Category Archives: Ceremony, ritual, and process

My Staffing Journey

If you’ve ever staffed a ManKind Project New Warrior Adventure Training weekend (or NWTA for short), I am sure you’ll agree that it’s an amazing experience. If you haven’t, then I hope that reading this might inspire you to do it!

Since I did my weekend last summer at the Comb, I have got so much from MKP and from the men I have met through MKP. Through staffing myself for the first time, I wanted to help other men to have this same opportunity.

My mission starts that “I create a more conscious, loving and joyful world…..”. What better way to deliver this that than holding space for 30+ men being initiated into Manhood? From staffing in other organisations that I am involved with, I also knew that I would get some great insight into myself – and that certainly happened!

In the preparation conference call and emails in the run up to the weekend, so many feelings were expressed by other men – excitement, commitment, joy, service, fear and anxiety being a few. While I resonated with some, I felt no fear or anxiety – was there something wrong with me?! My lovely friend Azul often calls me naïve. I used to hate this and see it as a negative; yet I now realise that it’s me, it’s fine, it’s OK and it means I often don’t feel fearful when others do; actually it’s quite a relief!

The staffing had a wider significance for me. I have previously written about The Nobleman Workshop run by Celebration Of Being (search online for more information). It’s a beautifully complementary community and I set out with the dual intention of staffing and getting as many Noblemen involved in the Warrior weekend as I could. In the end four of us staffed and three men were initiated. Great for a first concerted effort in this direction. Working the other way, there were seven warriors involved in the recent Nobleman training, so cross-pollination has really started!

My journey up north started very well with a lovely catch up coffee with my Noble Warrior friend Ed, connecting with Nicolas at the station and then William on the train…. so the four of us had our own little community on the train!

What is truly amazing is that at 5 pm on Thursday, 40+ men, many of whom had never met each other, got together for the first time; and less than 24 hours later, the site was fully set up, everything was planned and we’d formed the most amazing container. This, I feel, was the most amazing part; 40+ men, 40+ egos, 40+ heads full of “my way” – yet, pretty much seamlessly, we worked like a perfectly developed living organism.

Any niggles or tensions were instantly cleared; people who f***ed up (me included) took responsibility, owned up and made amends – without anyone needing to be asked to do so! Yes! It was truly amazing – imagine if every company, government, school and other organisation in the world was run this way? How profound would that be?

And then the men arrived…and the adventure began. Many experienced staffers said they’d never seen a group quite like it. Ready and willing to work, taking responsibility and not being defensive.

I wasn’t in the least bit surprised by this. For me, 2012 is a real turning point; not the “end of the world” as some have prophesised, but a “tipping point” towards a world where more and more people want to be more conscious, are more and more prepared to take responsibility and grow up.

Every group I have seen this year or heard feedback on is the same. It is happening – slowly, person-by-person, we are becoming more conscious as a race. That is certainly worth celebrating!

So what did I learn about myself? I thought I was really reliable, always there; yet I realised that sometimes by shutting down (my childhood protection mechanism), I don’t show up, even when I am physically there. The “how” part of my mission starts with “by being true to myself” and I realised that I am so often not; doing things I don’t want, not stating my needs ….. and then resenting it.

For me such learnings make me so much more aware of myself; from that place, I can be more conscious, more loving, more joyful – and, yes, of course, that’s my mission!

And as well as hard work (which it was!), a great learning experience and a chance to be in service, the weekend was great fun too! My highlight was strumming in an impromptu band till 2 am on Sunday morning in the staff quarters – ending up with that wonderful Bill Withers song “Ain’t no Sunshine”. This is not something I’ve ever really done before; my serious sensible self was telling me to go to bed, and I usually would have listened. Yet my higher, more joyful self saw how much more this would feed me more than a bit more sleep. So thanks Nico, David and Sean for that!

I returned home shattered yet very fed and nourished. For a while, a young 20-year man old I know was curious about this “warrior stuff” I have talked about a lot, yet it was an inactive curiosity. Something in my energy after that weekend shifted him, and he’s signed up for December….. now that is real progress!

For me, every man who joins the ManKind Project community, every man who becomes a Nobleman, every woman who does her work; indeed for every person who says “I will take responsibility” we get closer and closer to how this world could be; more conscious, more caring, more loving….. no, not how the world could be, how the world is becoming…. And for me the circle was completed last night when a newly initiated man attended my iGroup – one of the 30+ men from the weekend who is helping the world become whatever we want it to be.

Andrew T

The Lodge Keepers’ Society

The Lodge Keepers’ Society

Dear Men, I have recently returned from a week spent in Bedford, Indiana at the annual Lodge Keepers’ International gathering, where I was our MKP UK & Ireland representative. I found my experiences so moving and inspirational.

My journey started inLondon where I was kindly hosted for the eve before my departure by L. and his family. For me it is such a great opportunity spending time with people like this; being welcomed by families is such a great connection to people and place.

