Category Archives: Men and their fathers

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

Like Father Like Son

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ManKind Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like father, like son? Not this time.

Ben

Further layers of(f) the father onion

Not so long ago, I took part in an Ayahuasca ceremony, sitting up all night in half lotus, “facing the music” like a warrior, feeling all the parts of my body and purging and cleansing, from deep within my cellular memory, anything that doesn’t serve me anymore – toxins that are held in my love handles to protect my system from their poison, my joints and knees that are beginning to restrict me, my spine that feels like it’s compressed, and so on.

If there was anything that I needed to remember, re-experience, or feel whilst letting it all go, this was the time. Ayahuasca ceremonies can be beautiful and blissful; they can be hellish, re-living scary, painful places, with extreme fear, nausea, and massive physical purging. But I was up for it and ready to move on.

I recently redid my PIT and then joined the North London I group, having done my NWTA in September 2005. I recounted to my 2010 PIT men the time I asked my father why he had hated me all my life. This was a few years ago, the first time my brother and I had gone out for a drink with him without my mother. He was shocked, but told me that he hadn’t hated me, but kept me at arms’ length since I was a baby because I took away his wife and replaced him in her affections.

The women made me their special golden boy and taught me how to fear, hate and not be like men. I was there to serve, protect and be co-dependent with my mother, godmother and grandmother. I had no chance with the men and the men had no chance with me.

My father now realises that he projected his brother on to me and himself on to my brother. He always sibling rivalried me and acted the angry adolescent, as I was forced into father / victim role. I was very surprised at the emotion that blocked my throat and stopped the words from coming out as I told this story to my brothers in the room. I could not hold my face together and water came out of my eyes. I had touched something profound….

And the grandmother energy of the sacred Ayahuasca plants gently took me further. It took me to places where my father really hated me. Constant abuse and threats of violence.

“I’ll send you to boarding school!” lasted for a while, until I’d had enough and realised that we were so poor – and he was so tight with his money – that he was not sending me anywhere! So I’d remind him, ask him about it, and turn the tables on him. He had a terrible time in boarding school and his grandmother, who ran the family, hated him, while his unprotecting father hid behind work and alcohol, and his obedient mother did nothing.

So my father and I expressed hate with each other. I had a sharp tongue and would stand up to him, only stepping down when I knew he was beginning to see red and we were entering the danger zone: “DO YOU WANT TO FEEL THE BACK OF MY HAND?!” I remember once, far from the danger zone, walking up to him and feeling the back of his hand with my fingers and laughing “with” him. He doesn’t like me reminding him what a bastard and bully he was. He doesn’t go anywhere near his own childhood memories.

Grandmother Ayahuasca took me to the sheer terror that I would feel when I heard the key in the front door. The cold on my back and the churning in my stomach. I had no solution to our problems, though I was used to protecting my mother and brother, at whatever cost.

As we said goodbye to my father at Kampala airport, knowing that the Ugandan secret service might catch up with him and we might never see him again, he put his hand on my left shoulder and told me that I was now head of the family and I must take care of my mother and brother.

We’d been on their death list for a while, in hiding, out of touch with our family friends, school, and church. We were being followed, our phones were tapped and we’d had several death threats. As we boarded the frenzied refugee plane to England, with nowhere to go, the weight of it all burdened my shoulders. Even today my left shoulder still hurts.

Later, in the UK, I blanked out the feelings of hate that came my way and the panic I absorbed. Families were not a safe place for him: he was desperate to get away from my family and instead “serve the community that took us in.” I felt abandoned, but safer without him at home. I wished him dead, but we needed a father to provide for and protect us. We were only just learning how to shop, cook, clean, light a fire, stay warm and healthy in our shabby new home in a small town that had never seen coloured people before. (Staff took care of those things in Uganda.)

My mother was now my servant and I was riddled with guilt and OCD. We all had to survive, and we did so without causing our parents any further trouble. We internalised everything, took care of ourselves, didn’t know how to stand up for ourselves and dared not anyway: to cause any problems might mean the community would reject us – and we had nowhere else to go.

We heard and read about race riots, and the racist TV comedy of the 1970s emphasised the tension continually present around us. As a family unit, we were split. My protectors were my abusers.

Grandmother Ayahuasca showed me so much that I had forgotten, allowing me to feel it and relive it, watch and appreciate it, and then to see my father as the hurt little boy that he was throughout the whole experience. My heart was wide open with love and forgiveness.

I realised how I’d turned into my father, addressing my brother and best friends in similarly vicious tones, until I realised what I was doing and could begin to unlearn that “normal” behaviour. Once it was out, I could express compassion for my parents and what they’d survived; and I could forgive myself for the rage I’d expressed as I worked through my story.

I purged violently as I realised that I hated my love handles – a part of my body I could not feel unless I reached with my hand to touch their coldness – because that was where I safely stored the hate my father had for me.

