Category Archives: Empowering men

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 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.

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.

“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

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.

ManKind Project and Masculinity

Fifteen years ago a friend introduced me to The ManKind Project (MKP). He and I had experienced a number of bad-ass-men’s-initiation models in the USA, but when he found MKP, it was like discovering The Grail.

He begged me to go on the Weekend. I said “No”. In my mind it cost too much, and it was just the same old stuff repackaged with a little more whiff of Native American juju. For two years I said “no”…. But then, in his earnestness, he hit my most vulnerable button. He offered to pay for my New Warrior Training Adventure experience. I could not resist… That’s why I went to The ManKind Project!

When the ManKind Project Adventure weekend was over I was walking on air. He said to me, “Now we can talk.” I didn’t understand. “But we’ve always been able to talk,” I responded weakly. “No, you’ll see. Now we can talk with our hearts!” He was so right. It changed both of us to be fearless men – unafraid to touch and connect with our vulnerability. I began to see that I have immense power to be real and genuine. I was 50, and I was changing the way I was in the world, with my family, my work and my wishes.

On that MKP Adventure Weekend I accepted the call to go on my Hero’s Journey through my familiar wilderness of fear. I’d always felt fatally flawed and insecure – i.e. not good enough. These were the two marks that kept me scared and terrified in the world. And after the weekend I still felt flawed and insecure… only now I’d learned something that made it all OK. I’d learned that I could simply love myself, whether I was flawed, insecure or not-good-enough… I’d learned that I could just put a drop of love on my body and let that love permeate my whole Being to do its magic.

I also learned that loving myself is the key to everything. It was bigger than anything I had ever known. And 15 years later, I am still experiencing more love, more joy, more peace, more service and more abundance than I could have ever imagined.

My wife and I have moved from the USA to the south of France, and everyday I celebrate the life I love before it’s time to leave this lovely planet. I celebrate, too, the way MKP offers other men the chance to come face to face with whatever is holding them back from spiritual vibrancy and aliveness.

So thank you my friend, Rick, for putting up the cash and helping me go on the Adventure weekend. And the best thing? Simply this: I like it that when we talk, we speak with our hearts.

Ken P

The ManKind Project and Me!

What does it mean to be a part of the ManKind Project’s community of men?

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 ManKind Project Adventure weekend so profound. Of course, each man’s experience is completely unique. (The Adventure is also known as the NWTA – New Warrior Training Adventure.)

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 ManKind Project ( MKP ) Adventure Weekend

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 ManKind Project 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.

The ManKind Project also encourages men to explore our life’s mission.

For men, this is 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 New Warrior Training Adventure, 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 the ManKind Project 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 ManKind Project 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 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.

Joss 

What The ManKind Project Did For Me After The NWTA

Among Such Honourable Men

It is 12 months since I first heard of the ManKind Project, and just over 10 months since I did the Adventure Weekend in England. I did the follow up Primary Integration Training (PIT) in Edinburgh in March 2012 and have participated in the Edinburgh MKP men’s Group every fortnight during 2012 except a couple of occasions when I was overseas. I’ll be returning to live in Melbourne this November with my wife.

What have I got from this process with MKP Scotland:

