Discovering Myself

Writing this article feels exposing, which is part of the reason I chose to do it. As someone who is rather reserved and shy, writing about my experience in MKP feels like a stretch. But alongside the part of me that likes to stand back, there is also a part that longs to connect and belong.

That is a large part of the attraction of MKP for me – it offers a place where I can test myself and where I can get in touch with the parts that often lay dormant: my wild part, my angry part, my powerful masculine part, my vulnerable part.

group of diverse men
Standing in supportive circles is a cornerstone of MKP’s work

My relationship with MKP began a few years ago when I was standing in a circle at A Band of Brothers (ABOB) weekend.  We did an exercise in which a man was invited to enter the circle and deliberately criticise other men, as a way of illustrating the idea of how we project onto others what we won’t look at in ourselves.

A senior MKP man was on this weekend and put himself forward to be the criticiser. “Please don’t pick me!” I remember thinking, as he walked round, sounding off at various men in the circle – “Get your hair cut – you look ridiculous,” to one.  “Lose some weight, fat boy!” to another.

He stopped opposite me and fired off: “It’s time for you to grow up and start wearing big boy’s trousers.”

I felt shamed and exposed, even though the point of the process was to reveal something about the criticiser rather than the criticised. I think I felt so wounded because I knew that there was some truth in the comment but I hated other people seeing it in me.

That was what got me to do my Warrior Weekend. I’d been thinking about it for a year or two, as a lot of ABOB men had come from MKP originally. But if it hadn’t been for those comments I don’t think I would have done anything about it.

It taught me that sometimes a direct challenge that feels painful can actually catalyse change in a more powerful way than a dozen milder and more sensitive challenges.

So, my journey in MKP and ABOB has been to a large extent around my relationship with my masculine power and how I can suppress it.

That’s why one of my favourite processes on the NWTA is the Wild Man story – I love the drama of it, the clinking chains, the permission it gives me to shout my lungs out. As a rather intellectual person, these kind of processes help release me from the prevalent feeling of wanting to “do the right thing”, which dominates my life.

This quest of accessing my healthy masculine power is a work in progress, and probably always will be. There are times when it’s present and many more when it’s not. But the contact I have with MKP is an enormous help in keeping me in touch with this challenge and, at time, enabling me to access this power.

I’ve found that doing NWTA staffing is a great way of bringing myself up against these parts of myself that I don’t want to see. In normal life I have constructed a way of living which, generally, keeps me within may comfort zone. It keeps me in control.

Staffing, on the other hand, takes me way out of my comfort zone, which is why I both love it and dread it. I remember on my last staffing my job was to organise the travel to the NWTA venue for brothers arriving at Dublin airport. I took advice from other brothers about how to handle this role but did not think through myself what was needed and what was the latest time I could offer to provide transport from the airport.

I also found it difficult to say no to a couple of men who contacted me about getting from the airport to the venue but only did so after the deadline I’d given. I was afraid of saying no because I didn’t want to risk being disliked.

The result of all this, however, was that some of the men didn’t get to the venue until after the 4pm deadline and I was offered the opportunity to do an accountability piece later that day. This was painful as it’s hard for me being the centre of attention for 40 men and owning up to mistakes.

But it really helped me see the pattern I’d been caught in – of giving away my power to others, not taking responsibility and having hazy boundaries which actually left people around me feeling less secure.

I “got some of my key back” on that weekend, as it says in Robert Bly’s Iron John. I love that story about the Wild Man and the boy who needs to steal the key from under his mother’s pillow.

This resonates with me and I grew up in a house with too much mother and not enough father. Staffing NWTAs or doing other men’s work is all part of my attempt to get back some of my key.

I know I still have a long way to go, but what’s important for me is the direction of travel. I can still get down when I realise I’m giving up my power, when I’m hiding myself, when I struggle to feel connected with other men.

But I am increasingly able to give myself credit for my courage in putting myself in situations that I find scary. I also credit my honesty. Despite the people pleaser aspect, I am also often willing to speak my truth and to acknowledge my vulnerability. 

I have experienced how these qualities can create trust with other men. On my PIT several men said they felt they could trust me.

It is through MKP that I have become more interested in Shadow Work and I recently did the basic facilitation training, which I really enjoyed and found challenging. Through Shadow Work I have become more aware of the child part of myself and how fearful he can be. This fear can be very high when I am in a group of people I don’t know very well.

There is a lot of shame associated with my little boy. He can feel not good enough and so to protect him I can go to a place of judging others, trying to please them and/or withdrawing. I think these tendencies will always be present but, over time and with greater consciousness, they dominate less than they used to.

Patrick M

Being A Warrior – The Path To Change

When I attended the initiation for New Warrior training in Inverness my life was changed forever. Like many men I was plodding along through the myriad challenges of life enduring divorce, single parenthood and the trials of teaching.

What changed is that my wife did the wild women initiation and I retired. My wife encouraged me to attend the New Warrior training encouraging me to change my life. Retirement gave me the gift of time.

What went on had a profound effect on me and I wear my talisman as a reminder every day. I was struck by the sheer skills of the staff helping to open the emotional doors of men. They knew what level of support to put in and when was the right time to intervene.

The second inspirational effect was the amount of Love emanating from the staff and the other men. This was the complete antithesis of my experience as a man. You are taught to be suspicious of other men and see them as aggressive competitors. The educational system nurtures the “survival of the fittest” mentality through exams.

I had never experienced such love from men before and it was amplified many times because there were as many staff as participants.

This love and the skill of staff carried me through to a cathartic experience where I completely broke down and expressed in very physical terms the anger towards my father. It gave me insight into how much this was a part of ditching the “controlled Chris” I had been presenting to the world for 66 years!

We follow models in our heads of what a man should be. My Father was from a working class family where his authoritarian and controlling father stifled his emotions and abilities.  So my father was emotionally disabled and this was amplified by his experience as a member of the R.A.F. for 28 years.

Above all he wanted his sons to be successful as a condition for receiving his love.

So when my elder intelligent brother failed to deliver success by going to Grammar School, failing all his exams and not getting a good job, my father rejected him. There had always been a fractious relationship between my elder brother and my father as I witnessed beatings of my brother when he was younger.

So I equated getting my exams and not being a bother as the passport to being accepted by my father. I went to a boarding school of low academic standards and spent the whole of my adolescence consumed with trying to pass exams. I had to close down other parts of myself to do this.

For instance I denied myself the opportunity to go out with girls and satisfied this through endless masturbation. I did not socialise with my own age group and therefore did not develop interests. When I got to college I was still trying to write out 10 times all the lectures so I could learn it for the exams and just hibernated in my room.

It was only a chance meeting with a friend and his encouragement to take some mind expanding drugs that shook me out of this. By 20 I had my father’s love as I became a teacher but the price was a missed adolescence. The irony was that I was ill suited to teaching and got stuck in it when trying to earn a living to bring up a family. I eventually had a nervous breakdown and left.

The depth of experience was really enhanced by the learning of techniques to unlock the buried emotion. I found the exploration of archetypes and visualisation in the Wild Man and the King really useful. I was inspired by the idea of having a mission statement as this keyed into my work as a Green Activist for 30 years.

I realised that the work would make me a better and more dynamic leader in the Green movement. I would be leader not based on aggression or self delusion but love of humanity and clear vision. This is the gift of the training so far.

In a smaller group setting, in the PIT training in Donegal in February 2017 I started to identify my shadow. How many times in my life had I let my shadow dictate what I did and how I approached it? The work with men I realised would develop my awareness of the shadow.

Now my journey continues as I have been blessed to join the MKP North London Elders Group.

Here I look forward to exploring what it really is to be an authentic man rather than the pre-programmed man often demanded by our society. I look forward to bathing in the love and support of my brothers and ditch the sense of isolation that has plagued me all my life. The journey continues as I wave goodbye to the damaged “little boy” I so clearly saw in my New Warrior Training and say hello to the authentic Warrior at the core of my being.                                                                                                           

Chris,  August 2017

My MKP Journey

For me, The Adventure weekend (NWTA) was the start of my journey towards becoming a man, and becoming conscious of my behaviour and my impact on others.

conscious man
Strong, mature, loving men are conscious of the impact they have on others.

I was born into a family where sarcasm, rudeness, criticism, shame and blame were commonplace. Vulnerability, sadness and fear were not. Yet these feelings were normal for me.

Because of this, I learned from a young age that crying was not acceptable. As a man, any show of sadness (unless attending a funeral) was squashed. And showing fear or vulnerability was mocked.

If someone gave me a compliment, then they wanted something from me. Nothing was freely given in my house; there was always an unspoken price tag.

I learned to shut off my feelings. If I started to feel sadness or fear or the need to be vulnerable, I would shut off that feeling and become distant, disassociated.

When I was growing up I thought that my father was perfect. He was my god – I strove to be like him. He had the belief that his behaviour was right and everyone else’s was wrong, if it were different from his own.

This was so powerful and undeniable to me. I had no one in my life to make me think that maybe there was another way.

In our eyes, our family were the normal ones. Everyone who didn’t behave like us were the odd ones!

But my father didn’t know the truth. His father didn’t and his father before him didn’t.

They were simply passing on what they had learned in the best way they knew how.

They were doing their best as parents, yet unaware they were passing on the same beliefs and behaviours that had led them to feelings of anger, resentment, inadequacy and insecurity in their lives.

When I met my wife, she helped me to see, that “I” was not my behaviour!

mature man and woman
Taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions is the mark of a mature man.

I could choose how to behave. I could alter my behaviour to be different man and that maybe I would enjoy life more, if I changed.

This was a foreign concept to me and at first I was resistant to the idea.

My father had instilled in me that my behaviour and I were the same entwined, unchangeable thing.

Five years ago, I watched some videos on the internet from men who had completed the Adventure. I knew that I wanted some of what they’d gained from their weekend.

I knew I wanted to change – and even though I had no idea how to do so, The Adventure seemed like a great place to start.

On my weekend, I found the strong man within me, which I hadn’t really appreciated before.

I had my first insight into how I could feel safe to express my emotions again.

The weekend started a journey of self-discovery. Learning to trust people again. To trust men. To feel emotionally safe enough to be able to express my sadness.

Learning how my behaviour was impacting others around me.

The more I became conscious of my emotions and my impact on others, the more I realised how much there was to learn.

I also made some great friends within MKP. I met, for the first time, men who could express their emotions in a healthy way.

