Are you wondering what it’s all about? Not quite sure what to believe? Puzzled as to what’s true among the millions of words written about MKP and what’s not? Or are you simply interested in knowing if MKP and the weekend “Adventure” we run can help you grow as a man in the way you want or need?
There’s plenty to read on our official website – www.mkp.org.uk – about the training adventure and what you can expect. But the real truth about MKP lies in how it changes men, how it impacts the lives of men and their family and friends.
These articles were written by men soon after they had been on the ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure or NWTA (now known as the Adventure Weekend in England).
Words From A Warrior
At the time of writing, I am 7 days away from travelling to South America for 6 months. At 25 years old, this feels like a profound journey towards mature manhood and stepping into my power; lovingly separating from my soul mate, quitting a secure, meaningful and fulfilling job, and leaving my comfortable life in Bristol behind (that’s where I’ve spent my entire life) – to discover what the big wide world has to teach me.
Before my weekend Adventure, I’d hoped that taking part in it would prepare me for this journey.
So, some weeks on from my initiation into this world of men, what has changed? Here are the things that made my Adventure (or NWTA, as it used to be known) experience so profound. Of course, each man’s experience is completely unique.
During my teenage years, I smoked a lot of cannabis and became very self-conscious, which developed into a paralysing paranoia. For years I felt nervous in social situations and had little experience with women, not losing my virginity until I was 19. This was a big contrast to my young teenage self, who was fun, confident, outgoing (and a hit with the ladies).
Largely because of the effect marijuana had on me, I lost touch with my emotions and became consumed by my whirlwinding, self-conscious mind. I wanted to change how I interacted with the world. After a few lonely years, I spent 6 months in India and South East Asia, where I found a Buddhist path. This gave me a sense of how to find peace of mind and regain some of that lost self-belief.
Ever since then, I’ve been hooked on various kinds of personal development and careers aspirations, searching for a sense of wholeness in life that I felt I’d lost.
During the MKP Adventure I was reminded me how important a balanced life is: a life that includes a light hearted, child-like view of life to balance out the drive towards success. Since then I’ve valued and developed my relationships with my friends and family more highly, with a greater sense of fulfilment as a result.
Another life-changing experience on the Adventure was to be given the freedom and direction to get in touch with our wild energies, our free spirit of potential. This is something I’ve locked away so deep, so long, that no amount of meditation would ever tap into it. I had an opportunity to release this suppressed anger, and I felt overwhelmingly primal and instinctive.
This gut-level anger is something I’m exploring further, to accept it as a part of myself, embrace it and live through it – not to be an angry person, but to live a life without suppressing my emotions….. which until recently have been pushed down so far as to resurface in unhealthy disfigurations of what the original energy was intended for.
We were also encouraged to explore our life’s mission. Not so much the things we want to do or achieve in our lives, but the men that we want to be. This was a fresh perspective on a question I’d repeatedly asked myself: and, for the men who are considering doing the NWTA, I hope you find your own.
So these were the main elements that I went through on my personal journey, but what of the group dynamic, the effect it had on the men present, and my opinions of MKP itself?
On the Friday night we were all strangers to each other, each with our own complex and unique issues, history and methods of coping with them in our lives. At first, there was a sense of wariness amongst the group around sharing our own experiences; however, over the next 2 days, I felt able to share even my most personal shame with what had been, such a short time before, a group of unknown men.
I can’t begin to say how empowering this was for me, and from what I sensed, the others around me. I have fond memories of the final celebration and farewell with the staff and other New Warrior Brothers. I felt a unique, life-changing event had occurred, that we would do anything for each other, that we could trust each other entirely.
As a result of the weekend and the continued support from the MKP community, I feel I have someone I can turn to, almost anywhere in the world. I can share myself wholly and completely without fear of being judged or exposed.
This community is something so strong I have never felt anywhere else, with such easy and non-judgemental support from unique, amazing men.