  • Deep peace inside myself, knowing every day that I am a good man.
  • Lasting freedom from the weight I used to feel regarding my father’s absence in my life, since his separation from my mother and his relocation to Asia in my teens.
  • Unburdened myself from my futile struggle to fix other men including my father. Before, I blamed my father for not completing me and I felt it was my responsibility to fix the pain and problems he caused. Now, I have a feeling of completeness and wholeness, and I am released from blaming another man. My anger was given a sacred space during my Adventure weekend, now I feel peaceful towards my father.
  • Experiencing the bliss of being surrounded by honourable, kind, courageous strong men, regularly.
  • Being seen and honoured by men who celebrate me.
  • Being able to drink deep from this spring of acceptance of me as a man, knowing that it is an infinite source which I can rely on.
  • Ability to stop hiding behind modesty and fear and accept my greatness with lightness and enjoyment. I greatly enjoy leading igroups when my turn comes around.
  • Experiencing my desire to lead as a gift not a burden.
  • Given a series of public talks on a subject I am passionate about and on a mission about, after bursting through my fear at my PIT.
  • Crystallising my mission in life. My mission is to create a world of energy and harmony by listening, learning, teaching and enlivening.
  • Finding out what my shadow mission is – the part of me which denies, hides and suppresses, and seeks to do the same to others. Realising my shadow actually wants to make the world manifest its dark ways. Being able to name my shadow and to hold it where it is not in control of me.
  • Absolute certainty that my new growth into healthy manhood will last the rest of my life, and that with the door open to iGroups for the rest of my life, this gold is mine to keep and enjoy and grow for the rest of my life.
  • Before, I used to go to counselling occasionally when things got tough. Since I started participating regularly in an MKP iGroup, I have not felt any need to see a counsellor.
  • In my life before my Adventure weekend, I could trust women but men were responsible for the worst things in the world and in my life. I could not trust men as a community, only individual men who were my close friends. Now, I have a whole community of men in my life who I deeply trust and I see men as inherently trustworthy and good.
  • I have the opportunity to hold space for men to find their greatest gold, and I am held to find mine. I see that I can make a difference to men’s lives and in the way they live their lives as men.

I depart the UK in November 2012 with great gratitude to all men I have met in MKP in this country. I AM GRATEFUL FOR ALL OF YOU. I go to Australia with an open heart. I am ready to get to meet the Melbourne iGroup and to rock and roll in the Australian MKP community. With the backing of the awesome community of UK men I go to the next stage of my life, proud and happy to be a man amongst men. I WILL MISS YOU. I look forward to visiting the UK community next year and in future years.

D N

The Power Of The Adventure (NWTA from MKP)

I was at the Adventure weekend at the Comb in September 2012. It was certainly one of the most unusual things I have ever done!

The Adventure weekend was indeed quite an experience for me, positively challenging in some ways, empowering in others, and generally a place to learn quite a few things about life and others. I don’t know if it was a milestone that will give me the power and courage to take life in my hands and decide and risk and do so many other things that I need to do, but it certainly gave me an insight into men’s struggles in general, and it gave me courage and the sense that I am not alone.

What have I personally gained by participating in the weekend? Overcoming my fear of meeting new people and of being amongst men. A better general understanding of myself, especially regarding the issues that are keeping me from living my life freely and more empowered. Realising that, while I can seek advice and insight from other people, in the end the duty and responsibility of making a choice belongs to me. Acknowledging that I cannot undo the past, my background, but I can own the shadow and use it in a positive and motivating way. Striving to discover a mission, a purpose for my life, and a way to live in integrity regarding it, rather than in denial and evasion.

Two aspects have especially touched me over the weekend. First, the courage and determination of so many participants in knowing and also sharing themselves so as to develop themselves to be better men who live in accordance with their expectations and dreams. Second, the dedication of the staff who were facilitating the whole weekend in service for us. They were an inspiration for me through their knowledge of humanity in general, their strength of character and integrity. My sincere thanks and deep appreciation goes towards all the men who have staffed the September weekend! I am truly grateful for their effort and dedication!

Especially, at the end of the Adventure, on Sunday afternoon, there was the good-bye ceremony which involved all the members of staff and weekend participants. As we were doing this, I noticed so much kindness, encouragement and love in men’s eyes, and many of them had tears in their eyes. Their images, their faces, have deeply touched me, and for some reason this saddens me (perhaps realising once again, both the greatness and transience of human beings).

To conclude, there aren’t many environments nowadays in which men are encouraged to communicate and share deep and profound experiences, to be true to themselves, to discover themselves, to show their emotions and to strive to live in integrity. I think ManKind Project’s relevance resides precisely in encouraging this work and offering this space for men.

Best wishes,

Alex M

Experience The Experience

I did my MKP weekend in September 2000. I was nearly 50 years old and about to become Chief Executive of a not insignificant charity. So I knew a bit about leadership, and I knew myself reasonably well after a lot of personal work and therapy.