Five years on, a few more MKP trainings and much more personal development work, and I’m still learning about myself.  I have had a major insight recently into how my passivity and shame have been shaping my life.

Shame has been a standard method of parenting for many decades and I certainly had my fair share of it. I learned how to use it from my parents, my teachers and I was now using it to parent my own children.

I listened to an audio by Brene Brown, who is a shame researcher. It gave me the understanding of when I was going into shame, when I was trying to shame others and when people I was communicating with were experiencing shame.

By becoming conscious of shame, I was able to do things differently. I was suddenly in control of conversations that previously would lead to an argument.

I also listened to a talk by John Lee on passivity. I realised that I was very passive man. Quote: “Passivity is the psychological, spiritual and emotional condition which compels us to pursue that which we say we do not want.”

At first I didn’t see how that fitted into my life, but then I realised that it was sabotaging my choices to do things I really love. 

Being fit and healthy, seeking amazing experiences and being open and daring, living life to the fullest, feeling energetic and full of life; things that I was once passionate about as a boy, but which had ebbed away due to being so passive.

As in, “Oh, yes, I would love to exercise regularly, but I just don’t have the time to do it.” And, “I would love to go canoeing down the Thames, but I am always busy on the weekends.” And also, “I would love to play the guitar – I bought one 10 years ago and I’ve barely picked it up.”

My passivity was leading me to feeling resentful and sad. I was not doing the things in my life that would make me really feel happy and free. I began to get an awareness of when passivity was showing up in my life and started to change it.

And my life has transformed once more!

This journey has been so rewarding for me. I can now feel my feelings. I don’t block them when they come up. Sarcasm, criticising, blaming and shaming are no longer there. I am no longer resentful. This has given way to finding my gentle, caring and loving side. I am now able to show my vulnerabilities.

My wife and children love the changes that they have seen in me  – I am closer to all of them as a result.

It’s up to me to take responsibility for providing the best quality parenting, being the best husband that I can be, and most importantly doing things to nurture myself.

I feel happier, more relaxed and freer than I have ever done. And it all started with that first MKP weekend.

Ashley 

Photos courtesy www.dreamstime.com

Betrayal and Redemption

One thing I’ve always known is that there is joy always, in everything, if only I can find it.

Mind you, it was hard to find joy in my life for a very long time. I know my story is only a variation on every other man’s story, and only a question of degree, but I did not have a great start in life.

Unplanned, unwanted, rejected at birth, and then subjected to everything that follows from that – humiliated, shamed for my very existence, oppressed physically, emotionally, spiritually…. A perfect recipe for the squashing of human potential. Of my potential.

Broken heart image
Broken hearts can be healed!

I guess each man reading this has his own variation on the same story of oppression and limitation, his own knowledge of the things that limited his potential and growth, his ability to become who he truly was designed to be.

I believe that each one of us who gets to a point of recovery – whatever that means for the person concerned  – has survived because of a unique survival mechanism.

For me, survival came in the shape of my rage, for it fuelled my energy to live, and it overcame the inhibiting effect of my fiercely repressed shadows of fear, shame, guilt, sadness, over responsibility and…. well, many more.

My rage allowed me to build a life. But, as you may imagine, at a cost.

Was it an accident that I found MKP when I was at my lowest point? No, I guess not, for the universe does indeed move in mysterious ways.

And what did MKP provide for me? A counterpoint to everything I’d experienced before, for sure. Support, from men – imagine that!

An accepting, non-judgemental environment. The opportunity to explore my shadows safely.

The opportunity to heal my emotional wounds, step-by-step, always supported, and more than anything else, always loved by the fine men in this organisation.

Learning that I was lovable, that I was good enough, that I had a right to exist; I would never have imagined it possible.

But more than anything else MKP provided me with a family – my iGroup.

This group of men, who I have come to know more intimately than I would ever have dreamed possible, has been by my side for years now, meeting every two weeks, or as often as each of us can, establishing bonds of brotherhood and friendship which have really enabled me to experience the meaning of connection and love.

To say that MKP has been a major influence in my life doesn’t even begin to cover what it has done for me.

It’s been the forum that has allowed me to express myself as I truly am, with kind but firm challenge, unwavering support, and the opportunity to grow in ways I would never have expected.

And of course along the way there have been difficult times, in exploring the shit that was given to me by others, stuff that was never mine, and which needed extracting for me to be who I was always going to be.

Healing - triumphant man
Healing is possible – you can become the man you were always destined to be!

My brothers in MKP and the organisation itself have been the means of my redemption from the betrayal of my own birth family.

And from this place of personal fulfilment and continuing development, I now know the meaning of joy, which suffuses my life in every way.

At the times when I didn’t know how I would survive, I could never have imagined the benefits, the support, the wholesome brotherhood, of an organisation like MKP.

With thanks, Bob

My Journey With MKP As A Gay Man

I signed up to do the NWTA weekend in July 2007 in Perth, Western Australia, after a friend of mine had participated and came back raving about it.

I wasn’t convinced by his sales talk, but more by how he changed over the next 6 months. He seemed to grow taller, he was more assured, he was less fearful and more loving, his king and warrior were evident. I wanted some of that.

The weekend was powerful for me. I was challenged, frightened and initially resistant. Like the other participants, it required me to summon a lot of courage.

Was I the only gay man amongst 32 straight men?

group of diverse men
Diversity Awareness and Mutual Acceptance is a cornerstone of MKP’s work

Although I was “out”, was it safe to disclose my sexuality to a room full of male strangers? Being a gay man I had been selective about whom I disclosed this to – I felt somewhat marginalised (and carried some residual shame from my childhood about this).

I would often check out that I was going to be safe to disclose my sexuality, my otherness.

By the Saturday afternoon of my the weekend, after witnessing others explore their issues, I was ready to look at some of mine. It was principally about my father’s difficulty with my sexuality and hence my own difficulty with it.

The 20 minute exercise was very personal and very powerful. It did not fix my father’s attitude but helped me to a new level of acceptance for myself.  

During another process on Sunday we all had the opportunity to talk about our sexuality. Again this was difficult in a room full of straight men (with hindsight I’m sure I wasn’t the only man who’d had sex with another man).

sexuality acceptance poster
Be proud of who you are!

However the process was well led and I felt safe to talk and felt accepted and not judged – by the leaders at least!

It was a relief to come out so quickly with this group of newfound brothers, to feel safe, accepted and not have to hide a large part of myself. Interestingly another participant approached me later and apologized for his behavior to other gay men in the past.

He acknowledged his homophobia and abusive treatment of gay men. He realized that I was just another normal man like him. 

Later on the weekend, one of the leaders, when he heard that I was gay, approached me and welcomed me and told me that he was glad I was participating and encouraged me to be more present with who I really am.

It was a very powerful moment – an older straight man in a position of power, accepting and welcoming me for being gay!  

My journey with MKP has continued since then.

As I said earlier, it can be difficult to have to come out again and again (in new work settings, new social settings and meeting new people) while straight people don’t have to declare their otherness on an ongoing basis.

However I have found MKP to be one of the safer organisations in which to be able to drop my guard about my sexuality.

While MKP draws men from all sections of the community, it is often those who are open to learning and growth who join. MKP also encourages men to embrace diversity and acceptance and men are encouraged to challenge themselves around their prejudices.

Participating in MKP has helped me on my journey as I can do my “work” without my sexuality being too much of an issue (for me or others).

Since my weekend in 2007 I have staffed the weekend for others on several occasions. I’m glad to report that more and more gay and bi men are participating and MKP is adjusting its work to incorporate and welcome these men. 

MKP strives to “walk the walk” around diversity and this is a relief. While it has further work to do (like all of us), it is a safer place to stand, be seen and grow. 

Rob

The Blessing

The Blessing

A father's blessing
A Father’s Blessing is needed by all men

Growing up, what did you want your father to say to you?

What words did you crave from him? What words from him were you dying, literally dying, to hear? What I wanted my father to say to me was pretty simple.

Son, I’m proud of you.

That’s it, that’s what I wanted more than anything. And he could have said it anytime – after I brought home yet another “A”; after I scored ten points in a basketball game; after I wrote a poem; after I was nice to my sister.

Son, I’m proud of you.

Or what would have been even better, he could have said it when I hadn’t accomplished anything so concrete and worthy. He could have said it first thing in the morning, while I was eating cornflakes at the kitchen table. He could have said it at night, right before he closed my bedroom door.

Son, I’m proud of you.

If he had said it then, it would have meant even more. It would have meant:

Son, you don’t have to make the honor roll or the basketball team. You’re good enough just as you are. Right now, without accomplishing another thing. You can relax. You’re enough.

I didn’t know I was enough.

If I wasn’t doing something important, accom­plishing something, achieving something, I felt I was worthless.

But I think my father could have reassured me that that wasn’t true; he could have convinced me that even if I wasn’t working, I was worthy. I think he’s the only person in the world who could have convinced me of that.

Son, I’m proud of you. Without changing a thing, you’re enough.

If I had heard that growing up – even once, clearly, sincerely, definitively – I think I would have come to believe I wouldn’t always be this boy working his ass off so he can feel good about himself, feel strong, feel like a man.

I suspect I would have finally come to believe the essential underlying message that only my father could convince me of:

Son, you have all it takes to be a strong, loving man.

This is what I wanted my father to say to me while I was growing up, and I wanted him to hug me when he said it. This is The Blessing. I wanted my father to give me The Blessing.

Son, I’m proud of you. You’re enough. You have all it takes to be a strong, loving man.

I suspect you, too, wanted your father to give you The Blessing. Maybe not in exactly the same words, but in the same spirit:

Son, you’re OK, you’re a man. I love you.

I suspect, like me, you craved his Blessing, would damn near have died for his Blessing – although you might have had to pretend it didn’t mean shit to you.

And maybe you’re still pretending that. Or maybe you’ve filled the hole opened in you by not getting The Blessing with so many addictions you’ve for­gotten what you originally craved.

Or maybe you’ve never forgotten that – all your life you’ve been acutely aware of not getting what you wanted from your father – but have had absolutely no idea how to get It.

Welcome to my world. Welcome to the world of most sons. Welcome to the world of Unblessed Sons.

Son, I’m sorry I never said the words you so wanted to hear. They were always here in my heart, and sometimes, oh so many times, they were right there on my lips … I’m sorry for the pain I caused by not finding a way to hug you and to speak them. Let me say them now, let me hug you like you wanted to be hugged, and let me say them to you now: Son, I’m proud of you. You’re strong, you’re loving, you’re a man. I honor all that you are, and all that you are becoming. I am blessed to have you as my son.

