Category Archives: Personal growth for 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 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.

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.