For all that my personal life could have been better: lurching from woman to woman,  not in touch with my children in the way I wanted to be. I was still looking for something, and I readily accepted the invitation / opportunity / challenge to attend what was then called the New Warrior Training Adventure.

I’m not going to spell out what happened because I know that a key reason why the weekend was so significant for me was because I didn’t know what to expect. That meant I was thrown into the experience in a way that, for instance, therapy can’t do; therapy is talking about an experience, maybe even feeling the experience a bit, but it’s not “experiencing the experience” as it happens in a safe place where you can learn from what’s going on in the moment.

At an MKP weekend you do indeed experience the experience, and it therefore has huge potential for really making a difference, as it did for me, because I faced up to stuff in a way I could avoid in other situations such as a training programme. I also couldn’t drink myself to sleep each evening, or lose myself in the television, or find a woman to flirt with or shag.

I felt lighter after the weekend; I did some growing up. One description of the Adventure (as it’s now called) is that it is an initiation, and that’s an image that works for me because, although I was chronologically and physiologically a man, I had never stepped into manhood. I was a soft male (not least because of the particular effect feminism and some strong women had had on me) and MKP gave me the opportunity to grasp my maleness and be proud of who I was as a man.

The Adventure can shift a lot of stuff, but it isn’t a complete fix and some men who does the Adventure fall by the wayside even though MKP offers the opportunity to continue the journey with other men who have experienced the experience.

There is a follow-up training that offers invaluable tools for being an authentic man; there is further training to learn how to staff an Adventure, training in leadership, and other opportunities to explore our shadows that can sneak up and disarm us. One of mine was a tendency to be really angry at minor matters (I’m an only child and I expect things to be done my way!) and I’d often be getting cross with people who were in the way (ticket clerks or call centre people who were just doing their jobs) or in ways that could put me at some risk (road rage or smart remarks to bigger men in pubs).

I’ve learnt not to do that now, though control remains an issue, and letting things be that need to be is something I’ve had to learn, with help from my current mission statement: “By letting go of attachment and control I embrace acceptance and authenticity with compassion.”

That still needs work, and another opportunity MKP offers is to be part of a group of men who meet maybe once a week (or a fortnight or a month) to support each other. It’s another place where, instead of just talking about stuff (though that can be valuable in a group that listens and responds appropriately) it’s possible to experience the experience and really engage with whatever’s going on. So if a man has an issue with his boss, or his wife or his child then we can get that person in the room (in the form of another member of the group role-playing); then we can help the man have a direct experience with real feelings that can support him when he really deals with the boss, wife or child.

Key to that is something we learn about separating data (what actually happened? get the facts right), judgements (what’s your judgement about what actually happened, not about what you think happened?) and feelings. So to go back to my earlier example about getting angry I know that for me it’s all too easy to get cross because things aren’t going my way, make a judgement from a place a feeling angry (bloody ticket clerk should know better) without getting anywhere near what actually happened (Sir, there is not a train from A to B even if that’s what you want). Turn that round and I have learnt about how to respond from a place of data rather than react from a place of feelings. And that in turn helps me be much more authentic.

So I’ve received a lot from my MKP experience. Is it perfect? No. Am I a fully authentic, balanced, whole man? No! But I have made a lot of progress and I now have tools and my group to support me in a way that wasn’t the case before. I have stepped into my manhood.

Oh, and I’m now in a stable married relationship now that works for me with a woman who has female power complementing my powerful man, just as I complement her. I have a better relationship with my children and, while I don’t see enough of them, good relationships with my five (!) grandchildren.

John Quill

Male Rites Of Passage

How did I ever decide to do the Weekend? Two close friends of mine whose opinion I value advised me that this would be a great experience and that I was exactly the right profile to fit the Adventure (New Warrior Training Adventure). Valuing both of their advice, I signed up, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Fortunately I decided to join three others going up North by car, as it allowed us to connect during the trip, to talk and to bring out our rich experiences of life and why we wanted to do the Adventure. That sharing established a good, friendly  connection, which  was very helpful during the entire weekend, as it felt like we were already closer brothers before getting there and that made in easier during difficult moments in the Comb – to stay there, anyway!

