Sunday, December 16, 2012

Home Alone in Everytown: The isolation of young males

Not just Newton, Connecticut, not just the USA, but the whole world is grieving right now over the loss of innocents, both adults and children. My town’s paper had the headline about the elementary school mass killing. I could barely see the print through my tears as I read about the grizzly tragic incident and President Obama’s first response.

Just one response has been to focus on the instrument of destruction, the semi-automatic weapons in the hands of the “deranged.” The statistics are certainly telling and compelling. There are over 10,000 shootings in America a year and only a few dozen in other modern industrial countries combined.

Police reports don’t begin to “explain” the causes of such extreme behavior. And they should not be expected to. In one print story, there were brief references to 20-year-old Adam Alanza being on medication, that he was smart but socially awkward and that there had been some tension in his family background.

Millions are on medications; some experiencing serious side effects and others for whom there are serious consequences for withdrawal. Many people are socially awkward and experience major family relationship shake-ups or estrangement.

One place most may not yet be looking for answers and I contend it is a place where we are still hiding our heads like ostriches in the sand, is what is happening to boys and young men in the US.

There is a new book out by one of the world’s most famous social psychologists and someone whose studies I was tested on in my undergraduate years.
 Professor Emeritus Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University in Stanford, California and his psychologist partner Nikita Duncan have just authored a new book that puts forth the idea that the United States is losing an entire generation of young men to video games and pornography. They express their concerns for the future of America’s boys soon-to-be-men in a book called The Demise of Guys: Why Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It.

 They write that by the time an American boy hits the age of 21 years, he has probably played an average of about 10,000 hours of video games, which equals 14 months of his entire life, day and night, mostly by himself. The book also points out that the typical U.S. teen boy also watches an average of about 50 pornography video clips every week these days. The effects of those activities are not good, says Zimbardo, who puts forth that “the boys' brains are being digitally rewired for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arousal. Video games and porn are categorized as arousal addictions where variety and the surprise factor constantly feed the attraction.

 Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out of high school than girls, two-thirds of current special-ed students are male, and girls outperform boys’ at all educational levels, from grade school to graduate school. Other studies show U.S. college males also display rising levels of the fear of intimacy with the females in their lives.
Zimbardo says the real problem is that American boys are “flaming out academically and wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women."

Video games impair the users' ability to deal with reality, and porn creates “a cycle of isolation and indulging in it correlates with depression and poor physical health.” (e.g. obesity and associated health problems continue to rise for boys age 6-19 while leveling off for the rest of the population)
Though gamers and porn fans in the U.S. today might take exception to these conclusions most people would agree with Zimbardo’s premise that “spending one's time making fake love and fake war does not produce a real man.”

Zimbardo does outline ways that we can begin to remediate this social epidemic for boys and young men.
There are others who have made it their life’s work to help boys out of isolation and into a genuine manhood that connects boys to their best and highest selves and to everyone else. In the simplest terms, from isolation to connection.

Earl Hipp, author of Man Making: Men Helping Boys On Their Journey to Manhood,
has provided a realistic guide on how to get involved with groups or create one-on one relationships. He talks about both the psychological barriers around that involvement and ways to overcome those to enjoy the considerable benefits of being more involved in boy’s and young men’s lives. He also has a blog that is thoughtful and informative.

It may be that if we are to help protect the innocents, we must lose our widespread innocence about the deeper problems that no amount of security apparatus and measures or even removal of semi-automatic weapons from our society will cure.

Are there boys and young men in your family or circle that need more human contact and the sense they are cared for and belong to everyone one of us in the human family? This may be a first step for all of us to deal with the problems of boys trying to become men in Everytown. Young men who do not shoot because we asked a lot of questions first.

Randy Crutcher was director of a state-funded men's center and founded the 22 year old Northcoast Men's Gathering for men and boys. He has seen first hand what a difference a village makes in helping to raise its boys. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bellies to Balls: Get the Wheat Out!

I look in the bathroom mirror and what do I see? I take a good look at my face when I shave, examining my hair-line, noticing the color of my skin, noting any new blemishes. What can I say, I’m vain. Invariably my eyes drift down to the middle of my body and there it still is, that heavy band of unwanted flesh that seems to persist. What is it and why does no amount of exercise take it off?  It’s my “wheat belly,” so I’ve come to learn.

A confessed lifelong Cookie Monster, I always wondered why it was so difficult to eat just one, as the Lays Potato Chips commercial used to jingle in days of yore. Now I know. And I have to admit I am still in shock.

Our modern day wheat has been so hybridized and genetically modified it’s 46 chromosomes (up from 14 in the granddaddy to wheat called “einkorn”) have it containing exorphins that operate like opiates on the brain, making you want more soon after you are satiated. That’s right, wheat and crack share that in common, along with what has come to light as the sugar or glucose high cycle whose spike and immediate insulin response crash tamper with your energy level all day long. That cycle reliably turns the excess glucose into fat that attaches to internal organs and eventually bulges out into the wheat belly, fat accumulating by the mega-tonnage on our bodies and the bodies of our children.

