In my post “The Face I Deserve”, I shared the outer changes in my life and appearance that have come about as the result of an inner journey I have undertaken for many years.
I didn’t walk that road alone. I was aided immeasurably by many healing modalities, groups, and individuals.
In this new series I’ll outline some of these “tools of my transformation” for those walking, or curious about walking, a similar road towards their own fulfillment and best selves.
This series is not intended to be an exclusive list of modalities. These are merely the tools that I found… or the ones that found me. Because when it comes to inner healing today, the choices are so fortunately, intriguingly vast. So your road will unfold unique to you.
I wish you blessings upon it.
Tools of Transformation Part 1: The ManKind Project
All the Trump’ing around in the media lately has initiated what I feel is a long-overdue open dialogue about toxic masculinity and male privilege.
But one aspect I’ve noticed is missing from the discussion is an acknowledgment of the existence of healthy masculinity.
There’s an obvious reason, I think: because there are few-to-no examples of healthy masculinity in mainstream culture. I struggle to think of one. Maybe Neil DeGrasse Tyson comes closest. (The pro basketball player Steph Curry seems like a pretty stand-up guy, too.)
This lack of quality male role models, in my judgment, turns men into cultural punching bags. And I admit, it’s easy when our media is dominated by the human equivalents of those inflatable stand-up clowns that seem to bounce back with every strike.
These “men” standing in for all men mean that plenty of both men and women are able to point out everything that’s wrong with men. But I rarely, if ever, hear anyone celebrating what’s right with their husbands, boyfriends, brothers, colleagues, friends, and fellow humans on this earth. It’s heartbreaking.
Most often, when it comes to men, I see comments like this, which I’ve read on Facebook in the past few weeks. And these are just the ones I remember:
“Men are the worst.”
“Repeal male suffrage.”
“Men are the weaker sex.”
“I can’t wait for a woman’s world.”
Some of these comments are from women. The rest are from men.
I want to say so much about this state of affairs, but as I judge it would be a distraction, I’ll offer only this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
At the same time, and with humility, I share some of the emotions driving these sentiments. A friend on Facebook also described them as expressions of justified anger towards males who have for centuries abused, betrayed, and violated both human and non-human residents of the planet, and the planet itself.
In the face of these obvious facts, if our culture provides us no counter-examples of healthy masculinity, and if our personal and collective lives bear deep scars from the opposite, how are any of us, regardless of gender, supposed to acknowledge healthy masculinity, honor it, or even believe it exists?
One of the fundamental problems underlying this situation is that men’s fathers, grandfathers, and cultural role models have been generationally unable to model healthy, authentic masculinity for a very long time. In part because this knowledge simply does not exist in our culture.
If that’s the case, then where are men supposed to learn it from?
There is an organization dedicated to answering this question, and to building better men the only way they get built: from the inside out. That organization is called The ManKind Project.
If I could identify my initial step towards traveling the world, of fulfilling my life’s vision and in the process becoming the man and human I most wanted to be, that step was with this organization in September 2013, on their weekend initiation called the New Warrior Training Adventure.
My travels are also only the most tangible expression of the ways I’ve been affected by my work with the ManKind Project, also known as MKP. I’ve changed in many other ways that, though invisible, are no less powerful.
If you’re male, and we’ve talked for longer than 30 minutes in person, I’ve probably mentioned the ManKind Project to you. Probably if you’re female, too.
While I don’t often mention it online, preferring to keep discussions face-to-face, it’s time for me to break that silence. It’s clear to me now that both men and women need better men more than ever, and that the decayed state of masculinity has become a legitimate crisis overnight.
This crisis divides men from women, as well as men from ourselves and each other, as they – or I should say, we – struggle to identify a positive way forward to being male in the world today.
Because I believe it’s not enough for a person to define themselves in the negative. In other words, we can’t just say, “I don’t want to be that.” Instead it’s our responsibility to choose an affirmative vision to move towards – “I want to be this!” – or otherwise we flounder.
While that topic is worthy of a post in itself, when it comes to healthy, authentic masculinity, an affirmative goal is hard to identify. What does it even look like in real-world, post-capitalist, 2016 terms?
Believe it or not, guys, it looks exactly like you and me. If we’re ready to search for its unique expression within ourselves, that is. Because once again, our fathers and our culture have for far too long failed at demonstrating it to us.
Let me put that a better way: Despite what I know was his best intent, my father failed at demonstrating for me a whole, healthy, and positive vision of masculinity, as did my culture around me. So I set out to find it for myself.
As it turned out, I needed help in this search, and help showed up. In the process, I discovered I wasn’t alone.
I wrote the following post on Facebook in October 2015. I felt it laid out my best case for the ManKind Project, my experiences with it, what it means to me, and the transformative promise the organization holds for any man who feels called to or curious about his own authentic masculinity, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, class, or sexual orientation.
I’m re-posting it now on my blog in greatly revised and updated form, in the hopes that it resonates in a new way this year.
No matter who or where you are, I hope you’ll read and, at least for a moment, consider deeply the things I have to say.