Peter Putnam

MKP USA

A Nobleman And A Warrior

I was in two minds about whether to do Nobleman or the MKP Warrior  Weekend first – and after a conversation with Julie of Celebration Of Being,   it seemed as though the universe would decide for me, because the next Nobleman weekend was full, but if a place came up I could have it.

I couldn’t argue with that…. And as it happens I did the warrior weekend first. I’ve written about that, and the PIT, already, but to summarise briefly, I never had any sort of male initiation into manhood from my father or elsewhere so my own attempts were through motorbikes, the heavy rock scene of the time, and drugs.

I was never entirely comfortable in just the company of men – I was yearning for a woman to make it better for me, to return to the womb perhaps… So in many ways the warrior weekend was my male initiation. It gave me so much to be thankful for.

And it was absolutely essential I did this integration first and learned more about my own King, Warrior, Magician, Lover.

So arrived on the Isle of Wight ferry and took the very cute olde-world train to Shanklin to be welcomed at 5 pm at the centre. I was ready but very unwilling and by the morning I’d created a suitable drama which might make a hasty retreat possible! I gave both barrels of my drama to two male support staff who were innocently watching the sunrise over the sea from the balcony….. then made my way into the first process of the day.

One hour later I returned feeling slightly foolish at how I’d let such a drama take hold of me: I wasn’t leaving, I was staying.

I’m writing this three weeks later and the tears are still flowing as I recall what happened that weekend. We were introduced into sacred feminine space where all these amazing women showed us men whatever we had brought was OK, that it was safe for us to remove our armour.

I had waited my entire life for this. To be held by all these women and to be told that I was lovable and that it wasn’t my fault was exactly what I needed to hear to let all my grief out.

And out it came, in great wracking waves of grief and inarticulate sounds that had until then been strangled in my throat. As these came up, the relief was beyond words – and we were barely halfway through the weekend.

I want to digress here to explain that my story was being played out during the weekend.

My story had come to me as a series of intensely charged emotional images some 18 months back. I was tied to a chair in an attic. Everything was black and white and there was a dim light shining on me from skylight. Suddenly the image changed into colour as I made my way to the door and opened it – the chair was visible with broken rope scattered around it. Looking down a narrow flight of stairs, I saw a hideous hag wearing a patterned summery dress, who raised her arms and threw some ropes over me.

I raised my hand to touch her – and she turned to ash.

I carried on down the stairs and through a door into a beautiful summer’s day. To my left was a line of poplar trees which I followed down to a river where I swam and drank my fill – until suddenly I was watching myself pull an iron bound chest from the river.

I watched myself open it, and out came a beautiful woman who held hands with me, looked over at me and said “It’s been a long time, Nige.”

This was my story, and the day it came up I went for a walk, feeling connected to the land, the trees, and everything on the land – it was truly amazing.

Back to Nobleman….. I took with me an outfit, a symbol of my nobility: my bandanna from the warrior weekend, and a sparkly, feminine scarf that I’d found in the woods near the entrance to our iGroup meeting place.

As soon as I’d seen that scarf, I’d thought “I want some of that femininity in my life.”

So it came to me that I’d ask the women at Nobleman to make me a crown composed of my warrior bandanna and this sparkly scarf – a noble marriage of masculine and feminine. But it’s great to see the universe has a sense of humour, because things didn’t turn out quite as I expected.

I left it late to make my crown request so I only ended up trying it on minutes before I wanted to wear it. My heart went out to the Artisan who crafted this crown – it was amazing! Not only had she waved my scarf and bandanna into a crown, but she’d also interweaved it with Ivy and Briony.

It looked beyond anything I’d imagined….. But unfortunately the universe had other ideas, for I had an allergic reaction to the briony and my crown – the marriage of masculine and feminine – started burning me!

I was last to work that day and it was a long and agonising wait as I watched all the other men go through their amazing processes. They called me “the patient one”, but in reality I was anything but patient.

And of course what was going on for me is now very clear: most of the time I was cringing or thinking about crying, occasionally thinking about my sovereign crown – minus the Ivy and Briony – but I felt distant from what it represented, and it ended up behind my seat.

All my life I wanted to lose myself in a woman, fall into her eyes, and melt into her to take away the pain.

This was my little boy desperately seeking out some dark devouring mother energy that could never be satiated. Boundaryless, I was helpless in the face of this energy – so here I was, going from my little boy desperately wanting to be devoured by this dark mother energy to the man I wanted to be, seeking out my feminine, but afraid it was going to take my newly found masculine away.

And then, finally, I stepped into my King and it was my time. I picked up my crown and announced myself as Nige the man, not the little boy, and did my best to describe my story.

The women devised the most incredible ritual for me – I danced with my inner Queen, and she wore the crown. And as we danced I announced to everyone that she was my inner Queen – and it dawned on me that she really was.

As we danced I looked upon with awe. She was the most exquisite creature I had ever set eyes on – and she was part of me – my inner feminine. It finished with me holding her as she gave me my crown. My crown. Our crown. I was complete, I felt complete.

Where am I with all this now? A good question! I feel this will integrate for quite a time to come, however I will try and describe what’s going on for me right now.

I don’t know if anyone else finds that the universe seems to send me just the right book to read at the right time. I’d started reading From The Hearts Of Men by Yevrah Ornstein – a fascinating compilation of thoughts and stories by men.  And it’s a book which is facilitating the assimilation of thoughts and insights from the amazing Nobleman weekend.

Firstly, the importance of just being. Allowing myself to put aside the “musts” and “shoulds” to just be. To just write this article….

To just sit and watch the river gently meander – this mirrors a gentleness and stillness within me. I had come to believe that this place of gentleness and stillness had no place in the world – that it was too fragile for this brutal world…. And seeing the quiet country lanes of my boyhood smashed to bits to build a motorway was something this fragility could not comprehend – so I had to protect my vulnerability.

However, now in that stillness I find a great compassion for that suffering side of me. In that stillness I have a great sense that I’m OK.

The second thing I would like to mention is to do with sex.

I’d always thought that any sort of touch, hug, etc., from a woman I even vaguely fancied was a prelude to sex.

It was like there was nothing in between. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t become a saint where I’m beyond sex! Far from it.

But in Ornstein’s book there is a mention of how important it is to receive comfort and love through touch, hugs, and so on when you are young – and how this can be absent, or even stop at a certain age, because it’s socially unacceptable.

And men don’t stop wanting that affection – they are instead forced to get it in a more dysfunctional manner, such as “contact sports” where it’s OK to be touched in a macho way. Even expressions of affection amongst men can be shrouded in profanities.

This creates a dichotomy of extreme feelings with brutal acceptability at one end and sex at the other. The myriad shades of open-hearted affection in between are lost.

And this, says Ornstein, is what conscious women want from men – to be able to respond to that tear rolling down her cheek, to be open and vulnerable, to be with her and her feelings. To be present.

I will finish by saying that if any man has issues with women he’d like resolved, I can’t recommend Nobleman more highly.

In fact, I recommend it to any man who wishes to become more openhearted. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. This and the Warrior weekend are the two most life-changing things I have done. Ever.

I would like to thank again all the women on that weekend from the very bottom of my open heart. What you did for all of us men was beyond words. And I would like to thank all my brothers on that weekend and the men who supported us for the acceptance I felt from you all.

May you magnificent Noblemen shine and shine.

Nige Williams

 If you’re interested in Nobleman see www.celebrationofbeing.co.uk  

A Weekend In My Life

I was initiated at East Grange, Forres, September 2015.  It was the most profound weekend of my life so far.

I hope writing about it will reinforce the changes it has led to and help strengthen the resolve of other brothers to pursue and maintain changes they wish for in their lives.

The most immediate change was in how I respond and relate to my children, M., 12 and T., 8. M is my beautiful, loving daughter who has microcephaly – which brings her many social and academic challenges.

Since the weekend I have been more patient, more able to be on her wavelength and more able to enjoy her for who she is, joining her in her frustrations about lack of friendships, the challenges of secondary school whilst enjoying her exuberance watching Scotland beat Samoa in the rugby.

I hope to help support her in her new interests which include skiing and horse-riding.

T., my little warrior prince, is a football nut, who loves winning and hates losing. The weekend has helped me to enjoy winning and strengthened my determination to help support him cope with disappointment.

I gave up trying to compete with my dad when I was about 8 and I learnt to appease men in my life, whilst secretly annihilating them in my mind.

Now when I play squash or chess I am noticing that I am better at competing, at going nose to nose, head to head with other men, more in touch with my power, whilst retaining a sense of playfulness. Win, lose or draw I commit to competing and lasting longer and louder!

All of that has been pretty easy to say….. the weekend of witness of other men has helped.

The bit that is tougher for me relates to the exercise where we were asked to split into groups based on various aspects of our identity. One was whether we considered ourselves to be Scottish or not.

I went to the Scottish group and was beginning to say to the group how significant a step that was when one of the leaders re-iterated that he had changed his mind; the rules had changed and we were no longer going to have a chance to speak about our experience of that exercise.

As I write I can connect with the fury I felt at feeling cut off in my prime. I didn’t come back to the issue during the weekend.

I have a fear that because of my accent, because of my upbringing because of my ‘me-ness’ other men won’t accept my Scottishness – it reminds me of Daily Record car stickers from about ten years ago: I’m a real Scot: implying that there are some Scots who are somehow fake Scots.

I am Scottish, I am English, I am British and (be strong Brotherly Polar Bear, sniff those armpits, cradle your balls and pump your heart) I can face the reactions others have to me when I assert this.

I went on the weekend hoping to practise and get better at socialising with other men.

I came back being better able to be myself in front of other men, in front of myself, in front to colleagues, in front of friends and in front of strangers. Whether or not I get better at socialising with men remains to be seen……..the adventure continues, brothers!

Richard P

The Natural Flow Of Life Restored

I love the water. Always have. As a child, I loved to swim in, guddle in, and play in water.

My holidays tended to be near the sea in Scotland – good for swimming, but better for jumping around the rocks and guddling in rock pools to find out what was under every stone.

And there was plenty. Life everywhere. The rocks were covered in limpets, whelks and barnacles; the rock pools with fry, shrimps, crabs, hermit crabs and anemones.

It was amazing to just watch as they scooted around eating and trying to protect the food they’d found. I’d go fishing and actually catch fish.

Fast forward 30 years and the kind of wonder that I used to find in things like this seems to have gone out of my life. Office jobs may pay decently, but they tend to be dull.