From the sedentary to the triathlete, no one is immune, with growing numbers of people experiencing major crippling reactions to the gluten in wheat and symptoms that point to or mimic a host of diseases. Those diagnosed with celiac disease are the most seriously affected but the rest of us who have been literally swimming in a sea of breads, pastries and pizzas along with a thousand and one snack foods, and wheat as an additive ingredient in otherwise non-wheat products in bottled, canned and packaged processed foods subjects us to high daily doses of a substance with now proven links to diabetes and heart disease.

The fat around the belly actually comes to function like an organ in itself that begins to spread inflammation throughout the body while small particles of otherwise necessary cholesterol clog up our arteries, putting us at higher and higher risk for strokes and bypasses. Cholesterol once demonized and thought to be the prime culprit is not. It’s the “healthy whole grains,” we’ve been taught to worship at the base of our food pyramid with heavy promotion, not just by a profit-driven food and advertising industry, but the likes of the American Diabetic Association and the USDA.

Okay, okay, how much of this horror story can I subject you to without the question arising: “What’s a lifelong wheat lovin’ person to do?”

First, you might try reading the #1 New York Times best seller “Wheat Belly” by cardiologist William Davis, MD who has recently appeared on CBS Morning and Doctor Oz. In the book, a fascinating read with some entertaining black humor, you’ll get more of the science both already known and new that supports the paragraphs above, along with stories of people successfully treated, (if you can call stopping eating something a treatment). We are talking about studies ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to autism and Alzheimers.

For those of us guys wanting to look good (there’s that vanity thing again) and younger, feel more energetic and live longer while enjoying a high quality of life consuming delicious protein and fat rich foods, Dr Davis includes his favorite recipes.  Ummm hmm, you read that right. Fat rich foods! Turns out our bodies need good fats to burn fat and contrary to convention most of us are actually good fat starved while we think we’ve been doing the right thing by purchasing the food industry’s well marketed low and no fat products.

What’s happened for me since going wheat-free and low grain (rice, corn, barley, rye and most oats) and eating more protein and good fat rich foods? My cravings are gone, my energy is sustained throughout the day and I am in better moods. After a few weeks, I had to give away my old jeans and buy new ones. An unexpected but welcome expense. The biggest thing though is that an irritation in my esophagus that has given me a chronic cough over the past 15 years is gone. As someone who likes to talk even more than write, getting a clean divorce from wheat (as Davis puts it) seemed like more than a fair trade.

Another book I highly recommend is Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint. A former champion triathlete and marathoner, Sisson clearly explains  why chronic cardio exercise can do more damage than good and why we need to mimic the healthy cave man lifestyle the best we can in our modern world. There is even evidence that this lifestyle helps produce more testosterone! Two and half million years of evolution before the “recent” agricultural revolution and more recent industrialism gave us our truly miraculous, self-regulating and healing bodies. Let’s not blow it in one lap!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Men, Sex and Passion

Why did it take nine months for this blogger to finally talk about sex? Is it that unimportant? Well, yes…and no.

A colleague working within a large men’s organization said that you reach men through the big three: Sex, Money and Power. We agreed that was only true to an extent. And that extent is what you’ll see on and in the glossy men’s magazines. Beyond those covers, men’s needs and desires go much much deeper.

Let me be honest. I am totally sexually inadequate. What? Yes, you heard me right. I am admitting to being totally sexually inadequate. Totally inadequate in light of what I see as the myth of sex as performance, sex as a commodity to be exploited, sex as what “drives” men or at least drives them crazy. I can't adequately live up to some false standard and I don't buy being driven.

About that “drive” thing we were told is needed to perpetuate the species. Did you know it was invented in l918 just before “sex appeal” in l924? That’s right, no sex drive or appeal before the end of World War I and the roaring 20’s!
Even the term, “sexual union” is at odds with the Latin origin of the word “sex” from the verb secare, to divide or cut.

What we take for granted about sex was invented long after blue-green algae figured out a much faster way to evolve. They passed on the secret of procreation so we don’t need all that many sex acts (individually) to be fruitful and multiply ourselves, as many parents and demographers have discovered.

Much of what “feels” like an urgent need for sex is pretty mixed up with other needs, like the need for love, intimacy, affection, connection, adventure, excitement, spiritual transcendence and more. These are not drives per se but what at root makes us human. If we are deprived of any of these or made to believe they are in short supply, the so-called need for sex becomes magnified, distorted, or a very tight funnel for filling your love cup. And when this deprivation and distortion occurs it makes it so much easier, in the paraphrased words of a Joni Mitchell song, for sex to sell everything. And it makes it so much easier for men to become isolated and frustrated, acting out that frustration in any number of ways.

