Men: From the Inside

Guest post: by Garry Gilfoy

I was recently asked to deliver professional development to some therapists on the topic of ‘men’s issues.’ I left my son’s football game to do so and found a gathering of about 60 people. The ten or so men attending were sitting on the periphery of the room.

I warmed up by reading a poem called Rain from Nowhere by Murray Hartin. It tells of a man with a young family. We catch him on the day he intends to end his life. After years of drought, he can’t see any way to hold on to the family farm. That same day he receives a letter from his father telling him of the tough times he’d had on the farm and how important it was to hang in there for his wife and children. Everything will be alright, assures his dad. It’s a heartbreaking poem. I can’t read it without tears rolling down my face. The whole room cried with me. When I composed myself again, I asked what it was about the poem that moved them. It was, predictably, the father-son relationship.

I then asked everyone to briefly consider some words they would use to describe God. Then to consider the same question about their fathers.

Before I could go on, one bright spark spoke up to say the descriptors of God and their father were the same. Others echoed their agreement.  A few chirpy women close to the front said some lovely words like “unconditional love,” “acceptance,” and “supportive.” I thanked these women, raised my eyes to the horizon and said “men?”  Out it poured – “distant, angry, non-existent, judgmental.”  The contrast was stark.

I’d been asked to speak to this group partly because I train therapists myself, but also because I co-host regular men’s weekends. They are powerful events – no booze or drugs, no experts speaking down to people, no theorizing, no therapy and no talking over people. We speak openly and honestly of our own life experiences. We welcome silences. Tears and laughter are profuse. Within hours, hugs are commonplace. By the end of the weekend we do an affirmation ceremony, each of us saying just what it is we value about the others. That’s the hardest thing of all – being acknowledged for what we bring to others.

When these events began, we thought it was our duty to create themes to guide the weekends. We needn’t have bothered. Regardless of what we thought might be helpful – relationships, our working lives, changing roles – again and again the topic returned to father-son relationships.

And there was something I noticed over the years of revisiting this inexhaustible well of grief. Time after time I was deeply affected by the emotions of these brave men who would talk and cry in front of people they often hadn’t met before. My own father, long dead, was emotionally detached at best. Yet he was not violent, not irresponsible, not an alcoholic nor emotionally abusive. The many conversations about fathers were not true for me, yet they found a very deep resonance within me. I began to recognize this as how we experience archetypes. These stories go deeper than our personal relationship to our father in this lifetime.

There is a very profound father-son archetype that lies at the root of our relationship to our own God, or higher self, or whatever you deem to be the part of us that needs desperately to shine but so often cannot. Rather than the popular Jungian struggle for dominance between father and son, I’d suggest the higher archetype can be found in the Biblical phrase, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” It’s about recognition and acceptance.  And the damage or neglect that came from our own fathers is reflected strongly in this relationship with our higher self. We know deeply that this is not how it’s supposed to be. At some level we experience that great being of light at the core of our own self, and long for its expression in our lives.  When we struggle, we do so against the backdrop of unconditional love that we sense awaits us, yet is never quite attainable.

By the end of my talk I felt I had to affirm the many female therapists in the room. They struggle with their male clients, and many with the men in their private lives. I could only applaud them for caring so much and continuing to try. They know men are worth it, whether they see much evidence of this or not. Women are very often the first port of call for men who finally muster the courage to ask for help. Yet, in the end, I think that men need to make meaningful contact with other men. It’s only here that we can redeem our Gods and our demons.

Garry Gilfoy was raised in Canada and lives in South Australia. His formal education includes Theology, Education, Social Science (Counseling) and is currently a PhD candidate. Garry trains counselor’s, is author of The BIG Picture: Insights from the Spiritual World, contributes to The Huffington Post and co-hosts regular men’s weekends. His website is http://www.garrygilfoy.com.
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New Warrior Training Adventure: My first staffing

Category: Men and Initiation 

by Gonzalo Salinas

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to participate as staff for the first time on the New Warrior Training Adventure.

I had completed my own weekend in Central Florida in April 2013. I remember the feelings in my heart right before it started. Fear, excitement, anger, happiness, more … every moment was a discovery and I remember going through every emotion I’ve ever felt in my life.

I had similar feelings on my first staffing.  The staff arrives one day before the participants, to prepare the site, get staffing directions, and for a first-time staffer like me, to see the “behind the scenes” of the Weekend. I witnessed the huge amount of work that close to 40 other men were putting in as volunteers to help the men who would be arriving on Friday (often called initiates) have a flawless experience: Men of Service, Elders, the Certified Leader Team, the Lodge team, in general every member from the staff adding his gifts to accomplish the main goal: to offer a group of men what could be one of the most powerful weekends of their lives.

This time I was the one on the other side of the wall. On my weekend I was discovering and living my experience, but this time I was more concerned for every man in front of me going trough their process. Something that I couldn’t avoid, almost immediately I began to care profoundly for every man going through the weekend.

lover magician warrior king Talking with one of the elders about why I was feeling my staffing experience in a more heartfelt way than my own initiation, he said to me with a big smile:

“Now you have the privilege of being in service to your brothers.”

One by one, I saw men breaking through. Understanding the importance of accountability in their lives, seeing how every action, no matter how small, has an impact on our families, on our society, and on the world. Seeing how they had set themselves up, and seeing the way through to a new way of being as a man.

At the end of the weekend, driving back to South Florida, with fresh memories of the men going through their process, a thought hit me, and I fully realized what happened on the weekend:

“The cycle has been fully completed,” I thought, “some other men voluntarily did the same thing for me on my weekend,  and now I’m doing the same, so other men can realize they are complete, whole men, great men, strong and loving men that can exercise power and compassion, love and accountability in every act. Now they know what I only learned less than a year ago.”

The words of the writer Sam Keen were resonating in my heart:

“A man must go on a quest
to discover the sacred fire 
in the sanctuary of his own belly,
to ignite the flame in his heart
to fuel the blaze in the hearth
to rekindle his ardor for the earth”
 

After arriving in Fort Lauderdale, I went to my girlfriend’s house,

“How was your weekend?” she said, excited to see me, giving me the most tender hug.

I hugged her dearly (a long and a very strong hug), and the words came from my heart:

“My love, the cycle has been fully completed.”

She smiled and continued hugging me. Now I can return to the “real world” satisfied that I’ve witnessed many miracles on the weekend.

 

 

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is the MKP Journal assistant Editor for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL, and is committed to his development with the organization and the dissemination of the  message of the Mankind Project.

 

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Man Up – Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and the measure of a “Warrior”

ruffianAre you strong?

How do you measure your strength?

What does the idea of Warrior Culture mean to you?

What about within the context of American Football? In my time, I have stood with men I consider Warriors. Men I have met through the Mankind Project and outside of it. Men I consider strong for their trust in me and the people around them, and their ability to stand in vulnerability and be a mirror for my own choices. I love this article for how it speaks to the complexity of what it means to be a man, and a warrior, in today’s society.

I found “Man Up – Declaring a war on warrior culture in the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal” via Patton Oswalt’s sharing of this article by Brian Phillips with his fans on Facebook. Share what you think in the comments.

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9939308/richie-incognito-jonathan-martin-miami-dolphins-bullying-scandal

Alex Bender was initiated in Santa Barbara, CA in September 2007. He currently lives outside St. Paul, MN with his wife and their menagerie of cats and greyhounds. He sits on the local MKP Board as Vice President and works for growth in personal mission and community leadership.

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Turning Weapons into Instruments

Category: Multicultural, Opinion 

Editors note: by Gonzalo Salinas

“I believe that the purpose of Art is to come up with ways to transform the most negative instincts, into creative instincts.” ~ Pedro Reyes, a Mexican artist who came up with the idea of transforming guns into musical instruments in a powerful project called “Disarm”.

