Category Archives: What is the ManKind Project?

My MKP Journey

For me, The Adventure weekend (NWTA) was the start of my journey towards becoming a man, and becoming conscious of my behaviour and my impact on others.

conscious man
Strong, mature, loving men are conscious of the impact they have on others.

I was born into a family where sarcasm, rudeness, criticism, shame and blame were commonplace. Vulnerability, sadness and fear were not. Yet these feelings were normal for me.

Because of this, I learned from a young age that crying was not acceptable. As a man, any show of sadness (unless attending a funeral) was squashed. And showing fear or vulnerability was mocked.

If someone gave me a compliment, then they wanted something from me. Nothing was freely given in my house; there was always an unspoken price tag.

I learned to shut off my feelings. If I started to feel sadness or fear or the need to be vulnerable, I would shut off that feeling and become distant, disassociated.

When I was growing up I thought that my father was perfect. He was my god – I strove to be like him. He had the belief that his behaviour was right and everyone else’s was wrong, if it were different from his own.

This was so powerful and undeniable to me. I had no one in my life to make me think that maybe there was another way.

In our eyes, our family were the normal ones. Everyone who didn’t behave like us were the odd ones!

But my father didn’t know the truth. His father didn’t and his father before him didn’t.

They were simply passing on what they had learned in the best way they knew how.

They were doing their best as parents, yet unaware they were passing on the same beliefs and behaviours that had led them to feelings of anger, resentment, inadequacy and insecurity in their lives.

When I met my wife, she helped me to see, that “I” was not my behaviour!

mature man and woman
Taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions is the mark of a mature man.

I could choose how to behave. I could alter my behaviour to be different man and that maybe I would enjoy life more, if I changed.

This was a foreign concept to me and at first I was resistant to the idea.

My father had instilled in me that my behaviour and I were the same entwined, unchangeable thing.

Five years ago, I watched some videos on the internet from men who had completed the Adventure. I knew that I wanted some of what they’d gained from their weekend.

I knew I wanted to change – and even though I had no idea how to do so, The Adventure seemed like a great place to start.

On my weekend, I found the strong man within me, which I hadn’t really appreciated before.

I had my first insight into how I could feel safe to express my emotions again.

The weekend started a journey of self-discovery. Learning to trust people again. To trust men. To feel emotionally safe enough to be able to express my sadness.

Learning how my behaviour was impacting others around me.

The more I became conscious of my emotions and my impact on others, the more I realised how much there was to learn.

I also made some great friends within MKP. I met, for the first time, men who could express their emotions in a healthy way.

Five years on, a few more MKP trainings and much more personal development work, and I’m still learning about myself.  I have had a major insight recently into how my passivity and shame have been shaping my life.

Shame has been a standard method of parenting for many decades and I certainly had my fair share of it. I learned how to use it from my parents, my teachers and I was now using it to parent my own children.

I listened to an audio by Brene Brown, who is a shame researcher. It gave me the understanding of when I was going into shame, when I was trying to shame others and when people I was communicating with were experiencing shame.

By becoming conscious of shame, I was able to do things differently. I was suddenly in control of conversations that previously would lead to an argument.

I also listened to a talk by John Lee on passivity. I realised that I was very passive man. Quote: “Passivity is the psychological, spiritual and emotional condition which compels us to pursue that which we say we do not want.”

At first I didn’t see how that fitted into my life, but then I realised that it was sabotaging my choices to do things I really love. 

Being fit and healthy, seeking amazing experiences and being open and daring, living life to the fullest, feeling energetic and full of life; things that I was once passionate about as a boy, but which had ebbed away due to being so passive.

As in, “Oh, yes, I would love to exercise regularly, but I just don’t have the time to do it.” And, “I would love to go canoeing down the Thames, but I am always busy on the weekends.” And also, “I would love to play the guitar – I bought one 10 years ago and I’ve barely picked it up.”

My passivity was leading me to feeling resentful and sad. I was not doing the things in my life that would make me really feel happy and free. I began to get an awareness of when passivity was showing up in my life and started to change it.

And my life has transformed once more!

This journey has been so rewarding for me. I can now feel my feelings. I don’t block them when they come up. Sarcasm, criticising, blaming and shaming are no longer there. I am no longer resentful. This has given way to finding my gentle, caring and loving side. I am now able to show my vulnerabilities.

My wife and children love the changes that they have seen in me  – I am closer to all of them as a result.

It’s up to me to take responsibility for providing the best quality parenting, being the best husband that I can be, and most importantly doing things to nurture myself.