Take the word “pornography,” now an everyday descriptor for a mega-billion dollar industry. Well, some may prefer pictures to words. It originally meant any art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes. Often used interchangeably with the word "erotica" it really is different and the distinction is wonderfully illustrated in the photographic work of a friend David Steinberg, whose well respected erotic art does not objectify and manipulate for commerce but celebrates human connection, joy and humor. Eros, after all, means love.

Here’s an interesting anecdotal finding. When I take men through the Passion Test, the first step being to make their list of things that do or would make them most happy and fulfilled, sex never makes it into their top five passions!
Less anecdotal is the research with teen males that also supports a similar finding. Sex does not make it to the top of the list. So much for the stereotypes of young males pumped so full of testosterone they can think of nothing else.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying sex is not fun for a lot of people a bunch of the time. It is.
What we call a “drive,” “natural,” “enough,” or “good” with regard to sex should be regarded with great suspicion and men of any age have a right to decide exactly what works for them in communication with someone they share that experience with....or don't.

Randy Crutcher was a former Director of Education at Planned Parenthood and taught Human Sexuality for several years at California community colleges. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween: Real Men Aren't Scary

What gender were most of the scary costumes this last Halloween night? One guess—male. From your classic Phantom to your Vampire to your Werewolf, Frankenstein to your ghoul du noir, the scary hairy, bloody and mummified guys are the ones that scare the bejeesus out of us.


On the other days of the year men are often made out to be the ogres (with the exception of one Hollywood ogre) that do more damage and cause more grief-- emotional, physical and social than not. In other words, it’s been a successful Hollywood gambit to vilify most men while making a handful of protagonists the knights in shining armor. These are well-documented tropes.

Yes, off screen the statistics on family violence and rape document much higher perpetration of real violence by men.
And men get the credit for heading up many an institution that has and still does enslave, exploit, disempower and kill.

All of that can make a pretty bad rap for men. Add the Hollywood tropes and its no wonder I sometimes feel the need to walk on the other side of the street to put a single woman pedestrian more at ease.

What is really scary is what happens to boys and men. From day one males are separated from females and spoken to and treated differently, sometimes while they’re still in the womb!
They are often handled more roughly and regarded as tougher even in the vulnerable neonate form. They are not. They are little babies totally dependent on adults.

What happens to boys is that they are sexually abused at a rate of one out of six, now thought to be a conservative estimate. The recent release of records by the Boy Scouts of America is just the tip of the iceberg.

Teachers treat boys differently in the class room and on the playground, treatment that can directly or indirectly amplify aggressive behaviors. 

Males are 4 to 1 more likely to be murdered than females.

Since l980 when mores changed to allow more females into combat, men still die at a ratio of 10-1 while in active military duty.

There are more statistics, but here’s my point. Men begin life as innocents, they are hurt by both individuals and institutions,  they either recover and go on to lead wonderful and productive lives or they don’t recover and some go on to become the petty thief, the drug lord, gangbanger, white collar criminal and corporate raider.

Men are not scary. What happens to them is. As long as we regard men as scary or expendable, whether on screen, on the real battlefield or in the corporate hustle, we will keep creating a world where we each walk different sides of the street and different streets altogether.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Feature: Men's Passion Profiles

Are there men in your life that you admire?

Every individual is unique and special, one of a kind. And over the course of time we each meet different people whose special contribution to our lives can fill us with delight, awe and gratitude.

In this post, I’d like to begin a new feature called Men’s Passion Profiles. You will meet three men I know and hold in great esteem. Fortunately for me there are many more. My initial selections will be aimed at highlighting men with diverse passions. You will have the opportunity to participate by thinking about yourself and other men you admire. You can comment and suggest others who can be profiled here, including you.

In the book King, Warrior, Magician and Lover authors Gillette and Moore talk about the importance of openly expressing admiration for men as part of what supports our personal growth and the development of authentic community with our brothers of all ages. How often do we overlook and forget to express this? What holds us back?
As a community organizer I like the idea that something so basic becomes both the glue and the balm of our relationships with one another. Truth be told though, it just feels good to admire and be admired by other men. It cuts through our ego and penetrates that veil or wall so many of us were conditioned to believe is the natural competitive state of our co-existence with other men. And it can help spur us on to even greater heights in the pursuit of our passions and life purpose.

Men’s Passion Profiles

Steve Lauterbach-
A now retired surgeon and administrator in ER at San Francisco Kaiser, Steve made a decision before the end of his satisfying career to move to the mountains and a small community. A bold move that his family was not entirely happy with initially. Choosing in favor of his passion for the alpine, its peace, beauty and inspiration became a great boon for all he came into contact with in his new full-time home. He used and is using his hard won political and social acumen in tense situations to build better alliances and relationships in his son’s schools, his community associations and in moving forward a vision for creating access and education about local forests and recreation opportunities.
I had the great pleasure to partner with Steve in creating a community association that would assist neighbors to resolve conflicts in the use of their immediate national forest lands while unleashing creativity and collaboration to create a legacy trail system for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians in the central Sierra Nevada mountains of California. I learned much from his calm, quiet, yet openly enthusiastic problem-solving demeanor in places where strong feelings could easily have derailed meeting the higher needs of the group. I admire Steve’s qualities of focus, commitment, gentle persistence and compassion. He is always challenging himself in new ways and recently supported a 69 year old friend to complete a 101 mile trail race in under 34 hours by being the support “pacer” for the last 23 miles.
Some of Steve’s work and play passion can be viewed at

