Held October 20-22 in conjunction with MKP’s 25-Year Anniversary Celebration in Louiville, Kentucky, the Seventh World Elder Gathering (WEG) for this first time this year features men and women participating throughout the event. A closer connection of the masculine and feminine began last year at the Sixth World Elder Gathering in the UK, which was the first international MKP gathering held outside the U.S.
Both the WEG and the MKP 25-Year Anniversary Celebration encourage couples to attend, and both allow for a discount if a man or woman brings a partner.
The WEG theme this year: “Living into Sovereign Service and Blessing in Everyday Life.” Keynote speakers at this elders gathering include Michael Boyle, Tom Daly and Jude Blitz.
“Now more than ever the world needs our blessing and elder service,” said WEG 2010 Chairman Allan Podbelsek. “We will launch this year’s Elder Gathering by appreciating our life wisdom and our natural instinct to give blessing and provide sacred service.”
The 2010 WEG will be “a living laboratory to connect personal soul with our community soul and the world soul,”said Tom Daly, who with Jude Blitz will work with elders the first morning of the gathering. “We will root ourselves in our ancestral wisdom, our bodies, and especially our hearts. We’ll reaffirm our connections to the earth and to the generations to come.
“We will acknowledge the shadows of service — such as pride, self-inflation, control, over-doing, self-absorption, or caretaking,” said Jude Blitz, a facilitator in Family Constellations Work, “then we will grasp the gifts hidden in those shadows. This will offer us the opportunity to tap our best elder gifts through experiential processes that we can bring to life throughout our gathering. We will have a deeper sense of sovereign service and blessing to take home to our families and communities.”
Elders attending WEG are encouraged to arrive during the day on Wednesday, October 20, well before the evening Opening Ceremony at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, across the river from Louisville at the site of an ancient fossil bed (386 million years old). The spiritual energy of connecting elders from around the world will be honored.
After the Opening Ceremony elders will be transported back to the Galt House where they will form “Sharing Communities” that meet from time to time throughout the program on Thursday and Friday, October 21 and 22.
The elders will meet Thursday morning in a large group led by Tom Daly and Jude Blitz, who will emphasize growing the sovereign in each of us, leading into discussions in the sharing groups.
Thursday afternoon’s options for elders include a special session for women only (enrollment limited to 30). Late afternoon features an elder reception followed by free time to “hang out” and perhaps some special options later that evening.
On Friday, Michael Boyle will open the day with a large group presentation. Michael also is the keynote speaker at the MKP 25-Year Anniversary Gala Dinner on Saturday evening, October 23.
The WEG closing ceremony late Friday afternoon will precede an Elder Dinner open to all attendees of the anniversary celebrations.
On Saturday morning, members of the MKP Elder Council will hold their business meeting while other elders attend the workshops presented by the anniversary planners.
“This is a once in a life-time opportunity to connect with elders and participate in the MKP 25-Year Anniversary Celebration,” said Podbelsek.
by Earl Hipp
My wife and I met the Sudanese refugee Ojulu Agote and his family in 1993 through the sponsoring organization that brought them to the United States. Ojulu had experienced the horrors of tribal warfare and then the abuses of refugee life. After making his way through countless bureaucratic barriers, he was without any material resources. He and his family, living in a cockroach infested one-bedroom apartment, were facing a mountain of practical needs.
At our first meeting, I was focused on marshaling friends and family to get him all the material support he was lacking, such as an immediate need for boots and jackets to handle a cold Minnesota February. When I asked Ojulu how I might support him in his new world, without a moment’s hesitation he responded, “I want you to teach my son how to be a man in your country.”
I felt shocked by Ojulu’s request. Here was a man who literally only had a couple of mattresses, some beat-up cookware, and the clothing on his back. Yet most important thing at the top of his list upon arriving in his new country was finding a male elder who could guide his son toward manhood and success.
Ojulu was asking me to play the role of man-maker in his son’s life. I don’t remember my exact reply, but I do remember being feeling embarrassed, strangely inadequate, and unsure about accepting the responsibility that was inherent in his request.
My path had not included fathering children. While I was doing a good job of being an uncle, until that moment I hadn’t considered myself a maker of men with a critical role to play in any adolescent boy’s journey into manhood.
From his tribal background, I later learned, Ojulu knew that even in the best father/son relationship, elders and the other men in the community had critically important gifts for his son. He felt that if his son did not make a successful crossing into manhood, everything he had fought to achieve in getting his family to this country could be lost.
Ojulu’s request touched something deep in me and changed the course of my life. For guidance on how to best honor this request, I asked the advice of my men friends and I started a research website (man-making.com) where I solicited stories and suggestions from men from around the world. I was amazed to discover that with few exceptions, most men had responses similar to my own.
While many men had ideas about what was important for an adolescent male to know, few of them could identify a clear approach for teaching an emerging male how to be a man. Many men said they felt that they had been poorly prepared for manhood, that they didn’t have much to offer boys, and that they felt little responsibility to mentor young males on their journey to manhood.
