Category Archives: Staffing the MKP adventure

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

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

Staffing the ManKind Project at The Comb 2012

As a first time staffer this March in The Comb, I was picked up somewhere in north London by 3 men and spent the journey experiencing in a mixture of fear, trepidation, and pride. One of my dearest friends was being initiated that weekend and I wanted him to have the perfect experience. Being there I knew I would keep my distance until his journey was complete, but I wanted to be in the background for his initiation. It was a privilege to be of service to him and the other 40 initiates.

I quickly learnt how things work behind the scenes. A kind of ordered chaos, everyone sort of knew what they needed to do, and those that didn’t quickly found out. The camaraderie was incredible, I felt fully alive, acknowledged, and renewed an enormous awe and respect for the work, the structures and the way the staff listened for each other’s greatness. I experienced teamwork, laughter, a shedding of the straightjacket of perfection. 80 men danced together to create magic.

Somehow the gods shined on us – we had time for a staff sweat lodge the first evening, and I returned to the comfort of the infinite darkness that I had experienced on my own initiation several months before.

I had emerged then as a viewer of my own life, sat at the very back of a cinema 50,000 light years deep, staring at a screen the size of the cosmos, disconnected from the emotional churn I had spent the previous 33 years of my life wading through, responding to, being had by. In its place was an eerie silence.

I was no longer afraid of being alive, as if some great noisy survival machine had switched off, and now the stillness was deafening, unnatural, almost terrifying. I remember ringing my staff support man and asking him if this was normal, is this right? He said – it sounds pretty good to me!

And with that I realised that even then, I was so used to the context of there being something wrong, something to fix, something to avoid, and protect against, that when it was no longer there, and just peace in its place, my internal dialogue had nothing to grind against, and my guts nothing to wrestle with. I so wanted this for every man and woman. True internal freedom and peace.

Over time, the doubts crept in, the inner voice found fault and judgement and conspired against this peace. Staffing was my way to revisit, renew this profound peak experience, and to support other men in the way I had been supported, unconditionally loved, forgiven and acknowledged. No small order for little me!

So it was an easy choice to say “yes” and staff. I found extraordinary joy in being of service. I wept during the visualisation on the Sunday. I connected to the innate humility, love and joy of men released from fear and their deep wounds. And it touched part of me that I now am not afraid to hide. Aho!

Benjamin D

On The Men Who Staffed My Adventure Weekend

What I want to say here is essentially a blessing. I bless the men who staff these trainings. I watched their faces, looking at their essence in action. I noticed consistency. I saw the integrity of compassion, appreciation, understanding, humility and valour with unending focussed energy. I looked for any sign of falseness and could not find it.

At the final circle where the staff face the initiates I could not help be touched by each man that came by. I have never, ever felt that much love. I found myself smiling, even grinning, when certain men came by and I noticed that the connection was deeper with those I had personally made emotional contact with. That was an amazing sequence of seconds, perhaps a minute or two. Really, time flexed then.

I bless the men who staff these trainings. It moves me so much to now imagine your faces again. I feel the strength of the container and the power of individuals. I see the outpouring of love energy toward us, the trainees. And I see us turn into initiates. And the experience of the staff to understand what seem like mysterious processes to the unpractised. To be able to locate blocks and dislodge them. To be offered the chance you’ve been waiting for but were never ready to accept the challenge until now. And somehow many pieces of the puzzle suddenly come together and much of the dross leaves. And the path seems now confirmed when before the question was still being asked “what is my purpose?”

And for me the path is made up of strands. One strand has to do with teaching/mentoring. Another has to do with making. Another is a photographer. Suddenly I understand many things anew. Life seems more airy, lighter. The dark cloud is gone. There is a young energy inhabiting my body. I feel a huge responsibility to be, well, a necessity really. There isn’t much to the idea of Being.

It simply means showing up and knowing you’re showing up, and then allowing the heart to lead the body and the head. There is an intelligence in the heart. In one past paradigm it was called the “king of hearts”. It is the potential of noble emotional intelligence. It is the wild man.

I bless the staff.