Bill Poulson-
Initially learning construction from his contractor father Bill supported himself doing carpentry and eventually became a fine woodworker and furniture maker. At 21 he built a sailboat with a friend and sailed to Hawaii where he lived for many years. Bill became a high end stain-glass artist and now with his wife, partner, glass and fine artist Bobbette Budsworth creates beautiful and sometimes intricate windows and large wall size glass murals that are displayed on more than one continent. His autumn season mural of Yosemite National Park has been on display at the famous Awani Hotel and another mural of Boston Harbor in colonial times is in Tokyo at a large hotel for American military personnel.
I’ve had the pleasure to both work and play with Bill and at one point create a business that produced architectural features for landscapes including real and faux rocks, waterfalls and outdoor furniture that blended with nature. We shared an intense passion for nature, building and design as well as being ski buddies “dancing on top of the world” together. I admire Bill’s deep sensitivity to all things in nature. Beauty can literally bring this weathered-hands man to tears. His desire to bring his murals to where millions can be inspired is one that continues to occupy his thoughts and dreams as he completes the last two of the four seasonal murals of Yosemite National Park.
Check out Bill’s new Kickstarter campaign to finish the murals.

Bob Olofson-
I first saw Bob on stage as a wailin’ sax player for one of the hottest Reggae bands in far northern California. It was obvious to me that music is where his heart had landed early on in life.
It was much later that Bob and I got to be friends and I discovered some of his other passions. Bob, like many other men in these profiles has been a very dedicated husband and though he has worked as an employee in a variety of settings he is master of his own schedule as a property manager. 
Bob involved himself in the development of spiritual community and has co-created events that bring people together on common ground to celebrate both their diversity and unity. 
Bob's been part of or formed other musical partnerships that publicly perform and record in many genres including original material. He has written and recorded a powerful and evocative musical called “Looking for Daddy,” in which he explores his own path to healing and wholeness out of childhood wounds and trauma.

I’ve worked with Bob over the years to help sustain a 22-year-old annual gathering of men and boys known as The Northcoast Men’s Gathering that takes place in the wilds of the Lost Coast of California. Bob became a steadfast leader of men in partnership with others you may meet in future profiles. Bob models leadership by telling his truth and creating safe places for others to do the same.

What I admire most about Bob is his fierce courage in hunting down his own inner ghosts, meeting them head on and having the amazing ability to communicate that inner journey to others in ways we can immediately understand and identify with as men, each on our own journey to realize our best selves.

Now let me ask again. Who do you admire? Have you told them?

Ready for greater clarity about your passions and what it would look like to be living them fully? Call me and we'll talk. 209 923-0502

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wounded Warriors: From addiction to well-being

I missed being sent to Viet Nam during that “conflict” by a matter of weeks. Many of my friends were not that lucky and have stories to tell that don’t much focus on the glories and honor of having participated in a grand cause. Drug use and “self-medication,” as coping mechanisms for both stress and boredom were the norm.

A recent report by an Institute of Medicine panel has responded to statistics linking alcohol and drug abuse to record suicides plaguing the military today.  The report calls for better policing and treatment programs that have not essentially changed since the Viet Nam War era.

Prescription medications handed out by military caregivers has soared since the Afghanistan War began in 2001. Five million prescriptions for pain medication, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, stimulants and barbiturates were provided to troops last year, up from less than a million in 2001, according to Pentagon data.
Much of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has been borne by the Army where one in four soldiers admitted in 2008 to abusing prescription drugs during a one-year period. 63,000 GIs who served in those countries last year admitted they have a drinking problem. Military officials are evaluating the report and say they want to come up with new programs that work.

If there is a strong institutional intention to restore physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health for service men and women, so many of the new and even ancient proven methods and practices available could begin to find their way onto bases everywhere and into the Veteran’s Administration’s treatment programs. 

These non-drug alternatives have slowly made their way into modern medicine, from acupuncture to effective stress management and meditation techniques. Included in programs could be the new energy medicine along with the ancient tai chi chuan (a martial art), chi gong, yoga, and more. Doing so could save millions of our tax dollars while helping to bring about true well-being for so many. That’s not to say symptom relief through the measured use of prescriptions is not in order--it should become a part of the solution, not abused as a panacea.

I’ve received training in a technique known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or “tapping”) that has already achieved amazing success in relieving post-traumatic stress for victims of war in other countries. And by now, certainly some military personnel have discovered it can help resolve many a physical and mental complaint.
As a matter of fact, my trainer has been working to demonstrate the  effectiveness of EFT with vets in order to receive acceptance into the VA system.