As I considered what I was learning in my research, I started to examine my own adolescence. I found old feelings of anger and sadness. I remembered that when my masculinity was emerging, the men in my family and community didn’t gather around me to honor this important transition and teach me the male secrets I was so hungry to learn.
I can look back now and see how desperately I needed, wanted, and deserved the adult male involvement and support that never materialized to any significant degree. Like too many adolescent males, I was left with the women and children to figure out manhood on my own.
I slowly began to realize that for much of my adult life I had been unconsciously searching for something I couldn’t name. I was living with lingering, unformed questions about what it meant to be a man. I didn’t know what should or could be included in the full range of a mature masculine potential and identity.
While I did well by societal standards, I never felt I had acquired that mysterious collection of male skills, knowledge, blessings, clarity of life purpose, or the core confidence that makes one a realized, solid, mature, and upright man.
Like so many of my peers I never definitively crossed the line into manhood. I never learned how to be there for boys when they first heard the call to manhood.
If I was going to be able to honor Ojulu’s request, I had to become the man I wanted to be. I felt a growing call to help men understand and remember an adolescent boy’s need for male mentoring and to provide men with some guidance on how to comfortably step into a man-making role. In so many ways, Ojulu’s question and the journey for me that resulted, has profoundly changed my life and touched many others.
Since that moment sixteen year ago, my personal commitment to this work, knowledge about the male universe, and actions to inspire men toward man-making have grown considerably. I did the MKP New Warrior Training Adventure to experience my own initiation and I have participated in the Boys to Men mentoring program.
In 2004 I launched the Man-Making blog (journeytomanhood.blogspot.com/) to collect information about “men, boys, male culture, mentoring, rites of passage, and other topics related to the challenge of men helping boys on their journey to manhood.” In 2006 I published the book, “Man-Making – Men Helping Boys on Their Journey to Manhood,” and repositioned the Man-Making.com website as a resource repository.
Today, in addition to Ojulu’s son Okugn, I’m involved in mentoring relationships with many other young males. I’m a volunteer for organizations that are directly involved with moving boys into manhood. I both sponsor and participate in activities that include men and boys, and I have repositioned my speaking, training and writing to be in service to this cause.
I am connecting with men from all over the world who are discovering and developing their full masculine potential, including making commitments to show up for boys and designing programs for turning boys into men. I am doing everything I can do to become the man who can help Ojulu’s sons, and other males on our collective journey to manhood.
Ojulu’s one question, a question that came out of ancient tribal wisdom and which reached deep into my male soul, has changed my life in countless wonderful ways. What about you? The boys in your life know you have the keys to their successful journey to manhood, and they are waiting for you. I also know, from experience, that there are unimaginable gifts waiting for you in your quest for the answer.
|Earl Hipp has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in applied psychophysiology, and a background as a clinical psychotherapist. Since 1982, he has consistently been involved with groups and organizations that focus on men’s issues and development. Since 1985, Earl has written seven books about and for adolescents.|
by Ken Plattner
Fathers have sons, then sons have sons. It’s been going on for a long time, and that’s the way of it. The gracious and wise father has proudly held his children, rooted for them in school and sports, disciplined them with the courage to say “no,” encouraged their dreams, and emancipated them into mature adulthood.
With good fortune, you were launched into the world by a wise father who was comfortable in his own skin, who had his own friends and dreamed his own dreams. Hopefully, your father was a man driven by the values of accountability and integrity – someone you could trust – who wanted nothing but the best for you, who was there for you when you were scared or needed a papa.
Most of us, even if we had really great fathers, have still had to struggle with issues of identity, industry, trust, intimacy, and leadership.
The good news is that there is an ideal and a path through wisdom that’s lodged deep in the cells of every man. From our core, there is an eternal wisdom that will sustain us. We need only have the courage and persistence to delve into our sources. There we will tap the wisdom of the ages.
Ancient fathers knew and trusted the inner elder – the wise one who lives in every man. Much reverence was given to this way of seeing and trusting the world. Now, here in the 21st century, we are once again recovering the concept of wisdom and the power of claiming our elder energy.
Why is it that certain people age with vitality, vibrance and vigor, but many others shrivel, lose their juice, close themselves off, complain of aches and pains and wither away while waiting to die a sad and lonely death?
Many of those we know as “elderly” have adopted someone else’s idea of what their particular life should look like or be. On the other hand, “elders” have broken away from conventional thinking; they are generally free and willing to risk. These are people who are still growing and changing and trusting.
The Developmental Process to Becoming an Elder
As a society we have lost many of the ceremonies and passages around becoming an elder. There are still some societies that honor their elders. They respect the wisdom of those who have lived and experienced their life into maturity. It is a journey from the world-of-doing into the world-of-being. This is a sweet-spot of genuine freedom and radical bliss that, when achieved, creates a new lifestyle and a new consciousness.
Ken Kuffner, a Houston attorney and Lead Elder in the ManKind Project International, created a new framework on the stages of the elder journey just before he died. Kuffner identified a developmental process that involves a series of stages.