In a previous installation, “Shovels for Guns,” the people in Culiacan, a violent city in Mexico, donated weapons and after melting them they created more than 1500 shovels used to reforest the city.

The project you’ll see on the video is breathtaking. Faith in Humanity: Restored.

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is an Assistant Editor for the ManKind Project Journal, a publication of the ManKind Project, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization offering powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL. Salinas is committed to his own personal development, and to spreading the word about the vision and mission of the Mankind Project.

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Creating Candor: blog post by Alain Hunkins

Editor’s Note: by Gonzalo Salinas
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word candor like this:

candor

Syllabification: (can·dor) 
Pronunciation: /ˈkandər, -ˌdôr/
noun : The quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness:

a man of refreshing candor

I just found another way to explain that word: In this family story, simple and tender, Alain Hunkins brings a new meaning to that word and how to apply it on our daily lives. I hope it brings a smile.

If I speak up candidly, it’ll be a career limiting move.  

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this phrase in organizations.

On the surface, it seems ridiculous.  How could honesty sabotage your career?

But this belief doesn’t come out of the blue.  It comes from experience.

If you spoke up in the past and got dinged for it, you won’t do it again.

So you don’t speak up.

Don’t rock the boat.  

How often have you heard that phrase at work?  As if the “waters” to navigate today’s hyper-changing economy were calm.

Psychologist, Paul Ekman, author of Why Kids Lie reports that the #1 reason that children (of every age) lie is to avoid punishment.

Adult employees aren’t much different.  If you’re afraid of punishment on the job, you’re more likely to lie, or at the very least, withhold the truth.

And when you withhold information in a knowledge worker industry, you sabotage success.  How?  By supporting a low trust, status quo seeking culture.

So what can you do as a leader to create a culture that supports open, honest dialogue?

Click on the following link to read the rest:

Creating Candor; Pioneer Leadership Blog 

 

Alain Hunkins leads personal and professional development trainings for individuals, teams and organizations. Over the last two decades, Alain has facilitated for over a thousand groups, ranging from at-risk youth to Fortune 500 executives. He moves between the educational, artistic, not-for-profit, government and corporate worlds. Alain sharpened his facilitation skills as an Educational Consultant in New York City, developing programs on many subjects, including Conflict Resolution, Networking, Customer Service, Communication, and Leadership.

Alain earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee Professional Theater Training Program. He is a certified Leadership Challenge & MBTI facilitator, as well as a certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, whose mission is to help men lead missions of service in their families, communities, and workplaces. Alain completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.

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I’m a weak man.

by Brooks H.

I’m a weak man.

I’m not strong enough to live up to this _warrior_ shit
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 160 years a life.

lord knows I try.

Just can’t do it all the time.

Sometimes I just want to run away and hide.

Curl up into a little ball and tell the world to fuck off.

Scream ‘NO’ into the face of any asshole that wants me to do ONE MORE FUCKING THING!

help in ONE MORE FUCKING WAY. No way, FUCK OFF!

and I feel bad about it.

feel guilty that I’m not strong enough.

feel guilty at the mistakes I make being irresponsible, self-indulgent, un-conscious, un-truthful, withholding,

un-feeling.

and then, when it gets too big,

I realize that I _am_ feeling …

feeling sad.

and as I let myself feel that, I begin to think about my I-Group,
and what they would say if I brought this into a circle.

I imagine the number of raised hands of men I know that have fallen in these same ways

I can feel the smile starting on my face as I begin to feel again, what it means to be human, and fallible,

and supported.

and know that this is all it takes to keep going on,

to keep watching my behavior, and changing some habits,

to keep getting better.

and I take a breath.

and another,

and the smile begins to warm the cold places and I am grateful.

and into that gratitude comes the feeling of being blessed by this community.

Some warriors do get bloody. Their brothers help them up.

Thank you men for being in my life,

It’s time to get on with my day.

peace and blessings,

Brooks

Brooks H. completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in June of 1999, at Clara Barton Camp in Central Massachusetts. He is a member of Men On The Loose I-Group, a ManKind Project Men’s Group meeting outside Boston on a weekly basis. He lives in Arlington, MA.
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Wisdom Bought and Sold – 25¢

by Craig ‘Snake’ Bloomstrand

A Day at the Park

A Day at the Park

I’ve been writing about Wisdom recently and decided to do some field research.

I made two cardboard signs -

Wisdom
Bought and Sold
25¢

My friend Alan and I drove to the lake intending to buy or sell wisdom for a quarter a dose. We headed for a bench next to the walking path, strategically placed our signs for best visibility and got right to work.

Two young women stopped before we’d even settled. One held a 14 month old baby and the other obviously a soon to be mom.

“You’re selling wisdom?” One asked. “What a great idea.”

“Well actually we’re buying and selling wisdom.” I responded.

“I’ll take some,” the expectant mother said, “How does it work?”
She rummaged through her purse looking for a quarter.

“First we have to agree on a definition,” I explained, “Then we can decide what type of wisdom you’d like to purchase.

“Ok,” she agreed, what is the definition?

I’ve been studying various published definitions and concocted my own hybrid from what I’ve read.

Wisdom is the ability to learn from life experience and use it to shape the future for the good of all.

I shared my definition along with my unexpected discovery that the difference between knowledge and wisdom seems to be embedded in the last few words.
“For the good of all.”

The two women accepted my definition commenting they never thought about the difference and agreed for the good of all did indeed fit. “Why are you doing this?” they asked.

“We believe the world could use a little more wisdom. We decided offering a clear definition and assigning a dollar (Quarter) value, we’d encourage people to value wisdom and use it consciously in their daily lives.” I explained.

“Why here at the lake?” the woman holding the baby asked, “Shouldn’t you be in Washington selling wisdom?” I laughed replying, “this is our first day out. We thought it would be wise to start at the grassroots before stepping onto the national stage. We figured only very wise people would be walking around the lake on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

The expectant mother suddenly piped up, “I have some wisdom.”

“Great,” I encouraged, “Lets have it.”

“Never be too quick to judge other people,” she offered adding, “I’m quick to judge people based on what they wear or how they look. My husband is much better at withholding his judgments until he gets to know people better. He’s a more reliable judge of people than I am.”

“Never be too quick to judge other people,” she repeated.

“It fits the definition,” I acknowledged, “Something you learned that could shape the future and certainly for the good of all.”

She seemed very pleased with herself and refused the quarter I offered saying, “No, I’d rather trade, now you give me some wisdom.”

“What flavor of wisdom?” I asked. She paused for a moment considering my question. I noticed her hand slowly caressing her pregnant belly.

“How about children? She asked, do you have any wisdom about raising children?

I raised two children who are now about the same age as these young women. When it comes to childrearing I’m no master but I am experienced and I have learned a lot through the years. I offered up the first thing that came into my mind.

“You can never love a child too much. Spend as much time as you can simply loving your child, you and your child will be forever grateful.”

We agreed we’d made a good trade of wisdom, said our goodbyes and the young mothers continued on their walk. I watched as they walked away, two women filled with the special beauty motherhood bestows.

We did encounter the skeptics, cynics, and the joggers determined to complete one more mile and far too driven to stop and take a moment. I’m grateful for those who did stop. Although no money changed hands today we did go home with our pockets full of wisdom. I imagine we sparked lively dinner conversations last night. I hope so. People have collected a lot of wisdom yet are often shy or hesitant about expressing it. We will continue to hit the streets with our signs. Look for us and stay tuned.

- Snake

EDITOR’S NOTE: Follow the ‘Wisdom – 25¢‘ Adventure on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wisdom-25/207834646061043

Snake

Craig “Snake” Bloomstrand is a Certified Leader in the ManKind Project, and a self-described ‘Social Adventurer.’ He is a founding member of the Minnesota MKP Community.