James K

From The Head To The Heart

My first impression of The Comb was one of sadness and desolation, which at the time felt odd. In fact, it really concerned me: I didn’t understand why I felt that way. I’d had a pleasant enough drive up, re-connecting on the way with two brothers who were staffing at “my” ManKind Project Adventure Weekend just over a year before.

I want to take a moment here to honour these two men and many more like them who give up their time regularly to keep the NWTA-wheels rolling. It’s a great gift you give.

Also along for the ride was a man I hadn’t met before, with whom I had an inspiring conversation around the subject of family. Looking back now, I realise that the empathy with which this man spoke somehow planted the idea in my head for the first time that I was going to a place where I could be held, held safe. Previously, that seemed impossible. In my iGroup I always say “You and all the energies you bring are welcome in this circle of men tonight” – and I mostly believe it, but not then, at The Comb. At that time, I just didn’t feel welcome.

As a first time staffer, I’d never seen how a man can fully let go of his grief without running the risk of somehow disrupting the process with the initiates, and so my dark thoughts were that if I let go, I’d be swamped. The initiates must come first and there would be no time for me. And while other people felt welcome, people who could stay cheerful and positive for the greater good of the task we were gathering for, even if they were in mourning, that wouldn’t be true for me.

Because I was in mourning. It took me the whole journey to accept that – and the OK-ness of it.

In June last year I flew out to Cape Townfor three weeks to be with my Mom and brother. She died about half way through that time, which was great in a sense because I was able to stay on for the Celebration of her life. I’ll never forget it: there were lots of people, many with outlandish anecdotes about how she’d touched their lives. As a member of the Black Sash, she’d actively demonstrated against Apartheid in the bad old years.

Later she was member of a whole string of volunteer groups, some of which I’d known nothing about. She became something of an eco-warrior, a peace activist, a writer, a teacher, a Quaker. Eccentric and iron-willed, she had very clear ideas about right and wrong, and if something was wrong she was all about finding a way to change it. One story typifies this quality: I guess she was in her mid-sixties when she noticed that her favourite outdoor clothing shop, Cape Union Mart, had an advertising campaign that was unduly biased towards the young and hip; I think of pouty nubile models who normally wouldn’t be seen dead within a mile of a camping site. She duly marched into her local branch to discuss her “constructive criticism” with the management. The result?

We found a clipping from the Cape Times, an advertisement for this same shop featuring a black and white photo of a raggedy-assed pensioner with an unruly shock of grey hair sitting bow-legged on a park bench, looking for all the world like a hobo, except she has this smuggest of grins on her face. It says: Name: June H. Occupation: Peace worker. Favourite restaurant: so-and-so. Favourite clothing shop:CapeUnionMart. And then just: “Real clothing for real people.”

Much of this felt new to me. To my deepest regret, I realised that my Mom had been the realest person I’d known. It was almost as though it was only through death that I’d finally managed to connect with her warrior spirit or somehow even realise that she had one. How did I miss that? At 23, she’d hitchhiked alone right through South Africaand Botswana. She was 50 when she got stabbed while demonstrating for People Need Water, Not Weapons. Later — I think she was 69 – she suddenly announced to us that she was off on a backpacking trip toIndia. And at 75, she came to England to take a job looking after the elderly, rounding it off by taking herself off to the Edinburgh Festival for some culture.

Even on a shoestring budget, she always knew the things she wanted to get done and wouldn’t rest till she’d found a way.

I stood in awe of her integrity and single-mindedness and decided to dedicate my life to becoming a son worthy of such a role model. But in Cape Town I was on compassionate leave and the clock was ticking. Two days later, back home and standing outside my workplace, steeling myself to go in, I slammed the door on all that had happened and moved on.

Fast forward 10 months to MKP and my staffing at The Comb and I was still trying to get fully into the idea that the grief I’d shut out, the grief I could feel welling up again, had any place in what we were doing.