Arriving there late in the afternoon, it felt quite spooky, as we suddenly got to a place where we didn’t know what was going to happen…. kind of anticipating what was going to happen without knowing, felt weird. I felt very angry at myself for having signed up and just decided to keep a low profile – “survival mode”. I felt disempowered…

The tension eased off when we got started. The rest of the evening was spent with meeting other brothers, learning what the Adventure means and going into some exercises that changed our minds by creating trust and connection. The more the weekend unfolded, the more new connections were created through the exercises and events we experienced. 

Finding My Mission In Life

What a great way to give yourself sense and meaning in your life by formulating a mission statement that helps you actually start walking into that direction in your daily life. TheMissionstatement I found for myself was: “To dance enthusiastically every day through my life and to encourage others to come and dance with me!” 

Being where so many other hundreds of men had been before me, working on their issues of rejection, denial, abandonment, loss – you name it, it was there —  felt frightening at first, but seeing the happy faces after the experiences made it encouraging.

I would never have thought I’d find the courage to work on my issue of abandonment in such a deep way. Very skilled and emotionally intelligent people were leading the work that was going to liberate me into a new, encouraged and happy being, “free to pick up my bed and walk” as a free man. I had connected before with the leader of the weekend Ed,  and was so happy when he  came up to guide me through the process with kindness and care. Nobody else could have done it any better for me because of the trusting relationship we’d established before. Ed carefully lead me through a process of regaining my trust in men and people in general, made me do things I never would have imagined I would dare to do – and that sure felt like a new birth for me.

Going to the MKP Adventure Weekend was linked to my desire to get a real male initiation, something that never happened in my life, yet needed to happen for me to step into manhood in a conscious and responsible way.

I now find myself taking my promises and commitments to myself and others much more seriously, and that feels very manlike.

I’ve taken home:

1 A feeling of deep connectedness with like-minded men who want to change the world for the better, as well as a feeling that I am not alone with my issues: now I know there are men, who have their own issues, but who are willing to look at mine and to help me deal with them.

2 A feeling that the follow-up to this weekend was going to be great, as it turned out to be: continuing the training in other workshops offered regularly aroundLondonas soon as I feel ready to tackle the next step.

3 The possibility of joining an iGroup for a weekly meeting, where I can stand among men, share ritual, cleansing, share how I feel, deal with issues that are on-going or have come up in the week and need to be transformed as they block me from living freely and happily (I have done this in Putney and am quite happy about it).

4 Connecting with my brothers from the weekend as a reminder of what we have been experiencing together and also as a commitment to living a life where I trust myself and trust others to keep my/their word and live up to my/their commitments.

5 A new network of likeminded people that is enriching my life and that stretches far beyond the 80 brothers I met during the Adventure weekend, as the network stretches around the world into many countries.

I have come to heal myself and to find new warriors that would accompany me in this healing process. It only works when you get up and do it – and I know this and yet have to relearn this over and over again. Knowing that there are so many more opportunities to take that as far as I possibly can and am willing to, is a great feeling – like an open plain in front of me, ready to be walked into.  

Johannes G

Flying Through Life

Being asked to write a brief article for The ManKind Project magazine, Spearhead, is an obvious privilege, yet I didn’t think it would be quite so difficult. I have been caught up in the minutiae of trying to remember my training, what were the challenges and what did the weekend do for me? Looking back, all I remember is that my weekend was early in March 2010, it was bitterly cold, and I went through a process that was to have a huge impact on my life.

Everyone experiences the training in different ways. I left with a gem, a lens to look through life with, something that has become a kind of mantra for me, and that challenges me to be everything I can be. It’s simply: “What kind of man do I want to be?” Of course my shadow comes and bites me up the arse from time to time but it’s pretty consistent and the more I commit the more I notice a shift. It is so subtle that I don’t know it is actually happening. I have to reflect back and look at the last few months to see how my life is radically changing. OK, so I’m 40 and might be having a midlife crisis, but it is precisely this lens that is going to get me through any challenge.