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A Long Lost Letter From Your Innate Creative Self

Category: Men and Mission, Opinion 

By Gonzalo Salinas

iStock_000001635209Small

Time to wake up?

On www.highexistence.com, I found this article about creativity written by Stephanie Kaitlyn Torres, a.k.a. Satori, a great blogger, traveler, and photographer. I think it’s amazing.

How many times have I put aside my creative self just to fit into the social conventions? How long has my creative self been sleeping? On this “Letter from your Creative Self,” I hope you find what I found, a very interesting voice, speaking some truth.   Click on the link below to read the article:

 A Long Lost Letter From Your Innate Creative Self  

Enjoy, and don’t forget to comment.

 

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is the MKP Journal assistant Editor for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL, and is committed to his development with the organization and the dissemination of the  message of the Mankind Project.

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Waiting for the Blessing of My Father

By Gonzalo Salinas

In October it will be ten years since I’ve seen my father.

I remember clearly the last time I saw him. We were at the National Airport in Lima.

Let me back-track. The flight to Miami was at 8 pm. For international flights, you are supposed to check in three hours in advance or risk missing the flight.

I was at home, waiting for my father to say goodbye at 6 pm. Still a fifteen minute drive away from the airport.  I was late and pissed off. It was the same story. Waiting for my father. Putting all my expectations as a kid on that man. The architect. The eloquent speaker. The storyteller. Great talk but limited results. And yet I still never lost hope of seeing him awaken.

Twenty three years of my life waiting. Waiting for him to stand up and take action; for my brothers Victor and Fernando, for my Sister Mariola and my mother Soledad. And there I was; about to leave Peru, and I was still waiting.

Peter Putnam, a writer and ManKind Project supporter,  in his extraordinary  book: “The Song of Father-Son: Men in Search of The Blessing,” writes that a man craves the blessing of the Father more than anything else in the world.

“We crave the blessing of our father. Our father whoever he is. Wherever he’s been, hugging us close and saying these simple magical words:  Son, I’m proud of you . You have all you need to be a strong, loving man.”

Later, Putnam emphasizes that his entire book, and his entire life, are about that hug and those words.

And there it is. My whole life I was always craving the blessing of my father. And to give the blessing, he needed to show up.

In October 2003 I didn’t know that what I wanted was my father’s blessing. I was feeling the same familiar feelings of disappointment, anger, and frustration that I felt many times towards him. My life in Peru was about to come to an end. I was about to start a new life in a new country where  I couldn’t speak a word of the language.  I was longing for something from him … waiting for him to come and save me.

He arrived at 6:30 pm. I was furious. I wanted to scream at him and blame him for whatever unpleasant things were happening in my life.

He came pretending like nothing was wrong … and I screamed,

“Dad, I had to be at  the airport at 5!!!”

He reacted like he usually did; serene, almost as if he wasn’t involved.

He said, “I’m sorry.”

I’ve heard that I’m sorry so many times.

We went to the airport. As soon as we arrived, my brother, who was waiting there, told me that the flight was delayed two hours …

Four other friends were at the airport to say goodbye. A friend of mine brought me chocolates made by his mom, another friend asked me if I had some soles (the Peruvian currency) “You won’t need it in the U.S.” he said. Despite my anger, I gave him like thirty bucks in Peruvian soles.

Everyone was pretending that this was another get together, the usual frivolous conversation;  girls, soccer, cars.

I was begging deep inside for my father to call me aside … to say something meaningful.

Boarding begins. I start saying goodbye to my friends and family. At the time I thought I was leaving for only two or three years. It’s now ten years without seeing my father. I saved the last goodbye for Him, (Him with capital H). It was very simple goodbye. A brief hug and a kiss on my forehead.

“Behave,” he said.

Throughout the years I have carried a lot of resentment towards my father. I blamed him for many things. I’ve always thought about how he could do better on this or that area. It’s been ten years. Now, after my New Warrior Training Adventure, and ongoing work in my men’s I-group, I notice that I didn’t have to look at my father, but at myself.

Looking back, I see that he did the best he could with what he had, from where he was. If he didn’t do better, it was simply because he didn’t know any better. Maybe he was also craving the blessing of his father. Men’s work, for me, has included learning to forgive. Forgiveness for my father. Forgiveness for myself. I didn’t know what I needed, and I didn’t know how to ask for it. He didn’t know how to give what I could never ask for, the blessing of a Father.

Only after I forgave, I accomplished something that I thought it was impossible:  I have learned to love my father. Just saying it give me a sense of freedom: I love my Father. Yes, I love Him and I can’t wait to see him again. To look into his eyes and hug him. Not only as the man who gave me life, but as my brother warrior that he is, doing the best he can with what he is given.

 

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is the MKP Journal assistant Editor for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL, and is committed to his development with the organization and the dissemination of the  message of the Mankind Project.

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True Voice Process – A Conversation with Alan Little

by Boysen Hodgson

Alan Little

Alan Little

As has been said … necessity is often the mother of invention. Alan Little thought he had it all worked out, and then it all started crumbling. In some new ways, it still is. But the slippery slope from ‘I’ve got this all figured out,’ to ‘What the heck is going on!?’ happens in different ways for different folks. In Alan’s case, it helped him arrive at a moment of clarity that gave rise to the ‘True Voice System.’

I spoke with Alan in August about his system, and took a few hours to walk through the True Voice Process work-book. I’m glad I did. In a few hours I added new language and some new tools to my personal growth tool-box, and came away with more clarity about what I value deeply and what I won’t tolerate in my life.

Alan completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2007.

Check out the interview, and if you would like to learn more about the “True Voice System,” check out Alan’s web site.
2013-09-27_TrueVoice Interview

Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson is the Communications and Marketing Director for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Boysen received his BA with Honors from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, after completing 2 years of Design coursework at Cornell University. He has been helping companies and individuals design the change they wish to see in the world for 15 years. He’s a dedicated husband.

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Rolling in the Tides of Ash

Category: Poetry 
by Ryan Keaton

Rolling in the Tides of Ash

A speck of gold
In a sea of shadows
Rolling in the tides of ash
It’s getting late and I am tired

I step outside myself
Only for a moment
And in that moment
I am free

Free to laugh
To smile
Free to cry
Or breathe deeply
Free to be myself
And it doesn’t hurt

And suddenly a whisper
A doubtful wind
Sweeps across my eyes
I fall to the ground
Knees to the Earth

There is a light that glows
Buried deep beneath
Memories of salted tears
And broken glass
There is a light that glows
It is small but I can see it

It is familiar
It has a face; a name
It has wants and needs
Hopes and dreams
A voice that wants to speak
And a longing to be free

And suddenly
I am afraid -
I am afraid of me

A speck of gold
In a sea of shadows
Rolling in the tides of ash

Original writing by Ryan Keaton, a ManKind Project member in the greater Washington DC Community.

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Sublime and the Drugs

By Gonzalo Salinas

On May 25th 1996, Bud Gaugh, drummer for the Californian band Sublime, reported to the police that his friend Brad, leader of the band, had disappeared. After trying to call him ten times he stopped because it kept going directly to voicemail. Nobody had any information.

It had been a wild night: they played at a festival in San Francisco and after searching without any results, Bud returned to the hotel where the band had stayed the previous night. The manager opened the room that was supposedly empty and both found a somber scene: Bradley James Nowell was kneeling on the floor with half his body on the bed. On the bed was a puddle of vomit and Bud thought that after the concert Brad had gotten drunk and passed out before even being able to get in bed.

When they moved him, a more serious picture emerged. Next to him were needles, a lighter, and a small bag with white powder. Bud brought his face to Nowell’s chest, confirming that his heart was not beating. The police statement declared that Bradley James Nowell, 28 years old, died from a heroin overdose that stopped his heart. He could have been saved but nobody was present to help him in that lonely hotel room.

