed rumors and a good bit of nervous mockery in recent years -- particularly amongst those who might have reason to fear them the most. I'll tell you upfront that this one, the New Warrior Training Adventure, when I first experienced it in 1992, was a life-saver for me.

I had by then developed, over the years, a huge amount of self-protective armor which served only to cut me off from those I loved the most, not to mention the rest of the world. I was pretty much unreachable, at least at the level of basic human feeling. Like many men, I had learned that it was not safe to trust anything much in the way of emotions, let alone expose myself to the risk of actually sharing them with anyone else. When I first heard about the NWTA, though, I was in a barrel of emotional trouble in my life with no way of knowing how to extricate myself from it. Its title was enough to provoke my own intellectual ridicule and resistance. "Warriors"? What an obnoxious concept. "Adventure"? Please, we're adults, aren't we?

And yet the day after I first heard about it, I signed up and sent my money in. I don't know why. Call it an instinct that somehow superseded every other instinct in my body. I was not merely skeptical, I was petrified. But I showed up. I showed up, as one friend later described it, shrink-wrapped. And I emerged, if not a totally new man, at least a man who was open to looking at his life with emotional honesty and integrity.

Since then, I have served on staff for more than twenty weekends. I am privileged to be thought of as a senior staffer at this point, and to provide some significant part of the eldership our organization honors. I take enormous pleasure and pride in the response I get from men whom I myself honor enormously, and respect.

That said, I have been on a kind of sabbatical from the weekends for the past couple of years and more. To be back, after this long hiatus, and in a position of real responsibility, was a challenge only intensified by a particularly challenging weekend leadership team.

And as is usually the case, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. The location, in the mountains up behind Santa Barbara, was a gift of nature, beautiful and serene. (On Sunday morning, as I was leading a particularly... well, spiritual event, a half dozen red-headed woodpeckers were playing happily among the pine trees up ahead of me.) The staff men, thirty or more of them, were magnificent, fiercely present, challenging, compassionate. And the men who were there to experience the weekend for the first time came willing to put in the hard work -- emotional, intellectual, physical -- that we asked of them. On their way back home, they were eager to say that they got as much, if not more than they had bargained for. I myself see the weekend as a meticulously planned and passionately enacted piece of participatory theater, in which a man is invited -- as in all good theater -- to travel down into the murky depths of his soul, and to emerge with whatever gold he finds there.

Too many of us men, in today's troubled world, have failed to grow out of being little boys. We boss and strut and bully and control to hide our insecurities, we addict ourselves to booze or women or work to hide our fears of being seen for who we are. Too often we refuse to see ourselves and too often we deny accountability for our actions. Too often we carry around huge shadows without recognizing how our shadows can control us and damage those around us. We can, mindlessly, cause endless anguish for ourselves, the women we love, our families. I think of our (thankfully!) past president and see the dire, worldwide damage caused by one ungrown little boy.

And yet we are good people, we men, I promise you. We are inspired by mission, a sense of purpose, and a vision. We are powerful, each in our own way. We are capable of great deeds, of noble generosity, of amazing acts of selflessness. We can be smart, and subtle in our thought. Underneath the armor all too many of us were encouraged to put on as boys, we are also capable of experiencing and sharing love. It's these qualities I see when I serve on staff at a New Warrior Training Adventure, and these qualities we invite other men to find in themselves. It's a truly inspirational experience.

As a concluding note, the NWTA is now offered in many locations in the US and Canada, as well as in Europe, South Africa and Australia. The umbrella organization, The Mankind Project, is international in scope, and more than 40,000 strong. Its mission is no less than to change the world, one man at a time. We need more good, well directed masculine energy in this world. I happen to believe that this is one way to inspire and release it.

3.06.2009

Inside the Dishes and In the Glasses

"Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot."

Ranier Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly; from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology by Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade

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Are you willing to die not heading to the East; where things are born; new days and beginnings arise?

Are you willing to make choices that will hold you in place and stifle you so that your children must go out to live in the place you forgot?

What are you waiting for? Permission...an invitation...hand-holding? Do it. Stop mamby-pambying around and become that man you want to be. Don't you think the world deserves to see what you have to give?

I do not care if you attend the New Warrior Training Adventure...although there is great value there...I care that you step into the risk of being you, however that comes about.

Nearly ten years ago, I took the risk to be a better man; to get out of my own way. You can to.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf

3.03.2009

26K on Square Root Day

Today I noticed that my blog had reached the milestone of 26,000 hits. I haven't really paid close attention other than to note that the number goes up every day and that feels good.

I was left wondering if this blog serves its purpose for me and you. Since I can't know if it does for you without you contacting me, I can only know how it serves me.

When I started this blogging exercise, it was an answer to a question about the ManKind Project's Web site. It can be pretty vague and I wanted to share more information about the project. I scoured the Internet for articles, other MKP bloggers, and tidbits of information hoping to bring it all to one place. I think I have done an admirable job. Although, there has been less written about MKP, lately, that I can then share with you.

So I hope you continue to come back, maybe set up an RSS feed so you can know when I post new material. In the meantime, thanks for coming back and thanks for coming again in the future.

I'm out.
Old-faithful Wolf