Perhaps an even deeper source of the problem of suicide and self-medication in the military lies in the fact that a man (or woman) in the role of warrior must be assisted in connecting to what is truly meaningful and satisfying for them about their work; what and who it ultimately contributes to on a daily basis.

If there is no connection with a felt sense of meaning and purpose, it leaves an empty hole in one’s heart and soul that can never be filled with a prescription. Without that there is no hope for a healthy warrior, one who is at the same time passionate about a mission of service and able to nurture and realize complete health and well-being with full institutional support. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Horseboy- Fatherhood, autism and shamanism

Long ago I had a five year old boy in my home. My partner, his mother, was a marvel of love and patience when it came to those "moments," and I learned a great deal from her.
Many a parent knows something about the sheer volcanic force of a temper tantrum wherein a young body can morph into a whirlwind of emotion and like a volcano spew forth words and sounds that can penetrate one's very soul and undermine even a saint's composure.

What if that were the primary experience of a child, hour by hour, day after day after day? What then?
It's not easy to comprehend the kind of volatility and unpredictability of behavior in some children with autism. And the incredible suffering of the child.

Recently viewing the 2009 movie, Horseboy, gave me an entirely different view of parenthood from the inside perspective of those who have been there and continue to be at the frontline of adversity in coping with this strange multi-spectrum condition in our culture we call autism.

Let's say you are not a parent of an autistic child or closely associated with one and you are cruising the aisles of a grocery store when it's difficult not to notice a child having a tantrum. What is your first response? I have to admit mine is "what kind of a parent would let their kid do this in public?" And that's not uncommon. On top of parents with autistic kids feeling terrible about their inadequate parenting already, they become immediate social pariahs just trying to do the everyday business of life.

Modern medicine is making greater strides in understanding and treating autism and it turns out that sex differences between boys and girls do matter in both diagnosis and treatment.

A striking finding of the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, showing a 78% increase in cases over the past decade, is that the ratio of boys to girls in autism spectrum disorders, (ASD) is about 5-to-1. That is higher than what is usually reported in other studies, where a ratio of 2-, 3- or 4-to-1 is more common. Though the numbers are consistent the explanations are less conclusive with the ways we socialize boys and girls being among several factors. It is reported that boys with autism are more often bullied.

In Horseboy, the father Rupert Isaacson is on an amazing quest, not just to deal with his son's seemingly intractable condition, but to discover at root how we view autism from more than one cultural perspective. And how people at the other end of the earth might help relieve his son's suffering in ways modern medicine has yet to conceive let alone condone. With his doubting but willing wife, Rupert travels to Mongolia seeking shamanic healers on horseback and there begins one of the wildest rides I've ever viewed on film.

The more I watched, the more I appreciated both the limits and unlimited capacity we humans have for being with and for each other in some of the most challenging relationships. The love of this father for his son is truly as or more breathtaking than the scenery of the Mongolian steppes.

Watch a 3 minute trailer of the movie:
How girls and boys differ when it comes to autism:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Other Founder-Roots of the Boy Scouts

Reflecting on recent news about the young men involved in committing multiple murders in the US and Norway it occurs to me that something they each have in common is a lack of connection to their better selves and to nature.

Earlier this month I attended the 152nd birthday celebration of Ernest Thompson Seton, a founder of the Boy Scouts of America who once lived in a castle he built not more than five miles from my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 
By the late 19th century there was some fear that the industrial revolution had seriously undermined some of the self-reliance and connection to wild nature thought to be inherent in manhood. Perhaps this was the first wave of awareness regarding nature deficit disorder as one author penned it this century. 
As family and family biographers gathered and spoke to a larger community group at the party, it was noted that Ernest Thompson Seton (born a Scot, as was John Muir), a prodigious writer, artist and youth development champion had a different design for and philosophy of the boy scouts than the one that prevailed through the 20th century. He held that indigenous ways of learning, adapting to and cooperating with nature were more important to character building than the militarism other prominent leaders of the time were keen to inculcate as they feared boys might become too effeminate if something was not done to intervene. 
Seton developed programs for girls with co-educational activities as well which was far beyond most sensibilities of the time. Though world wars took their toll on the arc Seton projected, modern scouting may have headed back toward his earlier directions and imprint. I surmised some of that when I visited the Philmont Scout Ranch website. Some of Seton's works are housed in a museum there as well as near Seton Castle in Santa Fe, now owned by the Academy For The Love of Learning. Philmont consists of an entire wilderness area and leadership training center near Cimarron, New Mexico where tens of thousands of boys and young men have spent time each summer since 1939.

When I was growing up my father fondly shared with me on more than one occasion that as a youngster he had participated in the Wildcraft Rangers (an offshoot of Seton's work) as well as in YMCA programs. My post paying tribute to my father this year notes he was a street kid with little parental guidance. His experiences with these organizations were formative, creating lasting memories. 