- The Awakening
- The Choice
- The Struggle
- Resolution and Development
- Being in Service
- The Ultimate Stage – Passing On
The Awakening – Facing the Inner Elder
The stage of awakening usually comes shortly after “midlife.” A growing realization starts to emerge: “This is my body and my life. I am responsible.” Sometimes it takes another form: “I do not wish to fight, to compete or to dominate. I would rather encourage, give, teach, honor and bless.”
This is the beginning or awakening of elder energy. It comes from deep inside. It’s an internal process and a “call” – sometimes beginning only with a whisper.
The Choice – Moving into Golden Elderhood
This is a new phase of life where we realize that we have more of our life behind us than in front of us. We want to take clear responsibility for how we live the rest of our life.
The key to this phase is a deep knowing – knowledge of becoming intentional and conscious; self acceptance with a refusal to sacrifice personal integrity; a commitment to “cross the threshold,” such as becoming a declared Elder within the MKP community; and choosing perhaps to have a guide or mentor for the elder journey. This is a difficult decision to make, often frought with perils and resistance that block the development of the wise elder.
The Struggle – Facing the Shadows of Old Age
Our culture defines old age as a time of decline and disengagement. It’a a time of making peace with our losses – hair, teeth, libido, muscle structure, memory and our loved ones.
We begin to see that all our hurts, joys and struggles have contributed to our growth and wisdom. Kuffner said, “The opportunity for growth and development at this stage is as great as in the first year of life. And with this opportunity often comes struggle as we face and deal with our personal history.”
Resolution & Development – The Tools and Skills of Elderhood
In this stage of development, authenticity begins to freely emerge. The elder begins to study the ancient traditions and practices of other societies.
Emerging elders begin to review their own lives by taking a careful inventory, re-scripting and reframing their stories, then harvesting their own personal wisdom. Humility, feeling safe and nurtured, developing a capacity for compassion and integrity, actualizing a desire to give back to the world in the spirit of service and generosity – these are the hallmarks of the elder journey at this stage.
Such an elder is comfortable in his or her own company. The elder has forgiven the past, let go of looking to the future. Instead, the elder enjoys the eternal present. The elder values slowing down and savoring the present like watching a slow-passing parade.
Acceptance – The Adventure of Elderhood
Now comes what Ken Kuffner called the turning point. The elder has made peace with the past (forgiveness, and letting go of fear and guilt), claiming true strength and wisdom, laughing from deep in the belly, feeeling comfortable in silence and self-acceptance. This energy is powerfully contagious.
Being In Service – Empowered Eldership
At this point in the elder journey, there is a passion for service. The characteristics of empowered elders include purpose and meaning, humility and wisdom, the grace and gift-giving of a master or sage. In service and blessing, elders are at home. Their mission is clear. There is a desire to serve the world with conviction and commitment. These elders have accepted the role of mentor, teacher and leader. Elder energy flows freely from the heart.
The Ultimate Stage – Passing It On Before I Pass On
Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science.”
Facing a failing body and imminent death, the elder is once again stepping into a new phase of life, another beginning. Because the elder is a seasoned practitioner of change and new beginnings, this last stage, death, is much like the others – another beginning. On his or her final journey in this life, the elder looks at what was once important, contemplates how it got her or him to this place, to this “now,” and then looks at what part it plays as he or she prepares for the final letting go. Now is the time to say goodbye, to pay attention to beauty, mystery and awe.
These days bring awareness, contentment and connection. Most elders become comfortable with the idea that we are spiritual beings who only temporarily occupy a body. As the Elder prepares for the next transition, he or she completes what needs to be done before “it’s time.” For many elders, death is as beautiful as birth.
There is a satisfaction at the end: “I have lived my life full and well; and now my life is over.” This is a place of extraordinary power and peace.
This elder understands the journey of Morrie Schwartz (Tuesdays with Morrie):
- Learn how to live, and you’ll know how to die.
- Learn how to die, and you’ll know how to live.
Here is the message wise fathers pass to their sons. Hopefully, the brilliance of elders like Ken Kuffner, Kirby Benson, Terry Jones, Tom Daly, Don Jones, Robert Bly, Sam Keen, and countless other wise ones will light the way – so that all our sons may know the wisdom of the ages.
[Editor’s Note: An unedited version of this article was first published in the Journal of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, March 2005. Kenneth Kuffner was writing a book, Elder Energy, with Kirby Benson and Ken Plattner when he unexpectedly died in 2006. The book project was set aside after Kuffner’s death.
|Dr. Ken Plattner, a United Methodist minister, has served as a hospital and hospice chaplain, including service as the director of Hope Centers in Denver from 1981 to 2004. He also co-wrote with Rick Steves the award-winning 2006 guidebook, Easy Access Europe. Ken was the Colorado MKP center director (2005-07) and now serves as the MKP Elder Vice-Chairman. For more information: http://kenplattner.com.|