The buzz that I used to get from working in pressure situations globally has gone, to be replaced with tedious work that allows me to be with my wife and kids.

The home office with the view of the sea (admittedly, over a few roofs), goes to keep my wife happy; we move to the country.

And I discover I’d forgotten just how important the sea is to me until I am isolated, surrounded by hills, but with a wife who seems happy with sheep, goats, chickens, and home educated kids.

But I’m not happy. I was an only child, and got a flat when I was on my own. I didn’t live with anyone until just before getting married at 35.

This idea that someone else should be involved in every decision is just messed up for me. Our kids are great, but like any father, having 2 boys under 7 is a bit full-on, and can be the cause of great frustration at times.

My own time just goes, and there’s little chance of getting time alone by the sea. The forest beside us just doesn’t cut it for me. So I end up feeling lost, confused, isolated and frustrated, yet without really having a single sound good reason why.

I don’t want to live feeling like this, but I also don’t want to pay the cost of taking my wife away from where she is happy to somewhere that I might be. It’s expensive for a start, and not worth taking the risk with the hope that this will improve things.

Then I hear about this group called The ManKind Project, who just might be able to help with this.

So, I go for a weekend with these guys. The weekend is certainly unique in my life so far, but I just can’t shake the feeling off that I can’t immerse myself enough to fully give in to all the things that I should be doing and feeling here, or that I’m just thinking too much about stuff, but can’t stop doing it.

Yet I end up after the weekend notably calmer and a little happier, but still feeling that the whole experience was just a bit weird.

I’ll take some strategies from it that might help me day to day, and I honestly think it has, but I don’t really consider that this “entry into manhood” thing was really necessary.

Two months later, I’m off for an interview. The usual nerves are already kicking in at 6am that morning as I get my shirt, suit and tie gathered up.

And there, beside the tie, is a little reminder of my Adventure weekend – a necklace, of sorts! I stare at it for a few seconds and then pick it up. It goes around my neck, and a couple of days later I have a job offer.

What exactly was the connection of my reminder is thing though? Why was I so drawn to it, and what did I draw from it? A few months later I think I can answer that question. To me, it links me back to the place where I felt the strength of other men behind me and where there were times when I felt strong within myself.

So now, when I start to feel angry or frustrated, both of which still happen, I have somewhere else to go for strength. I don’t wear it all the time – it’s upstairs in a drawer – but it’s there when I need to turn anger into strength, and I thank the group of men who helped me to do that.

Mission & Purpose

But with all that said, I’d like to go back to the start of this piece. Yep, that’s my purpose: As a man among men, I create a healthier world by evangelising the need for clean seas.

And even though I no longer live by the sea, I’d ask you to consider a few things.

The sea is the source of life on this planet. Whatever happens with all the human threats of global warming, financial meltdown, peak oil, epidemic disease, terrorism, chemical or nuclear destruction, the sea will remain unmoved, and will be there to bring forth life again.

It’s still the bottom of our food chain and the main source of all unfiltered fresh water to give us life on land, yet while the oceans are immense enough to take a lot of abuse, they’re not immune to the damage we’re causing.

There are currently 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of ocean. The amount of plastic being washed up on UK beaches has doubled in the past 15 years.

Many types of these plastics can absorb further toxic chemicals before being ingested by marine creatures, and these enter the human food chain.

Over 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds each year die due to ingestion of, or entanglement in, this waste.

Unprocessed sewage is regularly dumped into the sea through combined sewage outflows designed solely to discharge untreated human sewage directly into the sea when the sewage system is overloaded.

In cold seawater, the human-derived bacteria it contains can survive for 20 years or more, and come back into the food chain either through seafood or affect swimmers, surfers, divers or other water users who ingest it from the seawater.

As our species grows, we’re seeing the effect of the massive impact we’re having on the planet.

The state of the sea is not the only problem that we’ve got on this planet, but it’s one that’s in dire need of more attention than it currently gets.

Because when I look in a rock pool now, there’s a whole lot less life there than there was 30 years ago.

I work with Surfers Against Sewage, not just for me, not just for the water users, and not just for the human species, but for the future of life on this planet. See www.sas.org.uk for more details on the problems I’ve touched on here.

Stuart W

FYI – To Guddle: (verb) to catch (fish) by groping with the hands under the banks or stones of a stream.

MKP & Mission – Finding My Purpose

A Day on Mission

Sometime in autumn 2013 I was round a fire at our iGroup and a man checked in with grief; grief at not having found this work earlier and of all the time that he’d wasted.

I’ve heard this before from other men and can definitely relate to it myself. At the time I already had a growing anxiety to get my life on track and live with purpose. There’s an impatience in my potent warrior…. and he can so easily slip into the shadow of destructive self-criticism.

So I know there’s a burning drive for clear visioning which is strong in me. And it seemed men in my iGroup resonated with this, for they called for a day on mission. And so Hugh, Rod  and I put one together.

There are various ways in the past which I have come to mission: doing what my mother wanted of me (!); choosing a vocation that looked like it would be fun; taking stock of my skills and seeing how they might be applied to help the world; and doing something so f**king spectacular that others would see that I am enough!

I even thought about how things would look from the perspective of my envisioned deathbed!

The Adventure weekend mission was different for me because I was asked how I might be in mission in addition to what I might do. This move from “doing – having – being” to “being – having – doing” has been an important one for me.

I was very happy with my mission: “To create a world of joy and openness by being completely authentic, playing and letting go”.

Nevertheless, this hasn’t quite been working for me. The mission comes from my little boy, from my wounding, and it’s what I wanted to create in the world of my childhood.

Yes, it still forms a very important part of the man I am today, but I want to get clear in my wholeness what it is I am here to do. I have a good connection with my lover quarter so in mission I was naturally curious about what my magician had to offer.

The Mission Day we devised incorporated bits of shadow work, visualisations and sharing circles. We wanted to create a process where a man could step into sovereign and hear what his other quarters had to say about his mission. We created a space where men could connect with a felt sense of purpose before attaching to any intellectual understanding of what their missions might be.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open….” Martha Graham

To be honest my initial intention for the day as a participant was to construct a bulletproof protocol that I could take out “guns blazing”. A clear statement of my mission and intent which I would carry out into the world and execute precisely like a true warrior – then I’d be a real, glorious, MKP man who was truly loved, appreciated and respected.

What I got from the day was quite different!

My coming to mission has been matured by an appreciation of the tender way in which the men I met on the day were building a sense of purpose, each with his own different process and content, each at a different stage, and that’s not to say the stages are hierarchical.

Some men left with tweaks to their missions, having realised that what seemed to be minor elements of mission were actually the core of their mission. Others came up with clear new missions. For some men the process of reflecting on mission brought up important material and engagement with this inner work became their new mission.

When I opened up to my magician I saw there are parts of me which have always had a clearer sense of my mission than I’ve had in my conscious awareness. In fact, an esoteric flash of my magician revealed where my mission is heading. And it’s this core energy that I must allow.

However, I didn’t particularly like my new mission when it came out. It was a challenge for me to voice it. It has been a challenge for me to live it.

Yet, in truth, I’ve been engaged with this mission for a long time. I know that there’s something inside me which is wise enough not to hand the reigns to “little me” lest I self-sabotage. The fact is, if my little boy writes out my mission there are plenty of parts which he’d called dark, and which he’d rather not let out.

And I think a good mission must be challenging. I also think that to live it, some dreams must fall away.

One of these dreams is having the clearly defined mission I was looking for. There are some men around with these kinds of mission; they are beautiful and I do admire them, but I am not that kind of man and only if I life my truth can I give my gift to the world.

To do this I must accept that my mission right now is not clear or static. I must pay attention to the every changing plethora of micro-adjustments that allow my core urges to express themselves, and I must follow them until I know myself inside out.

In this I see that my work on mission will never be finished. And in that spirit there will be more days on mission like the last one where together we can go deeper into our work.

Ed R

My Adventure – One Of Many

About four days prior to my Adventure Weekend, I’d split up with my long-term partner of seven years, who I loved with all the love I had to give. I’d left my two children and, with a heavy heart, left my home. A deep burning anger consumed me to the point of rage.

I travelled up to Applecross, which is on the mainland of North West Scotland, East of Skye, with two of the staff men, Hugh and Marcus. They suggested I walk in alone. Hugh bought a map for me and I chose a route which took in the tallest mountain in the area (900 meters) and covered a distance of 17 kilometres.

Hugh and Marcus dropped me off at Drochaid Mhor; at this point I was thinking that 17 km over 30 hours would be pretty easy to do. I said “Goodbye, see you on the other side!” and then set off uphill.

And in that first half an hour the slow realisation of my predicament began to dawn on me. I was well and truly on my ass; my children, my family were lost to me; my love was lost. I was homeless and had no money. All I had at that moment was my cloak, my staff, the clothes I stood up in and a rucksack full of stuff – it couldn’t get any worse.

I had to walk the full 900 meters from sea level over 4.5 km. The slope got gradually steeper, and rockier, and rougher. Soon the sweat was pouring off me like a small stream and I was panting like I’d just run a marathon….. and the top was not getting any closer. I started to think this was way too hard; I didn’t want to be there.

 

The top was not getting any closer and the weight of the world was on my shoulders, stopping me from getting up this hill. Turning around and going back sounded like a good option, but there was nothing to go back to, there was nothing for me there.

I had nothing to lose because I had already lost it all, the only option was to walk on, carry on up this f*cking hill. And then the thought came to me, why don’t I just end my life, commit suicide?

It seemed like a completely rational thing to do. I stopped and said to myself, “If you want to be a complete lunatic then you must, above all else, be completely honest with yourself.”

Carrying on with that thought I had a full-blown argument with myself, calling myself all the names under the sun. And then I arrived at the ridge line, roaring out loud at the mountains opposite with all the anger I had inside of me.

I contemplated the idea of jumping off the edge. However, knowing my luck, I thought I would just break something on the way down, arriving at the bottom still alive to spend the next 3 days dragging my ass out – I wrote it off as a stupid idea!

At that point I made the decision that I had come this far and there was no way I was not getting to the top. With my anger and my stupidity, I marched on with sheer determination to reach the summit.

Through that determination, I saw my children, my love, my family, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and my mum. I reached the top knowing that I had come to the edge of existence and had a lot more to live for than die for. That left only one option, to walk on; walk on into the future.

Even so it took me a long time to move on.

