What will I do next?

22026560My friend Gretchen has three questions for any situation:

What am I doing? 
Is it right?
What will I do next?

Actually, a very simple tool for living. It doesn’t contain judgment but relies on wisdom and compassion to guide us in our next steps. This was the theme of our night’s exploration.


Our sixth meeting of Men Sitting By A Fire took place on Tuesday, August 27. Beginning Thursday, September 21, we meet every third Thursday beginning at 7:30 pm (new time).

Click here to to register or contact Marc Balcer at marc@center4selfcare.com. We are thrilled to be launching the Center For Self-Care this week. Visit us to learn more.

cropped-camp-fire1.jpgEach gathering is organized around the “Five Touchstones”, based on the work of Franciscan Richard Rohr. They are:

  • Centering – Show Up and Observe, We are men who are grounded in the power of the here and now.
  • Gathering – Show Up and Get Together, We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • Connecting – Show Up and Share, We are men who choose others with whom to walk, shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • Releasing – Show Up and Let Go, We are men who let go of the ways that no longer serve us.
  • Serving – Show Up and Act, We are men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community.

Centering

In mindfulness meditation, a core practice is returning your attention when it becomes lost. You may find yourself lost in thought. And that is okay. The point isn’t to perfect your meditation or empty your mind. Instead, it is to return over and over, no matter how far your mind has traveled or how long it has wandered from the present moment. We use our breath, our body, our senses to gently guide us back to now, the only moment that there really is. We begin again.

I recently wrote about beginning again on the Your Mindful Coach blog. Check it out.

Gathering

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Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” —Guy Finley

With a smaller group, we gathered close to the fire as evening fell. Participants introduced themselves by sharing one thing in their lives that is exciting and one thing in their lives that is concerning. These recollections were universal, spanning from anticipation of a new job to the challenges of raising children.

Connecting

With our excitements and concerns in mind, participants spent ten minutes answering the question, “What will I do next?” This week, we read our own reflections to the group.

Many of the intentions focused on how we will take care of ourselves. Recognizing that when we take care of ourselves, the effects are felt by everyone around us. They included:

  • Relax and allow myself to feel confident.
  • Take care of myself by taking reading breaks while traveling for business.
  • Create a welcoming living space in my home.
  • Reach out to family and learn its story.
  • Organize my work desk.
  • Read for leisure.
  • Stay in touch with my grown sons each week.
  • Develop a nighttime routine to sleep better.

Releasing Committing and Serving

wooden-pencil-drawing-fire-edge-inspiration-creat-creativity-ideas-concept-free-copyspace-your-ideas-text-80721958We closed by committing to check in with each other on their intentions. Through this connection, we can evolve our own plans and receive support and accountability from each other. We meet again on Thursday, September 21 as we continue to explore authentic relationship, most specifically by examining our inventory of skills, relationships and passions and how they can be shared in friendship.  Please sign up today!

 


Thank you to John F., our first paid member of this year’s Men Sitting By A Fire!

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When did you need a friend? How did they respond?

Its quite a challenge. When you need a male friend but you don’t know quite how to engage. In fact, you aren’t really sure what you need or how you can be supported. It may be that you haven’t experienced positive, authentic male friendship or practiced male friendship enough to truly connect in these moments of need.

3873837We exist in a society shaped by a cultural history of masculinity. Rob Garfield writes, “Male friendships are smack in the middle of an identity crisis. Our society no longer insists on an old-school model of masculinity that requires men to be perpetually cool, emotionally restrained and in control.” So there are new culturally acceptable models but they take practice. Garfield continues, “Men are now allowed to have some connection to their emotions, but nobody seems sure about how much, when and with whom. We are a society that is no longer sure what men are or should be.”


Our fifth meeting of Men Sitting By A Fire took place on Tuesday, August 1. We will meet on six evenings throughout the summer of 2017. We meet again on Sunday, August 27. Click here to to register or contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com

Stay tuned for Men Sitting By A Fire 2017 – 3rd Thursday monthly beginning September.

cropped-camp-fire1.jpgEach gathering is organized around the “Five Touchstones”, based on the work of Franciscan Richard Rohr. They are:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We are men who are grounded in the power of the here and now.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We are men who choose others with whom to walk, shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We are men who let go of the ways that no longer serve us.
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We are men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community.

Centering

maxresdefault.jpgLocal teacher Gabriel Rocco teaches in the tradition of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche using the 3 Doors Practice. This practice includes body, speech and mind. One practice is cultivated through the attention to the stillness in the body. Within the movement of our world and even our body, we can find a place a stillness that acts as both a refuge and anchor of our attention. Our centering practice gave us time to connect with this stillness and return to it when we became aware of distraction. Try this brief practice here:

I shared the following selection from David Whyte who writes at length about friendship,

“the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the other, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

Gathering

Participants introduced themselves and shared something exciting that has happened recently. We partnered up and shared a bit about what was going on in our lives at the moment.