I feel happier, more relaxed and freer than I have ever done. And it all started with that first MKP weekend.

Ashley 

Photos courtesy www.dreamstime.com

Betrayal and Redemption

One thing I’ve always known is that there is joy always, in everything, if only I can find it.

Mind you, it was hard to find joy in my life for a very long time. I know my story is only a variation on every other man’s story, and only a question of degree, but I did not have a great start in life.

Unplanned, unwanted, rejected at birth, and then subjected to everything that follows from that – humiliated, shamed for my very existence, oppressed physically, emotionally, spiritually…. A perfect recipe for the squashing of human potential. Of my potential.

Broken heart image
Broken hearts can be healed!

I guess each man reading this has his own variation on the same story of oppression and limitation, his own knowledge of the things that limited his potential and growth, his ability to become who he truly was designed to be.

I believe that each one of us who gets to a point of recovery – whatever that means for the person concerned  – has survived because of a unique survival mechanism.

For me, survival came in the shape of my rage, for it fuelled my energy to live, and it overcame the inhibiting effect of my fiercely repressed shadows of fear, shame, guilt, sadness, over responsibility and…. well, many more.

My rage allowed me to build a life. But, as you may imagine, at a cost.

Was it an accident that I found MKP when I was at my lowest point? No, I guess not, for the universe does indeed move in mysterious ways.

And what did MKP provide for me? A counterpoint to everything I’d experienced before, for sure. Support, from men – imagine that!

An accepting, non-judgemental environment. The opportunity to explore my shadows safely.

The opportunity to heal my emotional wounds, step-by-step, always supported, and more than anything else, always loved by the fine men in this organisation.

Learning that I was lovable, that I was good enough, that I had a right to exist; I would never have imagined it possible.

But more than anything else MKP provided me with a family – my iGroup.

This group of men, who I have come to know more intimately than I would ever have dreamed possible, has been by my side for years now, meeting every two weeks, or as often as each of us can, establishing bonds of brotherhood and friendship which have really enabled me to experience the meaning of connection and love.

To say that MKP has been a major influence in my life doesn’t even begin to cover what it has done for me.

It’s been the forum that has allowed me to express myself as I truly am, with kind but firm challenge, unwavering support, and the opportunity to grow in ways I would never have expected.

And of course along the way there have been difficult times, in exploring the shit that was given to me by others, stuff that was never mine, and which needed extracting for me to be who I was always going to be.

Healing - triumphant man
Healing is possible – you can become the man you were always destined to be!

My brothers in MKP and the organisation itself have been the means of my redemption from the betrayal of my own birth family.

And from this place of personal fulfilment and continuing development, I now know the meaning of joy, which suffuses my life in every way.

At the times when I didn’t know how I would survive, I could never have imagined the benefits, the support, the wholesome brotherhood, of an organisation like MKP.

With thanks, Bob

MKP & Mission – Finding My Purpose

A Day on Mission

Sometime in autumn 2013 I was round a fire at our iGroup and a man checked in with grief; grief at not having found this work earlier and of all the time that he’d wasted.

I’ve heard this before from other men and can definitely relate to it myself. At the time I already had a growing anxiety to get my life on track and live with purpose. There’s an impatience in my potent warrior…. and he can so easily slip into the shadow of destructive self-criticism.

So I know there’s a burning drive for clear visioning which is strong in me. And it seemed men in my iGroup resonated with this, for they called for a day on mission. And so Hugh, Rod  and I put one together.

There are various ways in the past which I have come to mission: doing what my mother wanted of me (!); choosing a vocation that looked like it would be fun; taking stock of my skills and seeing how they might be applied to help the world; and doing something so f**king spectacular that others would see that I am enough!

I even thought about how things would look from the perspective of my envisioned deathbed!

The Adventure weekend mission was different for me because I was asked how I might be in mission in addition to what I might do. This move from “doing – having – being” to “being – having – doing” has been an important one for me.

I was very happy with my mission: “To create a world of joy and openness by being completely authentic, playing and letting go”.

Nevertheless, this hasn’t quite been working for me. The mission comes from my little boy, from my wounding, and it’s what I wanted to create in the world of my childhood.

Yes, it still forms a very important part of the man I am today, but I want to get clear in my wholeness what it is I am here to do. I have a good connection with my lover quarter so in mission I was naturally curious about what my magician had to offer.