I sat for over an hour on the top of Beinn Bbhan taking in the view. Looking to the north along the ridge line I saw the stunning Scottish highlands in the distance. To the west I could see what I call the Giant’s Causeway (Bealach Nan Arr) and in the background the great mountains of Skye and the Culin ridge. To the south was the road that leads through the mountain pass to Applecross and Loch Kiston below. To the east stood mountains as far as the eye could see, and to the south east was the point that I started from.

Eventually I packed my bag, saying to myself “I will not look back, I will not look back”. Walking on I was struck by the sheer beauty of the place; looking to the north and the east, there was nothing but mountains as far as the eye could see: the glorious Scottish highlands in full splendour with the sun shining on the snow-capped mountains.

I was again struck by the predicament I was in. Every decision that I’d made in my life had bought me to this point, right now. Every choice that I’d made had bought me to this point, right here. I could not go back, there was nothing left for me, I made the choice to walk on in to the future – and with that in mind, I did just that!

Soon I’d had enough; my legs were aching – the next job was to find a spot to set my basher up. I settled for a spot next to a river (Allt Coire Altadale) by three small waterfalls. And as I walked towards my chosen spot, my leg fell down a hole; luckily I had my staff for support. I knew it could have been painful; I may have even broken my leg, 8 km from any civilisation, nobody knowing where I was.

That filled me with a new respect for where I was, which helped me to move on from my earlier stupidities…. I stripped off and jumped into the freezing water, yelling at the top of my voice as the cold water shrivelled my balls to the size of peanuts! I decided to sit in the sun, stark bollock naked, to dry off.

Later I put my basher up, using my staff as a centre pole and cooked dinner, if you could call it dinner – the boil-in-a-bag army rations tasted like shit, and filled a hole, but were not enough.

As I sat and watched the sun go down it started to get cold, so I got into my sleeping bag. The mountain side was in darkness, though the sky was light. And suddenly 400 metres away, a stag met my eyes with an intensity that I took to mean he was there for me, standing in his strength and dignity; bringing with him grace, pride and integrity.

He stood watch over me while I was alone and vulnerable, he stood there for a long time, until I fell asleep; I felt that I’d been blessed.

In the morning all I could bring myself to eat was biscuits. I packed up and carried on with my journey. Knowing that I could make the MKP weekend in plenty of time, I took it easy – playing in the heather, strolling, meditating, and eventually arriving at my destination over three hours too early.

So I ran 10 kilometres to the next village and back – for tobacco! Then, sweating, I jumped in to the river to wash, yelling at the freezing water, laughing at myself for the irony of running to the shop for tobacco…. undoing my running by smoking.  I dried in the sun, dozed, and eventually, with staff in hand, I walked into my Adventure.

 

Friday night was not a very happy feeling for me, like being a prisoner in a cell, unable to speak. Even when I was asked why I was there. I didn’t know. However, I did know I could walk out at any time.

And when we were asked whether any man would like to say anything, I saw my opportunity. Anger. Rage. “I am f*cking hungry, I’ve got a cold sore ass, I’ve got cramp in my toes, you *****!” A voice inside me told me to say what I thought… and I did, leaving the men in no doubt what I thought of them…. and it felt great. However, the looks on the faces of the staff suggested they weren’t too chuffed!

Later on I found each man and apologised to him because that’s what I felt needed to happen. I knew I wasn’t speaking to them – not really. I was speaking to all the f*ckers who’d put me where I was. And that included me. I realised all the decisions I’d made in my life had brought me to that point, right there.

And yet on the Saturday I felt like all the men were there for me and I was there for them. What I heard when the other men spoke of their lives was truly wonderful; the way they opened their souls stunned me. I felt privileged to hear them, blessed to behold what I was hearing.

I cried for them, words can’t really describe how I felt for those men, I was proud to be there.

But me: I did not know what to say or do, feeling fear in my belly and thinking “I can’t do this.” Inside I was shaking with fear. Finally, my time came. I held my fear and stood in the centre.

Before I began, I looked each person in eyes and held their gaze for a moment to help calm me down a little. I spoke of my anger, my rage. My shame. I felt shame about not being able to be the dad I wanted to be, shame about letting my children down, shame about letting my partner down and screwing another relationship up. I felt shame for all the relationships that had ended badly and for my parents who showed me how to be in relationships badly – shame for their mistakes.

The men worked their magic. The processes held me. My anger was discharged. My shame was extracted. To my surprise I found Marcus working with me, and, giving him a hug I cried till I was empty.

And as I fell into that emptiness, I found support. As I fell, men held me, picked me up, filling me with love for myself and for my fellow men. For the first time in my entire life I felt TRUE LOVE.

Something that I had never, ever felt before in my whole life. Feeling free in that moment I saw the face of God in all his beauty. I felt alive and awake for the first time in 30 years. In that moment I realised why was there: To Wake Up!

I am now a man with a mission to create a world of peace and love by taking care of all people, by teaching, leading and showing the way.

I am a man amongst men who is honest and stands in integrity.

My shadow mission is to create a world of chaos and hatred by doing f**k all for me or anybody else. This is the mission that I had been living and I now choose not to follow because it no longer serves me.

I now carry my shame on my staff.  There is a reminder tied to the top of it. In doing that my shame has not gone because I realise that to get rid of my shame would be to not live how I am fully. If I only lived the good bits I would only live as half of how I am. I am how I am. I am also how I am not.

Leaving Applecross, we stopped at the top of the pass to take in the view. I ran down the other side of the pass shouting at the mountains from a place of joy. On the way back, seeing the beauty in the world and feeling everything, I cried for the enormity of my circumstances.
Carl T.

Putting the Heart Back Into Business

Just under two years ago, I had a life transforming moment.

I was sitting in the South Bank in London, with friend and fellow warrior Nicolas when he asked me whether I was ready to write a book about the alternative approaches I had developed to running my business, Thornton’s Budgens, a supermarket in North London.

And indeed, I was – the title rolled off my tongue: “How To Put The Heart Back Into Business”.

As it happened I was just heading off to India on a sabbatical. I spent the first week in Goa, in the monsoon, the only guest in my hotel, with chronic diarrhea – the universe was telling me I needed to be alone and reflect. And in that alone time, I became clear that this was my life purpose.

From that emerged my mission – “I create a heartful world by encouraging people to open their hearts, starting with my own.”

Over the eight years of Thornton’s Budgens, we have created what we call “The Community Supermarket That Really Cares”. Which means we put people and our planet first, trusting profit will follow – with people being anyone who works in our company and those in our community.

In that role we have done seemingly crazy things, like setting up a farm on the roof of one of our stores, as well as more sensible things like reducing our energy consumption by more than 50% and showing the global supermarket industry that putting doors on their chiller cabinets does not in fact cost you sales while substantially reducing your carbon footprint.

With our people, I realised that what we needed to do was to create a “safe container” at work. So that, just like in an iGroup, everyone would feel safe to share, without fear of judgment or rebuke. What I also saw was that the key to a thriving company is truth; and that to speak your truth, you need to feel safe.

A recent Radio 4 programme on Secrets, looked at the opposite of truth, offering evidence that holding secrets is psychologically damaging and can impact on your ability to work. Conversely, sharing something with someone creates a shared bond.

This is of course not surprising news to you Warriors, but it is to the business world. Can you imagine if you were as free to be you at work as you are at your iGroup?

To help create this safe environment we developed the Heart Programme that encourages team members to open their hearts, by creating a safe environment for them to fully show up.

It is based on the work of environmental activist Joanna Macy and involves four steps – gratitude, feeling the pain, seeing with new eyes and action. We start with a meditation and sharing that would not look out of place in an MKP Circle.

Through the heart programme’s sharing circles and the use of a talking stick, which ensures everyone gets to speak without interruption, people feel valued, get to contribute their ideas and have an input into the direction of the company.

And it works – since we implemented this we have got straight 100% scores in our “mystery shopper” scores (we used to get very inconsistent scores) and our sales have increased by 6%.

We are in the process of setting up a Council that will become the policy making body for the company, which will see 5 or 6 team members sit along side the three existing board members.

Inspired by Darshita Gillies, we intend to have at least one Millennial on it. These are people born between 1990 and 2000, who have a very different outlook on work and what they want from it – a “civic-minded generation with a strong sense of community both local and global”.

We are even considering having representatives from other stakeholder groups – customers, the community and someone representing the environment.

And we are in the process of redefining roles so that everyone does only what they love to do.

I am so excited by the prospect that soon I will only be responsible for our vision and purpose, innovation and the conscience of the company! It is what I love to do and it gives me space for another chapter: the development of Heart in Business Limited.

I formed this with 6 others all from MKP, Celebration Of Being, Nobleman, or Embercombe connections – including Nicolas of course! We started last year with a mission: “Heart in Business Limited will enable companies to put people and our planet first, trusting that profit will follow.”

In this way, I can get closer to my life purpose by sharing my experiences with others.

So why, I hear some of you ask, does this matter? Well, if you look at the latest Gallup Poll on workplace satisfaction, it shows that globally 87% of people are emotionally disconnected from their work.

And since we spend half of our non-sleeping time at work, this may explain the amount of turmoil there is in the world right now.

As businesses employ such a large percentage of the workforce globally, we can do something about this. In fact, I would argue that it is our duty to do something about it.

The good news is that most studies examining the profitability of companies who look beyond maximising shareholder value and consider their wider stakeholder base, have shown that doing this delivers better financial results.

So what is the dream of Heart in Business Limited?

“The dream of Heart in Business Limited is that companies put people and our planet first, trusting profit will follow. The dream is of companies where we have a purpose, companies where we make a broader contribution to society and see the world beyond the next set of quarterly profits. Companies where we consider all our stakeholders – our employees, our community, our planet and of course, our shareholders.

Companies where we care about the impact on people, whether those people work in our company, are customers, or live in the community in which we operate.

Companies where everyone is doing the job they want to do rather the one they are good at, where there is passion, authenticity and love; where we are all making a difference, where we are all heard and understood, where we all hear and understand our colleagues.

Companies where there is heartfelt leadership, where we co-create plans and where wealth flows. Companies where people can be themselves, without fear of judgement or punishment.

Companies that care about our planet, who consider future generations; companies that take into account what we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren.

This is our dream of how companies will thrive in the future, indeed some companies already are.

In fact at Heart in Business Limited, we believe it is the only way forward.”

I am encouraged not to be alone on this journey, sharing the vision with other great movements such as Conscious Capitalism, the Blueprint for Better Business, B.Corporations and The B-Team.

