the ‘RULES’ of Open Men

I’m sick of rules. Life seems to be full of them. I think men like to break the rules, but it’s hard to find a safe place to do it. See if some of these might sound familiar.

  • Don’t trust anyone, especially men
  • Don’t trust anyone, especially women
  • Go it alone, you’re safer that way
  • Don’t show weakness or vulnerability
  • Don’t show power or mastery
  • Don’t feel sad, angry, ashamed or guilty
  • Don’t look too happy, people will worry
  • Don’t admit when you’re wrong
  • Don’t take the blame
  • Take ALL the blame
  • Always say you’re wrong, even when you’re not
  • Don’t say NO, people might not like you
  • Don’t say YES, people will take advantage of you
  • Keep it to yourself, nobody cares anyway
  • Don’t share what has hurt you, people will use it against you
  • Take care of everyone else before you take care of yourself
  • Don’t get support. Only wimps get support
  • Don’t let down your guard
  • Don’t let the rage out, you might hurt someone
  • Don’t let the grief out, you might never come back
  • Don’t let the power out, people might expect big things from you
  • Don’t let the brilliance show, people will hate you
  • Be better
  • Stop doing that
  • Keep it together
  • Put her before you
  • Don’t ask for what you want
  • Don’t risk looking like a fool
  • Don’t forgive them
  • Don’t ever forgive you

I can say with confidence that I have broken every one of these ‘Rules’ that I have had in my head for most of my life. I have done this by attending a men’s group.

You can too. You will be surprised by how powerful and courageous you really are.

Now the ‘other’ Rules:

These are the ‘Rules’ we use in Open Men and the commitment we make to you.

Groundrules

  • Confidentiality – What I say here is confidential. I will not share another man’s words or actions. I will only speak of my own experience and personal learnings. This goes a step beyond medical or legal confidentiality, to create a sense of safety for each man. There may be mandated reporters in attendance.
  • Punctuality – The group will begin on time and end on time. If I arrive late, I will not interrupt the flow of the group.
  • Ethical Relationships – This is not a business group. No Solicitations. If I need something, I can ask for it before or after the meeting. I can leave literature on the table.
  • Non-Violence – Violence can be physical, verbal or emotional. I acknowledge that my words and actions have an impact on those around me. I am responsible for my words and actions.
  • No Drugs or Alcohol – If I am high or have been drinking, I will tell the group. I accept the choice of the group in handling this.

Guidelines for Participation

  • Speak openly and truthfully, speak for yourself. Speak in “I” statements, not “we” or “you” statements.
  • Any man may pass at any time. Any man may STOP a process.
  • I am not here to give advice. If I want advice, I will ask for it specifically. I will ask permission before offering feedback.
  • I am responsible for taking care of myself. If I need something, I will ask for it.

Our Ethical Commitment

This Open Men’s Group is facilitated by members of the ManKind Project, or “MKP,” a 25 year old international not for profit education and training organization. Neither MKP nor this Open Men’s Group are affiliated with any religious practice or political party. We strive to be increasingly inclusive and culturally aware. Open Men’s Circle is not here to sell you anything; attendance is free and there are no obligations nor expectations, financial or otherwise, beyond the groundrules we’ve just mentioned.

The men of MKP have attended a 48 hour primary training called the New Warrior Training Adventure, or “the Training.” To attend the Training, a man needs to pay a fee to cover MKP’s costs to put on the Training. Some scholarship money is available, and a flexible payment process is used to help men of limited means. This Open Men’s Group and the men of MKP receive no financial benefit from you being here now, nor if you someday choose to attend the Training.

The members of MKP who offer this open men’s group do so because we believe in men and we care about our families, our communities and our planet. Every man in this Open Men’s Group is invited to participate fully in the group – to challenge himself. This group is intended to help men grow and meet the challenges of their lives with strength, skill, and peer support. This group is not a substitute for professional mental health services. If you are currently in the care of a Mental Health Professional, ask them if a peer support group could be beneficial for your treatment.

If you are interested in learning more about MKP or the Training after tonight’s group ends, you are invited to take the literature on the table or talk to MKP members. MKP members who are available to talk about these topics, please raise your hands now.