The Mission Day we devised incorporated bits of shadow work, visualisations and sharing circles. We wanted to create a process where a man could step into sovereign and hear what his other quarters had to say about his mission. We created a space where men could connect with a felt sense of purpose before attaching to any intellectual understanding of what their missions might be.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open….” Martha Graham

To be honest my initial intention for the day as a participant was to construct a bulletproof protocol that I could take out “guns blazing”. A clear statement of my mission and intent which I would carry out into the world and execute precisely like a true warrior – then I’d be a real, glorious, MKP man who was truly loved, appreciated and respected.

What I got from the day was quite different!

My coming to mission has been matured by an appreciation of the tender way in which the men I met on the day were building a sense of purpose, each with his own different process and content, each at a different stage, and that’s not to say the stages are hierarchical.

Some men left with tweaks to their missions, having realised that what seemed to be minor elements of mission were actually the core of their mission. Others came up with clear new missions. For some men the process of reflecting on mission brought up important material and engagement with this inner work became their new mission.

When I opened up to my magician I saw there are parts of me which have always had a clearer sense of my mission than I’ve had in my conscious awareness. In fact, an esoteric flash of my magician revealed where my mission is heading. And it’s this core energy that I must allow.

However, I didn’t particularly like my new mission when it came out. It was a challenge for me to voice it. It has been a challenge for me to live it.

Yet, in truth, I’ve been engaged with this mission for a long time. I know that there’s something inside me which is wise enough not to hand the reigns to “little me” lest I self-sabotage. The fact is, if my little boy writes out my mission there are plenty of parts which he’d called dark, and which he’d rather not let out.

And I think a good mission must be challenging. I also think that to live it, some dreams must fall away.

One of these dreams is having the clearly defined mission I was looking for. There are some men around with these kinds of mission; they are beautiful and I do admire them, but I am not that kind of man and only if I life my truth can I give my gift to the world.

To do this I must accept that my mission right now is not clear or static. I must pay attention to the every changing plethora of micro-adjustments that allow my core urges to express themselves, and I must follow them until I know myself inside out.

In this I see that my work on mission will never be finished. And in that spirit there will be more days on mission like the last one where together we can go deeper into our work.

Ed R

“Exciting, Risky, Unknown, Daring!”

These are a few of the words used by the dictionary to describe an adventure. And what an Adventure it was!

ManKind ProjectInternational logo UKBut first, to begin, as they say, at the beginning. Both of my younger brothers had done the MKP Adventure weekend, and both had enthused about its amazing benefits. They urged me on. For several years, in fact! But I knew when it was my time to have a go:  when I understood that some aspects of my life would not progress without attention to my past. (The Adventure is also known as The ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure.)

And sure, while I knew that the Adventure might stir things up, I desperately wanted to be free of my burdens, free to acknowledge that I have great strengths, that I am useful, that I have a positive male identity. So there I was, making my way to The Comb in Northumberland in June 2013, accompanied by 3 other men who I’d never even met before.

While I know from my work as a Samaritans’ listener that the abuse meted out to me was mild by comparison to that experienced by others, in my experience any form of abuse crushes the human spirit.

I was first beaten with a stick at the age of 4 by my father, and then by a headmaster at the age of 8 for the “crime” of getting less than 6 out of 10 in a spelling test. And I was bullied and beaten at a South African boarding school, leaving me with a sense of total isolation and profound distrust and wariness towards other boys and men alike. These negative experiences, repeated over and over, from such an early age, left deep scars, and the wounds were buried deep inside me.

As the ManKind Project’s weekend Adventure unfolded, I came to see how each and every one of us goes through something that causes suffering. And this was an enormous relief to me – to discover that I was not alone. And I also came to see that men who I had always thought of as being better and more capable than me were wounded in deep ways too, that in fact we had much in common, that they also had their own wounds holding them back.

Video on the work of the ManKind Project UK & Ireland

Supported by the ManKind Project staff men (there is a remarkable ratio of one staff man to one initiate), all our pain was invited and embraced. And what a gem to discover that men can support and love each other with deep respect and brotherliness. What a gem to find a space where I could express my pain and vulnerabilities without judgement or shame, and to discover that denying and suppressing them is a huge burden, a source of even more pain.

For example, during one of the exercises on the weekend, I found myself surrounded by a circle of men. I stood within the circle opposite one man. This scene was reminiscent of the times at my school in South Africa, when I was often pushed into the circle formed by the entire school mob, and forced to fight with “adversaries” with whom I had no issue.

Without any fight in my veins, it was usually a quick affair. A couple of well-placed punches to my face, the utter dejection of being mocked and deserted by the whole school, as I lay bewildered on the ground wondering what I had done.