I think that one of the greatest successes of MKP is that every facilitator is his own man, and works in his own way. They give up their time to support the growth of other men, despite some of the successful careers with large responsibilities they already inhabit. There is no sense of a pyramid structure, simply men each on their individual journey to make the world a better, more loving place for themselves and the people around them, by selflessly sharing their wisdom.
A change in direction – follow your heart
I broke out of a “story” inherited from my family upbringing, school life, and the general culture I grew up in, a story that really didn’t work for me.
When I left school to start out in the big wide world I had taken on some very strong messages about the important things in life: getting a job that would give me the highest financial rewards I could achieve, and the best promotion prospects; joining the culture of the never-ending struggle to acquire a big salary, seniority, house, car, holidays, gadgets – in short, joining the “rat race”. For me, this was a merry-go-round of external recognition, status, and rewards.
But one of the first problems I faced was leaving secondary school without the qualifications to get into college or university, let alone an apprenticeship scheme. How could I now get a “good start”? And so I joined the Royal Navy. That way, maybe I could get an apprenticeship or training in a recognised trade; the navy also provided an escape from a somewhat broken and turbulent family home.
And indeed, for the next decade in the navy I progressed well. A more practical hands-on approach to education saw me go from starting as a junior mechanic to ending as a Senior NCO in with a BTEC Diploma. After leaving the navy I used my experience and quickly went into the management side of the service provision business. I did well there for a few years, rising to a senior position, only to be moved sideways by a ‘new kid on the block’ trying to impress his masters. This sideways move came after years of jumping through hoops, trying my best to achieve the impossible, coping with ever-increasing pressure at work.
But despite all I’d achieved, I still believed I was a failure….and I was still too attached to status and external recognition from my job. So, when all this was taken away, I tipped into depression. After time off work and taking anti-depressants, I found, luckily for me, MKP and started on the road to recovery. I gained balance and perspective in my life, learned what didn’t work for me, and got the tools to change other things so they worked better for me.
I started the process of dealing with life’s challenges in a more healthy way with MKP in December 2002. When I was finally made redundant from the same firm in January 2007, I was able to get through the process into my next employment, with a little help from a few good warrior friends, without becoming depressed or needing any medication.
I know I handled this much better than I would have done “pre-warrior”. During the gap in my employment, I rediscovered what’s really precious to me and what would serve me better in my life. I discovered I wanted to work in a more practical environment with some connection to outdoors and trees. Later, I found I wanted to be away from larger companies, with their politics and endless, impossible, goal-oriented policies. I wanted to work for a small company and be seen as an individual, not a number.
And of course, the jobs I started to look at were all paid much less than I’d been used to – and this brought up lots of fear. How could I maintain the lifestyle we enjoyed? Initially, I kidded myself I need to stay in “the rat race” to keep the status quo, to remain happy and settled where I currently lived, keep the long-term mortgage, and support two boys in the middle of apprenticeships.
But after a while it dawned on me that I needed to allow myself to accept a change in lifestyle and to let go of some material things I didn’t really need. At the time, one of the most significant things for me was giving up gliding, a sport I’d only recently got into. Now, I realise the gliding was largely about helping me keep my sanity whilst staying in the “rat race”, and that didn’t work for me anymore! What a crazy situation!
Lucky for me that my wife was also at a turning point in her working career! After much deliberation, we decided to try and get work together as a couple in the ‘Domestic Service’ arena. Initially, this was a struggle as we were in the midst of the recession of early 2009, and the market seemed flooded with couples who had relevant previous experience; we kept getting passed over. Our luck changed when a warrior friend unexpectedly had a vacancy in just that line of work – so we now work for him and his partner, my wife as the housekeeper and me in house and grounds maintenance.
We are both much happier now enjoying the many, very varied tasks that life on this small Equine Estate throws up for us. We are part of a small team, and this works for us on many levels – not least, we have an appreciative relationship with our employers.
