Healthy Masculinity

Today, I am posting a reprint of a great article by Craig K. Comstock from the Huffington Post.

I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf


Healthy Masculinity

By Craig K. Comstock; from the Huffington Post

Seven men have been back in our valley for a few days after an intensive weekend training. They call each other "brothers," though they're not from the same family of origin. They are being welcomed home by an evening audience of 60, including wives, partners, kids, and men who have done the training earlier.

One by one they hold a ritual "talking stick" tied with ribbons from past groups and tell not what they've been through but how it's changed them. What they've just completed is the "training adventure" created and run by the ManKind Project (MKP).

"In my life I have never trusted a man, until recently," says one recent trainee. "Trust was taken away when I was 2.5 years old. This training is the first time I've ever allowed myself to fall apart. In the container created by the staff, it felt safe to cry, scream, chant. Now I have handfuls of mentors. This weekend has given me back my life." Another called the training "sacred work."

MKP has the main goal of "healthy masculinity" and structures the weekend training as an initiation, inspired in part by Jungian thought. Our society has a bit of an initiation gap, unless you count volunteering for basic training, and learning how to follow orders and to kill. Yes, fraternities offer some undergrads an experience called an initiation, and religious groups hold confirmation ceremonies and bar mitzvahs for young teens. But as compared with tribal initiations, including vision quests, these contemporary efforts, however necessary or worthy they are, serve a limited purpose and fail to deal with some of the gaps in our culture.

The biggest gap, says MKP, is a lack of trust and emotional intimacy among men. At the homecoming, almost all of the returning trainees spoke about this. In part, our society is based on the unproven assumption that individual selfishness is somehow invariably transformed by an "invisible hand"* into public good. In the movie called Wall Street, Gordon Gekko expresses this belief in the famous "greed is good" speech. In the competitive race that we take for granted, men are taught to deny feelings and to focus less on their personal missions than those of their organizations.

In the mid-1980s MKP was created over a kitchen table in Milwaukee by three friends, a teacher, an ex-Marine, and a psychotherapist who, having observed feminist "consciousness raising," wondered whether something could be done for men. Affiliated regional groups have so far trained more than 43,000 men, including the seven whose homecoming ritual I watched.

The first question that comes up for me about any group that professes to change people in basic ways is whether it's a cult. A cult has dogma. MKP has none and supports tolerance with regard to race, religion, and sexual orientation. A cult usually has a charismatic leader. MKP officials are temporary and, in some cases, self-deprecating like the Dalai Lama who calls himself "a simple monk." A cult often extracts as much money as it can, on a continuing basis. MKP charges enough for the weekend training to pay for the rental of the facility, enrollment, insurance, and the like. Any further activity is optional.

Even though MKP lacks the stigmata of a cult, I was not eager myself, a decade ago, to experience the training by going off to a campground for a weekend, confronting my shadow side, articulating a mission, and who knew what else. However, the other experiences of initiation I'd earlier stumbled into had made me curious and hopeful.

For example, I had done a vision quest with Angeles Arrien, a Basque who earned a doctorate in anthropology and now lives in the San Francisco area. During the week in the high desert of Arizona, one of the participants asked Arrien to arrange his formal initiation as a man. She sent all the men off to question the would-be initiate in detail about his fears and worst qualities. When that was done, she asked him to choose the man most unlike him to act, in the ritual, as "questioner." As it happened, I was chosen and given a painted wooden mask to wear.

My job was to lead a parade of men into a circle of the women and then challenge the guy's right to be initiated and thus be called a man. Of course, by design, I had derogatory material from his own lips. I assumed I'd be done in a few minutes, but Arrien motioned for me to continue much longer. I suppose this was, for the man on the spot, part of the "ordeal" typical of the classical initiation. He met the tests and was welcomed into the circle.