Two months after his death, the album they had been working on for the past year was released. Then came the avalanche of success.  For several months, they were ranked first in the Billboard Rock charts, they made the rotation on MTV, won gold and multiplatinum records, and Rolling Stone magazine awarded Sublime’s album as the best of 1997 thanks to hits like Santeria and What I Got.

Bradley Nowell left an important legacy, influencing singers like Ben Harper, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and Jack Johnson. He also left behind an 11-month old orphan, a wife, a band, and a Dalmatian. He never enjoyed his fame or wealth. He made bad decisions and the heroin ultimately stopped his heart. Brad Nowell Brad Nowell was perhaps a reminder to us all of the consequences of these excesses and where they lead us.

Today we live in a world where mind-altering substances – and we’re not just talking about drugs – often dictate our choices. It’s not ‘over there,’ and it’s not ‘them.’ It’s us. It’s people just like you and me.

It is common for people to live with some sort of addiction, be it hard drugs, soft drugs, or even legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. The frenetic rhythm of our society has created other addictions as well, many not yet officially recognized; coffee, video-games, media, pornography.

Today, when debates are held in Uruguay (as well as in numerous state houses across the USA) to decide the legalization of marijuana, people on both sides are writing articles, granting interviews, and opining left and right on a subject that needs to be honestly faced in the entire western hemisphere. If the senate ratifies the law approved by the chamber of legislators, Uruguay will have taken the first step that will serve as an example for Latin America. Not so much to decide whether we are for or against the matter, but as a statement that actions are being taken on a cancer that is having a profound impact on our society. The drug economy, as noted by Moises Naim in his book, “Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy,” doubled from 1990 to 2002, without calculating the parallel powers it creates, the mafias and the cost that the ensuing crime has on governments.

Being for or against decriminalization, the “war on drugs” is a war that was lost at the beginning, and our action is needed now. Many of us and our fellow beings live in a state where we need a substance to survive and “bear” life. How do we get back to a healthy balance point? Where is the emotional health of our society standing? Do we fill in the gaps in our spirit with addictive substances or compulsive behaviors to forget reality?

Many of us, in our daily activities, are using alternatives that bring us closer to sanity or the elevation of the spirit; yoga, exercise, meditation, ‘clean’ food, and appropriate amounts of rest that balance out the frenetic pace that our work requires.  But this is far from the norm in our culture. We have arrived at an alarming moment.

Maybe it is time to consider that everyone has a personal responsibility in creating a healthy society. It begins with our own emotional sanity that will lead to a collective sanity. We can search for that sanity together, or we can keep running. And it will continue to cost us. When some substance or addiction that allows us to carry on with our lives slams into reality, when we have our own personal version of Bradley James Nowell’s story in our families.

Click here to watch the video Santeria by Sublime  

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is the MKP Journal assistant Editor for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL, and is committed to his development with the organization and the dissemination of the  message of the Mankind Project.

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Why won’t men get help?

By Dr. Adam Sheck

I’m excited to let you know that I was the featured guest on the Good Men Project panel asking the question, “Why Won’t Men Get Help?” in the context of men and mental health. It was an exciting panel of myself and four other men and great questions, great answers and deep issues were addressed.

The 30 minute video of the event is now on the Men After Fifty website for you to view. I promise you that it will be worth your time. Click below:

 

Why Won’t Men Get Help?

 

Please let me know your thoughts by commenting on the post at the website. And please forward and share this article with those friends and family that you feel would benefit from it.

 

Dr. Adam Sheck is a licensed Psychologist, Couples Counselor and Mission Specialist, supporting people in connecting to their mission, passion and purpose at ownyourmission.com. He especially relates to men dealing with the issues of the second half of life at menafterfifty.com. You can find him on Facebook when he’s not busy writing for The Good Men Project.

 

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Great Article about Loneliness by Jessica Olien

lonelinessLast week, I found an extraordinary article on SLATE by Jessica Olien, a writer and illustrator who lives in New York. The article is about a crucial topic in our society: Loneliness.  Two days after I read it, Tim Ferris  re-posted the link on his blog.

“In terms of human interactions, the number of people we know is not the best measure. In order to be socially satisfied, we don’t need all that many people. According to Cacioppo the key is in the quality, not the quantity of those people. We just need several on whom we can depend and who depend on us in return.

As a culture we obsess over strategies to prevent obesity. We provide resources to help people quit smoking. But I have never had a doctor ask me how much meaningful social interaction I am getting. Even if a doctor did ask, it is not as though there is a prescription for meaningful social interaction.”

This is a very relevant topic for us as men. In the ManKind Project men’s work we help men break out of damaging cycles of isolation. Our I-Group men’s groups are places where men find a way out of isolation and into brotherhood.

Read the full article here.

Enjoy it and please leave your comments …

 

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is the MKP Journal assistant Editor for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL, and is committed to his development with the organization and the dissemination of the  message of the Mankind Project.

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The Shame in the Journey

Category: Men and Shadow 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please help me in welcoming the newest Assistant Editor for the ManKind Project Journal. WELCOME GONZALO! Thank you for your service! ~ Boysen Hodgson, MKP USA Communications & Marketing Director

by Gonzalo Salinas

Before my sister Mariola came to the world, we were three siblings: Victor, Fernando and I.

Victor became an officer of the Peruvian Navy. Fernando became an officer of the Peruvian Air Force. When it came my time to decide, and about to finish high school in Lima, my father asked me:

“What are you going to do with your life?”

“I want to be a writer,” I replied timidly.

He gave me a dry look, and said, “Do you want to be poor?” and then continued,

“If you like books you better be an attorney.”

Then he left the room.

At that moment, I covered my vocation with shame.

Carrying shame about being who we really are is a defect of our culture, a cultural shadow, that leads us to lifes we don’t want to live. If the world around you doesn’t accept who you really are, a normal reaction would be to move away from those people. But what happens when the people who don’t accept you are close friends or even family? Even worse, what happens when you are so young that a message you hear leads you to think something is deeply wrong with you?

We start covering our lives with shame. This is what happened to me.

 Shame

Shame is a very real imaginary illness, which once encysted on your subconscious mind, it will affect every part of your self-image, and without a doubt will have repercussions in your life. According to Dr. Robert Glover (author of the great book No More Mr. Nice Guy) if you don’t work on the little issues that are holding you back on your inner self, then you won’t pass to the next level on your development, no matter how small they are.

Robert Bly, on his book Seven Sources of Shame, explains that we can “practice” living with shame, and at certain point we just tolerate shame in our lives: the consequences will be that we’ll believe that we are not adequate to the society, and our interpretation is that our shames ARE ourselves, and not  circumstances that we can let go out of our lives at any time.

Living our lives with shame is not life.

After a few years since my father rejected my confession of wanting to become a writer, this is the panorama:  He’s now 67 and I’m 33. I know he loves me and I love him. And after a lot of men’s work, I’ve build a routine like this:

Depending on the day I wake up, go to yoga or for a run in South Beach, FL. Then I open a book for my reading of the day, and right after I start my writing time, and then continue with my day.  I love everything related to the writing life: to write, to read, to research, going to conferences, to take notes, book presentations, literary magazines, etc.  Even ordering books on Amazon is a big pleasure.

And all of those activities are the activities of a writer.

That kid who covered his writing vocation in shame is dissolving, and after years of acceptance, working many jobs, learning many lessons and having done serious men’s work. I’m excited that I’ll be writing for the MKP Journal every week. And happily, I celebrate that I’m a writer.

personal-freedom

 

 

Gonzalo photo

Gonzalo Salinas is the MKP Journal assistant Editor for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Salinas studied Literature in Lima, Peru at San Marcos University, and has been living in the United States since 2003.  He lives in Miami, FL, and is committed to his development with the organization and the dissemination of the  message of the Mankind Project.