I was in conflict: on one side, it was dawning on me that I had both the right and the need to grieve. On the other: what was I thinking, bringing this weight in with me, when there was men’s work to be done? As a first time staffer, I guess I just hadn’t seen it modelled and didn’t get how grief this deep could be turned into a gift. And then a man pulled me aside and pointed out that there would be men coming who were experiencing a similar grief and, whether they knew it or not, were looking for someone to model a way of expressing it. The penny dropped, the light went ON!

I was still dazed, rushing round the kitchen like a headless chicken or losing my focus, but from that moment on I let go and started to enjoy myself. The patience, humour and support I felt from my team-mates in the kitchen and from every man, though not always spoken, was palpable. And … well, humbling.

And I’ve since remembered that being strong-willed has a shadow side. Not so, Ma? Actually, she’d be the first to admit it, bless her.

These are simple truths, I see that now. But what was it the fella once said about the journey from the head to the heart? It takes a little longer sometimes and that’s not always a bad thing.

Ben H

Mixing The Ingredients

I’ve only staffed the NWTA (from the ManKind Project, or MKP) twice – the last time in the Comb, way out west in the undulating hills of northern England where fuzzy cows stand guard on the one winding access route.

Some 40 individual men all came down that narrow path to join as one, 40 souls to build a pot for another 40 men looking to be cooked, heated, shaken and moved into a new story about themselves.

For me, acknowledging our shadows as a staff group on the Friday is what rocked me into gear. The revved up energy of men regurgitating shadows, the dark bilious stuff that we hide by instinct and need to cough up to become clear, authentic, honest and humble. Man o’ man, we were shouting it there in the tinny space of the massive hangar, crying it out, getting all fierce and clear and determined to play it straight and to play it safe.

Yes, play it. The German author Friedrich Schiller said: “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays”.

If we can’t squeeze laughter into our deep despair, then we’re lost.  If we can’t twinkle as we cry, we’re not spanning our full being. It ain’t sacred if it ain’t playful.

So in the shadows, there was pure laughter too. Men smiling, shaking their heads in disbelief, ready to be surprised, awakened, changed. Alive to the moment, tingling, focused, loving.

Seeing each other’s shadows, we relax into commonality, and surrender to the crazy, absurd juxtapositions of being fully alive, beyond deadening judgments or fixed positions.

We held the men arriving one after another through that dark door, laden with bags full of comforting belongings; we held them with the care and love of an older brother; we held them as best we could for three days.

And by Sunday we had reason to celebrate – we had served other men seeking grace and generative love on the magic carpet of their lives. As we took leave with our eyes to the beat of a drummer, we no longer mirrored their fears, but connected with our hearts, as brothers.

On the plane back to Sweden, I felt the world had become a little bit safer and a little bit more loving.

Soon I’d be home to play with my boys.

Miki

www.vildkultur.se

MKP & Minorities – Gay & Bi Men

Having just returned from the San Diego Gay/Bi Gateway NWTA I’d like to share my experience, some of the history of Gateways in our community, explain the context for these weekends, and peek into the future.

After a Gay/Bi Gateway NWTA in Atlanta in 2004 I returned to the UK all fired up to have our own “Gateway”. Over-enthusiastic and without the necessary communication or leadership skills to enrol others in my vision (and maybe, just maybe, our community wasn’t ready for a Gateway) the notion of anything but a “standard” NWTA was met with significant opposition, even from gay Warriors.

And so I threw in the towel with anger and resentment about “being misunderstood and unsupported” – one of many shadows recurring in my life based on the lie that “I don’t belong”.

That was more than 5 years ago. I imagine that a lot has changed in those 5 years; I know I have.

Background

MKP officially supports Gateway NWTAs. There have been Gateways for gay/bi, African-American, Orthodox Jewish and Hispanic men, and men who are deaf or hard of hearing. Gateways are 100% Warrior weekends. They aren’t “black” or “gay” or “lover” weekends; they follow the same protocols and structure, involve the same energy, and they have the exact same intent: to initiate men into a new way of being.