Earlier I'd done the Hoffman Process, also a week-long residential workout. It dealt with one's family of origin and, in particular, the "patterns" that each child learns from parents and regards as natural when they are not unconscious. Here I'd been one of the people undergoing initiation and discovered what it is like to uncover one's "shadow" with the help of a savvy and persistent teacher. Pleasant? Not at all. Challenging? Very. Liberatory? Amazingly so, at least with regard to basic family patterns.

In an initiation, the stage prior to the ordeal is "descent," which in the case of the Arrien workshop and the Hoffman process involved going to a new place, separate from my normal world. In the case of the MKP weekend, we gathered at a camp ground near the Columbia River -- an equal number of trainees and of a volunteer staff drawn from men who had already done the "adventure."

After the "ordeal," the next stage of initiation is the "return," which includes, on an optional basis, not only the welcome home evening but also weekly "integration groups" that continue for 10 sessions. These often lead to small circles of men who meet regularly. In my case, I benefited from five or so years in a group that called itself "the relentless optimists," and took a special interest in "social inventions." We always started a meeting with a "check in" in which each of us could tell what was currently happening in our lives. It is a basic belief of MKP that healthy masculinity is good for all living beings, including buddies, who, in circles, are enabled to discuss matters more personal than sports, office politics, or world affairs.

One lovely feature of the welcome home evenings is the invitation to members of the audience to speak, the theme being how the initiates seem to have changed. At that point, they have been home for four days and nights. I heard praise for the preliminary changes from wives, girl friends, even children, as well as from male friends who in some cases had nudged initiates into the training.

Sitting next to me at the recent welcome home was Bill Kauth, who was one of the founders of MKP, and who was later invited to fill the role of "visionary" for the organization. In his thought-provoking 2012 report, Kauth quotes writer Duane Elgin, psychotherapist Bill Plotkin, poet David Whyte, psychologist Dacher Keltner, editor of Greater Good magazine, and Lynn McTaggart, who is called a bridge between science and spirituality.

"Most of us," Kauth says in his report, "suffer from a broken 'attachment bonding' which makes it difficult to truly connect with others." MKP provides "significant healing over time by just being together in a safe container and more immediately thru the various forms of shadow work."

Challenging the common belief that society can best be built on the assumption that humans are primarily or overwhelmingly selfish, Kauth quotes research showing that people are also "hard-wired to give, to live the give-away." Here he alludes in part to the dazzling young writer Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, for whom Kauth organized a workshop on the West Coast.

What does MKP do? "We build trust," says Kauth. "We bond with each other." Apart from the good done for individuals, perhaps the training is a preparation for coming out of our cocoons and into community? With his wife, Kauth has written a recent book called We Need Each Other: Building Gift Community.


I'll Meet You There

"Out beyond ideas of Wrongdoing and Rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, and even the phrase 'eachother' doesn't make any sense."

Rumi, c. 532 A.D.

In my view, men are men first; everything else second. That is where I start from; we at least have "man" in common.

As men, we share common bonds on masculinity and maleness. We have common biology, fears, and joys.

In the ManKind Project, men are embraced for who they are; men. I welcome you to look into the New Warrior Training Adventure and the ManKind Project. We are full of all kinds of men who are men first; everything else second.

I wish for a chance to meet you there; out beyond ideas of Wrongdoing and Rightdoing.

I'm out.

Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf



Get off your ass and live now! What are you waiting for? Permission?

Here I give you permission!

Say you I love you to someone. Mend a broken relationship. Sing a song. Hold your children. Smile at a stranger. Do some service for someone. Hold a door open.



I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf



Just about every weekend, ManKind Project men come together to work with new men who are seeking; seeking whatever it is for them to be a man.

What are you seeking? Take a couple minutes to see if these men found what you are seeking.

I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf


Four Archetypes from the Boys to Men Program

from the Boys to Men Program.

I am the Eternal, Golden Lover within all men.

Without me...

You will feel alone & not connected to other people and to the world. Nothing will excite you or turn you on. You will be depressed.

Too much of me and...