What kind of man do I want to be? It is such a provocative question and yet has guided me so successfully to date. With an addictive personality, I have used it to deal with so many of my demons.  Before I went on the training I was smoking a packet of tobacco a week, drinking a double espresso (before I could function in the morning) and my psoriasis was so bad that I actually accepted that sooner or later it would cover my entire body.

It’s funny looking back, because I didn’t consciously say “Right I am going to give up cigarettes, or coffee, or whatever.” I totally realized those vices just didn’t suit me anymore, and were no longer part of my life. Consequently, there was nothing really to give up….. and my psoriasis is now clearer than it  ever has been.

This mantra infiltrates every part of my life. It’s so prolific, that I can’t hide from it. I have committed to be everything I can be, and therefore the challenge is always there and I can’t turn back. I was at a party tonight with my two boys and someone offered me a pint. I started salivating at the thought of it, but the truth be known I had an article to write and next week is particularly important for me, so this little voice said “Have a cuppa instead.” I guess you would have to know me to understand what a huge breakthrough this is for me.

Professionally, I have been a CSR consultant for the last 7 years, looking at how businesses really embed sustainability through employee engagement. Although worthwhile, I have never gone “Wow, I love my job”. I have always been envious of those who have. I feel like I’ve been pushing rope uphill for so long, or walking through thick treacle. I just resigned myself to the fact that I was bloody lucky to have a job, especially my own and just hung in there. Knowing how frustrated I’ve been, a friend rang me up and asked if I’d heard of LEAD, an organization facilitating leadership on sustainable development.

Cutting a long story short, I duly signed up and within a month I was booked onto the course. Within the first few days I started asking myself those inevitable questions like “Who am I? What do I value and what does leadership mean to me?”

Within a week, I returned home, met with my business partner and pulled the plug on a seven year business. So, I am at a massive crossroads in my life, and feel that I’ve thrown myself off a very large cliff and am currently in mid flight. It is an emotive place to be but one full of opportunities. If I am honest I feel a little schizophrenic, because depending on when you get me I am either over the moon with possibilities, or deep in despair at my predicament. Luckily, it is much more the former than the latter, but as one good friend said to me, “Jono, you are simply in the chaos phase, and out of chaos magic happens.”

MKP has given me a tool with which to navigate through life’s trials and tribulations. And above all it has taught me the importance of having men in my life. I was blessed to have Alan H (RIP) as my mentor and friend. He stood with me and guided me with such integrity and commitment that I was blown away to receive such genuine love and support from another man.

After the New Warrior Adventure Training (NWTA) I asked him where he was from and he said near Bath. I gave him a gentle smile and told him I was, too. I now have the joy of being part of the Bath iGroup. On my first visit, I remember walking through the woods, the smell of wild garlic pungent in the air and as I came round the corner there was a group of men sitting by a fire in a clearing and one of them playing the harp. It doesn’t get better than that!

Jon E

An Extraordinary Experience

I’ve spent the last 11 years deeply involved in personal development – therapies, workshops, books; and teaching and coaching others is my work and business. The thing I’ve realised over time is that my biggest personal challenge is to take action in my life.

Instead, I frequently find myself waiting for something to happen, distracting myself with unimportant things, or reading books or articles about really useful techniques that will help me to get on and do something. As a child I had very little awareness of my natural father and although I had (and still do) a step-father (who I call Dad), there was still something missing for me as a boy. I’ve never really been able to feel like a man and I’m having to make up being a father to my own children as I go along, because I didn’t want to recreate my own childhood (very harsh) for my children. To me that feels like a lot of pressure and there are times when I really haven’t felt up to it.

I’ve always been someone who holds back, particularly as a child, preferring my own company to that of other people. I have found it really difficult to connect with other people, particularly men. I found that it was much easier to talk to women and I have a wonderful wife who I’ve been able to hide behind for many years! I’ve done lots of work on this in the last few years and although I find it much easier now, there are still times when I hold back and don’t participate, which is really frustrating for me.

