Here are some of the gifts men can receive from men’s work:
Ritual space – Modern culture has obliterated this area of exploration that is commonplace for traditional cultures. Men’s work offers a rare opportunity to get into this place where self-discovery, revelations and healing can happen. Rituals take us out of our rational minds and put us in touch with other sources of wisdom – our own intuition, the wisdom of the group, the wisdom of our ancestors, and the wisdom of “higher powers,” whatever that might mean to each individual man.
Out of our heads and into our hearts – One of the goals of the Men’s Wisdom Council (MWC) is to get men out of their heads and into their hearts and their neglected bodies. We spend most of our waking hours inside our heads, which provides a hiding place from feelings and from our emotional selves – a place to “rationalize” the world.
Beyond the superficial – MWC co-founder Sparrow Hart points out that “the unknown is far greater than the known. It is vast. When the self is removed from center, the world around it expands correspondingly.” Yet, during most of our everyday lives we are dealing only with what is seen and known, the superficial things that surround us. Men’s work helps men get in touch with their inner lives.
Emotional introspection – Most men come to the retreat carrying strong emotions that have been suppressed – grief, anger or deep concern about the state of the world or their own personal relationships. MWC is a place where it is safe to express these emotions that they cannot hold onto anymore. It is a place to deal with the shadow – the darker side of one’s self that usually goes unacknowledged. By expressing his deep emotions, a man can better understand both his feelings and the behaviors that are attached to them.
Self-discovery – Men often achieve answers to some of their big questions. Who am I? What are my gifts? How can I share them with my community? Who is my community? What are my demons that block me from achieving my full potential, and how can I deal with them better? What do I need from other men?
Creativity – Men’s creative talents are sometimes suppressed rather than nurtured by the larger culture. The mainstream culture often denigrates creative pursuits as not the place of men, as even frivolous or unmanly. Men’s work can help unlock this part of a man. He might come away from a men’s retreat having discovered that there was poetry inside him that he didn’t know existed – or a wild man waiting to be unleashed.
Male friendship – Once a man is settled into his adult life – and particularly if he is married with children – there can be a perception that his male friendships are no longer a priority. Men often miss the company of other men, but may not even recognize that this is a void they are feeling.
Male community – This is a unique kind of community, and one that men rarely get to enjoy. They usually find community only in places like athletic teams or the military, but these can sometimes turn into a perverse form of male bonding that doesn’t nurture the instinct for cooperation and mutual support. Often, deep emotions are not welcomed in.
When they encounter other men who are making the effort to be authentic and courageous in their own lives, those who are new to men’s work can draw inspiration and courage from this. The experience can help them find a new direction in life.