Becoming a New Warrior Helped Me Find Music Again – by Jim Donovan

Sun-King-Warriors-Liveby Jim Donovan

On my way home from Bedford, Indiana, I knew life would never be the same. I had just completed my NWTA Weekend and was making the eight hour drive from southern Indiana to Pittsburgh feeling elated, exhausted and WIDE OPEN. I had just undergone a profound inner transformation that had yet to settle in. It was on this drive that music unexpectedly reappeared after a decade-long absence.

I had spent the previous five years floundering and grieving my old career as a member of a band that had some success called Rusted Root. We had a song called “Send Me On My Way” that you may have heard on the soundtrack to the movie Ice Age or on the most recent Enterprise car commercials. In 2005, I had decided to put creating music aside and leave the group to raise my three young kids with my wife Tracey and have a “normal” family life (whatever that is…).

The problem was that though my family life was rich, and though I had a great new job as a professor, I felt lost. Just the thought of writing songs felt painful and unappealing. In Rusted Root, I felt a sense of purpose and relished my identity as a touring musician. Without the band in my life, that illusory sense of self evaporated and left a hole. I had no idea who I was, nor how to find out. In my incompleteness, I isolated myself and ran to things like overeating and overworking trying to fill the gap that often manifested as depression. Nothing did anything but make me feel sick and ashamed.

Between 2005 and 2010, three of my friends, Harry Pepper, Bryan Fazio and PJ Roduta encouraged me to join them for a NWTA weekend. Each time they mentioned it I would say, “Oh yea, that sounds cool, maybe someday.” In the back of mind, I knew I had no intention of going because I really didn’t feel I needed it. “Those programs are just for men who can’t get their shit together… and mine is definitely together.” I would say to myself. In truth, I was far from “together” and though I couldn’t admit it at the time, and though I made my external life look like everything was ok, I felt broken inside.

Additionally, I was terrified being with a group of men I did not know. Like many men, I had plenty of negative experiences with low integrity men throughout my life. The last thing I felt like doing was to deliberately put myself in that situation.

But Harry, Bryan and PJ kept asking without being coercive or pushy. They just invited me to join them on a weekend every so often. Instinctively, I knew that these guys would not put me in a situation where I was at risk of harm and after five years of patient invitations, I finally said yes. While I will not divulge the details of my personal experience during the weekend, I can say that I still carry the powerful memories of it within me daily. I can still clearly remember faces of the men, most of whom I did not know, helping me through challenges that weekend with tremendous compassion and wide open hearts. There I created lifelong bonds and many good people who I still spend time with. I did not anticipate the impact nor how lasting this experience would be. Much to my surprise, the NWTA weekend continues to mark the most significant leap in personal growth I have had so far in this lifetime.

But how did the weekend help me find music again?

On my way home, I cried often. It appeared as though an old wall inside me had crumbled and through it came waves of old emotion leaving my body through the tears. As each wave moved through and out, I began to feel comfortably empty in my belly but full in my heart. As it often happens on long drives, I started thinking about my family, especially my little boy Oliver. I wondered if he would ever experience his own weekend and if I would be there to support him? Then a thought occurred to me to create a kind of “map” for him. One that he wouldn’t be able to understand until he was a man. I knew this map had to have meaning layered within it that would only be triggered after going through a “dark night of the soul”.

The moment I had this thought, words began to appear in my mind… “One little king, he kicked up his puzzle and the pieces blew into the wind”. Then the next line came; “He had one big dream, to pick up the pieces and see his picture again.” During the following two hours, the entire “map” appeared in the form of the first song I had written since the late 90’s called “Can’t Stop Falling” which you can hear at the link below.

This song became the seed for a new album and band called the Sun King Warriors. This project is one I had always dreamed of doing and didn’t because I didn’t feel good enough. On my weekend, I encountered some of the reasons for that outdated thought and learned to replace it with self talk that serves me better. I use the affirmation: “As a man among men, I am good enough.”

I still fantasize about the day Oliver hears this song decades from now and “gets” the message from his old dad. In my mind, I see him driving down the road pondering a struggle he is having. To get his mind off of his trouble, he turns on some music and Dad’s words are there for him.

“One day, he was grown. With his feet on the ground he stared right into the sun. And his hands are strong. He digs through the mud to reveal the treasure below.”

Through I can’t be sure that will ever happen, it still makes me smile imagining it.

I remain eternally grateful to Mankind Project, then men who support it and all of my brothers for helping me find music again. You helped me bring a lifelong dream of releasing my own music to the world and connecting it with service to the greater good. One way the band and I do that is by telling everyone about MKP.

You can read more about our mission and hear the music at the links below.

And if you want to know what the New Warrior Training Adventure can make a man feel … listen to March of the Sun King Warriors below.



Facebook: Sun King Warriors

Jim Donovan

Jim Donovan M.Ed. is a multi-platinum musician and educator whose mission is to empower, inspire and connect people through music. He leads the rootsy rhythmic rock group Sun King Warriors, is the author of “Drum Circle Leadership : How to Create Your Own Transformational Drum Circles” and is an Assistant Professor of Music at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa. He regularly trains professionals who work with people with autism and those who work in addiction recovery to use interactive music making to relieve anxiety, strengthen social bonds and empower creative expression. From 1990-2005, Donovan was a founding member of the 90’s band Rusted Root.



Author: Editor

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