The main differences are

• Approximately 75% of the staff and leader team are from the minority group (gay/bi, Hispanic, etc)
• The majority of initiate places are reserved for men from that group
• Men from the non-minority group who apply to attend the weekend are told about the structure of the weekend so they can choose to come or not. Some may very well decide that they’d rather do a “standard” weekend, while others have felt comfortable attending the Gateway.

Even after staffing two gay/bi weekends in 2004 and 2005 it took me a few years to “get” why these weekends are necessary and imj important.

For most men it takes a huge amount of courage to attend the NWTA. Maybe, if you think back to your weekend, the weeks and days leading up to it, filling out the forms, receiving that call, packing, driving down, arriving and being met at the gate (and of course the weekend itself) – you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So how about gay/bi men attending an NWTA where they know that the majority of staff will be straight?

Many gay/bi men grew up being bullied or “gay bashed” because of their sexual orientation or preferences. Many experience rejection from their families or friends for the same reason. Most countries in the world still discriminate against homosexual people through legislation, some countries imprison or kill gays; even in places where the law treats gay/bi people as equal, discrimination is commonplace in the workplace and in society; it happens!

Usually, those implementing laws which discriminate against gay/bi people, those doing the rejection, and the bullies, are men and women who profess to be straight. Given that this is the reality of many gay men I believe it’s unrealistic to expect them to trust they’ll be safe with straight men.

I believe that seeing this as “their stuff” and suggesting that they should just “get over it” is an attitude that comes from ignorance, the privilege and power of being straight, homophobia (a fear of homosexuals), and/or hetero-sexism (a belief that homosexuality is inferior to heterosexuality).

MKP’s response to this? Gateway weekends, where these men are explicitly told that they will be supported by men on staff who are either from “their tribe” or who are overtly and consciously their allies.

A number of gay/bi men (like me) do the “standard” NWTA. I regard myself as lucky because I’m not overtly gay (you’d probably not know if I didn’t choose to tell you); also, because I only came out in my late 20’s, I didn’t personally experience any gay-bashing while growing up. Now, in my early 40’s, I can pretend to be straight – convincingly – whenever it seems unsafe not to do so.

I had every intention of hiding my sexual preference on my NWTA; I just assumed that revealing it would NOT be OK – until the staff man leading a process on the Sunday morning opened up the circle with the words “As a gay man…” Instead of being rejected I was met with total acceptance. This was a profoundly healing experience for me that I believe set me up to eventually come out to my parents, family and friends and the world.

Not every gay/bi man has had the luxury of blending in with the (majority) crowd and some have experienced the reality of abuse that goes with heterosexism and homophobia (again, often from people who claim to be heterosexual: this is really important to “get”) for a long, long time before they even hear about the NWTA.

To then expect them to trust a circle of straight men on an NWTA is, as a Jewish friend said to me, like expecting a Jewish man to do his NWTA in Germany.

Or a black man to step into an all-white circle.

There is simply too much history to ignore. Yes, it would be easy to judge such a man’s fear and refusal to come as “all his stuff”. Easy and, imj, ignorant of the world we live in or, more to the point, ignorant of the world they live in.

The Gateway NWTAs offer an opportunity to consciously create a safe space for men from these minority groups to do their work. They still have to find the inner courage to step through the gate and onto the carpet; the Gateway concept simply creates the assurance that they will not be hurt yet again for their “minority” status.

San Diego Sept 2010 Gateway

The weekend was, like all weekends for me, the same – and different. I knew that about 75% of the staff were gay/bi but with few exceptions I did not know who was and who wasn’t. Similarly, all I knew about the men attending was that most (or potentially all) were gay/bi.

In the end it just wasn’t important to know who “was” and who “wasn’t”.

What was important was that the gay/bi initiates knew that they would be safe to be “out”, to be themselves. As with all NWTAs, the staff provided the structure and allowed the initiates to provide the content – their content. If a man wanted to take a deeper look at his sexuality then that’s what happened; if he came to the weekend for a different reason then we honoured that too.

We held them, challenged them and loved them just like we do on any NWTA. On Sunday we left, the world yet again imj a little safer.

Staffing a Gateway

This was my third gay/bi Gateway NWTA and it was the third time that I heard straight staff talk about their challenge and discomfort of being in the minority – some for the first time ever in their lives.