If someone had said to me a few years back this was the way my life would change, from being Senior Manager in a Global Corporation to Maintenance Man, I would, to say the least, have been sceptical, never imagining I would find my way to where I am today.
But I’m happier now in my working life and besides that, life itself works better for me on so many levels. This I very much attribute to MKP and the many gifts and varied learning I have received from so many men in the organisation. I have also done some twelve step work; that has also helped me grow along the way, and it’s another thing I most probably wouldn’t have found without getting involved with MKP.
So where does this find me? Most certainly very much happier than I was “pre-warrior”, a saner, more balanced person, I believe; a better husband, father and man, part of a network of like-minded men. By no means sorted or “there” yet, and still a work-in-progress, still working through “my stuff” as life challenges me, but much better equipped to deal with it all.
So to close I send a big thank you to all the men I have met on the way, and who’ve helped me with support and teaching: specifically but not limited to Dermot, Mark, the Reading I Group, the Romsey Tepee I Group, and many more.
The journey continues!
Growing into myself
I went through the Adventure at Sopley in 2001. In 1993 I had been ordained an Anglican priest. But believe me – Sopley was a more powerful experience. The weekend was like standing under an ice-cold shower then being wrapped in a warm blanket. I was truly exposed for the first time.
I was a gay man amongst many straight men and this scared me. I had never been shy about my sexuality; after all I had always known I was gay, but before this time I had been comfortably contained within a gay social network. I was actually estranged from other men. It was as if straight men were a different species, and a slightly menacing one at that.
Sopley also freed me from a religious world view. It was the antithesis of theDamascusroad experience and from the Saturday night I no longer believed in a traditional god. Coming from a very religious, anti-gay heritage, and believing in a god who would ultimately punish me for being me, this was a life changing moment, a rebirth.
I realised I was just a man among other men and we all had our stories. I had been just as blind to other men as I thought they had been to me. Now, from a place of pain and exposure, we could grow new skins with new sensitivities.
Within one year I had left the Church, which I had both loved and loathed, and was working with refugees. I then took a Masters degree and a PGCE, and became a teacher. I am now head of the psychology department in a lovely school where I teach full time.
The last ten years have been a journey. I have not been active in MKP. I believe that you can only be initiated once and then the hero’s journey continues elsewhere. But I have worked and meditated and laughed and built fires with many initiated men in various men’s groups since then.
Last year at 50 I took the final step and wore to school a small badge on my lapel which said GAY ICON. This was a scary moment. But I decided that if I didn’t say who I was, how could I ever expect anyone else to do so?
All went well. The students thought it was mildly interesting for about ten minutes, which was the ideal response, the head-teacher shook my hand and said “Well done”, and so we all moved on.
Sopley came at the right time for me. It kicked me out of my comfort zone and gave me a starter kit to help re-engage with the world I had left. That’s what initiations should be about; they are liminal events, and once I had crossed that threshold I could never go back. The future lay ahead with all its uncertainties, but I realised after the dance that I was no longer alone.
Overcoming my limitations
I heard about the ManKind Project from a fellow brother who knew I was in a rut and feeling unfulfilled. He rang me up and said: “I’ve just been on this fantastic weekend where I learnt a lot about myself….I think it might be good for you …. take a look at their website… if you think it’s right for you at this time…register!”
After looking at the website and having a think for a week or so, I signed up. And I have to say when I received the registration paperwork I thought “What have I let myself in for!” But I put that doubt behind me and looked forward to the weekend with an open mind.
When the weekend arrived I was getting apprehensive about what to expect. The paperwork hadn’t made it very clear (though now I understand why). Another man going on the training collected me and he too didn’t know what to expect, so between us we had lots to talk about on the way.
Now, three years after my training, I can honestly say I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out because it has had a major impact on my life.
I have a disability which stops me getting around and doing every day tasks as able-bodied people do. I hadn’t had a full time paid job until the year following my training (I’m now 34). The training gave me the determination to go “out there” and fight to get myself a job.