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That’s it. We’re not here to sell you anything, we’re not here to replace therapy.

We help men grow, because we believe the world needs grown up, mature, and powerful men.
Your family, your community, and the world benefits when you take an active role in your personal growth.

Our goal is to help you learn more about who you are and what you’re passionate about, and help you get more of it. And we want you to help us learn more about who we are as well. It’s always a two way street.

Open Men’s Group meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 6:30 – 9:00 PM in West Springfield, MA.

 

Our Taboos are Killing us

I read a great blog post today from the Sexademic – http://sexademic.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/screw-critical-thought-blame-women-feminism-or-men/

Here is the Response I wrote:

THANKS! The times they are a changin’ indeed.

Masculinity (and Femininity) need a reset. I get very tired of listening to men a) blame women rather than take responsibility for their happiness, unhappiness, satisfaction, political station, job, etc. b) say and do things which reinforce damaging, violent and emotionally immature stereotypes about men.

I also get very tired of women who either a) blame men rather than take responsibility for getting what they want or creating the relationships they want or b) let men off the hook for being immature and emotionally stunted with statements like ‘boys will be boys’ or c) say and do things that reinforce damaging, psychically violent and emotionally immature stereotypes about women.

It’s a dance that’s been playing for a few tens of thousands of years. You’d think with these huge masses of grey matter, the lizard brain would be a bit more in check.

AND I also feel very strongly that the fundamental mistake is one of denial. We have collectively created a culture of taboos (political correctness could be an example) in which there are whole areas of personality, actions, thoughts and feelings which have been put into a deep dark hole. AND surprise, surprise, these archetypal demons locked in ‘unbreakable’ chains manage to find a way to escape and show up in all kinds of damaging ways in the culture. Gonzo porn, domestic violence, sexualized children, violent misogyny, misandry and homophobia, hypersexuality, women whose first and primary concern is sexual acceptability, men whose first and primary concern is denial of ALL that could be considered feminine. Men are no longer consciously taught to be mature, because there are few men who understand what that maturity looks like, or how to teach it. The same is true of women. And the lot of us are mostly taught by media, which as you pointed out is mostly made, produced and marketed by men. (the same immature men who were never taught otherwise)

Want to break the denial? Create conscious places for men and women to safely explore the taboos, let the demons out of the cages in a safe and conscious way (this does NOT mean enacting them on one another!) and learn what they have to teach us. We’re already letting them out … we’re just making the wildly irresponsible choice to not analyze, process and explore these taboos consciously. When we come to a level of self-awareness about what we hide in our taboo closets, the taboos lose their psychic magnetism – freeing us ALL up to create masculinity and femininity that will support us toward wholeness rather than diminishing us toward gendered mud-flinging.

The good news is that there are more and more men and women waking up, doing their work cleaning out the closets and creating conscious and more emotionally responsible cultures and relationships. They are isolated pockets most of the time, but growing.

And if the predictors work … it will only take about 1% of the population waking up to change the whole game. I think that the huge amount of yelling, fear and panic about this topic might indicate that we’re close to breaking through. I hope so.

For men – I recommend the ManKind Project as a way to start doing the work of taking responsibility for our lives. Cut the shit man. Time to take responsibility for yourself.

Extra Open Men’s Groups this Month!

How about this – the world needs you. Not a washed out, pale, shadowy version of who you are. Not a stuck, quiet, frustrated, depressed, angry and asleep version of yourself. The world needs the BIG YOU. The fully awake you. The you that is willing to take some risks to make the world, your relationships, and your dreams, shine the way you want them to.  Everything going pretty good these days? Awesome. Then the world needs the you that is ready to be even MORE alive, awake and empowered. The you that knows that growth is a never-ending journey. Are you ready to take the next step in your journey?

In three weeks a group of about 60 men will gather in North Oxford Massachusetts for a weekend training called the New Warrior Training Adventure. In 48 hours these men will have the opportunity to confront the darkest parts of who they are and face their fears. They will have the space to heal parts of their past that have held them back for years. They will have the chance to find within themselves a new kind of power to get the things done in their lives. They will find a connection and trust with other men that they have probably never experienced before.