Except this time, rather than standing opposite some snarling youth trying to win “friends”, I stood opposite a staff man. Rather than experiencing frothing hatred from the man before me, I was faced with a benign smile and those magnificent words, those generous and concerned words, “all your emotions are welcome here”. They were music to my ears. They were so beautiful coming from an unknown man. I basked in their warmth.

So why, 35 years later, would re-exposing myself to the pain of so much buried emotion be such a positive experience? What could I possibly have gained?

I came to see that pain and suffering are part of everyone’s life. This made me a much more forgiving person. As a teacher (in a boarding school, ironically!), I understand much better now than I ever did, that people only ever behave with unpleasantness towards others because of internal conflict.

The ManKind Project Adventure also convinced me that our default setting as men is to be loving to each other. Love is such a confusing word for the modern man because the idea of a man showing love to another man is something that can still sit uncomfortably in our society. But surely love is a deep concern for the welfare of another?

I moved from distrust and apprehension to reassurance and understanding in my relationships with men. What an enormous relief, a heart-warming shift. And the Adventure has helped me to recognise and acknowledge all that I have to offer myself and others. I understand more about the emotional needs of boys and men, I understand how we express both positive and negative masculine energies, and I understand so much more about my experiences.

In fact, I felt an urge to step into my inherent strength and brilliance. I remember Marianne Williamson’s words here: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure”.

photo of men's groupAfter the Adventure, I wanted more of what MKP has to offer. I discovered a local iGroup* that meets once a fortnight just down the road from me in Hampshire. And now I have truly remarkable, deep friendships, with a profound level of trust and honest communication between us….

Charlie E.

*Editor’s note: an iGroup is an ongoing men’s group for men who have been on the ManKind Project Adventure weekend. Photo of men’s group copyright istockphotos.com

MKP UK – In The Beginning

Sopley RAF camp, England, scene of first NWTA in the UKThe man on the other end of the phone was clearly in no mood for casual chit chat.

“Men are waiting,” he said, and I was left standing in a call box holding the phone with the dial tone buzzing in my ear.

At that moment I realised that perhaps I was not going to enjoy a cosy weekend regaling my new friends with tales of my vast experience in men’s work. (The old RAF Sopley base – site of the first UK NWTA, is pictured here, now derelict.)

So many people, since then, have asked me: “What was it like on that first weekend?” and the stock answer, which has become an MKP legend, is “It was f#ckin freezing!”

Yet my introduction to the community that December night in 1994 was more of a baptism of fire. Recalling my preparation for the first ever MKP training in the UK, I am amused at how naïve I was. For many men, taking the risk to agree to an intensive men’s weekend must have required real courage. The truth is, I hadn’t really paid much attention to what I might expect when I originally signed up.

So when Bill asked me if I was ready, I knew this was something I wanted to do, needed to do, yet even as I embarked on the first leg of the journey, the idea of a cosy chat around a fire and a bit of drumming was stuck somewhere in my mind.

So on that Friday afternoon at 3 pm, when I should have been leaving to beat the weekend traffic down the M4, I was working away in my office in West London. I was vaguely conscious of the time, but of course I had more important things to do.

By 4:30 pm I was heading out to the car park. By 5pm I was on the motorway. Progress was slow, which suited me. A good excuse for why I was late… and hey, what was the hurry anyway? Friday night would be the usual “getting to know you stuff”, possibly a bit daunting for anyone else who might not have sat in a circle of men before, but it wasn’t worth busting a gut to arrive on time.

And anyway, I wasn’t going to miss anything I hadn’t done before. Part of me thought how lucky these guys were that I was going to be there… hey, I’d been around the world, I’d had vast experience of men’s groups, I’d travelled to Austin in Texas, for some time, the unofficial capital of the men’s movement.

By 5:45, still a good hour from the centre, a low-level discomfort over my progress began to gnaw at me as a nagging worry. In those pre-mobile phone days that meant pulling in at a service station and finding a call box. More time wasted.

After my phone conversation, I was in a rather different space. That man didn’t sound very understanding, he hadn’t even allowed me to explain about my important work, and the traffic, and some other excuses I had concocted on the way. He just said “Men are waiting”. There might be some explaining to do.

As I drove into the facility, there was no warm welcome. Just some instruction about where to park. I pulled up and a group of men approached. I hailed them with a friendly “Here, at last!” and was about to embark on a well-rehearsed apology, but I never got that far. The rest is a bit of a blur, to be honest.

