I experienced the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure over the weekend of January 25-27, 2013, in Elbert, Colorado. This is how the experience has impacted my life so far.
We men carry around a lot of shame. No matter how well-adjusted we may look, or how strong and brave we might seem, there are messages that we heard and believed somewhere in our lives… and more often than not, those messages were incorporated when we were very young. And those unhelpful messages for me have lived in my stomach.
In my case, my parents got divorced when I was 7 or 8, and I happen to resemble my father very closely (facial features). So when, as a child, my undiagnosed bi-polar mom called me angry names and said I was just like my father, that sent some powerfully damaging messages. And though I’ve spent my share of years in therapy, talking, discussing, crying, journaling, etc… that hasn’t removed those messages from my nervous system.
This Mankind Project New Warrior Training has.
It’s 100% experiential. Due to confidentiality concerns, and a strong desire to honor my commitment of protecting the actual process, I’m actively choosing not to share specifics about what I experienced over that 48 hours. I can say that this initiation into manhood parallels some other rites of passage in different cultures, on a general level. One thing I can tell you is that this initiation process does not involve scarring or wounding — men today have enough wounds, and enough scars as it is.
How did I arrive at the decision to do this?
For about 3 years now, an acquaintance has been inviting me and reminding me about this process. And every time, I’ve been like, “Okay, no thanks… I’m good… I’ve got everything under control…” And I believed it. Then my friend J. went through, and I saw such a dramatic change in his way of being in the world (within just 1 month) that my jaw dropped. When I first met J., he was incredibly, painfully awkward in social situations. He was so uncomfortable that it made ME cringe. And in an effort to balance that out, he would intentionally say and do things that were socially inappropriate for shock value… as if to say, “I don’t care what you think of me”, when in fact he really, really did care.
I enjoyed spending short bursts of time with him, but I could only handle him for a little while at a time because of this. I considered him kind of a friend, but not someone I could actually lean on– not someone I could actually be 100 honest with. (Come to think of it, even with the handful of people I thought I could lean on at the time, there was still a limit to how honest I felt I could be.)
J. came back from his weekend and we hung out a few days after he got back– he seemed exhausted (understatement!) and quieter… a little more thoughtful. I didn’t think much of it. Then a few weeks went by, maybe a month, and we hung out again. And what I saw blew my mind. Here was a calm, thoughtful, RELAXED man of power, who was comfortable in his own skin. And what struck me most was not that he TOLD me he was different– he didn’t. (You know those people… “You can trust me!” or “Oh man! I am SOOOOO different now!” Riiiiiiiiiight….) Just the way J. poured our cups of tea and looked into my eyes and smiled… that was it. I told him, “I don’t know what you did over that weekend, but you’ve got something now and I want it!”
Learning to trust…
Now instead of feeling alone in the world, I know I can reach out to men literally anywhere in the world and have a brother who I can trust. The “control” thing – trying to control everything in my life in order to minimize discomfort, minimize danger, minimize threat – that is transformed into a sense of calm trust– trust in myself, trust in other men, and trust in the world. Mainly, trust in myself. (BTW– on the MKP website, they address FAQ’s… one of them is a fear that this is a cult. They address quite beautifully the characteristics of a cult– worshipping one single leader, giving up trust in self, dedicating one’s life to that one leader, etc. This is exactly the opposite– there is no one leader; this is about gaining trust in self and listening to one’s heart; and creating a mission in life– dedicating one’s life to service to something bigger than oneself, rather than the small and selfish “me, me, me” way of being in the world.
So many of the initiates during my weekend were like me… I watched men come in and answer questions in a very controlling way…. Trying to be in charge of everything… trying to maintain the upper hand. And The Process we all went through really changed that. In only 48 hours. Honestly. And again, it was NOT 48 hours of whining, self-pity, replaying ‘the stories’ of our wounds, talking, sharing kleenex, etc. It was intense, and it involved a wide variety of emotions for me, including discomfort, sadness, anger, frustration, joy, confusion, etc.
Differences in my life after one week…
For one thing, I’ve been home for an entire week now, and I have not yet engaged in any of the following: using sarcasm to make my partner feel shame; getting upset and raising my voice; acting and talking with a condescending tone; complaining about doing small chores; asking for recognition for chores I’ve done; apologizing over and over after committing the above offences…
And it’s not that I’m TRYING super hard not to be a jerk. It’s just that the world looks and feels different. For the first time, I see that I am living life with my best friend… When she speaks, I want to hear what she has to say. I stop what I’m doing, I look into her eyes, and I listen. I’m more emotionally present. I’m more honest about what I’m experiencing, and what my needs are. And I take RESPONSIBILITY for asking for help, for expressing my needs, my desires, my fears, etc.
It’s not that this has made problems go away; it has simply given me some tools to effectively deal with them– but more importantly, it has untied the ropes around my ankles that have been tripping me up all my life, without my even realizing it.
My advice to any man…
Go to this. Trust the process 100%. Be completely honest. The price for the entire weekend was $650. Now that I’ve gone through and I’m feeling the powerful impact, I can easily say I would have gladly paid $65,000. Honestly. I am getting a tremendous payoff for my investment, but then again, I went in completely dedicated. I did not hold back. When they asked for volunteers, I was the first one standing, every single time. I trusted the process completely, blindly, with every ounce of trust that I could muster.