They will have the opportunity to take a step up the ladder in their own personal evolution – no matter where they are – as a man and as a human being in the world. Every aspect of their lives will be affected.

After this weekend, the New Warrior Training Adventure, these men will be invited to join or form men’s groups. The Springfield Uprising is one such group. We have been meeting weekly for over two years. We help one another through mentoring, exploration, truth telling and building safe spaces to share our lives. This is the continuing work of our circle; to heal, to empower, to trust, to connect, to continue our personal evolution as men and as human beings. You are invited to participate in this evolution – and continue on YOUR path. This open men’s group is for all men.  This open men’s group is FREE. This group is not affiliated with any one spiritual practice, your beliefs are welcome.

We will be holding Open Men’s Circles for the next 3 weeks in a row – October 14th, October 21st, October 28th – from 7pm  to 9pm at 380 Union Street, West Springfield – (at A to Z Movers, look for the big trucks – enter the building on the ground floor under the “Auction Preview Sign”) – more info? Call Boysen 413 883 2462.

Hope to see you there.  You are welcome to bring a friend. I remember that I felt nervous when I attended my first men’s group. I didn’t believe that I would be accepted or welcomed. I didn’t believe that I would fit in. Maybe this is the first fear to confront?

To Learn More about the ManKind Project – the not-for-profit organization that presents the New Warrior Training – CLICK HERE – If you are interested in taking a big step in your life and you want to attend the NWTA happening in 3 weeks – call me – 413 883 2462.

Emotional Activism as a construct for societal transformation

I am re-posting an older article that still resonates with me.

In June of 2007, I was in Northampton, MA at a public screening of Byron Hurt’s HIP HOP Beyond Beats and Rhymes. If you haven’t seen this movie – I recomend it highly. Hurt has done a fantastic job of really opening the connections between rap, hyper-masculinity, violence, misogyny, sexism, homophobia and corrupt capitalism. The film is powerfully edited, smart, compelling. There were about 160 people in attendance at this Sunday night screening. Some very well recognized heavy-weights in the pro-feminist, anti-violence men’s movement were in attendance.  On the way home with the LadyK I tried to verbalize the deep sadness and frustration that I feel about the disconnection between what I do in my work with the ManKind Project and the work that is being done by powerful scholars “intellectual Heavyweights” (as Hurt said) on the front lines of the anti-violence men’s movement.

Continue reading “Emotional Activism as a construct for societal transformation”

Open Circles – July 15th and 22nd

We’re hosting an additional Circle this month – and hoping to expand to a circle every other week by the end of the summer. So what is this about? It’s about the totally responsible and mature choice to connect to a group of men to offer mentoring and be mentored. The most powerful, successful and brilliant men in the world have circles of advisers – people they trust to share their highs and lows with – people they work with to refine their ideas, make better choices, take risks.

Kings have courts. Presidents have cabinets. CEO’s have boards of advisers. Religious icons have disciples. What we provide is a space to learn deeply about yourself in the company of other men. To challenge yourself, to be recognized for the brilliance that you bring to your world, to get honest about what’s REALLY going on with you, to share in the passages of your life. We are confidants, friends, challengers, sounding boards – we are a band of brothers united by a desire to make ourselves – and the world – a better place. Many men are these days are isolated from one another and from themselves. Many of our relationships are shallow and don’t begin to honestly address the difficulties and triumphs in our lives. Open Men is about getting honest, bravely taking responsibility for your life and helping other men while you help yourself.

You are invited. Bring a friend.

Location

380 Union Street, Ground Floor
West Springfield, MA 01089

This is the business of one of the men in our group.

How to find us
“We park right by the big AtoZ Moving Trucks – look for the parking along the building.”

I’m on a Mission. What’s yours?

Male culture and the ManKind Project are evolving. We are entering another era and another possible tipping point in the culture. This time the energy of expansion is not coming from a reactionary stance about ‘Masculinity’ but rather from a deeply pragmatic understanding that in order to literally save ourselves, men need to deal with their disconnection in a healthy way and learn to get beyond our bullshit with each other – so that we can connect to all people with compassion and work together effectively. It’s about having the skills to sit in circles small and large, to tell the truth, be present and resolve conflicts.