Connecting

We quickly dove in to the questions of the evening. Participants spent ten minutes writing their story and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant:

  • When did you really need a friend?
  • Did you find one?
  • How did they respond? 

These stories included circumstances of loss and grief. They included situations of extreme vulnerability and chaos as well as mundane challenge. In many cases, the storyteller had been barely getting through and could only get support by becoming profoundly exposed in witness of another. Some phrases that resonated included, “he talked me through the conversation”, “he realized my pain”, and “this person was saving the day.”

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Three qualities of great male friends that were highlighted were acceptance, listening and honesty. The stories wove together qualities such as witnessing, being present, providing stress relief, and making one feel a common humanity. The friends were real and they were empathetic.

 

Releasing & Committing

Burning-Paper-318x239In our excitement, we never quite got to a second set of questions for reflection: What do you need from a male friend? What is the point/purpose of male friendship? and Where are you/will you find(ing) it? Instead, we shared in a community of reflection.

We brought our stories to the fire to release them and to ignite them as living wisdom for ourselves and those we are close to. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

As we moved towards closure, I shared a poem by Tony Luxton:

Mysterious Creatures

A makeshift camp of hardy souls,
the air is cold but we are free
and hold to our common causes.
Little is said. There’s much quiet thought.

The crackling fire makes it all
real, fans our fellowship of feelings,
casting shadows of mysterious
creatures . The flames flay our faces red.

Limbs stiffen, ache, but only eyes move
for fear of breaking our charmed circle.
Minds are moving fast over unknown
futures, over people from the past.

Serving

We closed with partners to share an intention to bring our insights into the world, whether through expressing gratitude towards friends or taking an inventory, connecting and engaging with other men.

We meet again on Sunday, August 27 as we continue to explore authentic relationship, most specifically by examining our inventory of skills, relationships and passions and how they can be shared in friendship.  Please sign up today!


Thank you to Pete, Thom, John F., John K., Barry, Dave, Jim, Ross and Ted for your financial support of Men Sitting By A Fire!

Who is the best male friend you have ever had? What should male friendship look like?

What should male friendship look like? Before even beginning to answer the question, we looked at the work of Dr. Robert Garfield, author of Breaking The Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Male Friendship. Garfield describes a code of traditional masculine maxresdefaultbehaviors that can get in the way of authentic friendship. These include emotional restraint, taking control and physical toughness. Emotionally intimate behaviors can be conditioned out of males through development such that self-disclosure, vulnerability and empathy are suppressed behind the mask of identity or in an invisible bag.

Garfield found that the men he worked with needed opportunities to build deeper relationships by:

  1. Sharing their feelings and
  2. Asking for and offering help. 

Our group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and experience authentic male friendship. What a great place to start!


Our fourth meeting of Men Sitting By A Fire took place on Tuesday, July 11. We will meet on six evenings throughout the summer of 2017. We meet again on Tuesday, August 1.  Click here to to register or contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com.


Each gathering is organized around the “Five Touchstones”, based on the work of Franciscan Richard Rohr. They are:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We are men who are grounded in the power of the here and now.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We are men who choose others with whom to walk, shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We are men who let go of the ways that no longer serve us.
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We are men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community.

Centering

The practice of Loving-kindness is used to soften and open our hearts. In this practice, we combine words, images and feelings to produce an inclination towards kindness and care for ourselves and others. Through regular practice, our hearts open and we begin to recognize the interconnection we have with all beings.

Traditional Loving-kindness practice offers some version of the following phrases, repeated as we bring an image of ourselves, a loved one, or even a difficult person to mind. We brought images of male mentors and friends to this evening’s centering:

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May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be safe.

May you be at peace. 

 

Gathering

Participants introduced themselves and shared some thoughts on the question, “When have you needed a friend recently?

We discussed the early men’s movement work of Robert Bly and others. Bly recognized that by the eighties, men were generally able to share intimately with women in ways much different from one or two generations before. In a famous interview, What Men Really Want, Bly suggested men still needed to connect with their “inner caveman” in order to lead a more authentic, connected life. Thus was born an industry of men’s groups and retreats that focused on initiation rituals that had been lost through agricultural and industrial revolution. Perhaps more simply though, our task as men today may be to make emotionally vulnerable connections with both women and men (I also suggested this alternative goal was a good way to ensure that we’ll never dance naked around our fire).