I had a day before and after the gathering because of the dates of my flights. So I spent those two days with another wonderful host family in Indianapolis, Eric W, his wife C, and their two sons. Both have strong family connections to the Cree nation.

From the moment I arrived with them I had a deep feeling in my heart as we talked, and it moves me to tears as I feel it again now. I felt “My God, this is where I am meant to be right now”, confirming for me the call of spirit to attend when I first saw the email asking for a representative to come forward. I was so welcomed by Eric’s family and we had a wonderful cultural and human exchange; it so enhanced my trip.

I took part in a ceremony with Eric and his family led by LM, one of the French-speaking lodge-keepers, who was also staying with us. In this we used the pipe and sang and prayed. Passing the pipe to C (Eric’s elder son of maybe 7 years) was so memorable. He touched it to each of his shoulders, held it as B (Eric’s younger son) touched it, and then passed it on.

I attended four sweats throughout the gathering. These inlcuded a Lakota Lodge with PS, one of the previous French-speaking head men, a sweat done almost entirely in French, and the most powerful and releasing for me.

Another was an Ojibaway lodge, a very healing lodge poured by CM, the LKS Founder. This was a very healing lodge with very beautiful songs, one of which has stayed with me and I often find myself singing it. At the end of this ceremony each of us was refreshed with a cool brew made with various healing herbs. Jars of this were given out for people in need of healing. Packed deep in my bag, wrapped in my sleeping bag, I took one of these for a person who I knew needed healing..

I took part in two pipe ceremonies which is a first for me within the LKS, and a great experience of learning and connection. It reinforced for me the beauty of dedicated ritual, in this case a group of men sharing a pipe with the utmost of respect for each other and the ceremony.

For me working around sweat lodges or participating in one, or taking part in ceremonies such as the Pipe, are times when I really drop into my heart and feel a love connection to Spirit. The men I met at the gathering were inspirational, so many dedicated guys working in spirit.

Most International centres run regular sweats outside of the NWTA, and it seems to be a great way of strengthening, learning and connecting. I would love to be a part of this with the UK LKS and I’m very willing to put my energies into that.

I felt such honour representing the UK at the gathering, and had some requests to staff at other centres throughout the worldwide community which I intend to follow. The learning shared by men in these international meetings was clear.  

My own knowledge about the LKS has grown so much, that I am inspired to step onto the path to become a Purification and Renewal Ceremony Leader (aka Water Pourer). I have received the blessing of the LKS for this and have the honour of now being mentored by Steve Cooper.

With an ever deeply loving heart, opening to Sprit,

 Richard K

Masculine empowerment

Being a man amongst men

The men had been initiated. I stood, eye to eye, man to man with a “new brother”. Then the drum sounded and I moved to the next man. The same vision. Eye to eye, man to man. Some of the new brothers had welled up and were crying. “This is awesome,” I thought to myself…then I dropped the thought and returned to presence.

It was the closing ceremony of the March 2011 NWTA in the United Kingdom, and my first staffing with the global men’s organisation called The Mankind Project. I was honouring these men as new brothers at the end of their “New Warrior Adventure Weekend” (NWTA), otherwise called their initiation weekend.

For some of these initiates this might just have been the first time that they had ever felt truly honoured for all that they are by a group of fellow men. And as I did this, I realized that this was a life changing experience for me too. I was being entrusted, along with all the other 39 staff members, to honour and initiate fellow men for everything they are. And in doing so I feel I have received a transmission of masculine empowerment that will serve me, and the communities I engage in, for the rest of my life.

The container

I understood why several brothers over the years since my own initiation weekend had told me that their experience of staffing the weekend was even more powerful than the original weekend itself. Being entrusted to initiate other men having attended nothing more than a single MKP NWTA weekend might make people question the strength and integrity that this “initiation” into manhood holds. However in this organisation I am struck by how fantastically well it works.

This is because the “container” is so strong. In order to staff we must commit to being truly of service, to honour our commitments we make when signing up, to respect and respond responsibly to any emotional charge we have with another staff member so that the flow of respectful heart-full communication remains open, and to hold ourselves accountable if we feel out of integrity for any reason, e.g. if we have not walked our talk.

As staff we must commit to taking full responsibility for our actions, both wholesome and unwholesome, and there are reflective processes readily available and encouraged when we step out of integrity. And what I love is that within this container are the most wonderful heart-warming honouring rituals. These allowed me to truly serve in the knowledge that this service was being valued by my fellow brothers.

Home

As I serve in the world outside the MKP, this feeling of being supported is within me as a consequence of witnessing and being a part of these rituals. I know that things are not always easy for men and it feels damn good to know that I have support.

So, as I looked into these men’s eyes, my life was changing, my ground was forming. It is time for me to do my work, to live my joyful mission, to revel in this warm, heart-full and wonderful community, with joy and satisfaction that I have found my community of brothers.