After many job applications I now work for my local council, mainly as admin for the community occupational therapy service. I am responsible for ordering and monitoring installations and modifications specified by occupational therapists to benefit people in their own homes and help them maintain their independence. I also monitor the users’ satisfaction levels and the council’s performance indicators, all of which I enjoy immensely.
The training also gave me the ability to appreciate my friends and family. I am able to put my point across to the people I love and care for the most and still listen to their point of view without losing my temper, which in the past I was very prone to do. I have learned how to appreciate life and encourage others to do the same.
I find myself putting things I learnt on the training into practice and tackling difficult people and situations without getting flustered.
So thank you “ManKind” for your help in realising my own potential!
Hungry for initiation
I have felt a deep, ferocious hunger for that elusive sense of maturity for years now – never having been able to shake the unpleasant feeling that I am still but a boy in the body of a man. And I knew I needed help to get past a masochistic, pervasive undercurrent in life which always made every action feel not quite right, not exactly authentic. In many ways, my life was great – and improving. Yet, my suffering was undeniable. And so I was ready. In the evening of June 4 2011, at The Comb in Northumberland, I finally embarked on my life’s first Hero’s journey.
It was an intense experience; over in a flash. Yet contained within those brief moments was a journey through grief into rebirth. That is more than literary symbolism – I was reborn, surrounded by initiated men, losing my masochistic beliefs on the way. It was a surreal, yet deeply impacting experience – and one I had not prepared for. All the visions of a hero’s journey that I’ve entertained myself with, looked very different to mine.
As the facilitators circled us on the last day – bidding us farewell in silence – I felt my heart so strongly. Rare are the moments in life when I have felt so alive. Tears flowed down my face. I stood there an initiated man – having been through a ritual for which my entire soul had hungered for years. The look on the faces of these men – each featuring a unique mixture of love and acceptance – confirmed that I had indeed received what I longed for. Some missing part of me was starting to pour back in. I was happy.
Journey to The Comb
I run a webpage called Masculinity Movies. It emerged out of my own search for maturity and manhood and running it has brought me much learning and satisfaction. As my exploration of movies, spirituality and psychology deepened, the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Archetypes of the Mature Masculine showed up on my radar. The authors are Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, men of some familiarity to you, I suspect.
As my understanding of these archetypes grew, I started applying them to my movie reviews – with outstanding results. People loved what they read – and I learned so much.
The Mankind Project was mentioned with increasing frequency and eventually my reviews became featured content on both the Mankind Project’s Facebook page and their journal on www.mankindprojectjournal.org It was clear that I had found an organization full of men who shared my thoughts and passions, and I felt excited by the growing possibility of global brotherhood.
I connected with MKP men such as KDC, BH and MG and my participation in the weekend was inevitable. Speaking with BH on Skype one day pretty much cemented it. There was nothing more to think about – I took a leap of faith and I don’t regret it.
I was afraid when I knocked on the door and entered the darkness behind it, but boy am I happy that I did!
Back to Normal?
I returned home with a slight concern that the experience would just be a workshop high, my freedom slowly dwindling with every passing day after returning home. But I do feel different. Something has remained. In fact, some hard-to-describe feeling of being a man and not a boy has strengthened and I feel more confident overall. Most importantly, I feel freer to express myself. In fact, my voice has changed. It has opened and become deeper. Several people have commented on it.
I want to write briefly about my shadow, identified on my weekend as I create a more alienated world by being judgmental about others. The number one inner conflict in my life is my desire to connect, combined with the fear of rejection. My need to connect is tremendous. I love going to deep and rich places with people. Yet for many years, my spiritual practice was a solitary affair which served to strengthen this shadow.
Before I move to criticize it, I want to honor my many years of sitting meditation practice and my deep inroads into worlds such as Buddhism, integral theory and tantra. They served me well for many years. Yet, I remained divorced from life itself. So in my feelings of unfulfillment, I learned that I could protect myself from the fear of rejection by condemning people who I might otherwise wish to connect with as unworthy, less spiritual. Absolutely wonderful. Served me well. And I’m so fucking done with it.
