Thrive or Just Survive: Men’s Work Beyond Woundedness

by Jan Hutchins

“Few among men are they who cross to the further shore. The others merely run up and down the bank on this side.”

― Gautama Buddha

I no longer cry at ManKind Project graduation celebrations. At the first 20+ gatherings where our brotherhood welcomes home the new initiates and their families, I had the wettest hankie in the room, gushing as our “new brothers” spoke of their transformations, weeping as their families and friends described the man who came back from the weekend as the man for whom they’d waited for years to show up.

So why not cry at such sweet success? Because it’s not about me anymore. I now understand I was weeping largely because of how good it made me feel, “What a great group I’m part of!” “Look at the difference we make in the world” – true, that we do, but it’s a temporary, insufficient, even narcissistic satisfaction – a good beginning at best.

Part of mature masculinity is I can no longer make everything about me and my feelings. Life’s now more about meaningful, effective actions than ideas, intentions, self serving stories and beliefs. How do I behave when my “wounds are healed and my shadows are in front of me?” I show up, walk though my fears and discomfort and ACT to create a world of unconditional love! And maturity cautions, I will repeatedly fail.

Then, I was caught in that sweet, seductive focus on my feelings, now, all I can see is the fear in the new brothers’ eyes. The fear that, “This too shall pass and this amazing moment will become just another fading memory.”

Maturity assures me the emotional initiation and homecoming are just the first steps in a never-ending process – that there is no permanent change only endless opportunities to face the next fear, expand beyond each illusion or belief and handle the grief when the latest ego identification dies.

Writer Gary Z McGee, pleads, “I beseech you, creative intellectuals the world over, look at the pursuit of knowledge like a Buddhist monk looks at the pursuit of enlightenment: the journey is the thing, the pursuit is the thing. There is no such thing as enlightenment. There is no such thing as Absolute Truth. There is no such thing as Perfection. As the Zen Koan states, “If you should meet Buddha on the path, kill him.” Meaning: “kill” that part of yourself that mistakenly believes it has achieved enlightenment. Put even more succinctly: kill belief itself. Everything is questionable. Certainty is an illusion. Like Alan Watts said, “…what one needs in this universe is not certainty but the courage and nerve of the gambler; not fixed conviction but adaptability; not firm ground to stand on, but skill in swimming.”

The ManKind Project weekend power-fully wakes us up to a new way of being as men but despite our brotherhood’s heroic efforts, the ways of the world keep us from seeing what the mature masculine learns the hard way. Our work has not only just begun – it never ends.

As men and as an organization we ignore this reality at our peril – for the wheel of life is always turning. Our work must clearly point to this key characteristic of the mature masculine – a willingness to persevere, stand in the fire, repeatedly change at our core, sacrifice again and again – consciously choosing to face discomfort – as we tenderly embrace values, equanimity, maturity, wisdom, effectiveness.

 

We’re not Built to Be

Our stressful, cynical, consumer culture renders many men physically and emotionally weak. We’ve been taught to avoid pain and maximize pleasure. We’ve become soft from modern comforts, seduced into an inauthentic stupor by televised illusions and thus we do not do whatever it takes to fully serve our world as mature masculine, “new warriors.”

Too many of us rarely risk raw nature’s challenge to face and overcome our limits – and it leaves us weak, wobbly, whiny, living at a level of consciousness where we do what we think others want us to do – our every move based on fear. We can’t trust ourselves, so it’s no wonder we so often disappoint our women, children, colleagues, communities and selves.

We hide behind “I’m doing my work” which translates to “I’m trying,” rather than recognizing mission begins now because the work never ends. The situation is described here by an elder in the work, “I have killed my (bad) father 77 times, not just 7. I think he is dead. In my (men’s circle) one evening years ago, the man who was leading the regression said to the man, “you have been doing this work for years, when are you going to do it right,” and that got me thinking.

Ken Wilber wrote, “It is easy to regress men. The difficult path is to get them to grow.”

Paul Curtain, in a workshop said, “You will recover when you stop trying to recover.”

Thomas Perrin wrote: “In order to change, I cannot use my history as an excuse for continuing my behaviors. I have no regrets for what might have been, for my experiences have shaped my talents as well as my defects of character. It is my responsibility to discover these talents, to build my self-esteem and to repair any damage done. I will allow myself to feel my feelings, to accept them and learn to express them appropriately. When I have begun these tasks, I will try to get on with the business of managing my life. I have survived against impossible odds until today. With the help of God and my friends, I shall survive the next twenty-four hours. I am no longer alone.”

 

How’s a New Warrior to Thrive Rather than Just Survive?

A Hopi Elder Speaks to the paradox:

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is THE Hour.  And there are things to be considered . . . 

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast.  It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.  They will try to hold on to the shore.   They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.  The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.   And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.  At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves.  For the moment that we do,  our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time for the lone wolf is over.  Gather yourselves!  Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary.  All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.  

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Our opportunity is to move beyond just feeling our feelings, turn our circles to face outward, get the balance between our work and our mission “right,” and stand up. Push off into the middle of the river of our lives, keeping our eyes open and our heads above water, take nothing personally, gather ourselves and banish any talk or fear of struggle. We must do things in a sacred manner and in celebration with and for all our relations. Aho.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”

― Kahlil Gibran

By Jan Hutchins – Lead Coach MKP Mastering Mature Masculinity Coaching. Are you ready for MKP Mature Masculinity Coaching? Go here for a no cost discovery session mkpusa.org/coaching

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