This all came to a head in August when I realised that it was time to change, otherwise I’d end up living a very unfulfilled life. My daughter attends a Steiner School in Ringwood and I consider myself really fortunate to know a few of the Dads at the school who have already attended the Mankind Project New Warrior Training Adventure weekend and I’d also seen some amazing changes in a couple of them who attended earlier this year. It was a no-brainer for me, as I wanted these changes for myself.

As it’s my normal habit to put things off for as long as I can, I made the call and booked myself in before I had time even to consider the thought “I’ll do it next time”. It was the best decision I have ever made. The thing that really sealed it for me is how open, honest and welcoming these men are.

I could feel in myself a resistance to making a connection with them, even though I really wanted to. I could get so far, but then my old habits of holding back kicked in and I always felt like an outsider.

My wife thought it was very strange that I’d want to do the NWTA, but she’s incredibly supportive and was able to trust that I knew what I was doing. To be honest, knowing nothing about it other than seeing it had worked for my friends, I really didn’t know what I was doing or letting myself in for! What I did have, though, was the feeling that something big was going to happen in my life and that this would be a really positive experience for me.

I knew that it was likely to challenge and frighten me, so I wasn’t going to take it lightly. I found the 4 week wait for the weekend quite frustrating, but actually it’s really good for me to sit with the not knowing – I know from my work that it’s much easier to make changes when you’re uncomfortable than when you’re comfortable!

Finally, the weekend was upon me and I travelled up to the MKP venue, the Comb, with four other men, which really helped to relax me. It also served to heighten my anticipation and discomfort about the unknown that was to come. The trip up there was a really powerful experience for me in itself. On arrival at the Comb I knew I had a choice to make: to either just see what happened, or to make a commitment to myself to get the most out of it that I possibly could. I’m happy to say I chose to really go for it.

My overall impression of the MKP weekend is one of immense personal challenge, but in an environment of care, attention and nurture to a level that I have never seen or experienced in my life. I felt accepted, appreciated and loved to a degree that completely took me by surprise and for the first time in my life, I felt like a man.

People have asked me loads of questions since I’ve been back, ranging from, “What was it like?” to “What did you do?” to “You seem in a really good space, what’s happened?” My answer to each of them is that I’ve met a part of myself that I never knew existed – I’m in touch with something that really helps me and serves me when I need it. At times, it was really hard, but overall, a healthy mixture of frustration and joy! Plus, to top it all off, I met a bunch of other men who have similar feelings, frustrations and challenges as I do.

It’s wonderful to realise that even the men who I really look up to and see as “Real Men” have their own challenges and issues around their identity as a man. My deepest truth is that I now know I have the power to chose whether or not I hold myself back. It’s definitely a work in progress, but to have a deep awareness of this feels to me like freedom.

I still hold back at times and go through the usual kicking myself afterwards, but I’m able to accept that I’m still learning and that keeps me moving forwards.

The celebration evening is an opportunity to be presented to your tribe as a Man, something that I really enjoyed and I feel is missing from our culture now that we don’t have initiations in our lives. I needed to be recognised and accepted as a man, in order to feel like one. I’m already reaping the rewards in my work – I’m finding that:

  • I’m much more focused and able to help people in their lives
  • I’ve stopped wasting time doing things that don’t help my business or my family
  • My clients are having a much deeper connection with me and getting better results
  • And although I’ve always loved the work I do, I’m finding much more joy and happiness from it, which is making the distractions much easier to ignore.

I was never expecting a magic wand that would cure all my issues, but I’ve come home with a big stick to hit them with, which is good enough for me! I’m really proud of myself for having done it! The Adventure has the potential to be an extraordinary experience, and it certainly was for me.

