As editor of this magazine for over two years, a key focus of what I brought to its development was looking at the relationship between the adventure of our lives as men and the mirror we share with the adventure stories we read, saw and heard as children and continue to be drawn to as adults. Stories including Braveheart, The Matrix and the Lord of the Rings all hold a powerful place in activating my imagination and creative spirit. As my understanding of the mirror these stories hold up to me grows, I realise my life is in no small way an adventure, and (boldly) the hero at its centre is me. At the centre of your hero’s journey is you. The power of the timeless story structure of the “hero’s journey” is not just entertainment but a vital and crucial component in unlocking the mystery of who we are and discovering what the hell it is we are doing here.
In 2000 I met with Michael B and began a journey into myth, story and the unfolding truth of my life. This journey continues to this day. When I went through my NWTA in the cold December of 1999 at Sopley, an initiatory fire was lit inside me that roared and raged for the first five years of my time inside this community. Over the last eight years it has mellowed into a flame that burns bright and constant and a little less fierce.
Until my time came in Sopley, I’d felt like a child locked in an adult’s body. What I’d been looking for was a rite of passage that would unlock my potential and my route into adulthood. The men I spoke to on that weekend all nodded in recognition of this simple fact: we had all been waiting for this. We had not had it when we needed it most, as teenagers raging against the machine of life with no solid boundaries to hold us. My boundary was found within the walls of the prison I eventually ended up in.
I was magnetically drawn to MB and his work on teenage rites of passage. In the first few years we worked as a small team forming what became the Quest. Men from this community sponsored me to go to America with M to develop the work further with our U.S.brothers. The first Quest weekend was put on at Hazelwood House in Dorset in 2005. When I came home to my then girlfriend and told her the story of that weekend, I wept with relief at having found a path I knew was mine. At that point I was fired up and impatient and wanted to move things forward, fast – too much time had been wasted already. MB had been doing this work for ten years by that time and I was awed by his commitment and time served. It’s now thirteen years since I began my own journey in creating a rite of passage for young men and to a great extent I’m just getting into my groove.
During that first weekend at Hazelwood I identified what I believed would work, for me, based on my own life experience. This was about time out in nature, working with a powerful story and encouraging the participants to write about their own life experiences. I moved on from the Quest and developed a programme over the next five years into what became the charity, Write to Freedom (W2F). We work on Dartmoor mainly with young offenders and serving prisoners released on temporary licence.
I’d been looking for a powerful mythic story that would work on the weekends for many years. Stories had come and gone with limited success. Earlier this year I woke up in the middle of the night being “attacked” by a story that wouldn’t leave me alone. I gave up trying to get back to sleep and wrote it down. Magically it has now become a central part of the W2F weekends. I’m now focusing on publishing it so it can reach as wide an audience as possible. The story I’d been looking for had been inside me the whole time. It came to the surface of my consciousness when I was ready to tell it and make it a part of the work.
The journey through the development of the Quest (which went on to become abandofbrothers – see www.abandofbrothers.org.uk for more details) to the creation of W2F has for me been an ongoing initiation; a series of painful, challenging and often joyful and energised adventures. My own growth into my sovereignty, learning and developing my leadership, has been fully informed and influenced by my work within the Mankind Project.
I stepped onto the Primary Integration Training (PIT) leader track eight years ago, worked intensely on it for three and stepped back till earlier this year. I took that step back to test the mettle my leadership in the crucible fire of my work in the wider world. I was recently Hot Seated for full PIT leader. As a result of a simple shortfall in actual PITs led, I got a “not yet”. A decision I respected. I’m ready when I’m ready. What I’ve learnt over the thirteen years since joining this extraordinary community is patience. Everything unfolds in its own time not mine. I just need to keep showing up – which I do.
I can see many years of work ahead to bring W2F to where I believe it belongs in our community and in the world. I may be a lot older before this comes real, but I’m on my journey and in my groove. I’m offering young men what I didn’t have as a teenager: a place for them to come and be with safe authentic, initiated men; to be fiercely and lovingly held, challenged and supported. What we create is a place where young men can learn and grow without having to wait as long as so many of us did. If there are men in the community who want to get involved, support or pledge, contact me.
Mission: By opening my heart and speaking my truth I create an abundant world of healing freedom and love.