For the men reading, I hope you’ll do so even if you’ve taught yourself how to be a good man, or if you were blessed with a great father, grandfather, stepdad, uncle, or some other positive male role model in your life who showed you how to be.
Because for any man, if you’re ready to do something about the lack of good men in the world, and to start the only place you can, with yourself, this is the organization for you.
An Invitation for Men, and Women
Friends – Though I’ve talked with some of you in person, one thing I haven’t spoken about on Facebook is my involvement with the ManKind Project.
Founded in 1985, The ManKind Project is a global organization with branches on 4 continents (North America, UK/Europe, Africa, Australia/New Zealand) and in 21 countries, supporting 75,000 men and counting.
In addition to being a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3), service-oriented community, MKP offers a transformational initiation weekend for men called The New Warrior Training Adventure, which I attended in 2013. More on that in a minute.
First you may be asking yourself, “With so much male energy in the world, do we really need another organization for men?” My answer is an unqualified Yes.
Though the world is indeed overrun by destructive masculine energy, I argue that the individuals expressing it may be adult males, but they are not men.
Men honor women. Men honor the Earth. Men honor the uniqueness of every individual regardless of race, creed, color, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, or religious tradition, just as they honor the uniqueness within themselves.
The adult males running (ruining) the world today do none of these, nor have they for centuries. So I don’t call them men.
In fact, I believe the true man is lost, and it is our urgent shared task to bring him back.
Captains of Industry. “The strong, silent type.” Action heroes. Models. Playboy musicians. Athletes. The images of masculinity held up as exemplary in today’s so-called “modern” America are, at best, incomplete. At worst they are toxic versions of masculinity, ones that exact a heavy toll on men led to feel from a young age that they have to fit themselves into those misshapen molds.
On a personal level, American culture divides men inwardly from our feelings and emotions, which outwardly divides us from deeper connections with each other, as well as with women and the planet.
These divisions weaken men. Though our bodies mature to adulthood, inside we remain in a mental/emotional state of boyhood. Beyond causing innumerable problems in our everyday lives and in our relationships, in this state we’re also more easily manipulated by those who would co-opt male strength for destructive ends. And it’s not hard to see, they often succeed.
But the challenge of masculinity today is not to discard our cultural archetypes. Healthy masculinity conscientiously embraces power, innovation, physical strength, action, passion, virility, and vision. It merges these with receptivity, openness, generosity, sensitivity, lovingkindness, and compassion.
None of these qualities are exclusive to men. They represent the highest aspects of human nature and are the heritage of all. But in men they combine in a way that is complimentary to women, or whatever form the feminine manifests in our lives, such as same-sex partners.
So as men it is not enough to cultivate only one set of these qualities or the other, despite the pressure from corporate pop culture to cut out our hearts, and the “conscious” “New Age” movement asking us to – please pardon the expression – cut off our balls.
Integration is the true task, to merge and balance our qualities of tenderness and strength, love and power, compassion and wisdom. Not either/or, but both.
It’s not easy, nor is it meant to be. But in the act of trying we create what it means to be a man today.
I emphasize the word “trying.” I am the first to admit, I am not perfect. I don’t have all the answers, and I make mistakes. Sometimes bad ones. I’m sure all the men in MKP would say the same, as would anyone, if they’re being honest.
But the point is not to not make mistakes. The point is to discover better ways to respond when I do. In other words, to own my mistakes, be accountable for them, make amends where necessary, and even to understand what inside of me may have driven me to make that mistake in the first place, especially if it’s a pattern.
Empowered by that genuine self-knowledge, over time I can then make fewer mistakes, in one area of my life at a time.
Going one step further, for every reactionary behavior, anxiety, or misguided thought I transmute into its opposite, I reclaim that inner energy to apply mindfully to my life priorities, my relationships, and my dreams. This is how changing my inner life has generated lasting changes in my outer life, including the changes you see me living now. It’s also why you’ve perhaps seen such growth in my writing, photography, and music. And it explains the title of this series, “tools of transformation.”
This is also what is meant by the saying “Growth is a process.” By undertaking this process, this journey, as a man I resurrect my part of authentic masculinity that has been lost. Walking further down that road, week by week, month by month, and year by year, I become a model for other men to follow. I become the example absent from my culture and my communities.
In the greater blessing, I also become the model for my children, should I ever have them. Not just for my sons but my daughters as well. The same model I never had.
In doing so, I get a chance to help remake the world, generationally, in ways that persist long after I am gone.
The opportunity offered to me to accomplish this is the same opportunity I am writing about now, because this is the aim of The ManKind Project. It supports and inspires men towards wholeness, integrity, authenticity, and lives of service so we can be better fathers, friends, partners, creators, brothers, and citizens of our communities and the Earth.
Most powerfully, it gives us the tools to do this ourselves. No priest or preacher is required. Just our desire to be better, and each other.
The New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA) I attended in 2013 changed my life in this way. “Revolutionized” might be a better word. Going is the best decision I ever made, and the greatest gift I ever gave to myself. It became the vital foundation of so much more to come.
On that weekend I touched an inner strength and toughness I didn’t know I had, and I watched other men express a tenderness and sensitivity they didn’t know they had.