I purged with relief as I allowed my body to relax and my spine to elongate naturally, rather than holding my father’s tension in my body, ready to respond to the slightest request from him, or cope with his loss of control, the flick of the switch that summoned his demon.

I cowered for most of my life, especially around masculine men. My shoulders actually hurt when they were pushed down and my neck up. Was I a coward then? Am I still?

I purged with the new information that I was not such a mummy’s boy after all, even though my mother stepped up into my corner after every round of emotional beating I endured from this damaged man. I felt I could protect my brother and mother, and her role was to prop me back up for the next rounds which she couldn’t fight.

It took me four months to refurbish their home, setting them up for their old age. I crushed our refugee furniture while they were in their flat in Goa for a few months. I replaced it with good stuff; it cost me a fortune, but I felt I was making them who I previously needed them to be: decent, stable, functional parents who were able to parent and protect me. I was also buying my own freedom, allowing me to move on in my own life without my old family home dragging me back into an unfinished, refugee-furnished past.

Bennie Naudé ran a short Emotional Freedom Technique course for survivors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I did some amazing transformational work with him, with unexpected tears and emotions which stuck in my throat again during the final couple of hours. We tapped through the remnants of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my previous inability to deal with the details of admin and money, wanting my father dead as a child but knowing that I could not replace him.

Working with Bennie got me over my addiction to haunting memories and old scripts that kept repeating, as different players showed up in my life to repeat the old roles. Thanks to Bennie, I can’t quite see the old pictures any more – they blur away into past insignificance and don’t have the charge they used to.

Now my parents are sorted out, it’s my turn for a safe happy home with my girlfriend as we learn about financial stability, peaceful abundance, blissful love, and everything else that we need to walk our paths together. I love my life with her; and as a family we are now better than I could have ever imagined.

My folks happened to be in London recently, so we spent an evening together, my brother and his girlfriend came around and we were a happy, functioning family, laughing as we played cards (my father used to be super-tense, shouting and sulking if he lost), joking as we chatted, listening to good music as we ate good food and planned happy days ahead. This summer we will finally clear whatever has been left lurking in the basement of our family home – our family shadow, maybe?

Thank you Ayahuasca, thank you Bennie, and thank you life for a perfect journey from which I have been able to survive and learn my lessons, picking up tools to authentically walk my path. I now gracefully let my love handles go, with gratitude for a job well done!

Kenny D

My Father – Warrior King

Some call them the hero generation, the ones who grew up in and survived the Great Depression and then fought to save democracy in World War II. My father was one of those heroes.

I had the honour of spending his last few weeks with him, supporting him and honouring his brave passage into the next phase of his life on February 6, 2011.

Many years ago, as a boy in the Depression, he sold newspapers and magazines to do his part to contribute to a family with an unemployed father who had lost his job, house and car all in the same week.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he reported for service in the US Army, in which he served in the Pacific Theatre as the rangefinder of an anti-aircraft battery. He took part in numerous amphibious landings on various islands including New Guinea and the Philippines. Then he served as a Military Policeman in occupied Japan. He did his Warrior duty for his grateful nation.

When, as a boy, I asked him about how the war was, he would say he thought of it as protecting his mother and sister back in Chicago. That is all he would say on the subject.

He returned from the war, like so many of his fellows, wanting to prepare for a job, meet a wife and have kids – the 1950s American dream. After an apprenticeship as a wood and metal pattern-maker, he began his career and met my mom. Soon they had me, and a few years later my sister came along.

His idea of what it means to be a man and father was to be the best provider. He did that very well throughout his life by working hard, always seeking better paying jobs, overcoming unemployment four times, and ambitiously buying a house in a higher income suburb of Milwaukee to ensure that my sister and I would go to the best school system in the area. For me, this was a combination of his Lover and Warrior energies – caring with intention.

His Lover side had a fun side too. He would fly kites with me, go fishing with me, and we would sled wildly on some very steep hills, at night even! He also supported quality family time together with numerous family vacations – sometimes staying in lake cottages, sometimes taking us on cross country tours from Wisconsin to Colorado, or through Wyoming or South Dakota, and also visiting our nation’s capital to teach us about our government.

My father’s Magician energy was in his hands. He could make or fix almost anything, achieving true wonders with wood and metal. He had intuitive talent, and this extended to building bedrooms for us in the unfinished attic of our home, building his own garage and a basement recreation room, and also adding a carport/porch combination. He did extremely precise tool and die work, and just before his retirement he was making exact models of prototype electric tools that were in development.

His decline in old age was hard to watch, but his magnificent King energy showed in the sovereign way in which he dealt with his death. It was a lesson in bravery.

After a heart attack damaged a valve in his heart, my 87-year-old father was at peace with the realization that at his age an operation was not possible and that he would walk the path to his next life in a period of weeks. As King/Patriarch/Elder of our family, he blessed us all: my sister and I, his grandchildren and baby great-grandchild, grateful for our time together with him. He had only the necessary pain medication and bravely went through his process with dignity and loving kindness and appreciation for his caregivers.