You will easily become addicted to what you want. You can't be loyal to anyone or anything. You will dream your life away and never be satisfied.

When I am with you:

You will have a sense of Wonder and see Beauty around you. You will know the joy of surrender and will love being carried away. You will feel like you belong.

You will know how to fall in love and you will not be afraid to be sad.

I am the Eternal, Golden Warrior within all men.

Without me...

You will let others run over you and tell you what to do. You won't be able to finish a project. You won't be able to defend what you love. You will be unable to suffer.

Too much of me and...

You will seek power & glory for its own sake and stay stuck in having to be a Hero. You will feel threatened by authority. You will always have to win. You won't be able to tell your Enemy from your Friend. You will look like a bully and your children will fear you.

When I am with you:

You will defend your own boundaries & the boundaries of others. You will serve a cause greater than yourself. You will know how to think for yourself. You will be able to endure pain and know how to stick it out to the end.

I am the Eternal, Golden Magician within all men.

Without me...

You will be unresponsive & dull. You won't have a sense of humor & will not get jokes. You won't care about much.

Too much of me and...

You will be a manipulator and will think other people are stupid. You will be a mean trickster. You will be aggressive in a passive way.

When I am with you:

You will be curious about how the world works. You will see beneath the surface of things. You will want to know the Truth. You will think about what you do before & after you do it.

I am the Eternal, Golden King within all men.

Without me...

You will be weak and give your power away. You will easily be impressed and your standards will be low. You will be invisible.

Too much of me and...

You will need to be the center of attention and will insult & put down other people. You will be obsessed with power. You will never be satisfied.

When I am with you:

You will feel generous and people around you will feel stronger when they are with you. You will be calm, compassionate, and strong. You will know what is important & what is not. You will be creative.

You will know where you are going in life. People will look up to you and you will bless them.

The Whole Man

I am the Whole Man. I am wild by nature and I have all the energies in me both gold and shadow. Inside me lives a deep Lover and a strong Warrior. Inside me lives a capable Magician and a just King. The Shadow aspects of these four are present within me too. I have a dark Lover and Warrior and a shadow Magician and King. It is my challenge to manage all of these energies. You are on your way to becoming a man and you will need to learn to contain all these energies. What energy do you feel strongest in you right now? Which one is weakest? Well done. You are taking your first steps toward manhood.


Christian, Butterfly Man


Caring Deeply is Not Enough

I challenge you to take 20 uninterrupted minutes to shift how you see violence toward women, children, and other men.

Caring deeply is not enough. You owe to all the children, women, and men.

The men in the ManKind Project do this work. I am proud of that. But more needs to be done.

I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf


Knock, Knock

When you wonder, as a father, how you might affect your children, watch this.

I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf


"But here you are in the ninth
Two men out and three men on
Nowhere to look but inside
Where we all respond to Pressure"

Billy Joel; Pressure, 1992

How do you respond to pressure? Do you fight it, enable it, sink into it?

As men, we all have pressures. It's all about what we do with them.

By the way, this song is best played really loud!

I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf


So, I’m Scared

ManKind Project man, Colin Berry nails what it looks and feels like to sit in a weekly IGroup.

Check it out below and at here.

I'm out.
Bravehearted Old-faithful Wolf

Men’s Group Saves My Life

By Colin Berry

We pull in to the parking lot a few minutes before starting time: a Toyota Corolla, a trio of pickups, a BMW, an old GMC van. Me in my Honda. We gather in a circle under the sodium lights, seven or eight of us on any given week, chatting and joking and trading quick hugs.

At 7:30 p.m. sharp, however, cell phones are turned off. Talk stops. A certain tension settles in. One man lights a bundle of sage and, one by one around the circle, each of us gets wreathed in ceremonial smoke.

It’s Monday night, and men’s group is starting.

Our group is four years old and a dozen members now, and we meet upstairs, in an off-hours yoga studio in East Los Angeles. We’re a mixed bunch: an accountant, a union electrician, an engineer, a voiceover director, three writers. Family men and bachelors, a blend of religions. Gay and straight, several races, and ages from 30s to 60s.