I too learned early lessons in leadership and what it meant to be in awe of and have respect for nature while attending Y camp as a boy. The YMCA was an early supporter of Seton's work. I guess that in an indirect but significant way, I owe special thanks to Ernest Thompson Seton for the man I've become. 

Do youth in your life have access to these positive character and values shaping experiences that can play an important role in building a society everyone can thrive in? 
The following information was based on material originally written by Dee Seton Barber, a daughter of Ernest Thompson Seton 
In 1902, the first of a series of articles by Ernest Thompson Seton that began the Woodcraft movement was published in the Ladies Home Journal. In 1906 while in England Seton met with Baden-Powell, who was introduced to him by the Duke of Bedford. They exchanged correspondence from then until after Baden Powell founded the Boy Scouts, borrowing much material and many concepts from Seton without giving him credit.
Dewinton%201920.jpgIn 1907 Seton made a 2000 mile canoe trip in northern Canada, with Edward Preble of the US Biological Survey as his traveling companion. The trip was funded by Seton. Although he was not a surveyor and did his mapping with only a good compass, the maps he made on this trip were used until the 1950's, and are still considered extremely accurate.06053t.gif
In 1910 Seton was chairman of the founding committee of Boy Scouts of America. He wrote the first handbook (including B-P's Scouting material) and served as Chief Scout from 1910 until 1915. Seton did not like the military aspects of Scouting, and Scouting did not like the Native American emphasis of Seton. With WW I, the militarists won, and Seton resigned from Scouting. He revived Woodcraft in 1915, not as a children's organization, but as a coeducational organization serving all ages, THE WOODCRAFT LEAGUE OF AMERICA.Seton%20seated%20at%20Woodcraft%20Circle.jpg
It prospered. In 1922 the children's organization "Little Lodge" was merged with the Western Rangers, and became the Woodcraft Rangers. They were not interested in girls or adults, so this became a young boys organization. The Woodcraft Rangers became a co-educational organization by the early 1950's.
Seton continued to run Woodcraft Leadership Camps in Greenwich until 1930 when he moved to Santa Fe. In 1931 he became a United States citizen.
In Santa Fe, he built a castle on 100 acres in his "retirement" and continued to train leaders in Woodcraft. In addition to this, he wrote most of the first U.S. edition of the Boy Scout Handbook and was responsible for many of the concepts found within Scouting throughout the world.
In 1934 Seton and Grace were divorced. In 1935 (Jan.22) Seton married his second wife, Julia Moses Buttree (also known as Julia Moss Buttree) in El Paso, TexasSeton%20w%20Baby%20Dee.jpg
In 1938 they adopted a daughter, later Dee Seton Barber, who appeared with them on stage during Seton's lifetime.Seton%20Julia%20Dee.jpg
Julia was an author in her own right. Her first book, 'Rhythm of the Redman' was published before she married Seton. He did the illustrations for this book. She worked as Seton's assistant, secretary, and they performed joint lectures in schools, at clubs, in churches and lecture halls of towns and universities, throughout the United States, Canada, France, England and the Czech Republic.
The Leadership camps continued in Santa Fe, until 1941 (WW II), but were not continued after the war, as Seton died in 1946, at the age of 86.
After Seton's death, Julia continued to write and maintain the Santa Fe estate, and also lectured on her own, her last tour sponsored by the Audobon Society in 1967. She suffered a stroke in 1968 and died in 1975 in Santa Fe.
Dee Seton Barber died in 2006.

For more about Ernest Thompson Seton go to:
Here's the link to Philmont Scout Ranch

Friday, August 17, 2012

More on Men's Groups- How To's

Thanks to those men commenting on the last blog post titled Men's Groups!

In the last post I made a high falutin' claim that the kind of groups of men we are talking about here are really significant for our species evolution in this 21st century, evolving toward a world that works for everyone. It was  suggested that being involved in a men's group is even a kind of initiation for some into a whole new terrain of claiming all of oneself in order to live a life based on one's passions and highest sense of purpose. And it moves men from being in fear of other men or in competition to a sacred space of honoring each man. I had not yet talked about the tools and yes, the "technology" of a group that can foster that kind of experience for men.

There is greater emphasis these days on the wisdom of elders being something that can be useful in this evolution. In many minds, that could summon the image of a Native American chief or elder with long white hair--thanks to Dances With Wolves--and other popular media. We now have within our aging population greater numbers of elders that may not even consider themselves as such but contain a profound body of knowledge and experience. This is true within this less known world of men's groups and what it takes to create and sustain this kind of gathering of men. It certainly helps if a man has already committed to looking at what is working in his life and what is not. As we'll see in the sharing of these two wise elders (my words), it is not always a precondition for joining this kind of fire circle. It can begin with some felt intimation that being an island or feeling separate and alone does not have to be one's destiny as a man.