And to the last man, we dug out real courage and genuine heroism in breaking through seemingly-insurmountable barriers, together. I leave it to you to discover what was on the other side.
Since then, I’ve watched as my brothers from that weekend and I have carried what we learned into the world, affecting not just our own lives but our families and communities, and later the men around us.
If you’d like to learn more about The Hero’s Journey that takes place on an NWTA weekend, without spoiling it, please review this incredible graphic. (Click to enlarge.)
But most importantly, on that weekend and in the 3 years that have followed, I discovered a vibrant community of men from all over the Bay Area and the world dedicated to supporting each other in being and becoming the best men and the best humans we can be. Men of all ages, from their 20s to their 80s! Men with fierce hearts, strength, wisdom, compassion, kindness, honesty, integrity, accountability for our words and actions, and love.
Before that weekend, I would not have believed such a thing existed. Sometimes I still don’t. It does.
Some of these men have been doing this work for years, or decades. They pointed the way for me.
This is why I asked men with good fathers and role models, or who taught themselves, to please read on anyway. Because if you arrived with the help of your family or through your own efforts, I celebrate you. There is a community of men like you who took a different road.
This post is an invitation for all men to join that community.
My New Warrior Training Adventure asked a lot of me. I wanted it to. I needed it to. It asks a lot of all men who go. But the rewards are worth it.
Because having attended 3 NWTA’s, one in 2013 as an initiate and two others in 2014 and 2015 as a staff member, I have yet to meet a man who had a “so-so” experience. The men who go consistently describe it as I did: thrilling, fun, surprising, emotional, powerful, transformative, amazing, real.
Many call it the best weekend of their lives. Others compare it to the days their children were born, or their wedding day.
For me, it was the second most important day of my life. The first is January 31, 1978 – the day I was born.
To the best of my ability, I don’t waste your time endorsing things that aren’t the real deal. This is the real deal. And it is happening worldwide.
The New Warrior Training Adventure welcomes men of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and nationalities. Local communities offer sponsorships for men of economic need, and the NWTA accommodates all levels of physical ability.
The ManKind Project Organization and the New Warrior Training Adventure also honor all faiths, or lack thereof. Perhaps the only faith required is faith in oneself. And if you don’t have that, I suspect at the NWTA you might get a chance to find it.
Finally, the NWTA holds safety as the highest priority. No one is going to kick your ass or call you names. That’s the same kind of masculinity we’re all trying to get away from.
If you are male or identify as male and you have read this far, I hope you will please give sincere consideration to attending an NWTA either now or in the future.
Women, if you’re reading this, I invite you to please consider sharing this post or information with a male friend, partner, colleague, or family member. Because it’s an understandable fact that today, many aware men are more comfortable looking to women for guidance and strength than they are to other men. There may be a man or men in your life for whom you play that role, and I am grateful to you for it, for carrying that flame for those of us who need you.
For questions, I’m available anytime. If you’re not sure how to contact me, please comment below and I will get in touch.
For those preferring to have sensitive questions answered outside a circle of friends, I can connect anyone who is interested to one of my ManKind Project brothers anywhere in the world.
As humans we live in a complex and beautiful symphony of existence. As we are discovering daily, our survival is bound to the ecosystem of the Earth.
In a similar way, as men our survival in society is bound to that of women, and to each other. None of us can play all parts in this human symphony, and all parts must play. The better we each play our instrument, the more we benefit those around us.
In this way, strong men empower other men. They also empower strong women, just as strong women – mothers, siblings, relatives, friends, lovers, partners, colleagues, artists, teachers – have empowered innumerable strong men.
As people, what we put out returns to us. By discovering and sharing our inner gifts, we fully give. By healing ourselves we contribute to the healing and the transformation of the world.
In being better performers, we lift the symphony.
In that spirit I say enough of adult males and boys. The world needs men.
I sincerely hope you’ll join me in this work. You are needed.
Will, Radiant Albatross
NOTE: The logo for this site, The Lost Pilgrim, depicts a bird flying towards the sun. The bird is an albatross. It was inspired by my work with MKP, what it means to me, and the place it holds in my life.
To register for a New Warrior Training Adventure in Northern California, and to find other NWTAs worldwide:
(NOTE: Many NWTA’s tend to fill up quickly)
ManKind Project and New Warrior Training Adventure Links
The ManKind Project International Homepage
The ManKind Project USA Homepage
The ManKind Project on Facebook
ManKind Project Northern California Homepage and Facebook
MKP centers outside of Northern California:
New Warrior Training Adventure Homepage
New Warrior Training for the GBTQ Community
New Warrior Training Urban Gateway for Inner City, Non-Caucasian, and/or Disadvantaged Men in Oakland, CA:
Spanish-language New Warrior Training Adventure, in Mexico
A SPECIAL NOTE FOR WOMEN:
The ManKind Project has a sister organization offering a similar experience, designed for women, called Woman Within. I obviously have not been to one. 🙂 But as the recommendation of MKP carries weight with me, I’m pleased to share the link:
I would greatly love to hear about your experience, if you choose to attend.