Men have been gathering in small mens groups for support and wisdom since the dawn of civilization. From the seasoned elders to the fired up young warriors, circles of men have convened for millennia to express and explore concerns and ideas which rejuvenate and replenish wholeness to themselves and the world.
I have been honored and privileged to be a part of a men’s group for the last two decades. The idea is to meet on a regular basis to tap into the collective gifts of the group–usually eight men at most.
Individuals’ issues come and go as regularly and predictably as the relationship between the Moon, the Earth and her sacred tides. When the room is attuned, when all are present, the singular clarity that any one man’s issue–is the issue of every man, becomes crystal clear. Marriage, family, career, health, creativity, loss, success, wonderings, longings, it’s all there waiting for the wake up call. As the issues are triaged by the elders and the bantering quells, the listening begins, the judging stops and men are heard and seen and held in the highest regard.
The container for what goes on in the group grows and becomes increasingly larger as trust is assured in this place where the agreement is to practice presence, compassion and empathy for one another. The agreement is to foster the observer in each of us, to become better men.
In my tenure as a mens group member, I have watched, participated and learned about life’s issues from the frank fear of living, to the shadow of prejudice whether it be racial, sexual or spiritual–to the underlying truth that we all care deeply about our lives, each other and the world. We all come with a coat of armor and a story with a central grievance that is gently prodded, taken off and put aside ever-so-slowly as safety and respect are established.
The presumed secrets of each man come tumbling out as the collective nod of, “Oh, we already knew that about you” never ceases to surprise and delight us all.
When men meet and sit in a group together on a regular basis, the truth emerges. Men will not, cannot lie to each other for long–we won’t stand for it. When men can stay for this awful, ecstatic truth about their lives to become finally and unavoidably explicit to themselves and the world, something fantastic happens. What happens is that living in a contracted and compromised way is no longer an option. What happens is when a man gets his life and transcends–let’s go of a story that may no longer be working or healthy, he goes out and gets his life with dignity, authenticity, passion and support.
Since the Industrial Revolution and more recently the Technological Revolution, men have had scarce little of this kind of training or support. Many of our fathers and father’s fathers were physically and/or emotionally absent as a result. Men have been asked to go out into a world that is antithetical to a deep, intimate understanding of what it’s like to live in another man’s mind, body and spirit.
Is it any wonder we can continue waging the atrocity of war with rational lies while conducting business like Wall Street’s infamous Gordon Gekko? Is it any wonder why we have become a country of consumer addicts and substance–from food to pharmaceuticals–abusers? Is it any wonder we can continue to poison the Earth and environment and abuse our companion species and forms (like water and minerals) as if we had another planet to live on when we’ve destroyed our home? Good planets are hard to find.
Without a small group of men meeting in every neighborhood with the intention of diving deep down into the biology of beliefs of the individual and collective, with willingness and openness to evolve and grow, men become isolated and laminated with facade and lifelessness. Without committing to a regular discipline of dropping the pretense of unhealthy competitiveness and greed and exploring our one short life together with other men, we cannot possibly tap into, and deconstruct the unconscious, implicit memory and patterns that haunt our families and drive so much of what has gone dysfunctional in the world. Without a passionate desire to lose the act of supposing to know what to do in a world of bad actors and outcomes, men cannot possibly become the best fathers, sons, husbands, partners, brothers, providers, protectors, leaders and citizens they were born to be.
When men awaken to the responsibility of consistent participation in a masculine community, isolation fades and the benefits of gathering are progressively revealed as deep wounds and truths are made consciously available for practical application.
Men adore, respect and seek to be in the company of women. But men are empowered, genuinely empowered by other men.
When men can stay and share their lives, hopes, aspirations and dreams with other men, something fantastic happens and something fantastic needs to happen to save the world.