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Diner – by Wentworth Miller

Category: Featured Content, Memoir 

april 2013

by wentworth miller

i was sitting in a diner on colorado boulevard the other day, enjoying a nice breakfast with a friend (late 40s, a working mother of three), when a homeless man materialized next to us.

i say “materialized” because i had no awareness of him entering the restaurant (even though i was seated facing the door) and no awareness of him approaching our table. yet there he was. tall, thin, white, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and a filthy trucker’s cap. looking about 50 going on 80. and he wanted money.

“do you have any spare ch-” was all i heard before tuning him out and looking away, making eye-contact with my friend across the table. i felt sure we were both thinking the same thing. “oh boy. here we go.”

before i could launch into my “sorry, buddy” speech our waitress (late 40s, tiny) was standing at our table, telling this guy to take a hike. “you can’t be in here / you shouldn’t be bothering our customers / please leave” etc.

but he didn’t leave.

instead he got into it with our waitress, pointing out the cross on her neck and gearing up for a dressing down on themes of christianity, charity, and the whole shebang. and our waitress was having none of it. “you can’t be in here / you shouldn’t be bothering our customers / please leave” she repeated, this time minus the “please.”

all the while i’m sitting there silently, wondering when it would be over, waiting for whoever was in charge to come over and handle things. i’m not sure who i was envisioning. probably the manager. who would be male. and older. and in charge.

he’d know what to do.

things are heating up now, the homeless guy and our waitress bristling, really starting to go at it, about 30 seconds from taking it to the next level. my friend across the table is very quiet. she, like me, is waiting for it to be over. for order to be restored.

and then, as i sit there witnessing two women in discomfort and a man in distress, it occurs to me – nobody’s coming over. nobody’s going to handle things.

i’m the man. i’m the one in charge.

and suddenly i’m rising from the table. i say, “let’s go outside, buddy. i’ll give you something outside.” and my tone of voice isn’t “hey, asshole” or “listen here.” it’s matterof-fact. like, “this is what’s going to happen.”

and then the homeless guy and i are walking to the door together. and then we’re through the door and out on the street. and then i open my wallet and hand him a 20- dollar bill.

and then he’s holding me.

i don’t know or remember exactly how that came to be, but all at once his arms are around me and i’m getting a full-body hug from a homeless person.

and this hug is textbook MKP. no awkward thumps. no tentative pats. no “let’s keep our groins angled out of this, okay?” he’s just holding me. and, after a beat, i’m holding him.

and this goes on for 20 seconds. 30 seconds. he’s talking into my shoulder too. i hear the words “veteran,” “oklahoma,” and “my birthday.” everything else is muffled. but i also hear “thank you, brother.” he says this three, maybe four times.

and as i watch someone walk past us and do a double-take, as i continue to inhale the scent of a man who’s spent years (decades?) on the street, i think to myself, “yes. this is my brother.”

then it was over and i was waving good-bye. i went inside the restaurant and slid back into the booth, now smelling like the homeless guy. and i wanted to weep.

and while the waitress proceeded to call me “hero” and then scold me for putting myself in “danger,” i thought about masculinity and chivalry and the need to be seen and heard and how i’m a 40-year-old man (going on 41) who’s still waiting for the guy in charge to show up.

i thought about how i would have handled the situation before starting my work with MKP six months ago, which probably would have looked like me not handling it. or like me handling it by making it worse. like me handling it by robbing another man of his dignity and the chance to connect.

and i thought about how we are all brothers. all of us.

then i looked up and noticed a man i knew from MKP, a man i’d seen just the night before while sitting in an i-group, seated with his wife across the restaurant, enjoying a nice breakfast.

brothers everywhere. all around.

Wentworth Miller

Born in England, raised in Brooklyn, New York, and a graduate of Princeton University, Wentworth Miller is a compelling and critically acclaimed young actor whose credits span both television and feature film. Learn more about Wentworth Miller at IMdb. Miller is a member of the ManKind Project USA, Los Angeles Community.

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Three reasons for Lance Armstrong to Check In! with the ManKind Project

by Boysen Hodgson

RAGBRAI Team MKP USA

RAGBRAI Team MKP USA

The ManKind Project USA cycling team recently participated in our second RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). We brought over 40 men and women from across the country (and Canada) to Iowa for the ride. Lance Armstrong came out to Iowa for a couple days of the ride, so we put out an invitation for Lance to come Check In! with us at the ManKind Project. And though the ride may be over – the invitation stands. We’ve got training opportunities and men’s groups across the country ready for any man. Learn more … NewWarriorTraining.org

3. Because being the ‘best man you can be’ is easier with help.

The era of the lone cowboy is over. The planet can’t take it, our families can’t take it, our society can’t take it. Isolation is literally killing us. Though not all of us will lose millions of dollars in sponsorships, or titles, or political offices, or careers – a man in isolation WILL lose what he values. What we hear over and over is stories of men losing themselves, losing their families, losing their ability to face themselves in the mirror without shame and anger, losing the ability to be with those they love without hiding.

That loss, shame, anger, grief, and hiding has profound impacts on the world. From families in silent crisis, to mass killings, to epidemic levels of obesity and suicide. The deeply personal emotional realities of our lives have direct links to the interpersonal, institutional, political, and cultural decisions we participate in.

What I heard you say, Mr. Armstrong, in your interview on Oprah, is that one of the most powerful motivating factors for your coming back into integrity was the pain of lying to your children. Those we love as men are hurt by our absence. And many men — and women — are truly leading lives ‘of quiet desperation.’

The good news — and there is A LOT of good news — is that the culture is waking up to this reality, and men and women are taking action to do something about it. The ManKind Project is one such effort. We are committed to being there when men hear the call in their lives to WAKE UP and begin the difficult work of creating a new reality. When a man is ready to do whatever it takes to heal the parts of his soul that have been hidden away … we’re there as a community to challenge and support him in that journey.

Lance Armstrong, you’ve proven again and again that you are capable of doing whatever it takes. You pretty obviously have gotten a wake up call. What’s next?

2. Because there are more adventures waiting.

You have done some INCREDIBLE things. Beyond comprehension. I honor all that you’ve done.

And there are other kinds of adventures. You’ve been doing the exploration of human possibility as an athlete and cancer survivor, and you’ve done extremely well. If you’re like every other man I’ve ever met, my guess is that there are some dark hallways and paths into the woods of your psyche that you’ve avoided on the road you’ve been traveling. As the old maps said ‘beyond here, there be dragons.’

In the work we do with men at the ManKind Project, we offer an opportunity to take some of those dark paths and see what treasures lie within. Our Native American brothers call the work we do ‘exploring inner space,’ our hunting and tracking friends call it ‘inner tracking.’ There are many ways to describe what we do, and at the core it’s about taking a hero’s journey into your soul, and facing the ordeal that lurks there. It’s different for each man, and universal.

It’s about healing, discovering purpose, taking responsibility, embodying a new kind of power, embracing vulnerability as strength. (read a great blog post from ManKind Project man Chris Kyle on this topic here.)

It’s about becoming fully human. We work with men because we know what it feels like to be in the skin of a man in 2013. We work with men because we are recreating the culture from the inside.

It’s an adventure! Scary, challenging, ALIVE. We’d love to have you join us for the adventure.

1. Because it’s a relief to take off the mask, if only for a little while.

Being a public figure is a game of masks. From scene to scene – the play is going, and whether you’re winning the Tour de France, or getting in the car to go to work, most men learn to put on a ‘game face.’