Here’s Tim from Tucson, Arizona

My involvement with the pro-feminist men's movement began with a men's group at Drake University (where I was working) in the mid-70s.  Since then I've had many experiences with men's groups, mostly positive ones, and I've been in a very special men's group in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona, for many years.  Here's what I've noticed about characteristics of men's groups that have been meaningful and fulfilling for me:

1) Our discussions/sharing are almost exclusively about ourselves and one another, not about other people, sports, politics, etc. 

2) It really helps if most/all of the participants are psychologically healthy and at least somewhat sophisticated, i.e. having been through therapy/counseling, acquainted with our feelings and patterns in our lives, and not uncomfortable with being vulnerable, asking for help from others, etc.

3) A common pattern, especially for men, is to try to solve other people's problems.  In my men's group, after someone has shared a problem or struggle that they are having, the others of us typically respond with questions, what we notice about what has just been shared with us, asking the person what would be helpful (especially what kind of support might be useful), and occasionally briefly sharing similar experiences that we have had (without changing the focus from the original person).  Even more rarely one of us might challenge the person if what they're doing seems self-destructive or unhealthy. 

4) If the group is functioning well (which fortunately ours does most of the time), we don't have to focus on our process very often.  But we're always aware of our process, and we address it when necessary, such as apologizing when one of us gets into a problem-solving mode, or we interrupt someone.  Because we usually meet only once a month, we often begin with a process question: "Does anyone need time at this meeting?"  If not, we usually go around and each of us checks in, discussing personal aspects of our lives (both problems/struggles as well as achievements and positive things). 

I refer to my fellow men's group members as "wise guys" because being together often feels like being with a group of very wise therapists.  We deeply trust and love one another.  If I were to ever move away from Tucson, one of my greatest sorrows would be missing my men's group.  I feel deeply blessed to be a part of my men's group.

Here’s Don from Socorro, New Mexico

Like Tim, I have been active in men's groups for 3 decades. I still see myself, as do the men in the group, as part of the group in Tucson that Tim participates in, even though I moved from Tucson more than 9 years ago now. The men of that group go out of there way to schedule a meeting if they know that I will be in the area. I want to echo Tim's characterization of the men as "wise men." And to that I would add courageous men. We know enough of each others' stories to appreciate the challenges we have faced and the character it took and still takes to face those challenges. When dealing with some stressful event, I often turn to the internalized "wise and courageous men" of my group and ask what have they done or might do in response.

After leaving Tucson, I started a group in Las Cruces where I lived for four years, and have just had the first meeting of a group in Socorro, NM where I now live (two of us, initially). Here are a few thoughts about my experience to add to Tim's:

1. Talking to men about a "men's group" is tantamount to speaking in a foreign language. Men typically have not had experience in meeting with other men "just to talk and share."  While talking to a potential member recently, and trying to use his experience of hunting and fishing groups as a bridge, I said that a men's group is "like being with a group of good hunting and fishing buddies without the hunting and fishing, and without having to go anywhere to do it."

2. Homophobia is so much a part of men's culture that it tends to get activated if the hearer can't place men being with men in any known context, i.e. hunting, fishing and war. It is difficult to talk about the debt we all owe GLBTs for helping us know who we are, without the other person hearing us be anti-heterosexual. Especially if it is made known that the group is open to all men. Being homophobic is often the most significant barrier to someone joining a group, and the most important to grapple with in order to benefit from being a full member;

3. Men have a hard time understanding that intimacy is an experience of the self versus something that we do with our sexual partner(s) (in-to-me-see), and that we can experience intimacy with others and other things.  If the reluctant, potential group member could form his question about the "whys" of such a group it might sound like this, "Well, if it's not a therapy group then why do it? (And, I'm not interested/don't need therapy!)." It is important to acknowledge that the group is not for therapy, although it may be therapeutic. As men, we do not need to be fixed, and we are not looking for someone or something to fix us.

4. There is a wonderful poem about how men lose the benefits of sharing by not doing it. The poem contrasts how women unburden themselves by sharing. The poem concludes with something to the effect of "and men leave with the pain of no one knowing." I can't find it at the moment but will continue to look and send it along when I do.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why Mens Groups?

I’ve been in groups of boys and men all my life and it’s likely you have too. Or, if not in them, around them. I’ve learned a lot from watching, interacting, ducking and avoiding, sometimes even leading. From classic books, like Lord of the Flies by William Golding or The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris through today’s books about masculinity and male archetypes, there is certainly more than one explanation or interpretation of male bonding behavior, male aggression, and male rites of passage.

And in the media, we have stories of heroic acts, feats of daring and, well, stupidity. There is a steady stream of stories on the BBN—a composite of many outlets that I call the Bad Behavior Network—that focuses a great deal on the criminality and dark side of men. The tender moments portrayed between people are usually reserved for the romantic genre and the genres that do include male camaraderie have it posed in the face of a very dark foe.

And so we are left with our own direct experience of men in groups—which may be limited—or the studies and conclusions, screenplays and books of others.