I believe that now is the time for change – and that more and more businesses are ready for that change.

So I end with a request, knowing of course that the answer might not be yes! I need to get this message to business leaders – so if you are involved in organising business speaking events, or know contacts who are, or if you lead a business which you would like to be more heartful, then please get in touch!

To find out more, look up heartinbusiness.org or contact andrew3@heartinbusiness.org.

Andrew Thornton

The Ride Of My Life

Two days after leaving Dartmoor, where I’d done The ManKind Project’s PIT training, I found myself on my surfboard, waiting for the next set of waves to swell.

Maybe 20 feet away, swiftly with complete grace, two dolphins sprang from the water right before my eyes. For that brief moment we occupied the same space. In the same way, my PIT journey was like those jumping dolphins between the spaces of ride-able waves in my life.

As a young man, just 20, I came to MKP enthusiastic and absolutely “in”. Yearning to explore in depth some unsavoury experiences of my childhood, I threw myself at the PIT only a month after my Warrior training.

What I found waiting for me was a relaxed yet firm environment with the structure, expression and support I needed to touch places within, places that up until now I had only feared.

At the PIT, I was privileged to bear witness to the journeys of nine other men. Their unreserved emotion and willingness to engage with themselves has enriched my view of men hugely. I felt ultimate trust in my brothers, and a deep sense of joy to be a part of their important work with MKP.

I feel as though I’m now part of, and in receipt of, a safety net that will always be below each of our bold swings in life. The net my brothers have woven for me is sprung so that when I fall, the net catapults me further than my momentum can conjure. Equally when I’m in mid-swing focused on the manoeuvre at hand, they can step back and admire my acrobatics!

But that’s enough imagery. I recognise the courage and level of maturity that it took for me to adventure into MKP at a comparatively young age. But doing so has enriched my life deeply.

Being side-by-side with men of greater experience, who have lived and learned some important lessons of life, I got a real burning sense that all young men should have the opportunity to do the same.

With that, I’d like you to think of any young men you may know, and the profoundly positive effect MKP could offer them, as it has me.

Perhaps mention it, and reassure them that being around older people is constructive, reassuring and fulfilling. There’s a sense that a great number of young men of my generation lack decent male role models who can teach them the ways of mature, integrated masculinity.

For me, MKP has certainly addressed that gap in my life, and shown me that role models are abundant, you just need to look with an open heart and mind to find them.

I feel as if I’ve confronted dark seeds within myself before they were left to fester throughout my adult life, which is deeply reassuring for the future.

I now have, thanks to the group’s help and my keenness to delve deep, a new space and awareness within that allows me to truly feel, express and release emotion.

Of course it’s easy to pretend that it’s all plain sailing. There are still obvious parts in myself that I feel it’s important to explore, to be able to stride wholeheartedly towards all life has to offer. But I rest easy now, knowing that the incredible space I was privileged to be a part of, will again be open, ready and waiting for me when the time is right.

I’m at a period in my life where I feel that my trajectory is in many ways defined by my present state of mind and body, meaning that I can recognise opportunity, and shape aspects of my life so they are harmonious with my deepest values.

Deciding to journey into MKP, completing The Adventure Weekend and the PIT, has been one of my greatest decisions and achievements yet. And now I’m excited at the prospect of what the future holds.

I’ve heard stories of surfers and dolphins riding the same waves together. I’ll let you imagine that, and my intended future journey with MKP.

Ben F

The ManKind Project and Diversity

Stepping Up To Diversity

I wrote in the last edition of Spearhead (Autumn 2013) about diversity and my journey into it. I talked how on my Adventure weekend, the ManKind Project had accepted me and my differences. The ManKind Project “walked the talk” for me. It was incredibly healing.

I know that many men come to the weekend feeling different or outside the mainstream. For me, The ManKind Project (MKP) does a good job at accepting and integrating all men, but as we say, “the journey continues”, and there is more to do.

There is an increasing awareness in the UK about being “politically correct”, sensitive to diversity and inclusive of minorities.

Last year the MKP UK & Ireland Council acknowledged that we live in an increasingly diverse country but our MKP community does not reflect this. We are pretty middle class, middle age and white. We could go on like this, but is this how we really want to be? The answer for us was “no”.

We are also aware that diversity gets a high profile in other MKP communities and the UK wants to be in step with this.

So in order to do something about this, the Council took the decision to facilitate regular diversity training so that all men who staff 10 or more weekends have completed a recognised diversity training. The aim is to get even better at accepting and integrating men who are further outside of the mainstream who come to Adventure weekends, NWTAs (or the New Warrior Training Adventure, as it used to be known…).

NCBI (the National Coalition Building Institute) was asked to provide the training. It has a solid track record in the provision of diversity training and has received national awards for its work. In addition to this, several MKP men have attended NCBI training and highly recommend it.

Video on Diversity by the National Coalition Building Institute in the USA


MKP UK & Ireland has put on its own diversity training in the past (September 2011) so the decision was taken to keep the momentum going.

In January this year NCBI delivered a Diversity Awareness Training day for MKP UK & Ireland (and others). More about this later.

But what’s in it for me – or you? Why should I – or you – sign up for the diversity training?

Personally I can feel pretty politically correct and holier than many – but if I’m honest, I too have difficulties accepting some differences. For me diversity work is ongoing work (like the rest of the work I do in MKP).

027  diversity in action- photo -iStock_000018175122SmallFor me diversity work is about stretching my capacity to understand and tolerate difference and in this regard it helps me in my day-to-day relationships. I want to learn more about sitting with the discomfort of difference and not shutting down when I experience it.

I am aware that my unconscious prejudices can trip me up. So diversity work is about helping me expose and deal with my shadows about these issues. As a respected MKP brother of mine says “we all have them”. I didn’t realise how much I needed to respect diversity until I was challenged on it.

Raising awareness about diversity and helping men sit with difference is one part of the strategy to increase the diversity within our MKP community. There is more work to do to increase the diversity of our community. This is just the start.

ncbilogoOn 25 January NCBI ran a Diversity Awareness Training Day for MKP UK. We had 18 participants comprising 7 women and 11 men with two presenters from NCBI: Royston (a black man) and Wendy (a white woman). Nine participants were booked through MKP. Royston brought another nine. Of the 18 participants there were three black men, four gay men, one lesbian, four people over 60, two under 25, two mixed race. This was truly a diverse mix and an experiential way to learn about diversity.

Some of the feedback received:

“Understanding others’ differences but also similarities.”

“Making interventions – how to question, hear more and let the hurt unravel.”

“Not giving an opinion/judgment and stepping back.”

“The importance of identifying my own first thoughts, hidden prejudices.”

“To spend time asking people to tell me their story.”

“To focus on the person and not the comment they are making.”

“To listen and not fix. Make more ‘mistakes’.”

“Ask ‘why do we say things like that?'”

“Silence is still consent.”

MKP UK & Ireland will be working with NCBI to deliver more training later in the year. We invite you to step up to diversity.

Rob

“Exciting, Risky, Unknown, Daring!”

These are a few of the words used by the dictionary to describe an adventure. And what an Adventure it was!

ManKind ProjectInternational logo UKBut first, to begin, as they say, at the beginning. Both of my younger brothers had done the MKP Adventure weekend, and both had enthused about its amazing benefits. They urged me on. For several years, in fact! But I knew when it was my time to have a go:  when I understood that some aspects of my life would not progress without attention to my past. (The Adventure is also known as The ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure.)

And sure, while I knew that the Adventure might stir things up, I desperately wanted to be free of my burdens, free to acknowledge that I have great strengths, that I am useful, that I have a positive male identity. So there I was, making my way to The Comb in Northumberland in June 2013, accompanied by 3 other men who I’d never even met before.

While I know from my work as a Samaritans’ listener that the abuse meted out to me was mild by comparison to that experienced by others, in my experience any form of abuse crushes the human spirit.

I was first beaten with a stick at the age of 4 by my father, and then by a headmaster at the age of 8 for the “crime” of getting less than 6 out of 10 in a spelling test. And I was bullied and beaten at a South African boarding school, leaving me with a sense of total isolation and profound distrust and wariness towards other boys and men alike. These negative experiences, repeated over and over, from such an early age, left deep scars, and the wounds were buried deep inside me.

As the ManKind Project’s weekend Adventure unfolded, I came to see how each and every one of us goes through something that causes suffering. And this was an enormous relief to me – to discover that I was not alone. And I also came to see that men who I had always thought of as being better and more capable than me were wounded in deep ways too, that in fact we had much in common, that they also had their own wounds holding them back.

Video on the work of the ManKind Project UK & Ireland

Supported by the ManKind Project staff men (there is a remarkable ratio of one staff man to one initiate), all our pain was invited and embraced. And what a gem to discover that men can support and love each other with deep respect and brotherliness. What a gem to find a space where I could express my pain and vulnerabilities without judgement or shame, and to discover that denying and suppressing them is a huge burden, a source of even more pain.

For example, during one of the exercises on the weekend, I found myself surrounded by a circle of men. I stood within the circle opposite one man. This scene was reminiscent of the times at my school in South Africa, when I was often pushed into the circle formed by the entire school mob, and forced to fight with “adversaries” with whom I had no issue.

Without any fight in my veins, it was usually a quick affair. A couple of well-placed punches to my face, the utter dejection of being mocked and deserted by the whole school, as I lay bewildered on the ground wondering what I had done.

Except this time, rather than standing opposite some snarling youth trying to win “friends”, I stood opposite a staff man. Rather than experiencing frothing hatred from the man before me, I was faced with a benign smile and those magnificent words, those generous and concerned words, “all your emotions are welcome here”. They were music to my ears. They were so beautiful coming from an unknown man. I basked in their warmth.

So why, 35 years later, would re-exposing myself to the pain of so much buried emotion be such a positive experience? What could I possibly have gained?

I came to see that pain and suffering are part of everyone’s life. This made me a much more forgiving person. As a teacher (in a boarding school, ironically!), I understand much better now than I ever did, that people only ever behave with unpleasantness towards others because of internal conflict.

The ManKind Project Adventure also convinced me that our default setting as men is to be loving to each other. Love is such a confusing word for the modern man because the idea of a man showing love to another man is something that can still sit uncomfortably in our society. But surely love is a deep concern for the welfare of another?

I moved from distrust and apprehension to reassurance and understanding in my relationships with men. What an enormous relief, a heart-warming shift. And the Adventure has helped me to recognise and acknowledge all that I have to offer myself and others. I understand more about the emotional needs of boys and men, I understand how we express both positive and negative masculine energies, and I understand so much more about my experiences.

