I envisioned Open Men as an opportunity to do something concrete in the city of Springfield to encourage connections and be the kind of change that I wish to see in the world.
Robert Zeller and I (Boysen Hodgson) were getting prepared to form a men’s group in Springfield of men who had gone through the New Warrior Training Adventure, sponsored by the ManKind Project of New England. This group provides a space for men to do some serious work around issues in their lives, supported and challenged by other men who have a shared experience and shared ‘tools’ to do the work. As I thought about what else I wanted, I looked around me in my neighborhood and felt a longing to create a place where ANY man could get a glimpse of himself in a way he does not always have the opportunity to.
Robert and I developed the Open Men concept. It is a weekly open circle for any man that will be facilitated by men from the ManKind Project in cooperation with men from other community based organizations in the area. The process of Open Men will be a simple one. The meetings are 2.5 hours, beginning at 6:30pm. A period of time will be spent doing introductions and setting some simple ground rules for the evening. There will be an opportunity for each man to share a bit about himself and what is happening in his life.
The bulk of the evening will be driven by questions that we will ask and answer for the group. An example might be: “Name something that is working really well for you in your life right now, and talk about how you feel about it.” or “Name something is that is NOT working for you in your life right now, and talk about how you feel about it.” Other questions will be more suited for discussion among the men in the group, in the style of “the Men’s Inquiry” developed in the Carolinas by Martin Brossman.
At a point in the evening men will be asked to volunteer if they have something going on in their lives that they want to do a more in-depth examination of. These processes will be facilitated by one or more men in the group in a way that avoids giving advice or making any declarations about a man’s experience. He will have the opportunity to be witnessed and supported by other men. Men will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own beliefs, actions and emotions. By examining my choices and actions, I create the opportunity to choose differently next time – realizing that there are more options than the one that I have picked in the past. This experience of doing work with a group of men is often very beneficial for not only the man doing the work, but the men sitting in the circle as well – as it gives them the experience of realizing that men share many of the same hang-ups, blocks and emotions – and yet we often feel isolated in our lives.
The night will end with an opportunity to say what, if anything, a man is grateful for in his life, or in the group. He may also choose to offer a blessing to anyone or anything he chooses. The meeting will end promptly at 8:45pm. Men may come as often as they wish. If the size of the group becomes too large, we will split into two groups.