When the workshop leader asked for a volunteer, a young man named Joe shot up to the front of the room. Of course workshop leaders love it when that happens.
In the next moments it occurred to the leader that Joe was not as open to a process of inquiry as it might have seemed……and yet on the other hand he was ripe and ready.
Unasked Joe immediately grabbed a chair and stood on it, towering over the leader. Joe had been asked to prepare for the exercise and demonstration by identifying a belief about himself and his life and to write it down on paper on his own, as were the other 30 men in the room.
When asked by the leader if his belief was true, Joe gave brusque, almost defiant answers as though daring the facilitator to react by calling Joe on his resistance to the process.
The leader did not ask Joe to step down nor did he remind Joe of any rules of conduct or attempt to make Joe do something he was unwilling to do at that point. He simply looked up at Joe and asked if the belief Joe had about not being comfortable with people, not seen and acknowledged was true, how it made him feel when he held those thoughts and who he’d be without those thoughts. The leader could palpably feel the pain of Joe’s isolation and loneliness.
The workshop leader knew well from his own past experience and working with many men that so many were never or rarely acknowledged or seen by older men (fathers and others) for who they really are. And worse, the kind of attention boys and young men often get is loaded with judgment, punishment, and the wielding of authority in abusive and unkind ways. We wonder why males act out or don’t act at all. This lack of being seen or mistreated is part of what is at the heart of the male wound that plays out dramatically in homes and on the world front.
So what happened with Joe?
It was not clear that Joe had an epiphany by the end of the demonstration. Almost certainly though, the rapt and loving attention of all the men in the room that was directed toward and beaming in on Joe had begun to make a difference.
At meal times in the dining hall of the camp gathering, without prompting, Joe would stand up in front of the room, play his guitar and sing. And did this guy ever know how to perform! Nashville quality and as it turned out Joe had lived there.
Not only did Joe create his own way of being seen at the gathering for a part of who he really is, at the final closing circle of the weekend when each man was invited to say one word for what they received at the gathering, Joe’s word was “Acknowledgement.” So many at the gathering had been routing for him and that would have been enough for the guys to know there had been a transformation.
The next thing that happened even exceeded the workshop leader’s expectations. When asked who would step into the leadership circle to help create the next year’s gathering, Joe stepped in.
This story is only one among thousands, even tens of thousands like it. People ask where a man can go to have this experience among peers. The gathering you just read about is a 23-year-old grassroots regional gathering, of which there are many across the country.
The Mankind Project, a non-profit with chapters around the world is a bit older, more structured and has provided weekend workshops for over 45,000 men creating an initiation into a manhood (at any age) not commonly portrayed in the mass media. It is one that both challenges and supports men to get clear about their own value, their own responsibility to themselves and others for living their most authentic purpose and passions fully.
The process referred to in the story above is called “The Work” and is the result of one woman’s amazing quest to question all and everything we believe that causes us pain. You can read any one of the many fine books by Byron Katie and visit her website at www.thework.com
Randy Crutcher, MA, EdD founded the Northcoast Men’s Gathering in California 23 years ago and was asked to be this year’s workshop leader over the course of two days. He has been a part of many men’s personal healing and transformation experiences.
His specialized coaching practice, Man to Man provides the loving guidance and support for men that can make the difference in leading a life of freedom, meaning and passion. Call him for a free consultation at 209 923-0502.