I don’t remember anything, really. Men grabbed my stuff and I was jogged through dark corridors, as harsh American accents echoed in the unfamiliar darkness. Until I found myself alone…. well not alone actually… as my eyes adjusted to the space, I realised I was in a room full of men…

The process that followed took me down to a terrifying place. The happy-go-lucky charm and profuse apologies that usually bailed me out of such familiar situations, just didn’t cut it here. I was confronted by questions, conflict, boundaries, hostility, self-examination, ruthless honesty, and eventually – of course – the real me. The man who didn’t feel good enough and protected himself with the idea that he was better than everyone else, was finally exposed for all to see… including me.

Which made the cold the least of my worries. Just surviving the exposure to my reality became my only focus. The weekend progressed and shame became the core of my work. I believe I could have spent several years sitting in circles chatting and “solving” other men’s “problems” with my infinite wisdom, and I would never have glimpsed that shadow, the one which had long walked with me, behind my shoulder.

To work with this stuff requires commitment and courage, but there was something more important for me: I needed help, and I needed to receive support. I needed to feel safe and I needed to trust. The roller-coaster ride delivered all of this.

The sense of being accepted as part of a team, and the emotional gifts I received from other men, allowed me to plunge deep into a pool of shame and guilt where I found anger and grief.

There are gifts I took from that weekend that have remained a part of me ever since.

But the single most important gift I took was a mission. A purpose and direction to guide my endeavours as the journey continued: “As a man amongst men, I help men and women live fulfilled lives by showing them their full potential”. Apart from a slight tweak when I returned to the community four years ago, it has never changed from that day onwards.

When I felt good and in sync with my world, it was when I was doing something to fulfil my mission. When I felt bad, lost, confuse or troubled, I began to find that it was because I was pursuing some goal or direction in conflict with my mission.

My mission became the way I described myself when I was in integrity. It became the lifebelt I grasped for when I felt overwhelmed.

That was me and that was my work. But the weekend in Sopley back then was much more. It was also f#cking freezing, and the food was…. well, not great. And I had no cigarettes or coffee. But the weekend was standing shoulder to shoulder with my brothers through all the discomfort and seeing they were strong enough to meet these “hardships” face on. I discovered that when I stood with them I was strong enough, too.

The weekend was the robust comradeship of Ben G, the connection that grew between me and the other Mickleton men. It was the gentle support of Billy L. and the dynamic leadership of Gary C. There were plenty of laughs too, a shared gallows humour, a ruthless connection, a bond that sometimes felt so strong it was like we had known each other for years, maybe even for lifetimes.

fire circleThere was dancing and ceremony. There was even a fire to sit round and chat. On Sunday there was a celebration and shared joy. And there was honouring, validation and generous praise from the staff men I’d met on Friday night as the weekend drew to a close. (Photo credit: copyright dreamstime.com)

That was Sopley for me in 1994: dynamic, exhausting, fulfilling – an exciting and dramatic journey of a lifetime condensed into 48 hours (or rather, 45½, in my case).

But of course it was not all about me. Looking back now, 20 years further down the line, I can appreciate the extraordinary level of faith demonstrated by my fellow initiates. Most were men who could only have had the briefest concept of what might be on offer. They had no websites, no search engines, no social media, no e-mails, no texting, no references other than word of mouth to encourage them to step into the circle.

And arching above us was the most extraordinary commitment of the men who staffed. With only a handful of initiated men in the UK, staff flew at their own expense from half way round the world – and further – to build the container. The voices I heard instructing us were in American accents from Chicago, from Texas, from California.

These men had done their work, and committed to give something back by creating a space for other men to taste what they had experienced… and then they had travelled across the Atlantic, to another country, a place some of them had never been before.

And although they may have had different motives, the one I experienced was a fundamental belief that it was right to give other communities, no matter how far away, how foreign or alien, the same opportunities to stand in a circle of initiated men, visible in their authenticity, working in integrity, making the world a better place for our sons and daughters.

And because it was the first weekend, it was not perfect. It was tough love with a capital T. There were things happening that would not be tolerated now. I was on the receiving end and later in the weekend was startled when a threatening whisper in my ear from the staff man responsible told me he was still waiting for an apology from me for my retaliation.

But fortunately at Sopley in 1994 we were all learning what was good and what was not acceptable. Staffing a UK Adventure weekend in the 21st century needs to be very different. And it is, but what we got was good enough for our times – and anyway, we knew no different. Looking back, I judge that it was new and scary not just for us, but for some of the staff too. What is more important, and speaks volumes about the work we do and how we go about it, is that these shortcomings were never ignored, accepted, excused or justified. They were identified, named and changed.