In his life he walked his talk, and lived his ethics. He was a good man, son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He was not an MKP brother, but I feel his life was a good example of being one.

Peter B

Death of the father: birth of the man?

Saturday morning on an Adventure weekend is always a time and place where thoughts naturally turn to our ancestors. Creating a sacred space in which to do our work makes it easy to imagine that the ancestors are present in the room with us, and the sense of connection between our time and those who have gone before can be profound.

Conversation often centres on our fathers and grandfathers, on how they lived, and how they died, and the gifts they have left us. It’s a healing space in which men can express their joy and their grief. I know this because I’ve seen it happen for other men, and it happened to me this March (not for the first time!) as I passed through the ongoing journey of expressing the grief around my father’s death in May 2010.

All of the practical things that have to be done after death may stop a man from grieving fully, so that he continues to carry not only the wound of his absent father, but also the unexpressed longing for a relationship that never was. I could see that coming for me, because when I looked back on my childhood in the early days of my personal work, it seemed like there was a void where my father should have been.

Of course for some men this is literally true – they really don’t have a father in their lives. But my father was physically present: it’s just that the void I sensed represented the emotional space he never filled, a sign of his lack of real involvement where it mattered – giving blessing to his son, the blessing that tells a boy he really does have a right to occupy the space that he lives in, and that it’s OK for him to achieve his full potential.

Knowing how hard it would be for me to live with my father’s passing, I set out six months before his death to build – perhaps for the first time in our lives – a real relationship with him. Orphaned even before he’d entered his adolescence, my father just did not know how to father me, nor indeed perhaps how to have a deep relationship with anyone.

But I sensed the craving in him for connection, and his approaching death was all too clearly advancing on us. His communication was limited after a stroke many years before, but with time and patience, and perhaps also with compassion and love, it was possible to communicate ideas and evoke memories and opinions of times gone by from him.

Much of what we did together was not at the level of verbal communication; it was a silent connection, the one that father and son feel for each other when they simply sit in the same space and by some magical process tune into each other.

Maybe you know those sacred moments from your own boyhood, sharing time with your father in an activity where you felt the joy of sharing that connection.

Sure, it’s not quite the same when your father’s 88 and you’re 52, but for the little boy in all of us, I believe, time stands still in these things – our sense of connection with father goes beyond age.

We looked back together on the family history, the old photo albums, and so I came to understand more of what made us who we were, and I found myself more understanding of him. Perhaps, for the first time, I found out who he really was.

My anger at his absence during my boyhood and adolescence seemed much less important than the grief at the loss of what he might have given me, but by sharing time in this way, the edges, the rough edges of my grief, were smoothed.

He spent his life designing and building stained-glass windows, and one of the most rewarding things we were able to do together was to go around and look at these windows which he had conceived, designed, built, and installed in sacred spaces around the town (and far beyond, although we weren’t able to travel to see these, but they form a memorial which lives on after him).

And then the call came: “Your father is in hospital, he’s had another stroke.”

I travelled up, arriving the next day, went straight to the hospital, where his first words in the moments of clarity and lucidity between the confusion and hallucination were: “I thought I’d never see you again.”

In one brief instant the intensity of the look between us, perhaps the most intense moment of my life, was like the exchange of a lifetime’s relationship between father and son, touching a level of understanding that went far beyond any words, and forming an acknowledgement that this was the last time we would see each other for who we were.

He knew, I have no doubt, that he was going to die, and the intensity of that moment somehow completed the circle of birth and death. It took him three weeks to die, and each day there was less of him present; he took his death with such grace, such calmness, such easy acceptance…..

At least that’s how I saw it. To this day I believe his spirit began to leave his body the moment he said goodbye to me, and the passing of his body meant nothing.

And how precious was the relationship I built with him before he died, putting aside my anger, putting aside the consequences of all the unfulfilled commitments that a father implicitly makes to his son just by the act of creating a child; how important to see the man for who he was with an open heart, and, if not to celebrate his death, at least to watch his passing with a sense of release and relief – for both him and me.

And how it eased the grief, oh, how it eased the grief, to have known, if only for a short time, something of what it meant to have a father……

And yes, the process of grieving is a long one. Perhaps it goes on to the end of one’s own life, and perhaps it’s something that can only be expressed in a safe space with supportive men……such as the space in which we’re closest to our ancestors. The space where we make talismans to honour men initiated by their brothers, for example.

I don’t think any son is ever the same after his father has died: a warrior brother told me the story of how he’d had experienced a strange sensation days after his father died – something along the lines of an all-consuming awareness of taking the place of his father, telling his father to move aside, that he was the man at the head of the family now. The words which came to his mind were: “Move aside old man, it’s my place now. Now I can become the man I was meant to be, and stop looking for the things you were never able to give me.”

Rod B