Another kind of men’s group has grown and evolved over the last decades of the 20th century and the first decades of this one. Somehow I was one of the lucky ones mentored into such a group while in my 20’s—with many unresolved questions about what it meant to be a man, questions still going unanswered for many of today’s young men. 

Little known and unheralded by the mainstream media, these thousands of groups around the world have been a quiet movement of men for the most part. Understandably so, as the whole point is to finally land in a place that is safe and sacred to be oneself; apart from old male scripts around performance, daring do, conquest and domination of others, “the game,” or the merry-go-round as John Lennon called it.

It’s a movement of men in living rooms, dens, community centers, churches, and outdoor camps sharing their authentic selves with one another. They bravely share the trials of growing up in isolation and confusion about expectations in relationship, the workplace, and the world—and the joys of self-discovery in one’s creativity and potential.  They challenge each other to learn about their own power to mold a life based on an inner compass instead of outer distorted images of male power, influence and, gratification.
These mens groups are places to build new friendships, new traditions, new histories—both personal and collective—that hold these truths to be self-evident:

Men are inherently good, from the time of our innocence as babies right up to the present, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual preference, or any other category we can contrive. Men are givers, providers, protectors, lovers, and partners seeking to complete ourselves in a modern world that was offered in parts, some of them very broken. Boys and men have been systematically hurt, not by one particular group but by an entire system forcing them into roles that inevitably lead to conflict, abuse, war, self-destruction, and destruction of all kinds. Once given a choice, a real choice, men heal  (become whole) and then we realize what we were meant to be and in fact are: a beautiful physical manifestation and soul particle of the larger Source from which we came and to which we will return.

Within these groups we begin to respond to each other with that truth about us in mind. We give each other what pioneer humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard.” We give each other the fathering we might have gone without, the brothering we longed for, the love incarnate that is what we came here to be and express.

This movement then, gives birth to a new rite of passage for half of humanity. The implications for our species’ survival and evolution are profound. It’s here that I leave you with a letter written by a dear brother in this movement reflecting on the gifts of his experience, addressed to the men who have held him up to his own light long enough for him to see it too.

Dear Men,

I’d started to title my piece on the 20th annual North Coast Men’s Gathering “Thanks for the great Bar Mitzvah!”, and then Googled on Bar Mitzvah to make sure I had some understanding of what that really meant. I’m glad I did that, as I found some much deeper connections there than I had imagined. (

Apparently “Bar Mitzvah“ isn’t a party or ceremony, it’s something you become. Under Jewish law, a boy isn’t held accountable to the law until the age of 13, at which point he becomes a “Bar” (son) subject to “Mitzvah” (commandment.)
As soon as I read this I felt a jolt of recognition, because that’s what happened to me at the gathering.

My whole life I’ve struggled with authority, personal integrity and accountability. The pivotal crisis of that struggle came almost 40 years ago, when I found myself sitting in a jail cell contemplating indictment for a very serious felony. As I sat imagining the horrors of time in a state penitentiary, and taking solace in the thought that if it proved unbearable I could end my life, words formed in my mind to the effect that “You have come into this world with a purpose, and you will not leave it until that purpose is fulfilled.”

I had very mixed feelings about this revelation! On the one hand it was comforting to think that there was a purpose for my existence beyond simple biology, but it was also scary to think that something of which I had no conscious awareness was apparently driving my life.

Fortunately I was not directly involved with that crime and was released, and for both of those circumstances I give fervent thanks. I’m also thankful that the experience led me to take a hard look at my life, and began the long and arduous journey of discovering what its deeper purpose might be.

What the 20th annual North Coast Men’s Gathering brought me (more accurately, what all of you men brought me!) is a huge milestone on that journey, a far deeper experience and affirmation of my purpose than I’ve ever felt before. You showed me how that purpose leads me into the heart of my conflicts with authority, money, status, sex, and personal integrity; how those conflicts shape my passions, and how my passions demonstrate to me what my purpose is.

Through the Passion Test I discovered that my five great passions are:
1.    Finding peace and fulfillment in silence.
2.    Listening and speaking in deepest truth and compassion.
3.    Co-creating music, songs, dance, and stories in sacred space.
4.    Serving highest good with integrity, joy, and transparency.
5.    Enjoying loving, beautiful, respectful, passionate sex.

All but #5 showed up big time at the gathering, and as I surrendered into those passions I felt truly at one with my purpose for the first time in my life.
 When I saw the article on Bar Mitzvah, I realized that what I’d surrendered to is the true King within me, the wholeness that comes with the integration of love, authority, power, creativity, sexuality, wisdom, courage, service—all the things I’ve struggled with for so long thinking that they were in some way outside of me.

I see myself now as a (non-Jewish) Bar Mitzvah; a son who has surrendered to the commandment within me, the commandment to live fully my passions, and to willingly accept the blessings and hardships of living in this way.
You men are among the greatest of those blessings, and I give my deepest gratitude to you all.

Love, Bob