In fact, I felt an urge to step into my inherent strength and brilliance. I remember Marianne Williamson’s words here: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure”.

photo of men's groupAfter the Adventure, I wanted more of what MKP has to offer. I discovered a local iGroup* that meets once a fortnight just down the road from me in Hampshire. And now I have truly remarkable, deep friendships, with a profound level of trust and honest communication between us….

Charlie E.

*Editor’s note: an iGroup is an ongoing men’s group for men who have been on the ManKind Project Adventure weekend. Photo of men’s group copyright istockphotos.com

What Is Initiation?

To Be In or Not To Be In

So I’m an initiated man. It’s been ten days since the ManKind Project UK & Ireland’s Adventure weekend (once known as the New Warrior Training Adventure) and a week since the homecoming party.

For me, the weekend was an intense release of some extremely destructive energy I’d held since childhood.

Energy that had prevented me from becoming a man, holding me in a Peter Pan-like place, alternating between a toddler and a raging teenager.

And despite an incredible journey through life prior to the Adventure, a journey that encompassed extremes of near death, insight, intellectual enlightenment, profound love, and loss, my life always seemed like a lie, a long dark night of the soul.

I expect everyone is different; perhaps for some the Adventure is a beginning, for others a point on life’s journey, albeit I suspect a big one. For me it was an ending, a final end to something that had held me in its power for most of my life.

For all of my adult life I’d sensed a lack of access to my manhood – or at least what felt like my manhood: a way of acting in the world as a mature character.

No matter what I did I always felt like the showy teenager, the eager young dog keen to please, wanting acceptance that was never to be found.

Until the ManKind Project Adventure weekend. There I found it.

Videos about The ManKind Project UK & Ireland

And it was nothing like I’d have expected. But what is initiation anyway? An opening of a door into an unknown realm only I could step through, perhaps. But no one could show me; no one could take me there. It was my journey, and mine alone.

In one way, the process itself is simple: give a structure and a story to the deep forces of the psyche, and they can manifest and heal themselves in the ways only they know how.

Modern terms like the Unconscious, the Ego, the Id, don’t really cut it. For me, this was and is primordial. It’s beyond words and reason, primeval in a hardwired, timeless way.

This is how a boy is transformed into a man. It is alchemy at the purest and most real level. A spiritual transformation of the highest order.

To use a modern allegory: it was like I’d had a light sabre since I was young, a magic box transforming all my emotions and experiences, both bad and good, into a brilliant and powerful light. But the lens at the end of the device was blocked from an early age. And so a pressure built up, an infinite amount of pressure. Not knowing the source of this pressure caused confusion and stress….. until some kind men showed me the blockage, showed me that somehow a load of crap had gotten dumped over the lens, that there was a shadow blocking my light.

And when this shadow was recognised and cleared away, the light sabre came alive.

Now its light could be put to good use, warding off the shadow and manifesting the vision for this being (me) with the power of infinite light, infinite love.

Oh, sure, it’s gonna take a little practice to get the parry and thrust up to scratch. Maybe mastering it will take the rest of this lifetime. But at least the damn thing is working now and the interminable pressure is gone.

A New Warrior is born.

Video About the UK ManKind Project

Celebration

I found the celebration to be an affirmation by my family and others who attended. And also by me, confirming my acceptance into the world as this new story unfolds, as this new warrior archetype develops.

Now I had a place in the world, an ancient place, a place held by my ancestors, going back to time immemorial. I can see how valuable this is to those men, both young and old, who just cannot find their place in this world, yet who keep banging on all the doors, never finding what they truly seek, instead finding misadventure, hurt and pain.

Yeah, I like this new story! I hope it continues to grow and spread and does not get lost again in the quagmire of humanity’s shadow. I think we can all see the consequences of that playing out around the world right now.

The Challenge

How symbolic that Nelson Mandela should pass the day after the celebration for Newly Initiated Men.

What his passing signified to me was almost an offer, a request, not just to me alone but to all men and women, the question being: “Can I step up and be like him? Can I rise above the pettiness of the world and lead a life from my true heart? Can I endure hardship and not felt hard done by? Can I rise in the face of inequity and injustice and do the right thing?”

Perhaps, by seeing the shadow in my own heart I can seek to remedy my ways, to eradicate evil and be a servant to love. While Nelson may be gone, the world sorely needs a billion or two like him, so I’m in! Anyone care to join me?

“Sid” – Initiated Dec 2013

MKP UK – In The Beginning

Sopley RAF camp, England, scene of first NWTA in the UKThe man on the other end of the phone was clearly in no mood for casual chit chat.

“Men are waiting,” he said, and I was left standing in a call box holding the phone with the dial tone buzzing in my ear.

At that moment I realised that perhaps I was not going to enjoy a cosy weekend regaling my new friends with tales of my vast experience in men’s work. (The old RAF Sopley base – site of the first UK NWTA, is pictured here, now derelict.)

So many people, since then, have asked me: “What was it like on that first weekend?” and the stock answer, which has become an MKP legend, is “It was f#ckin freezing!”

Yet my introduction to the community that December night in 1994 was more of a baptism of fire. Recalling my preparation for the first ever MKP training in the UK, I am amused at how naïve I was. For many men, taking the risk to agree to an intensive men’s weekend must have required real courage. The truth is, I hadn’t really paid much attention to what I might expect when I originally signed up.

So when Bill asked me if I was ready, I knew this was something I wanted to do, needed to do, yet even as I embarked on the first leg of the journey, the idea of a cosy chat around a fire and a bit of drumming was stuck somewhere in my mind.

So on that Friday afternoon at 3 pm, when I should have been leaving to beat the weekend traffic down the M4, I was working away in my office in West London. I was vaguely conscious of the time, but of course I had more important things to do.

By 4:30 pm I was heading out to the car park. By 5pm I was on the motorway. Progress was slow, which suited me. A good excuse for why I was late… and hey, what was the hurry anyway? Friday night would be the usual “getting to know you stuff”, possibly a bit daunting for anyone else who might not have sat in a circle of men before, but it wasn’t worth busting a gut to arrive on time.

And anyway, I wasn’t going to miss anything I hadn’t done before. Part of me thought how lucky these guys were that I was going to be there… hey, I’d been around the world, I’d had vast experience of men’s groups, I’d travelled to Austin in Texas, for some time, the unofficial capital of the men’s movement.

By 5:45, still a good hour from the centre, a low-level discomfort over my progress began to gnaw at me as a nagging worry. In those pre-mobile phone days that meant pulling in at a service station and finding a call box. More time wasted.

After my phone conversation, I was in a rather different space. That man didn’t sound very understanding, he hadn’t even allowed me to explain about my important work, and the traffic, and some other excuses I had concocted on the way. He just said “Men are waiting”. There might be some explaining to do.

As I drove into the facility, there was no warm welcome. Just some instruction about where to park. I pulled up and a group of men approached. I hailed them with a friendly “Here, at last!” and was about to embark on a well-rehearsed apology, but I never got that far. The rest is a bit of a blur, to be honest.

I don’t remember anything, really. Men grabbed my stuff and I was jogged through dark corridors, as harsh American accents echoed in the unfamiliar darkness. Until I found myself alone…. well not alone actually… as my eyes adjusted to the space, I realised I was in a room full of men…

The process that followed took me down to a terrifying place. The happy-go-lucky charm and profuse apologies that usually bailed me out of such familiar situations, just didn’t cut it here. I was confronted by questions, conflict, boundaries, hostility, self-examination, ruthless honesty, and eventually – of course – the real me. The man who didn’t feel good enough and protected himself with the idea that he was better than everyone else, was finally exposed for all to see… including me.

Which made the cold the least of my worries. Just surviving the exposure to my reality became my only focus. The weekend progressed and shame became the core of my work. I believe I could have spent several years sitting in circles chatting and “solving” other men’s “problems” with my infinite wisdom, and I would never have glimpsed that shadow, the one which had long walked with me, behind my shoulder.

To work with this stuff requires commitment and courage, but there was something more important for me: I needed help, and I needed to receive support. I needed to feel safe and I needed to trust. The roller-coaster ride delivered all of this.

The sense of being accepted as part of a team, and the emotional gifts I received from other men, allowed me to plunge deep into a pool of shame and guilt where I found anger and grief.

There are gifts I took from that weekend that have remained a part of me ever since.

But the single most important gift I took was a mission. A purpose and direction to guide my endeavours as the journey continued: “As a man amongst men, I help men and women live fulfilled lives by showing them their full potential”. Apart from a slight tweak when I returned to the community four years ago, it has never changed from that day onwards.

When I felt good and in sync with my world, it was when I was doing something to fulfil my mission. When I felt bad, lost, confuse or troubled, I began to find that it was because I was pursuing some goal or direction in conflict with my mission.

My mission became the way I described myself when I was in integrity. It became the lifebelt I grasped for when I felt overwhelmed.

That was me and that was my work. But the weekend in Sopley back then was much more. It was also f#cking freezing, and the food was…. well, not great. And I had no cigarettes or coffee. But the weekend was standing shoulder to shoulder with my brothers through all the discomfort and seeing they were strong enough to meet these “hardships” face on. I discovered that when I stood with them I was strong enough, too.

The weekend was the robust comradeship of Ben G, the connection that grew between me and the other Mickleton men. It was the gentle support of Billy L. and the dynamic leadership of Gary C. There were plenty of laughs too, a shared gallows humour, a ruthless connection, a bond that sometimes felt so strong it was like we had known each other for years, maybe even for lifetimes.

fire circleThere was dancing and ceremony. There was even a fire to sit round and chat. On Sunday there was a celebration and shared joy. And there was honouring, validation and generous praise from the staff men I’d met on Friday night as the weekend drew to a close. (Photo credit: copyright dreamstime.com)

That was Sopley for me in 1994: dynamic, exhausting, fulfilling – an exciting and dramatic journey of a lifetime condensed into 48 hours (or rather, 45½, in my case).

But of course it was not all about me. Looking back now, 20 years further down the line, I can appreciate the extraordinary level of faith demonstrated by my fellow initiates. Most were men who could only have had the briefest concept of what might be on offer. They had no websites, no search engines, no social media, no e-mails, no texting, no references other than word of mouth to encourage them to step into the circle.