Staff were reminded not to assume that a man’s partner was a “her” or a “she” or a “wife”; non-gay staff were encouraged to ask gay/bi staff anything they were curious about or wanted to know about gay culture.

I know that I suppress more “gay” parts of me on “standard” weekends, telling myself that it either will not be welcome or understood. And so in my experience, the Gateways give conscious and unconscious permission to the minority group to allow parts of them out that they have learnt to suppress in a world that is predominantly “other”. I believe that that brings a quality of initiation to the initiates that is simply richer, truer and safer than non-Gateway NWTA’s.

Gateways are not better, or worse, or even that much different from “standard” NWTAs. And they are, of course, a world apart.

The future?

I would love to be part of and have a Gateway in the UK in 2011 and I’m wondering: could it be that our community is ready for our own Gateway?

I suppose what I’m really wondering about is – are you ready for our own Gateway?

I’d love to hear from you. Why not email me your thoughts to me at bennie@deepliving.com or post something on “chat”; meet you there.

Bennie N

P.S. Ever wondered what it’s like to be bisexual? Read about it here http://tinyurl.com/2dnl9nu

Applecross – A Scottish adventure

The rain falls softly but persistently, screening the summer sun, blanketing the surrounding hills and woodland, and carpeting the fields in dampness. A man stands stripped to the waist, wearing his kilt and stout shoes as protection against the wet. He’s warm, glowing perhaps from his efforts tending the fire that’s blazing fiercely as it heats the stones for the Purification and Renewal Ceremony. But the warmth is more than physical – there’s an inner glow, too.

It’s a scene familiar to staff the world over and one that has been repeated thousands of times as men reach Sunday morning, the final stages of their weekend journey into the fellowship of the Warrior Community.

But there’s something unique about this one, something very important to me. This is the first ceremony of its kind to be held by MKP in Scotland. Applecross July 2010; a long, long wait of 16 years is finally over.

What does it take to serve? Willingness? Knowledge? Energy? All these, but fundamentally it takes commitment. And it takes commitment just to reach Applecross, situated on the north-west coast of Scotland hundreds of miles from the UK Community’s birthplace in the New Forest deep in the south of England. Men have already travelled a long, long way before the inner journey has even begun.

With Applecross almost reached there’s a powerful symbolism in the final few mites, marked by a climb of more than two thousand feet over the Bealach Na Ba. If the weather is fair, breathtaking views through the glens and then across to the Isle of Skye are a reminder of how small we are in the context of the natural world. if the mountain is cloaked in mist, hairpin bends and a gradient of 1 in 5 test the nerves of approaching visitors. Little wonder the ancient name for Applecross, the settlement nestling on the other side beneath the mountains, bordering the sea, is Achornrich, a place of sanctuary.

Sixteen years ago I was a man approaching initiation, yet almost 14 years have passed since I last circled up with the staff men on the Thursday evening of a training weekend. What will I find that is familiar, what will I find that’s new? Will I be judged for my absence? What do I have to offer?

The sun begins to drop, flooding the room with light. Welcomed into the circle, I do indeed have something to offer. The question is asked by our leaders, John K., Bennie N. and David S., what are the cultural differences our leaders should be aware of as they take these new men on their journey? How will Scottish men feel about being initiated by English men?

I speak a little of my experience at the first UK initiation weekend in the New Forest, the gratitude I felt to the men who had flown in from the States, and how that gratitude overcame my own prejudices. I am heard.

There is room to talk about Scotland, Scottish people, Scotland’s past, Scotland’s future. We move from the broad sweep of generic history to personal. stories from men about their Scotland and how they relate to that country, to that culture. This sets the tone of the weekend, and I’m left in no doubt that this caring community of men who have travelled so far to get here fervently believe that creating and managing the first Warrior training in Scotland is special and important. I am grateful.