Dan N

Liking Myself A Whole Lot More

I can still remember travelling down to Embercombe to do my NWTA Adventure as if it was yesterday, when in fact it was September of 2010. Approximately 18 months before I set off, I was approached by a friend of mine, John McLaughlin. In a very easy way, he said that he does some stuff that he thought would be good for me. It was as simple as that, no hard sell, not even an explanation. I asked what it was and he just said that he thought I would get something from it. I then said “maybe” or words to that effect, and carried on with my life. What he didn’t know was that small conversation stayed with me until it was mentioned again, about a year later.

I then said “how many do you do a year?” He told me and I replied that I would “do one before the end of that year”. Leading up to September John called me up and said that there was one approaching, he told me the price and I paid over the phone. Job done. I knew nothing of what I had signed up to…. men’s work?…..no idea!

However what was really strange was that when I put the phone down I burst into tears, to this day I still do not know why. But I remember feeling a massive relief, but I didn’t know what it was, just an overwhelming feeling, and it lasted for ages.

Still not reading up, or taking in what this weekend was about, all I knew was to bring some food and some winter clothes. When I was driving down I was in such a rage, swearing and cursing to myself, calling my partner and doing the same thing to her. I was driving to a place in the middle of nowhere, I knew no-one, because I had asked John to stay away for my weekend. I understand that he was a man who staffed every weekend, and finding he’d be there made me feel uneasy. About halfway into my journey I got a text from John – “trust the process” was all it said. It kept going around in my head, over and over again……what was it supposed to mean? But it was those three words that got me through the doors, and through the first evening.

On arrival I was so agitated, so angry. I was fuming, but that was more about what was happening inside me. I was greeted by one man who directed me to another, the first question/words that came out of my mouth were “when can I leave?” I was getting angrier and angrier, yet all the time I kept repeating those three words from John “trust the process”. I put every bit of trust in that man and my partner, who’d kept encouraging me to do the weekend. I had never before heard the lines, “rites of passage”, “work on myself”. Never spoken to anyone about this stuff.

From the Friday night to the Sunday afternoon it was a rollercoaster of emotions for me, for the first time in my life I was honest with myself. I started to see who I was, maybe who I was meant to be. I could sit in the company of other men and not feel intimidated, not have to roll out wisecracks for the hope of fitting in, to be accepted. I think I started to think that it may be OK to be me…as I am……..I shed many tears, tears that I maybe should have shed many years ago. I allowed my emotions to go on show, if that was what they wanted to do. At times it felt as though I had been walking around with a rucksack full of bricks, all of my life, without realising it. Then brick by brick as the weekend went on, they slowly started to leave, and the load was getting lighter and lighter.

On the Sunday when we said our final goodbye, the tears were streaming down my face, I had a heavy heart. Yet when I walked out of the gates I felt as though I could have climbedMount Everest, just for the fun of it.

The weekend is no walk in the park, there’s no making daisy chains, yet I remember thinking that I would happily pay double for that all over again. I remember calling John on my way home and thanking him with all of my heart, I remember telling him that I would forever be in his debt for the gift that he had given me. One year on and I have embraced as much as I could and I’ve staffed in Embercombe, inIrelandand in the Comb.

I have done an intensive PIT [the follow up course to the NWTA] and staffed one as well. I am also in an iGroup [an ongoing men’s group]. I have met, and continue to meet, some great men whose company and character I just love. As for my life? I now get to see things in all of my honesty. What I mean by that is, gone are the days when I would see something, or find myself in a situation thinking “what should I say, so that I fit in. How should I act?” I look for my truth, and hopefully I find it. I try to be the best that I can be….before, I didn’t think that I deserved to be the best. When I find myself in a situation faced with something that makes me uncomfortable, I don’t react straight away, I don’t make a judgement. I try to see if something is happening for me, I look to see if I am looking in a mirror.

Today I can look at something, or hear something and if I think “man that’s beautiful” then I will say it. I want that man/woman to know what is going on for me, and if it’s something good, then it’s no good sitting in my heart, in my head. That way no-one knows….what a waste…..Today I like who I am, this time a year ago I could never have said that. And this time next year I hope to like myself a whole lot more………..Aho!

Martin C