The Mankind Project (MKP) is changing the world, one man at a time. It teaches us men to wake up, grow up and stand up in missions of service. The New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA) created in 1985 by an educator, a therapist and an ex-marine, has initiated close to 50,000 men around the world into a world of the mature masculine.
Men in today’s culture have grown up believing that authenticity and emotional vulnerability are signs of weakness. We have been trained to worship the world of things, prestige and sports while at the same time failing in so many ways as husbands and fathers. We weren’t born this way. We learned it from our parents, our peers and our role models on TV and in the movies like John Wayne, the ultimate detached emotionally walled off macho dude.
As a young boy, I learned that I had to be tough or get beat up. At home I learned to steer clear of my father’s rage. I grew up quite lonely. I never understood the word “intimacy”. When I went to college, my primary goals were to get drunk and get laid as frequently and quickly as I could. When I fucked a girl I had met just 15 minutes earlier, I felt proud of my accomplishment. I didn’t have a clue what maturity looked like and I certainly couldn’t look to my father to teach me.
When I finally attended the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2001, I was 55 years old and my life was falling to pieces around me. The Information Technology explosion of the 90’s imploded, and I couldn’t get work. Seattle suffered a major earthquake and our country suffered the horror of 9/11. Two months after that tragedy, I stepped through the door into the NWTA and my life has never been the same since.
When I walked through that doorway, I found myself separated from all of my distracting toys like my cell phone and laptop computer and surrounded by powerful men who both scared the shit out of me and at the same time fascinated me. When I entered the room where we spent most of our time, the pounding of drums took me back to what felt like the primal world of 30,000 years ago… and I felt for the first time in my life, at home.
For the next two days, I was yanked out of my head and into my heart in a powerful and totally masculine way that felt grounded, solid and real. I bonded with the other men in the training in a way I had never bonded with men before. And when I completed the weekend, I radiated with powerful love and compassion for myself and my brother new warriors.
As a child of the 60’s, I had taken enough drugs to know that I was in a very altered state that would soon wear off. The question that faced me was how to return to this state in my every day life?
The answer was simple but not easy. The first step was to sit in an “Integration Group” (I-Group for short) and begin to build the tools, skills and self-awareness to do this work. The I-Group training was one three-hour session for 10 weeks. When it was over, I immediately volunteered to go through the I-Group cycle again, but this time as a “Senior Brother”. I did it again as a Senior Brother then twice as a Leader-In-Training (LIT), and two more times as a Co-Leader before I was hot-seated and blessed as a full leader of the “Primary Integration Training (PIT). In the intervening years, I have lead PITS for hundreds of men and grown hundreds of deep friendships in the process.
I also applied to staff the NWTA. On each weekend, there may be as many as 40 “initiates”, but there are always more staff men than initiates. Every staff man except the “Certified Leader and Co-Leaders” pay for the right to join the staff and work long hours preparing for and participating in the weekend. At last count, I have staffed 33 NWTA weekends, lead over 20 PIT sessions and I have sat in the same I-Group now for over 11 years.
During this process I have fucked up many times. I have pissed off many men and been pissed myself at many more. But I have learned how to release the pissed off energy in myself and stand face-to-face with another man while he clears his energy with me. This alone has been a huge gift. I no longer fear another man’s rage, and I no longer need to please others to make myself feel safe.
I have learned to open my heart to another man’s profound grief and cradle him in my arms while he is wracked with tears. I have leaned to challenge men and call them on their shit. And I have been called on my shit too. I have learned to listen deeply without defending myself. I have learned to take my hits and grow from them.
Not only have I become comfortable in my own skin, but I have learned to be comfortable with my personal power. As a child raised in a dysfunctional home, I internalized the belief that those with power will hurt others. As a result, I have shied away from my power most of my life. I am a big, powerful man, but I had turned myself into a puppy dog so that people would like me. Through the process of leading PITs and staffing weekends, I grew to become comfortable with my power and learned that abuse of power is a choice.
As I internalized this new relationship with my power, it grew within me and transformed the way I show up in my community and in my life. I am now happier at the age of 67 and with all the body aches and pains that accompany aging than I ever have been before. And I owe my happiness to the work I have done to grow into emotional health. And I owe this growth to my friends, teachers and students in The Mankind Project.
In subsequent blog postings, I will delve into my evolution as an elder and my emerging vision of Community Elder.