The discussion even eclipses the hottest topic on the staff bulletin board over the past few weeks – how to combat the Menace of the Highland Midge, an issue that has prompted an unprecedented move, the appointment of the very first Midge Co-ordinator, Brian Lilley. And there are other gestures too: kitchen coordinator Paul Erne takes care to reflect the geographical location in his menu. Among the staff sacred objects is a 19th century edition of James Paterson’s book “Wallace the Hero of Scotland”, dated 1865.

Friday, and men are coming. Thursday’s setting transmutes into action, free flowing, energised and focussed. Preparations are complete and 17 initiates arrive with the sun shining, as a blustery wind portends what is yet to come. By the time of Midnight Adventure the rain is full and incessant, and the winds have rendered the midge coordinator’s rote redundant – for this time at least.

Saturday morning and the men awake. For some it will be the longest day of their lives. Applecross welcomes men who are ready to work; the land sends a symbol to mark the day: a stag has descended from his mountain kingdom and strikes a regal air, watching from close by as the men walk in file towards the pit.

What happens next? Every man has a different story to tell of his initiation experience and every staffing provides each of us with new insights, new clarity, and new wisdom. Old fears, shame and guilt are exposed – laughter, tears and anger are welcomed. At the end of the day, 17 men are initiated as Warrior Brothers. As is their right, individuals have chosen to pass on individual processes. Not one man has chosen to leave. Looking down on Applecross from far above the mountains, the ancestors who went through their own initiation on this land thousands of years ago are watching us. I have a feeling they approve of what they see.

Sunday: the first morning of their lives as initiated Warrior Brothers for 17 men. They awake in the rain to the sound of the bagpipes. The strains of Highland Cathedral mark their final day at Applecross; for some, perhaps, that tune will take them back to this moment for the rest of their lives. None are aware that the man heralding the dawn has travelled from Belgium to create this awesome moment. Gautier has not a drop of Scottish blood in him… aye, but he’s a bonny piper!

And so with the P&R ceremony complete and the feast prepared I watch as the staff are introduced to the men for the first time. I watch their amazement as they learn how far men have come at their own expense to create this weekend for them.

I revisit in my mind the feast at Sopley in December 1994. I remember first and foremost the longing to be part of a weekend, like the one I had just experienced, but in Scotland. What would life have been like for my father, my uncles, and my bosses if this experience had been available to them? What could life be like for my brothers, my cousins, my friends, men I work with, men I drink with? What could I do to make that happen? Sixteen long years have passed, and while some of these men have gone now, something special awaits a new generation.

Now there are two regular iGroups meeting in Scotland. Individual men who have previously journeyed south to be initiated no longer live in isolation. Already two PIT weekends have been held, where men have reinforced their initiation experience.

I watch in awe as the men who came through that weekend in Applecross step forward at their iGroup, ready to work. They are ready to put aside their fears of not knowing, of not getting it right, to find in doing so the first step to being good enough.

The future of the Warrior community in Scotland will be built on this kind of energy, and the future already looks to be in good hands.

Jim Ferguson

First – and second – time staffing the “Adventure”!

Following my initiation weekend (February 2009), I was one of those men who take time to digest what happened and how to integrate it into daily life.  In the past, my first instinct or reaction after having a perceived life-changing experience was to jump in and start to use what I’d learned to help (or maybe convert) others.  The Warrior weekend, although leaving me ecstatic and elevated, also left me in a state of shock.  What had happened to me during that weekend changed me on a cellular level:  I needed time to work out “what next”.  Eighteen months later the “next” manifested when I stepped up to staff the June 2010 weekend (bolstered by the work I’d done in my I-group).  I was nervous – but I knew it was the right time.

Even before the weekend began I managed to get wounded by an email response from another brother.  Making matters worse was the fact that the brother in question was a man who had helped me so much during my own work.  My response was – how the hell am I going to be able to clear with this man? And when would I be able to do it anyway? It left me angry with him for writing what he had, and feeling stupid for taking it to heart.  Knowing that I needed to own this I tried to clear it myself but every time the charge came back stronger and stronger.  My decision then was to go – and hold it till I got there, hoping maybe the charge would go when I saw the love in his eyes.