Along the way men learn what is ok to express and what isn’t, what is ok to share, and what isn’t. This is certainly true for women as well. Men are taught to hide weakness, vulnerability, pain, sadness, joy, tenderness … and more. Women are taught to hide their fierceness, anger, power, ambition, intensity … and more. Thankfully, for some this isn’t as true today as it was in the past, but it’s still the norm. Though we live in a culture that loves the illusion of heroes, celebrities and fame, we see over and over what the masks do to real people. Cory Monteith dies alone in a hotel room.

It starts early. Recently I was at the ice-cream stand with my wife. There was a little boy, probably three years old, running around, bouncing, laughing, enjoying himself. After a couple minutes he took a misstep and went down onto the asphalt with a thud. It wasn’t a hard landing, but it shocked him. Before the surprise on his face had even begun to shift into the pain of the shock, his big sister swept him off the ground saying … ‘You’re a BIG MAN. BIG MAN. No crying. Be a BIG MAN.’ His mother and father watched from the bench and reinforced the message … ‘Ain’t nothin’, you’re a BIG MAN.’

The boy wasn’t hurt. But there was no acknowledgement of the fall. Not even a 15 second window to say … ‘Wow. You fell! Hit the ground pretty hard, eh buddy? Kinda scary! That probably hurt some, huh?’ And then to move on … having witnessed and acknowledged what happened. There is no reason to INDULGE the pain – but acknowledging it is healthy and demonstrates EMPATHY – one of the most important and life-enhancing taits a human being is born with — and tragically — trained out of.

We are taught to deny and repress our pain, and to punish those who express it. Even the pain of those we love most. I have met hundreds of men who punish themselves for not being able to shut off the pain of being alive. It’s a vicious cycle. The denial leads to choices that hurt us all; fatherlessness, domestic violence, gang violence, mass killings, common disregard for others, for our health, for the health of our society, and the health and vitality of our planet.

Rather than co-creating a culture of empathy, we co-create a culture of sociopathy.

How would the world be different if boys and girls were taught healthy habits of empathy, acknowledgment and self-responsibility from the age of 1 or 2 instead of the instant and immediate denial and repression of the bumps, bruises, and pains that we all experience every day?

It may take different forms for men and women, but it’s the same game. We teach each other to lie. And we punish each other for breaking the silent rules of the game.

And we all lose.

I know you care about people. I know you deeply care. You got trapped in a game, and made a choice that many of us make in small and large ways every day. You lied. That doesn’t make you bad. It tells me that you’re well-trained.

And as a public figure … you’ve paid a heavy price. And your actions have impacted a lot of people. There’s nothing we love more than a fallen-hero. On a subconscious level it gives us a glimpse of the game … the game of denial … and let’s us keep it ‘out there’ at arms length rather than owning it for ourselves.

What if you (what if we all!?) had a safe place to start undoing the training? We don’t have to over-indulge in the pain of our experiences, but it is essential that we learn to acknowledge and witness the pain of life, in ourselves and in each other.

Lance Armstrong – you’re invited to come sit with us. And if you want to, you can take off the mask and set it aside for a while. I’m inviting you to come check in – I’ve offered three reasons, and there are lots more.

I know with certainty that I won’t be catching up to you on a bike, but maybe there’s another kind of journey I can ride with you on.

With respect and admiration – Boysen Hodgson
413-883-2462, Text me, call me, stop by.

PS. The day the Lance Armstrong interview aired on Oprah, January 17, over 100 supporters of the ManKind Project were in Chicago in the audience for the filming of Oprah’s Lifeclass with Iyanla Vanzant on “Fatherless Sons,” parts I and II. “Fatherless Sons – the Reaction” aired two weeks ago. Men from the ManKind Project were there again. These are Oprah’s highest rated Lifeclass shows ever.

Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson is the Communications and Marketing Director for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Boysen received his BA with Honors from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, after completing 2 years of Design coursework at Cornell University. He has been helping companies and individuals design the change they wish to see in the world for 15 years. He’s a dedicated husband.

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Three Hidden Powers of Vulnerability

By Chris Kyle

When I was a kid, I can’t tell you how many times I heard phrases like these: “just suck it up, Kyle”; “don’t cry – the strongest don’t cry”; “what are you, a pussy?”; “don’t get too excited”; “tone it down…”; “I don’t want to hear how you feel about it, just do it”; and “don’t get angry with me young man.” These came from my friends, my teachers, my coaches, and my family too.

I know many men who can relate to these words and far worse including a lot more swearing — “f*cking” this and “goddamn” that.

As a boy and then a young man I was told constantly to stay in a zone of feeling and behavior that essentially felt like being a block of granite — solid, unmoving, rational, toned-down, and generally unfeeling. Sharing my feelings, my deep fears, expressing sadness, crying were all seen as weakness for a young, maturing man.

What I came to believe was: Vulnerability = Weakness

I recall one key event in my early teens when some friends at school were instigating a fight between me and a kid named Evan. I didn’t want to fight him, but it somehow became a matter of honor, or an issue of shame, if I DIDN’T fight him.

I remember facing Evan, with a small crowd circled around us, and thinking “why am I here”. I literally couldn’t remember what we fought about or what was the issue that had us squaring off against each other with fists raised. We finally dove into it, trading a few punches, and then found ourselves wrestling on the ground. He got me in a head-lock and all I could do was say ‘uncle’ — to tap out. I’d lost the fight.

As I stood up, facing the others gathered around, I could feel the shame welling up in me, and the tears started to come. And of course, you know what’s coming… one of the boys says to me: “f*ck Kyle, are you crying?” It was said with such disdain and disbelief. I dropped into a deeper level of shame for having these feelings and showing the tears. This moment shut me down and locked me out from my tears, and slammed the door on my vulnerability.

Our culture continues to indoctrinate boys and men in this way — through old socializing patterns that are deeply ingrained in our cultural DNA. It’s this: Be tough, don’t cry, don’t share your fear, win at all costs, prove you’re a man.

And yet, now what I’m seeing are adult men who are willing to work on themselves and take a deep look at these beliefs and patterns. They are consciously unwinding this shame and belief of ‘vulnerability is weakness’, and bringing a new understanding and self-compassion to their childhood wounds and traumas.

This truth-telling about myself and the willingness to be more open, transparent, revealing… to be more vulnerable, is freeing and empowering.
Now the vulnerability starts to look and feel different. It becomes a hidden source of power for me.

And what vulnerability is at it’s core is allowing ourselves to really be SEEN, warts and all, so we can feel more connected. The researcher and author, Brene Brown, says that it’s this vulnerability that helps heal our shame and opens us up to deeper connection and a greater sense of worthiness.

So as I investigated deeper into masculine vulnerability, I became aware of what I call the 3 Hidden Powers of Vulnerability.

1. Vulnerability opens us to an increased capacity for Courage
Being vulnerable, sharing more of myself, taking the risk to say with needs to be said, to speak the truth in my heart — all of it takes courage. As we practice being more vulnerable (open, transparent, being seen) then we foster a new level of courage that we can apply in many areas of our lives. This courage-building also garners respect and appreciation from others. And it builds a resilience in us to face the many challenges that life will bring.

2. Being vulnerable brings forth greater Compassion for ourselves and others
When we are vulnerable, when we truly open ourselves to be seen by others, we are sharing more parts of ourselves with the world. And in that awareness of the hurt, raw or broken parts of ourselves we are able to see our own humanity and have greater compassion for ourselves. As this capacity builds inside us we have more empathy and compassion for others. This growing power of compassion provides us with a greater ability to accept and let go of beliefs and judgements that don’t serve us. More presence and peace is found in this compassion.

3. Vulnerability creates deeper, more authentic Connections
What I see as the greatest gift of vulnerability is the ability to actively cultivate deeper, more real connections with everyone in my life. When we practice being more open and vulnerable we are able to pierce the veil of shame and fear and experience deeper connection and relatedness. More honest dialog emerges, more healing between friends and loved ones occur. And this is counter-intuitive to our minds — where we equate vulnerability with fear, hurt and weakness. When in fact it creates more support, more freedom, more joy, more release and more appreciation. These authentic connections serve our success and happiness in every area of life — relationships, work, parenting, community and well-being.