Just before we stood eye to eye with these men, we staff were lined up and then invited to turn to the man beside us to talk for a minute about what “gold” we had received from the weekend. I was honoured to turn to one of the leaders of the weekend, and without knowing what was going to be spoken, in complete trust that my truth would be delivered, I spoke.

I heard myself speak of my strong sense that I had found a community which exemplifies so many qualities that I value in the world…integrity, service, responsibility, honouring, humour…I told this leader that I was feeling deeply satisfied, truly happy in knowing that I had finally found my community of brothers that I had silently longed for – for a very long time.

Francis E
Francis is a healer, life-coach and 5 Rhythms teacher. You can read his blog at returntoinnocence.org.uk

The Purification & Renewal Ceremony

Calling the directions: Steve B’s viewpoint

The directions that I use are slightly different from those we use in MKP. This is not uncommon: almost every group which calls in the directions does it in a different way and makes it work to fit their circumstances. What is important is that you remember that this is a symbol system and understand how it works and how it can be used.

For my own ceremonies I use the way I was taught and meld different things together. Thus starting in the South I call to water to help us be in the flow of life, in the stream of livingness, to use water energy to help us be open-hearted and have access to open emotions rather that be emotionally “stuck.”

I call the plant world to help us remember the cycle of life, death and rebirth, and to remember that this is a place of giving, allowing the world to see our beauty and not looking for reward; and to approach life in trust and with the innocence of a child. In the South we have Earth Mother, an essential female energy, and nature to connect us to the natural world. For me this would be the place of the Lover.

In the West I call to Earth and to Grandmother Earth and to the mineral world so that I can connect with that “going within” place, where we can use our introspection to access our intuition, the deep inner knowing that we all possess.

The mineral world helps us with stability and strength and the physical part of out being. Here we know how to hold the physical container that houses our spirit being. I would call to the Grandmothers to connect with us and bring their wisdom. This is the place of magic and the Magician.

In the North we call the sacred winds to blow gently through our minds to bring us clarity of thought and flexible minds. This is the place of logic, knowledge and wisdom, and so has something of the King energy.

Here I call the animals to help us to receive in many more ways than we are used to, and of course, especially to any animals that are totems for those present. Earth father is here too, helping us to gain access to our own highest intent for this lifetime.

In the East is fire and Grandfather Sun, which we can call upon to shine a light for us, to help us use that illumination to make steps to our own enlightenment. It’s the place where we can access our own artistic originality and connect with the human world so that we gain clear heart-to-heart communication. In the East also I call the Grandfathers who bring their strength and protection. This direction carries more warrior energy for me.

So this is just a fraction of what is available in each direction. The more you familiarise yourself with each direction the more you can add. The important thing for me is not the directions but the space in between. We stand in the centre of this circle of beauty and power and it can help to put your life in perspective.

If you are out of balance in any direction you can see where it is and some of the other aspects of that direction might give you a clue as to what ceremony might help you with it. In the western world we tend to be strong in the north, using our minds, but not so connected with our bodies, emotions and spirit. The idea is to be in balance; to give with our emotions, hold with our bodies, receive with our minds and determine intent with the use of spirit.

This is my story and what works for me. When I pour water for MKP I have to adjust a little to the story that is told in this community. The important thing is that we work with a common thread so that we can help each other to use the powers of the directions to gain understanding.

I have heard it said that we should not “call” the directions as if we are summoning those energies here but rather call to them to be in our awareness so that we can use them. I like that nuance.

In any ceremony the calling in of the powers sets the scene for the participants. From that perspective it can be useful to always do it the same way. By doing this everyone gets used to it and it becomes a mantra which sends you into a ceremonial space quickly and easily. If you allow for considerable flexibility, it will never do that. There is a lot of power in creating a story and sticking to it.

The last directions are the above and below which again are called in various ways. Here we look up to the higher powers, the space which represents our highest potential, our higher selves and often Grandfather Sun, to all of whom we pray that we can reflect those qualities as we live in our earthly realm on Grandmother Earth.

One thing I am sure of. I have studied quite a lot the ways of the Sweat Lodge in Native American tribes and the amount of variety is staggering. Much of this has been brought about through the rather fraught relationship with the missionaries and Christianity. Having spent years banning and discouraging Sweat lodges, the irony is there are now Christian Lodges and many of them are very flexible about what beliefs you bring in. It does appear, however, that amongst the very few threads that are present in every Lodge is the calling of the directions in one way or another.

It is a most important part of ceremony to set the scene with this ritual. This is alchemy. In the Lodge the heat, dark and other conditions couple with the words that are used to create a new space through alchemy. I feel quite strongly that a loosely standardised form of calling in the directions increases the power and connection within any circle that you might perhaps call spiritual.

Steve B