And arching above us was the most extraordinary commitment of the men who staffed. With only a handful of initiated men in the UK, staff flew at their own expense from half way round the world – and further – to build the container. The voices I heard instructing us were in American accents from Chicago, from Texas, from California.

These men had done their work, and committed to give something back by creating a space for other men to taste what they had experienced… and then they had travelled across the Atlantic, to another country, a place some of them had never been before.

And although they may have had different motives, the one I experienced was a fundamental belief that it was right to give other communities, no matter how far away, how foreign or alien, the same opportunities to stand in a circle of initiated men, visible in their authenticity, working in integrity, making the world a better place for our sons and daughters.

And because it was the first weekend, it was not perfect. It was tough love with a capital T. There were things happening that would not be tolerated now. I was on the receiving end and later in the weekend was startled when a threatening whisper in my ear from the staff man responsible told me he was still waiting for an apology from me for my retaliation.

But fortunately at Sopley in 1994 we were all learning what was good and what was not acceptable. Staffing a UK Adventure weekend in the 21st century needs to be very different. And it is, but what we got was good enough for our times – and anyway, we knew no different. Looking back, I judge that it was new and scary not just for us, but for some of the staff too. What is more important, and speaks volumes about the work we do and how we go about it, is that these shortcomings were never ignored, accepted, excused or justified. They were identified, named and changed.

Maybe men now come to initiation from a different place. Most seem better informed, clearer in their intent, some even equipped with a vocabulary to describe their emotions.

Over the past five years I have watched new men travel the journey we took, and sometimes it appears swifter and smoother with a different, softer tone, but it is no less challenging or powerful for all that.

Perhaps the way we work also reflects that more men appear to be coming at a different time in their lives, coming to equip themselves for the challenges of partnerships and parenthood. Men come to prevent damage to others and themselves, rather than to repair it.

Of course, these are my personal, unscientific observations. Elderhood and a Celtic tendency to romanticise may mean they are not entirely accurate. But whether or not they are “true”, I hope that on every weekend still to come, new men find something of the space that was created at Sopley in that cold December 20 years ago: the space that I found. The space that welcomes and supports them, and loves and cherishes all of who they are.

If it does, I hope they will find in themselves a blessing for the pioneers who went before them and without whom there would have been no second training weekend in the UK.

Jim F

Video on elderhood

Power Without Vulnerability

Power Without Vulnerability

Take a ferry from Portsmouth across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and make your way to an old-fashioned seaside hotel on the cliff top. Painted white with balconies looking out to sea, this is the venue for a workshop called Nobleman.

It’s a beautiful location that requires you to make a journey over land and water to get there. I made that crossing in October 2013 after signing up to take part in the workshop and although my physical journey was complete when I found that place, my emotional and spiritual journey had only just begun.

Before I arrived at the four-day event, I had built up powerfully antagonistic feelings against it. My anger, ferocious and quick to rise, formed a wall in front of a terrified and grief stricken internal little boy. Whenever I met with ManKind Project men, it seemed that one or other would bring up the subject of Nobleman and I was beginning to get mightily fed up with it.

noblemanThey told me this was a workshop for men to explore the wounds imparted by the feminine. They told me that the Nobleman staff team was made up of women and that the women would run the processes. I inwardly resolved never to do it.

Fear was holding me back. Deep down I knew that but refused to admit it. One man in my iGroup, who recognised my internal battle, gently but insistently helped me to overcome the obstacles until one day, in October, I found myself on the ferry, heading to Nobleman. The experience would change my life in a powerful way that I had only experienced once before and that was on my Adventure (New Warrior Training Adventure) in September 2011.

I walked into the hotel with rage in my body. I was angry with these women I had never met. I didn’t trust them. I feared them. I felt I had to protect myself from them. I was determined that I would prove them to be a manifestation of all my darkest projections and judgements of women.

During the first process my anger muscled through and swept into the room, menacing and breathless, I told them what I felt, steeling myself as I spoke to deal with what I thought would come as a result of my speech, disapproval, rejection and abandonment.

Low angle view of happy men and women standing together in a circleInstead, I was met with tenderness, empathy and love. I was heard and acknowledged. My anger was welcomed by a group of divine feminine women who respected it, held it and saw past it, to something more gentle and vulnerable behind. (Photo copyright Deposit Photos)

This was my first surprise, as my brow frowned in puzzlement. These women were unrecognisable to me. They didn’t fit the model I had seen in my mother (and projected onto all other women in my life). This was something new. Perplexed and curious, I sat back and waited for the weekend to unfold.

Over four days my heart was skillfully and compassionately carved open. I was led into the deepest grief I had ever felt and, blinded by tears, guided out again by loving hands. A little boy inside me who had been hiding from women for 30 years was encouraged to put down his sword, take off his armour and show himself. It was a testament to the grace and skill of each of the women that my little boy felt safe enough to not only come out, but also dance and play, cartwheeling with pure joy. It was profound.

Many gifts were bestowed benevolently upon me during that experience. Perhaps the most valuable was that I realised that my power, so strong and glorious and fearsome, could easily become brutality when not aligned to my vulnerability, tenderness and love. The women of Nobleman reconnected me to these softer aspects of my character and taught me how to welcome and accept them. I realised that these attributes were not making me weaker, but stronger, and were enhancing and broadening the range and reach of my power.

The other powerful realization for me was around my female partner “T”. I realised, with a rush of joy that the tenderness, support, compassion and love that shone out of the staff women, was also present in her and that I could connect to it by being authentic and vulnerable and showing my true emotions. Then I saw the whole picture. A lightning flash of awareness lit up my world. Suddenly I understood that this divine feminine love was possibly present in all women. It was me who had strangled the flow of love.

And then feminine love began to flow into my life and show up all around me. I started to look at women, all women, with profound respect and gratitude. I was able to show my own vulnerability. What is true for me now is that I am a powerful and a strong man. I now understand the meaning of compassion and open-hearted love, perhaps, for the first time in my life. It is thanks to each of the staff women and the three staff men that I was able to move forward and reclaim the fullness of my heart. I am profoundly grateful for what they gave me.

Ben 

Nobleman is staged in the UK and the USA by the organisation “Celebration of Being” – you can learn more about them in the video below.

A Video from You Tube which might test your boundaries and compassion.

Like Father Like Son

On a cliff top in Dorset one summer evening I sat with my wife watching the sea churn and toil. After a long silence she asked me if we would ever have children together. I looked at her, wanting to say yes, wanting it so much, but something dark and terrifying pushed forcefully into my heart. I said No.

That moment signalled the end of many things. My marriage disintegrated over three gruelling months. My relationship with alcohol began to worsen. I was compelled to leave my bed, my house and my hometown. My opinions and beliefs began to drop away into a meaningless void. My energy sapped and my light went out. My friends couldn’t understand, moved away quietly, unsure what to do. I descended inexorably into the gloom and lonely despair of a breakdown. I did not ask for help. Nobody helped me.

At the bottom of this emotional pit I gave in to the utter despair and started to drink to numb myself from these feelings. By some good fortune, I also called a counsellor and began weekly therapy. The drinking made things worse but I was lucky enough to find Alcoholics Anonymous and avert more misery. The counsellor helped me to understand why I had said “no” to my wife on that cliff top. He awakened me to my sadness and the reasons for it.

Some clarity entered my life and I managed to resume the day-to-day, but it was empty and I was still afraid. I was a boy. A timid little boy, aged 31.

I was terrified that I would become, had already become, my father, in his worst incarnation. Full of violent rage, anxiety and resentment.

I had seen first-hand how deeply I could wound those people closest to me with my anger. Just like dad. This made me feel ashamed and the vicious circle of negative emotions continued to loop around and around.

As a young boy I had been terrified and anxious, afraid of my father, scared to take my place in the world, feeling undeserving of love, unworthy. How could I bring a child into the world if this was what s/he would experience? This was unacceptable to me. People told me I would be a good father and could rectify the faults of my own parents. I did not believe this in any way. I was imprisoned by my own fear, anger and shame.

What did it mean to be a man? A good man. As a boy in a man’s body, I had no idea. My father did not teach me and I did not know where to start. How could I become the man I wanted to be? These questions led to a good friend mentioning the ManKind Project to me.

The ManKind Project

Within days I visited the ManKind Project website. A week later I was on my way to take part in the New Warrior Training Adventure weekend. (Also called The Adventure Weekend.)

That weekend signalled the beginning of many things. I rediscovered my power, which had been caged when I was very young. I hunted down my demons and took them on. I won victories against them.

I found my frightened little boy, hiding away to protect himself. I encouraged him out of the darkness and into my arms. I reassured him that everything would be OK. He began to smile and my tears flowed.

I allowed myself to fully feel fear, anger and shame. I thought I would die in this emotional volcano, but instead of death there was a birth, the beginnings of joy, something I had not felt for a very long time.

My light flickered back into life and began to burn fiercely. I forgave myself and began to step into the shoes of the man I really wanted to be, had always been, but had never allowed to step forward. I stood strong and courageous and announced to the world: “I will be a father. I will be a fantastic father!”

Three months after the ManKind Project NWTA weekend I met my new partner. A few months after that we became pregnant. Now my son is born. Thanks to the ManKind Project I know that he will receive all the love he needs from me and that I will be a wonderful father.

I will make mistakes, because I am a humble man, but I am also a powerful and loving man, and my son will benefit from the loving warmth of my open and authentic heart.

Like father, like son? Not this time.

Ben

New Warrior’s Courage

ManKind Project – The Warrior’s Courage

Facing fear and overcoming it has been and still can be one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done.

I worked on the railway for 4 years.
It was hard graft long hours in the middle of nowhere.
On my first shift I discovered you had to use the railway bank as a toilet. Being in the middle of nowhere with crows and rabbits for company.
I had just pulled my trousers down and was doing my bit for the roses.
When out of nowhere track ballast (the rocks under the tracks) starts landing round my ears.
I pulled my trousers up and was up the bank like a raging bull.
There was a big Irish fella named John Cahill (dead now god rest his soul) chucking these rocks, making himself look big in front of the gang.
And I was the new boy – much like school bullying.
I was up in front of his face raging – he wasn’t sure what to do.
We ended up best mates after that.

The fear I’m talking about is greater than that. That was a physical action that had an outcome.

The fear I’m talking about lives in my own head and is not even real.
Facing the fear “I’m not good enough” was my Hero’s journey.
My thanks go to The ManKind Project for helping me face it. My Adventure Weekend was empowering and emotionally freeing.

 

Discover the truth about The ManKind Project and how the Adventure Weekend changes men's lives.