I was initiated as an MKP New Warrior at Camp Melacoma in November, 2001 and I have been active in MKP ever since. I became a certified PIT leader in the Puget Sound Community by around 2006, joined the MKP I-Group Council and lead the rewrite of what is now the MKP PIT manual. I have done 32 (or 33) NWTA staffing, been on the Leader Track twice (busted myself both times) and considered Ritual Elder, but it just didn’t call to me. I started an I-Group in Bellingham in early 2002 and it is still meeting every week and is now stronger than ever.
In the 11+ years with MKP, my self-confidence, my leadership skills and especially my self-compassion have grown considerably, but something has been missing. I can lead most processes on an NWTA, I have led many PITs in both Washington and Vancouver, BC. I have led MOS three times, but unless I am on one of the three clearly defined tracks, I am on my own. MKP does a great job of helping men define their mission and grow into missions of service, but the major emphasis is on serving the NWTAs. There is no clearly defined path for men who want to be leaders in their community and show up living missions of service like Grant Williams in Ashland and the Edge process he and his team have developed and taken into local schools. These men are living missions of service, but not within the framework of the Mankind Project.
I want to change that. I want to create a track within MKP that recognizes, supports and endorses men who are showing up in lives of service in their communities. This is why I declared myself as a “Community Elder”.
Elders are the bridge between the NWTA and our communities. What draws elders together is the bond we share as men who are well past our prime and starting to face our own mortality. This is the time in our lives when many men move beyond “the job” and start focusing instead on giving back. This may show up in lots of ways like mentoring, teaching, joining community service organizations or even just playing with our grandchildren.
As we move into elder hood, I believe that most of us have a clearer sense of what our lives are about. This is certainly true for me. I live less than 30 miles from the Canadian border and have done almost as much MKP work in British Columbia as I have in the Northwest Center. I have long held a vision of cross-border community and I feel a deep bond with the dozens of my Canadian brothers. At the same time, I live 90 miles north of Seattle and Bellingham is technically part of the Puget Sound community, but for me, my community is right here with my tribe, the men I sit in circle with every week. This is all pretty good, but for me, it is not enough. I want to give (and grow) more; so a year ago, at the Summer Elder Gathering in 2012, I volunteered to lead the Summer Elder Gathering in 2013.
My original commitment was based on my dissatisfaction with what I judged to be the excessive structure we were creating for our gatherings. I immediately locked on to the theme of “Less is More” and wanted to create a weekend with only minimal structure. What I wound up creating instead was pretty much the exact opposite.
The Gathering of the Tribes emerged as I discussed the event with members of the Elder Council. Early on in the process, someone had suggested asking Nik Colyer, author of the “Channeling Biker Bob” series of books as our “Keynote Speaker”. I called Nik to ask him if he was available and learned that he and his wife, Barbara had created a “Bridge Workshop”. This fit nicely with the emerging theme of the weekend, but there was a small problem. Barbara asked if she would be the only woman present in such a large room of men. This question ultimately led to the inclusion of the women in the whole weekend, and the result of that choice was, in my opinion and that of many others, pure magic.
On Sunday morning, I knew that at some time I would be called into the circle and honored for leading the weekend. It’s our tradition and I knew that the weekend was being well received. And I realized that this would be the perfect moment to ask for what I wanted. The result was my declaration and blessing to be a “Community Elder”.
I see community elders in each tribe. They encourage and support I-Groups and help men clarify and live their missions. They meet together to support each other and they bring their various small tribes together to share, learn and grow. They create, lead and mentor open circles, some of which are mixed gender. And they create and lead weekend events like the Gathering of the Tribes.
My first step in manifesting this vision is to speak it to the Elder Council. So far every man I have discussed it with has been exceptionally receptive. Once I have the clear buy in of the Elder Council, I will invite elders across the Pacific Northwest to consider stepping into this role. I have asked for the creation of an email list named NWCommunityElders@mkpconnect.org and will use this as a vehicle to communicate and manifest the vision. My intention is that this group will have traction within a year and will be the primary source by which both the Elder Gatherings and the large community events like the Gathering of the Tribes will be created.
If this works well in the Northwest, I will make every effort to roll it out nationally and integrate it with MKP as a whole.
Bob (Grandfather Cave Bear) Jones,
June 13, 2013