So, I invite you to choose more opportunities to share yourself, to express your fears, to let your tears be seen. Cultivate this openness, this vulnerability and watch these hidden powers blossom and grow so that they infuse your life with more meaning, passion and care for yourself and others.

Chris Kyle

Chris has trained and coached hundreds of individuals to achieve greater success in their businesses and their lives. In partnership with The ManKind Project®, he recently created The Power of Purpose Summit and the Man On Purpose online course. He is also the co-creator, with Amy Ahlers, of the ongoing tele-series, New Man, New Woman, New Life.

Chris is the former Chief Development Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Evolving Wisdom LLC, an online learning company that produces virtual courses with leading luminaries in the personal development arena. At Evolving Wisdom he co-developed The Way of the Evolutionary Man tele-summit with host Craig Hamilton. Chris was an invited speaker for The Shift Network’s Ultimate Men’s Summit in 2011.

In addition to his leadership development work, Chris has spent over 24 years as an executive, entrepreneur, consultant and business coach, working in Fortune 500 companies and owning his own eco-adventure travel company. Chris graduated from Stanford University where he studied Political Science. He lives with his wife in Northern California.

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To all my MKP Brothers, Especially the Straight Ones

2708625432_89e070ee37by Edmond Manning

To All My MKP Brothers, Especially The Straight Ones

I had a tooth brush in my mouth and was contemplating sleep when my overnight guest, a straight man, said to me, “I have a real problem with gay men.”

As a gay man, hearing this statement from a guest in my own home was not exactly comforting. Was this the beginning of an ugly conflict? What hard words might come out next?

I should back up.

Eight years ago, Minnesota MKP produced the familiar BSDT (Basic Staff Development Training) weekend training.  Locals and out-of-staters showed up to sit around the metaphorical campfire and discuss our New Warrior Training Adventure weekend and the raw guts of who we are as men. Those of us with spare rooms offered weekend housing. I agreed to host a fellow Minnesotan named Joe who lived outside the twin cities area.

Over multiple staffings, Joe and I gradually grew a guarded respect for each other. We liked each other well enough but he kept me at a distance and I respected it. (I love that I no longer have to be friends with every single man and fake pleasantries. We can respect each other’s manhood and simply not hang out.) Between assigned processes and wandering around camp, Joe and I would nod affably when our paths crossed.

But after a few staffings where we collaborated well, Joe and I decided to expand on our mutual trust by stepping out together on the carpet to help facilitate some emotional work.

You know what that means.

You don’t step out on the carpet with a man unless you trust that man has your back. Doesn’t matter if it’s his first staffing or thirtieth – it’s not always about experience. It’s about the man. You don’t step out unless can you look that man in the eyes and communicate, ‘Together, we can handle this. We can go there.’

It’s an unusual honor we initiated men are blessed to share during this lifetime, the ability to look a man in the eyes and silently agree, ‘Together, we can go there.’

After Friday night’s BSDT training, Joe volunteered to stay at my house. I set him up in his guest bedroom, gave him towels and offered up the contents of my fridge. Host stuff. We were tired and Saturday promised to be a long day. I was brushing my teeth and I think I was simultaneously watering plants because I never just brush my teeth. I multitask. As we said our goodnights, I still had my tooth brush dangling from my mouth.

Joe stood up from the living room couch and asked me to wait, please wait. He was quiet for a moment, uncomfortable.

Finally, he said, “I have a real problem with gay men.”

I froze.

An older version of me would have already knifed an angry retort. But New Warriors frequently smash into each other at that amazing intersection of testosterone and vulnerability and we often come out better for the collision. So, I waited. Joe continued to speak.

He said, “I would like to understand more about this. I think you’re the man to help me.”

We looked each other in the eyes and silently communicated, ‘Together, we can go there.”

We sat.

We talked.

I won’t pretend it wasn’t awkward or tense. It was. It was hard for me to be the warrior he needed while he did his work; I tried not getting triggered by my own shit. We followed those basic but effective communication MKP guidelines regarding I-statements and owning shadowy statements as they emerged. Gently, we called bullshit on each other as needed. Gently.

Joe asked questions. He didn’t understand why gay men did certain things.

We talked cautiously and late into the night sharing our hearts, hearing each other’s story with the listening that is reserved for men you want to know better. Men you might love in your deepest heart of hearts if you first navigate some tricky terrain.

In the end, I wasn’t very good representative of Gaydom because in a mournful voice Joe concluded, “I still don’t get it. I don’t get gay dudes. How can you not want to have sex with a woman? I mean, how is that possible you aren’t totally turned on by women? I don’t understand.”

“That’s okay,” I said, “Who said you had to totally understand being gay? It’s enough that you tried. Joe, you may never understand being gay on that level. You’re into women. End of story. ”

He was shocked, relieved and delighted. While he contemplated my answer, I confessed I didn’t understand the attraction to women, the physical part. I’m all over the emotional attraction and I love the women in my life. But I simply do not get the sex part. It’s not me.

As we talked deeper, turns out that Joe, who is a handsome guy, was hit on multiple times over the years by aggressive gay men who saw him as a tasty treat and decided to go for it. Gay men had tried to seduce him with the upsetting logic that ‘if you really were open-minded about gays, you’d try the sex, just experiment with the sex to better understand gays…’

In short, gay men disrespected him. Repeatedly. They did not honor his sexuality by leaving him alone.

And he felt like shit for not trying harder to ‘understand gays’ but there was no way he wanted to try that. I had given him permission to not understand gay men and it was a revelation for him.

This late-night conversation is a perfect representation of MKP magic – we untangle shit together, the ugly marriage of hurt and negativity, of stereotyping and raging. We men untangle knots. Turns out, only a gay man could untangle that mess for Joe and quite frankly, he had had enough of the gays. Until his NWTA experience, Joe had little interest in befriending another gay man.

But MKP made him reconsider.

After that night, Joe and I staffed as close friends, loving each other in the way male friends can. One weekend, after one particularly grueling piece of carpet work involving a shitty, shitty father, Joe and I took each other outside and wept together. Another staffing, I told everyone Joe and I were biological brothers. Whenever someone called out his last name, we both stood and I said, “Which brother did you want – him or me?” Joe loved it. And for that weekend, we were truly brothers.

When Joe became a father, he beamed light from the inside out, showing off pictures of his newborn son. Whenever his love for his young family shone through him, Joe was the most handsome father and woman-loving man who ever walked the earth.

We’re mostly Facebook buddies these days, but every now and then we connect in a meaningful way and I suspect we will always be ‘go to’ men for each other – a man you can call for wisdom and support.

I am a better man for my friendship with Joe.

I don’t know what I would do without the straight men in my life.

It’s hard to believe I was once so afraid of straight men: the enemy. Enemy might be too strong, but let’s say potential adversary. Sure, I had met and befriended exceptions to the rule (rare exceptions, I believed), cool straight men who accepted me for who I was. I knew it was possible.

But as a gay man, I also endured some verbal abuse and witnessed the disgust in straight men’s eyes for seeing me as I am. Under the guise of new friendship one straight man invited me to one of those conversion weekends designed to overcome the ‘gay curse.’ So yeah, I owned some shit around straight men. I needed to do my own work.

I didn’t know that I would do my work with straight men, that they were the only ones to love and heal wounds inside me that years ago, I vowed I would never, ever let a straight man see. I could never expose that vulnerability.

But they saw me.

And they loved me.

I just published my second novel, titled King Mai. Takes place on a Midwestern farm. One theme is the friendships between gay and straight men.