Involvement in the ManKind Project means a few simple things. We share the common experience of a weekend initiation, we sit in men’s circles together and support each other to continue growing and changing, and we work to discover, refine and LIVE a mission in the world. Our missions are our personal responses to our own histories and the reality that we see in the world. Men choose all kinds of missions – with different scopes, strategies and visions.  A few examples happening recently – I have facilitated circles with (and for) all of these men. The energy that they have and the work that they continue to do in circles is inspiring.

  • Bill Baue launches Sea Change Radio – a weekly radio program about corporate responsibility, ecology and sustainability – airing on more than 20 stations and available on line at www.cchange.net – he is connected to another brother and his family who are about to launch a cross country tour exploring and reporting on new developments in green living and sustainability.
  • Mark Morey and a large group of MKP brothers and their families in southern VT and northern MA have connected to create community focused on cross generational mentoring, connecting to indigenous wisdom and caring for one another in and around Montague – looking at all aspects of their lives and the wider societal impacts (ifnaturallearning.com)
  • Chris Martenson’s ‘Crash Course’ about the crisis of money, ecology and society (www.chrismartenson.com) is getting national recognition and his information was presented at the just past international business meeting of MKP by Bill Kauth, one of the founders of MKP, so has now jumped cultural and geographic boundaries to reach the wider world. Chris was on WGBY a couple of weeks ago talking about his work and how community is the key to moving forward.
  • Chris Landry is one of the producers working on a documentary film to explore the work of Joanna Macy (www.thegreatturningfilm.org/) with Kristen Chamberlain – exploring what to do and how to approach our growing problems in the world
  • Steven Spitzer’s work with men in prison is expanding yearly – and is now being explored as a viable programming option for release programs throughout the state (www.jerichocircle.org)

This is just in New England – there are lots of other great examples happening in centers around the world. I am thrilled with this stuff.

The invitation is open for the April NWTA – we have about 10 spots left. You should act fast to become a part of this vibrant and vital community.

Do any of these statements ring true to you?

Here are some statements about being a man and growing up –

No one taught me what it meant to be a man …

What I learned about being a man is sometimes hurtful to people … and I want to take responsibility for my actions

I know that I have a lot to offer as a mentor or an elder … but I don’t have a community that seems to support me

I feel pretty good about who I am as a man … but I am looking to take a next step in my life

Every person I have dated in the recent past has said similar things about how I behave … I just can’t seem to make my relationships work – and I want to learn what’s getting in the way!

If there are some things about these statements ringing true to you – why not check out a men’s group?

Thank you for being open.

openmenlogo_small.pngWe’re proud to announce again the new Open Men’s group that is running in West Springfield, MA on Thursday evenings from 6:45 to 8:45pm at 380 Union Street (right next to Charlie’s Diner) at A to Z Movers. (look for the big trucks) Entrance is on the ground floor.

OPEN MEN is a place for men to connect with one another – to be heard and recognized, to challenge and support themselves and each other. The group will run for 2 hours. This will be a structured environment, with simple ground-rules and easy to understand processes. All men are welcome. Open Men is NOT a therapy group. We strongly support men to seek professional help for addictions, violent behavior, and any serious emotional issues.

The Mission of OPEN MEN: We create safe families, communities and institutions by taking collective responsibility for our actions as men in the world.

OPEN MEN creates community. In community we support each other, as neighbors. We don’t have to agree, but we need to know how to resolve conflict and work together. We recognize that we need each other to thrive, and that taking responsibility for our own feelings and actions will help create safe places to learn and grow. The lessons we learn will make us more personally successful – AND – will support social justice and societal healing.

Come – join us.
OPEN MEN is facilitated by members of the ManKind Project of New England.
We welcome your input and skills in building our group. Contact us to offer suggestions and support.

All the best.
Boysen Hodgson, Robert Zeller
and all the men who will support this new endeavor.