And the truth was this: every single man on the staff was there to serve ME. They were all there to protect me, to guide me, to help me reach the point in my process where transformation could occur. They created a SAFE and APPROPRIATE container for this process to unfold.
If any men have questions about MKP, I invite you to send them my way. Give them my email address and I’ll answer their questions as best I can, and I’ll be happy to put them in touch with a man who can get them connected into the process. MKP wants every man to be able to do this, and for money to never stand in the way.
Here are my responses to additional questions posed to me one month after my New Warrior Training Adventure weekend:
How long have you lived in the area, and what do you do for work? What about play (i.e., interests, hobbies, etc.)?
Moved here in August of ’07. For work I run my own audio production business (Waking Moment Productions, Ltd.), and I’m a founding member of the local kirtan band Blue Lotus Feet. (www.bluelotusfeet.com).
How old are you?
Just turned 45 in January.
How did you hear about MKP? What did you hear and what was your initial reaction?
Local acquaintances have shared their experiences with me over the past 3 years or so. When my friend J went through the initiation process just a few months ago (referenced above), the dramatic change I saw in him spurred me to finally take the leap.
How do you think the diversity of the MKP group contributes to the dynamic and your personal process?
The diversity of MKP is a major contributing factor to the bond I feel with my MKP brothers. Navigating the challenges of being a powerful, loving, responsible man of service in today’s society is a path I share with men around the world; men who are gay, men who are straight; men of all sexual orientations; men of all races and ethnicities; men of all different religious backgrounds; men of all ages; men of all different nationalities; men with all kinds of different types of physical ability; men from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Stepping into our true power as men of accountability is a transformation that is not limited to any background or belief system; it includes all men who accept this challenge and responsibility. It is this very connection, this common thread woven through the diversity, that guides me into new levels of trust and respect with men of all walks of life, and for myself as a man among men.
Accountability, respect and a new definition of what it means to be powerful and masculine have been reoccurring themes when I ask men involved with MKP what the focus is. Would you agree or disagree? If so, or if not, what would you consider the primary themes, lessons, or areas of focus.
I completely agree that those three central themes are the focus of my experience with MKP and of my life today. I don’t necessarily have all of the answers today, but now I have a few more really good questions that I can ask myself, and ask my fellow men: Have I kept my word today? Have I lived with integrity today? Have I done the best I can do today? Have I treated myself and others with honor, dignity, and respect? And perhaps most importantly for myself, do I have a clear mission for my life, and am I living in accordance to that mission? Am I building a life of service to something greater than myself?
Why is it important that these groups are male only? What is unique about creating a safe space for men?
My personal experience is that honest, respectful, and thoughtful dialogue across gender is extremely important. My own personal ability to do this has been profoundly strengthened through learning how to engage in such dialogue with men. By addressing my own personal baggage as a man among men who hold me accountable to the life I claim to want to lead, I’m better able to recognize my own unhealthy thoughts and behaviors in real time. As a result, I can more effectively and more authentically express myself without laying trips on the men and women in my life. More importantly, I can acknowledge and honor my shortcomings without going into guilt, shame, and other destructive patterns that simply do not add value to my life and the lives of my loved ones.
In my life, I have found it difficult to trust men. I haven’t known how to relate with other men in a way that built trust, respect, and intimacy. I had a tough time looking men in the eye without feeling challenged, threatened, or belittled. It is important to me that these groups are male only because that makes it a lot more difficult for me to sidestep my own personal work by changing the subject. If women were in these groups, it would be much easier for me to hide my own issues from myself by pretending to be “generous”, “respectful”, “chivalrous”; I can see that I, personally, would certainly censor my own speech in order to try to maintain a positive image.
Because I share and help create a safe space for men in these groups, I don’t feel the need to censor myself in order to maintain a positive image. I can learn to be honest, with my fellow men and with myself. As I grow into my personal authenticity, I am finding that it carries over into other areas of my life. By having a safe space for men, I am able to make my personal space a safe space for men and women; loved ones and strangers.
What is the potential and/or realized impact of men doing this kind of personal work on the community on a broader scale?
A world full of men who take responsibility for our actions? A world full of men who invite our fellow men to hold us accountable? A world full of men who recognize honesty, vulnerability, compassion, love, commitment, honor, and service to something bigger than our own selves? That has the potential to change the world for the better. To end intergenerational cycles of abuse. To end wars. To promote healing, love, and acceptance. This is a game changer.
Is MKP for every man?
In my opinion, MKP is for every man… when he is ready. It took me three years of being invited and turning down invitations to take a closer look at MKP before I was ready. The man who offered me those invitations and unconditional acceptance likes to joke that he would have continued doing so for another 17 years… that 20 years is his limit. For some men, it takes 20 years, or 30, or 40 before they’re ready to take that hard look at themselves and step into the challenge. Other men sign up once they hear about it. Some men may never feel ready.
I believe every single man on the planet can benefit from stepping more fully into his power; not power OVER anyone else, but rather the power to shine more brightly in the world by tapping into his gifts. I believe every single one of us can add value to our communities and to our world as men who no longer deny any aspect of ourselves, but rather accept our brokenness, our imperfections, and our humanness and use them to become more loving, more compassionate, more understanding, more dependable, more relaxed, and more authentic.
As each new man accepts this challenge and begins this journey of self-realization, the world is becoming a better place.