I sometimes think I have written these two books exclusively for my MKP brothers. Beneath the plot, the outdoor sex, the kidnapping of baby ducks (not in a sexy way, just a normal two-men-kidnapping-water-fowl kind of way), beneath all that lies the familiar struggle of gold and shadow, and if there’s one story both straight and gay MKP brothers love to discuss, it’s the struggle of gold and shadow.

Get this: both novels invite the title character to experience a 40-hour warrior’s journey, during which his internal defenses are lovingly stripped and he delves deep into his grief, his anger, his fear –whatever–until he remembers something amazing – that he himself is amazing – and he rises to meet his golden, glowing kingship on Sunday morning, remembering the man he was always meant to be.

Sound familiar?

I thought it might.

Roughly ten years ago, on a New Warrior Training Adventure, I remembered that I am amazing and I also discovered I was missing half the love in the world by not loving my straight brothers.

On the day I finished writing a first draft of King Mai, my buddy Snake Bloomstrand happened to stop over at my house. At that moment, I was writing about the two main characters saying goodbye and as sad as they were, I felt worse. I had loved these characters for hundreds of pages and I had to say goodbye, too. I cried while sharing with Snake what this book meant to me.

Snake listened thoughtfully. Quietly. I described a final scene I was writing where Vin Vanbly and Mai Kearns explore the family farm, holding hands.

He said, “You should have them tour the machine barn and look at all the rusted equipment. They recognize those broken tills and old combines might be how farmers show love each to other. Through all those machines they intend to fix one day.”

“Yes,” I said, eager to reinforce a theme in the book. I was excited by this idea. “It’s how straight farmers say, ‘I love this guy.’”

“Maybe,” Snake said. “Maybe not just straight men. Might be that all men love each other through machines and equipment.”

Right.

I had assumed something –not particularly negative, but still, assumed –because of an old sore spot in me that used to be jagged and angry. Having deep friendships with straight men is no longer a novelty, but sometimes old programming surfaces. I will always need straight male friends to point out my basis and blind assumptions.

Vin Vanbly, the narrator of my stories, at one point thinks to himself:

We’re so busy defining ourselves as gay men and straight men, we forget we share a whole word in common. We are men. Despite one rather substantial difference, we should remain curious to see what we learn from each other. What’s it like over on your side of manhood? Oh yeah? We don’t do anything like that over here. But then again…maybe we do.

.

Snake earned the right to make plot suggestions because he read my first book, King Perry, and after finishing told me, “I loved it. I did. But it definitely confirms I am 100% straight. Holy shit did it confirm that.”

I would be a different man without Snake in my life.

My life would be less without Joe.

And Harry. And Matt. And Kyle, Chad, Ron, Eric, Kai, Kirt, Mike, Roger, Daniel, Hunter, Kevin, Tim, David, and let me tell you a story about the friendship between me and Brett. Wait, wait…there are too many fucking men to list.

That’s why I had to expand the circle to ensure I didn’t miss any names.  If you flip to the dedication page in King Mai, it reads:

To all my MKP brothers, especially the straight ones.

Edmond Manning

Edmond Manning is the author of King Mai and King Perry. He was initiated through the New Warrior Training Adventure in May 2003, Camp Eagle Lake, Minnesota.

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The Power of Going Deep

by Owen Marcus

Back in my high school days, being popular meant being liked and respected by many. Being popular was having a lot of friends and a lot of girlfriends.  The more friends and girlfriends you had, the more successful you were.

As I moved through my early adulthood, the “more” was anything material: more or better cars, more or bigger houses, more or more beautiful women.

In spite of the simplicity of my behavior, I do see it as a necessary stage in growing up. I had to experience the benefits and the disadvantages to look for something more. I gradually outgrew of my need to conquer women and acquire more friends. I began to realize my hunger for more would never be met.

Unfortunately, I had no one suggesting any alternatives. I struggled, hoping to find that perfect woman and friend thinking that would satiate my hunger.

I tried going it alone. Telling myself I didn’t need anyone. That didn’t work.

I read books, took workshops, and traveled, looking for something more. Eventually I settled down to realize it wasn’t about getting more, doing more or having more. It was about being more. Yes, I know that sounds trite. But as an action it was something no one in my youth ever suggested.

I came to realize being more wasn’t about meditating more. It was about engaging more with life. In doing that, I realized part of my drive for more things was my fear of being with myself. With that understanding, I knew I needed to slow down and go deep. Going after many things always kept me moving. Slowing down allowed many of those things I was unconsciously running from to catch up to me.

When they did catch up to me, I eventually learned to surrender and relax. For a moment the fear intensified – then there was release into a simple pleasure. After several of these experiences (I never said I was a quick learner) I began to appreciate the power of going deep.

Shifting from broad to deep

As I slowed down and went deeper into my own experiences, much like slowing down to savor a good meal, I began to see patterns. The first pattern was exciting: it took less stimuli to please me. Before I was like an extreme athlete looking for that next edge for that next rush. I began to look in the opposite direction. I saw slowing down required fewer stimuli to produce a relatively same level of pleasure.

I also looked to a different form of support and friendship. Hanging with others who were driven for more only made me anxious. Not wanting to live a life of solitude I began looking for others who would nurture my drive to go deep. When I started forming men’s groups I felt I was coming home, albeit a new home.

Particularly with my last incarnation of a men’s group, the Sandpoint Men’s Group, I felt fulfilled. We have a micro-community of men and consequently their families who savor deep connections.

What deep connections give you

Here is a list of incredible benefits deep connections will provide. For many of us men learning, these qualities are best learned with other men. Once learned with men, they naturally generalize with our partners. Attempting to master them first with women is an uphill ordeal.

  • Going deep into self – experiencing a deeper sense of who you are
  • Letting go of masks – stop pretending to be someone you aren’t
  • Taking risks from a place of authenticity – not “faking it to you make it”, being vulnerable as you risk
  • Feeling AS you perform – not using performance as an escape, but as a way to feel more and be more present
    • It’s a man thing to use action as way to deepen our authenticity
  • Speaking the truth – saying what is true for you in the face of others denying their own truths
  • Expressing wants – asking for what you want, knowing you may not get it
  • Developing new skills – as you develop deeper connections you naturally develop betters skills of communication and connection
  • Falling in love – the depth and vulnerability opens you up to love more
    • Self acceptance and Love of others – you can’t love others more than you accept/love yourself
  • Holding space – creating an emotionally safe space for others to feel and express their emotions
  • Leading through example – when you risk to connect deeper, you show others that’s is safe to do the same and how to do it
  • Fun – deep connections brings new joy
    • You relax – easier than you thought possible

It takes a community

You could sit in a cave for years meditating to deepen your connection. But who has the time—or desire—to escape life completely? We live with thousands—sometimes millions—of other people. Yet we are rarely close to a group of people.

To develop the skill of going deep, it works best to practice it with others who are doing the same. For men I’ve never seen a quicker, more powerful, or more fun way to develop depth than in a men’s group. You get to model other men, experiment connecting with other men and receive feedback on your communication as all of you experience the joys of a deep community.

As powerful as a men’s group can be, it’s a foreign phenomenon for most men. Just hanging out with a group of men will not do it. You will get bored and choose not to continue. You need a tight set of agreements to create a container for your group. Then you need the commitment to hang in through the rough stages of forming a group. Having instruction and support will help, but it’s not necessary.

Along with MKP, we are committed to supporting men in learning the forgotten art of going deep. Free to Win offers Two Day Men’s Groups as an immersion into a deep men’s group. We are also offering a one-day workshop for men who are looking at joining or forming a men’s group, or men who want to take their group deeper. This workshop is in N.Y.C. June 30th.

Marcus Owen

Owen Marcus is the founder of Sandpoint Men’s Group. The group is subject of the film About Men. He is also founder of Free to Win, a company committed to men winning as men.

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