In any other context, the twelve of us would have little in common. Here, however, we’re bound by several things: a commitment to our own personal growth; support of other men in their growth; and participation in a weekend men’s initiation, from a few months to a few years ago, as part of The ManKind Project, the parent organization our group is part of.

What this means is I know these men have my back. It means on any given week, I can bring whatever is going on for me and trust these men to hold it. Trust that they won’t try to placate me, or fix me, or gossip about me later to their wives or buddies. That when they have judgments about me—and I know they will—they’ll own them clearly and cleanly in a way that respects both of us. This alone is worth coming every week.

The night is structured for men to experience a handful of male archetypes: the Lover, gentle and curious; the Warrior, fierce and focused; the Magician, a master of mystery and transformation; the King, a benevolent source of wisdom and blessing. At times, a given man on any given week may experience loving connection, deep sadness, razor-sharp rage, and a head-clearing epiphany or two. Every week it’s different.

I’ve been in a group for nearly 10 years, and at different times I’ve had the chance to sob about my mom’s death; reconnect with the white-hot flame of my personal power; acknowledge shame I was feeling at times in my life about the state of my finances; had “conversations” with my sisters, my father, and my late brother, as well as Gestalt-style dialog with specific parts of myself—my perfectionist, my lazy motherfucker, my frightened little boy. I’ve meditated, danced like a fool, played parts in other men’s psychodramas, and nearly puked. Groups I’ve been in have watched movies, gone bowling, laid flagstone, and played poker. I know and trust some of these guys better than folks in my own family.
I have an opportunity to hold myself accountable every week.

As a group member, I have the chance every week to hold myself accountable for things I’ve said I’ll do, for myself or others. This is a big part of our work. I can also hold other members accountable. If I come to group angry at a man, we have a facilitated process whereby I can “clear” with him. This is one of the most elegant and electrifying moments of the night. Whatever the data is between us, I can lay it out, talk about the feelings his actions have brought up in me, and levy my judgments and projections upon the man.

If that sounds like a pile-on, let me say that nine of 10 times that I clear with a man, it’s because he’s got or done something I don’t like about myself, and by the time I figure this out and the exercise is over, the two of us are usually smiling and hugging. (And he can always clear with me if he needs to.)

Are we psychologists? Nope. Do we encourage men to be authentic? To be the best they can be? Yes and yes. It’s like the quote from Thich Nath Hanh: “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is the fullness of our attention.”

Other than in a therapist’s office, I’ve never seen the kind of male positivity anywhere else. In groups, I’ve seen guys who were fully disconnected from their emotions begin to move more nimbly among them. I’ve seen men crushed by shame—about their bodies, their collapsing marriages, their joblessness, their mounting age—step into powerful and positive new beliefs about themselves. I’ve seen men at opposite ends of an ideology speak their truths to one other and uncover the common threads at the root of their beliefs.

But here’s what I don’t want you to know about men’s group: when I pull into the parking lot every week, I’m scared.

I’m scared because I know that for the next three hours, my unflattering parts will have nowhere to hide. Unlike the normal world, where I’m rarely held fully accountable, I know here I will be. Unlike daily life, where my ego is so adept at hiding my authentic human self—with its doubts, fears, shame, and shadows—here I sit exposed. If I speak bullshit, men will call me on it. Here, masks are off and personas checked at the door.

So, I’m scared.

But I’ll also tell you this: at 10 p.m. as we’re locking up the studio and getting back in our cars, I feel 100 times better. Every week. Authenticity, it turns out, feels better than artifice, and spending three hours in a roomful of genuine men has—for me—the effect of making me feel fantastic. Back in my Honda, pulling out of the lot and back into real life, I feel like the world is a safer place with my men and me making a genuine difference. For a few hours, in one room in this vast city, we’ve put ourselves and a few others on the road to being better men.