This I believe
I believe in the power of men to help each other heal. In the predawn light, men stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, sharing stories of loss, offered by individual men as they feel the urge to speak. The recent loss of a wife, the unspeakable pain of the death of a teenaged child, a combat vet sharing the loss of his innocence and his sanity, the grief of inaction against the latest insane “final war for peace”. The tears are the same, whether they fall from Black, White, Hispanic, Native American or Asian men.
Later in the morning men talk about their struggles with relationships, money, sexuality, the challenges of aging, or whatever topic is the current focus. A carpenter, a District Court Judge, an artist, a teacher and a man working for a rape crisis center listen attentively, share from their hearts and their journals. The afternoon finds men going for hikes, playing music, or just sitting under the old grandfather cottonwood trees to write or nap or just take in the magnificent beauty of the surrounding landscape and skyscape. In the evening there will be ceremonies to welcome elders, and to honor and affirm the youngest men who are attending.
For 23 years I have been privileged to be a part of such magic. The healing formula is simple. Bring 100 men together in a safe space, help them to laugh and to cry, touch their fears, express and tame their anger, and celebrate the wild creative beauty of being male. Create a context that is highly spiritual, but not religious. Give them space to tell their stories and feel accepted wherever they are on their journey. No therapy here, but lots of hugs and compassionate contact, rather than competitive combat. Establish four events a year, each slightly different in content and character. Assist men to get into small regular men’s groups that meet each week, where the insights, emotional fluency and connection can continue to deepen.
One young man who had been through considerable abuse told me he had received more hugs in the conference weekend than he ever had gotten in his whole life. Yet another youth shared that he had never been in a room with this many men before, when someone wasn’t either drunk or fighting.
Healing takes many forms at these gatherings. A chance remark that provides an insight into a current struggle; the palpable release of sorrow locked too long within the body; the warmth of laughter and hugs for men who have forgotten the simple pleasure of play. Men leave with some of their same emotional wounds and baggage, but in a different relationship to them. They go home with a greater capacity to be better partners, lovers, parents, friends and social activists. They have sensed the deep understanding that you have to do it yourself, but you don’t have to do it alone.
I believe in the power of men to help each other heal.
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