Maybe men now come to initiation from a different place. Most seem better informed, clearer in their intent, some even equipped with a vocabulary to describe their emotions.

Over the past five years I have watched new men travel the journey we took, and sometimes it appears swifter and smoother with a different, softer tone, but it is no less challenging or powerful for all that.

Perhaps the way we work also reflects that more men appear to be coming at a different time in their lives, coming to equip themselves for the challenges of partnerships and parenthood. Men come to prevent damage to others and themselves, rather than to repair it.

Of course, these are my personal, unscientific observations. Elderhood and a Celtic tendency to romanticise may mean they are not entirely accurate. But whether or not they are “true”, I hope that on every weekend still to come, new men find something of the space that was created at Sopley in that cold December 20 years ago: the space that I found. The space that welcomes and supports them, and loves and cherishes all of who they are.

If it does, I hope they will find in themselves a blessing for the pioneers who went before them and without whom there would have been no second training weekend in the UK.

Jim F

Video on elderhood

What The ManKind Project Did For Me After The NWTA

Among Such Honourable Men

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

What have I got from this process with MKP Scotland:

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

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

D N

The Power Of The Adventure (NWTA from MKP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Alex M

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

The Journey To The Comb, June 2011

My friend at work mentioned the Mankind Project during a lunch conversation about two months before the weekend, and though we spoke very briefly, the NWTA somehow caught my mind very quickly. I can’t say for sure whether my curiosity, or the concepts of MKP, or the title of the program “New Warrior Training Adventure”, got my attention – but I made up my mind immediately to participate!

However, as the weekend was closing and when I needed to make my commitments, I was thinking over a lot; my wife was pregnant and needed a lot of my time; I had spent a lot of money on medical procedures recently: there were many criticisms on the internet about NWTA and the unconventional approaches…and so on. All these reasons looked logical and very valid for not attending the weekend… however, deep down in my heart I felt I must attend it.

At the Comb

On day one, when everyone had a turn to say what they wanted to achieve by the end of the weekend, I didn’t have anything in particular to say. I tried reason out why I was there, came up with many reasons, but none looked like why I really was there. At some point I stopped thinking and said to myself that I just wanted to have this experience.

I must say day one wasn’t the most convincing one; it could be that a lot of sudden changes in my regular environment meant that my mind and body were too cautious about everything. I kept thinking logically and tended to be apprehensive about the program. And I wanted to complain lot about a lot of things, the mystifying registration procedures, accommodation, toilet facilities, water, lighting, mosquitoes, and the unusual environment for a training…. but on day two none of those concerns looked important and I started to enjoy the excitement and brightness of the experience.

One of the most valuable things about the weekend was that I was able to get to know about 40 other men in an utterly honest environment, their values, mission, issues, regrets etc. I often learn lessons by making mistakes; however the weekend environment was such that men can learn their lessons without making mistakes. It was invaluable. Most of the men I met ultimately wanted to create a better world and determined to go about making it happen. This experience was remarkable; it took all of us back to our childhood and enabled us to rebuild our character through what is important to us today.

The MKP seniors were invaluable in making this experience real, their true desire to help someone was remarkable. My experience was thoroughly enlightening, I returned with an ultimate sense of being unblocked. I have been sharing myself with my friends and family ever since my weekend!

Karthicraja G

The Adventure – I fell into the arms of men

This weekend I fell into the arms of men.
I fell into trust of man.
I fell into myself.

I opened my eyes and saw the shining sky.
I looked out and saw my brothers’ eyes.
I looked out and saw the familiar face
of the complete stranger
who is me.

And for the first time
felt love for him.
Is this compassion, then?
I saw greatness and beauty in other men:
in their fierce nakedness,
in their innocent strength,
in eyes that have seen what I will never see…
in ways I will never fathom.
Eyes so different from me;
eyes that lovingly behold me;
eyes of another man,
and another,
and another…
Just ordinary men:
as vulnerable
and mortal
and wildly beautiful
as each other.

I am a Wild Salmon,
Journeying Home.
Towards a new mortality.
A new death.
I am going,
to die.
I have already died
and will die again and again.
Let it always be a good death:
Clean,
Sheer,
Complete.
So I can be free to live
with power
and authenticity.

I left for this weekend with not a single hero,
and returned with 80.
Plus one.
I’ve never believed in anything,
least of all me –
Life is full of surprises….
And the journey
Continues.

Matthew H