The Men’s Workshop — Background

For years I conducted seminars that focused on the individual as a human being and not as a man or a woman. I overlooked gender, as well as other differences, in favor of finding a common human ground where love could flourish between people. I didn’t know that men have, and need, their own common ground for loving each other, as do women; I saw an all-inclusive humanity as the only means for overcoming the effects of alienation on the human person. I had not yet done the work of distinguishing myself from half of humanity and identifying with the other.

Spending a weekend with 200 other men in 1986 changed all that. It was a rude and robust awakening to being male. I was able to connect to the so-called wild man in myself. I discovered, hidden beneath the mountainous bedcovers of a spirit-smothering feminization, a hairy male beast, from whom I could reclaim my phallic nature.

We were full of a heartfelt generosity towards one another. With no women around, and with so much in common, it was remarkably easy. We could relax in each other’s presence and come alive. We were free to be ourselves and to welcome the self we saw in each other.

Except for sex, we had all that men usually go to women for — love, understanding, warmth, compassion, acceptance, appreciation. Here was a banquet for any love-starved soul, and it was free, with no strings attached. How remarkable that men could get this kind of nourishment from each other — and that they would not have to compromise their masculine values to do so.

Of course, in the beginning, there had been plenty of confrontation. We fought each other, sometimes physically. We fought our way to each other. We battled to become brothers, breaking through an ice-bound isolation with passionate aggression. Our coming together in this way allowed us to share a collective male sadness begging for release. We erupted with grief. I have known many kinds of sadness but never anything like what I experienced on that day. A vast and deeply buried sorrow — a universal sorrow, woven into the very fabric of existence, it seemed — surfaced in me with geyser-like force, racking my body. When it was over, I was utterly spent. No wonder men don’t cry, I remember thinking.

This together with the other experiences I had that weekend fostered a whole new perspective in me — one in which I could no longer overlook the possibilities for self-actualization inherent in a person’s being male or female. Each has its own form of suffering; each leads to its own particular wisdom and strength. As a man, there and then, I resolved to support and empower other men in some organized way. It was out of this intention that the workshop was created in 1987; it would offer an opportunity for men to interact openly with each other and provide a place where — in both a totally new and very ancient way — »men could be men« and men could be »made«.

What’s missing from men’s lives that I am intent on making available through the workshop? A sacred sense of maleness, physical and emotional contact with other men, a process for initiating the mother-dominated male soul into manhood. The workshop is only for men willing to confront themselves and each other within an intense group process. And each man must take full responsibility for himself as a participant; in this sense, the workshop is not therapy, although it can have a therapeutic impact.

It has been my observation that the men who attend the workshop reconstitute each other in their maleness — what happens is more than an affirmation of their gender, it’s as if they’re feeding each other energetically, or that a group spirit is, through them. Making up for all the blunting and smoothing of rough edges which participation in polite society requires of them, they can interact quite aggressively with each other, and begin to appear harder and brighter as a result, more sharpely defined, more clearly there.

As far as I am concearned, it would be enough if each participant could echo the words of a former workshop member who said: »After the workshop my relationship with other men became much more relaxed. I dared to show my strengths and my weaknesses. With women I became more open and felt more appreciated. My men’s support group, an extension of the workshop, has aided me in taking further steps, and we are learning to live more as men, and to embrace all our male qualities.«

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