Weekend came, saw the man. Nope, charge still there!  So when it came to building the container, and the clearings, I was dreading it.  But when my chance came I took it – I cleared with the man and felt a huge weight off my shoulders.  To do that in front of all those men in such a place was a big learning curve for me and it really helped me to finally start accepting myself as one of the lads – and in turn I truly began to trust other men.  From that moment on I started to see, perhaps for the first time, how important this work is, and how it can only be done with a community of men, working, striving, loving, fighting for the health, safety, integrity, and even the lives, of all the men who come to get what they want – and who are risking a lot to get it.

The first weekend was mind-blowing.  From the moment we, the staffers, assembled to the time when the initiates arrived, the process was eye-opening – especially seeing how serious and dedicated men were to getting it right.  As an escort the moment I met an initiate at the door I started to relive my own initiation all over again – but I also felt it was an honour to be able to walk every man through the process.

There are two moments that really stand out for me. On the Friday, the final staff ceremony before the men arrived put me in such an emotional space and left me with a strong sense of urgency and importance for the work we were about to do.  Bringing my shadow(s) up front was one thing – but to have this witnessed in such a way was a very powerful event.  At that moment I felt a bond fully manifest between all of us. 

The other moment that remains embedded in my psyche from that weekend was being part of the process work for the initiates. This was even more powerful than my own weekend.  The magic in that container was palpable.  And time and time again I was asked to stand in to help a man do his work.  I thought about it later and wondered what that was all about?  Now I know it’s part of the medicine I bring to my life and my work. I always have.

I can contain energy – and I am happy to do it – for other people: to stand in a place from which I can reflect back what they need to do their work.  All my life I struggled with this bit.  Taking on too much from others, reflecting back at them their own shadows, and being very sensitive to things people left unsaid.  Back then I isolated myself and used anger and reactivity to protect myself from other people’s fear and shame.  I told myself “they all can’t be wrong; this must be my fault”.  Now I know differently.  I can stand in that space if someone needs me to do it and at the same time not become part of the drama. 

With my first staffing experience so exhilarating, my second staffing (in September 2010) couldn’t come quick enough.  This time I knew what was coming. I was comfortable doing some of the same tasks as the first weekend although I would have liked more responsibility.  However, a part of me was telling me to slow down, take a deep breath, not to fight it, and continue to learn.  Little did I know an unscripted piece of work was waiting for me during the weekend. 

Some staff had fallen away so the carpet teams were a bit light with men, especially experienced men.  Again I was pulled in to contain the energy for several initiates; some of their work touched me deeply.  It is amazing how watching a man do his work helps me do mine, but playing a part is even more special.  I wondered what it would be like to actually lead with a man.  Of course, when you ask, someone answers. One of the experienced guys asked me whether I wanted to start a man off and see where it went.  At that moment a wave of fear came over me and I nearly said “no chance!”  But, trusting the process, I said “Yes!” and I started the next man off, took him a bit further and then an experienced man took over.  Part of me was disappointed because I could see where I wanted to take him.  Afterwards, though, I had a deep sense of gratitude for the trust that was placed in me and a sense of joy that I was the one who took that first step. 

In that moment I knew I was made to do this work: to walk with men into dark places (or jump in after them) with no fear – and show them a way back. I know how it makes me feel when other men stand beside me and “hold” me with their fierce love:  it gives me the power to leave the fear behind.  And this is a gift all men should have.

The ManKind Project, and especially staffing the Adventure weekend, has shown me my shadows clearly, but more importantly it has revealed my gold.  MKP has been part of my mentoring family (in the true sense) and now I am starting to fully grasp the unique genius in me – and I’m not afraid to say it.

For me, the work really started not on the day that I was initiated but on the day I started staffing.  Now I know that no matter where my path in life takes me, to become fully who I am I need to be working within a community of men, and our work needs to be given freely for the benefit of all communities on this planet.  Otherwise, the risks to myself and to the Earth are too grave to even think about. 

As a Man amongst Men, I am a man who, in his need to remain whole, must work in service to all.

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star
.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe –
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford

In love, honour and service,

Neil McNulty