I don’t know about you but I reckon I was really unprepared for my journey as a man. Sure, I did all the things that I thought were part of my expected role in life, education of sorts, participation in sport, being part of a bunch of young men eager to impress others, mischief making, dare devil antics, getting a job, marriage, children, mortgage, debt, climbing the ladder of success, only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall,…..the full suite with lots of other distractions in between, too many for this piece.
Now at 78 years of age I have time to reflect on my journey as a man and to look at other men with a sense of wonderment when I see them passing through the same form of basic journey as I did. All of the templates for our male socialisation and societal expectations are still there, the difference for me is that an increasing number of men are willing to take a good hard look at all of the influences that continue to show up in their lives……….and to do that in the presence of other men without getting freaked out!
Just returned from our number 29 Men In Bali Retreat, this one titled A Man’s Journey, joined by Athol Prior as co-facilitator and Elder In Service, we both spent a delightful week with a group of good men eager to explore aspects of their life that called on them to take a hard look at how their early family influences still affect some of their current functioning. These men came prepared to be in the presence of men that they had never met before and trust that Athol and I would co-create a safe container for them to enter into the beauty and mystery of being a man. Many men had traveled the same journey before and they too can attest to the healing effects that occur within a group of men willing to dive deep into their lives and feel first-hand the influences that continue to deter or support them. I know I feel called to write about these fleeting experiences and to value and honour those men who throw caution out the window and come on a journey of deep personal exploration with complete strangers.
Within a short time frame in the lush surrounds of Pondok Saraswati, they moved quickly into a level of trust with these other men and showed their willingness to drop the usual male conventions, masks, banter, bullshit and bravado and team up with kindred spirits in a quest for reality. The reverence that men can enter into when requested to find a flower, a leaf, a stone, a twig or whatever from the garden and gently place their offering into a container, sometimes this is the very first occasion in their busy life that they have discovered such a simple act of kindness to themselves. Athol and I, both familiar with ceremonies that take men out of their usual thinking zone and into simple ritual situations that hopefully provides them with a sense of gratitude for being alive. Nothing elaborate, challenging or something to endure, just another simple reminder of the mystery that we sometimes miss in our daily lives.
An integral part of men’s work is to co-create sacred space where each man feels safe and ready to explore his personal journey, these moments are discrete and carefully crafted to ensure an awareness of the holiness and beauty that can accompany men as they wrestle or breeze through unexplored parts of their lives. Ceremony becomes a reminder of the grace inherent in us all that we need to be fully present for these brief and fleeting moments of joy.
I hope that more men are called to address their personal journey and to do so in the presence of good men, the experience is a brief, but significant marker in our development toward being a better man. I know that the process of self-discovery might prove fruitful for you too, come and be welcomed as we journey together.
Wes Carter in wind-down mode ready for the Festive Season
Blessings and a wish that 2016 will be all that you require.