The new openness that is unfolding in my life allows me to go deeper with others. The key for me is the ability to share impact combined with a deeper realization of my ability to be self-sufficient in the love department. Now, when someone impacts me in a way I like or don’t like, I can simply share my experience of it. It’s not a defense, and yet it’s the best defense of all. Shared humanity. What a concept!
My relationships have deepened considerably this year, yet the experience of intimacy in the interpersonal spaces of my life has dropped to an even deeper and richer level since the weekend at The Comb. I feel nourished.
The path ahead
In two weeks’ time, I go to Edinburgh for my PIT (primary integration training). I feel inspired to facilitate at a training adventure not too long from now. To experience it from the other angle. To give it. My mission statement involves curiosity and blessing and so, the path is lit.
I have gathered four MKP men and three other good men who live in the Oslo area and our first real gathering is planned for August. I am moving in three weeks, to the first flat I could ever call truly mine, and will be happy to host them there. This is deeply significant for me, contributing to a general feeling of increased groundedness and embodiment. I feel pleased with myself. My heart opens when I write that.
I’m also feeling big openings in my quest for my true mission in the world. So many good things are happening. I feel stronger and more peaceful and I’m even sensing that a woman is going to come into my life again soon. I realize that I have held the belief that if I get to be with a woman, I somehow automatically get the better end of the deal. And having seen it, I realize how bullshit it is. I can now own how lucky the woman who gets to have me will be. We will both be lucky, gifts to each other.
Would these things have happened if I hadn’t done my NWTA? Hard to say. I think they probably would have eventually considering the intensity of my yearning for ever-increasing maturity and insight. But it’s not important. It is what it is and I’m happy with the way I arrived here. I have worn my talisman almost every day since returning.
The Journey To The Comb – June 2011
My friend at work mentioned the Mankind Project during a lunch conversation about two months before the weekend, and though we spoke very briefly, the NWTA somehow caught my mind very quickly. I can’t say for sure whether my curiosity, or the concepts of MKP, or the title of the program “New Warrior Training Adventure”, got my attention – but I made up my mind immediately to participate!
However, as the weekend was closing and when I needed to make my commitments, I was thinking over a lot; my wife was pregnant and needed a lot of my time; I had spent a lot of money on medical procedures recently: there were many criticisms on the internet about NWTA and the unconventional approaches…and so on. All these reasons looked logical and very valid for not attending the weekend… however, deep down in my heart I felt I must attend it.
At the Comb
On day one, when everyone had a turn to say what they wanted to achieve by the end of the weekend, I didn’t have anything in particular to say. I tried reason out why I was there, came up with many reasons, but none looked like why I really was there. At some point I stopped thinking and said to myself that I just wanted to have this experience.
I must say day one wasn’t the most convincing one; it could be that a lot of sudden changes in my regular environment meant that my mind and body were too cautious about everything. I kept thinking logically and tended to be apprehensive about the program. And I wanted to complain lot about a lot of things, the mystifying registration procedures, accommodation, toilet facilities, water, lighting, mosquitoes, and the unusual environment for a training…. but on day two none of those concerns looked important and I started to enjoy the excitement and brightness of the experience.
One of the most valuable things about the weekend was that I was able to get to know about 40 other men in an utterly honest environment, their values, mission, issues, regrets etc. I often learn lessons by making mistakes; however the weekend environment was such that men can learn their lessons without making mistakes. It was invaluable. Most of the men I met ultimately wanted to create a better world and determined to go about making it happen. This experience was remarkable; it took all of us back to our childhood and enabled us to rebuild our character through what is important to us today.
The MKP seniors were invaluable in making this experience real, their true desire to help someone was remarkable. My experience was thoroughly enlightening, I returned with an ultimate sense of being unblocked. I have been sharing myself with my friends and family ever since my weekend!