Connecting

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Garfield identifies four qualities of friendship. They are

  • creating safety
  • expressing your feelings
  • risking self-disclosure
  • listening and responding (as opposed to fixing or problem solving)

Our guiding question for the evening was “Who is the best male friend you have ever had?” Participants spent ten minutes writing their story and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some common themes:

  • Meaningful shared experiences solidify lasting friendships
  • Small, seemingly coincidental events spark friendships
  • These friends are reliable in most every situation, even when all one needs is unspoken support.
  • These friends remind us that we are not alone and are part of a larger human experience.

We continued with partnered sharing as we reflected on these stories.

Releasing

Burning-Paper-318x239We brought our stories to the fire to release them and to ignite them as living wisdom for ourselves and those we are close to. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

As we moved towards closure, I shared a final poem by David Whyte:

Everything Is Waiting For You

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Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Serving

How do we bring this experience to the world? Several participants held their stories, pledging to share the gratitude they felt for the meaningful friendships about which they had written. This expression of gratitude has some very real impacts in the world!

We will continue on Tuesday, August 1 as we continue to explore male friendship and the impact of the “Male Code”.  Please sign up today!


Thank you to Pete, Thom, John F., John K., Barry, Dave, Jim and Ted for your financial support of Men Sitting By A Fire!

What’s in the bag? The long, black bag we drag behind us.

Our third meeting of Men Sitting By A Fire took place on Monday, June 26. We will meet on six evenings throughout the summer of 2017. We meet again on Tuesday, July 11.  Click here to to register or contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com.

This new group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and experience authentic male friendship.

Introduction

We gathered to continue the conversation of identity and emotional expression. As men, there are norms and expectations that constrain who we are in the world.

canstock3448147-e1498576909792.jpgI was struck at our last gathering by the exhaustion participants expressed from “wearing a mask” of competence, certainty and achievement. There is a strong message that has been internalized of what we can let the world see. Author and poet Robert Bly has a different metaphor for the mask. He calls it “The Long (Black) Bag We Drag Behind Us.” Through our childhood and adolescence, our undirected energy and enthusiasm is channelled into an invisible bag where the parts of ourselves that our parents, our teachers, our caregivers and our peers don’t want to see are placed. Curiosity and exploration can be mislabelled and placed alongside misbehavior, frustration and nonconformity in the bag.

Bly writes,

“We spend our life until we’re twenty deciding what parts of ourself to put into the bag, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out again.”


Each gathering is organized around the “Five Touchstones”, based on the work of Franciscan Richard Rohr. They are:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We are men who are grounded in the power of the here and now.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We are men who choose others with whom to walk, shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We are men who let go of the ways that no longer serve us.
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We are men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community.

Centering

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.maryoliver_dog1.jpg
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver, published by Atlantic Monthly Press

Gathering

In The Poetry of Self-Compassion, David Whyte describes the journey from adolescence to adulthood (I recommend listening to the whole thing or starting around the 19 minute mark).

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Whyte writes, “Usually the surrender of innocence to experience, where you make a bargain, you say, there’s no such thing as innocence, its all just gathering of experience. Which tells you to keep your head low. The hope is that you can create such a low profile object and that the universe won’t even know you are there and therefore you won’t get hurt anymore.

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A possibility for immunity. For not feeling grief. Not making mistakes. And that anything that confronts us with that possibility goes into the black bag. Everything that scares you and you don’t want to face up to, you put in to this little pouch. As a 3 or 4 year old, its quite small, a pouch that fits on your belt. By the time we are 43 years old, this bag is 110 yards long.

 

While reflecting on a childhood of curiosity and non-stop inquiry, one participant reflected, “I wonder why that stopped.”


Our guiding question for the evening was “What’s in the black bag?” Participants spent five minutes writing their story and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some common themes:

 

  • Innocence
  • Faith
  • Love and connection
  • Self-Discovery
  • Intimacy with family, friends and other men

One participant shared how he was encouraged to put his trust in faith and in family but “never allowed to find the answer from within.

Connecting

Our time of reflection continued as we spoke with partners to address the question, “What happens when something gets out? What might I release to the world?” Participants reflected on the energy and passion represented by those things held unseen and the freedom of letting a little weight out of the bag. Some reflected that at a certain age, the bag can begin to lighten and how can one support that. Finally, we explored how in a sense, we can “fill others bags” by heaping on our beliefs, our opinions and our biases, particularly with our own children. In this case, there is no need to get matching luggage.

 

La Poesia

by Pablo Neruda

wooden-pencil-drawing-fire-edge-inspiration-creat-creativity-ideas-concept-free-copyspace-your-ideas-text-80721958.jpg

And something ignited in my soul,
fever or unremembered wings,
and I went my own way,
deciphering
that burning fire,
and I wrote the first bare line,
bare, without substance, pure
foolishness,
pure wisdom
of one who knows nothing,
and suddenly
I saw the heavens
unfastened
and open.

– translation by David Whyte

Releasing

As we moved towards closure, I shared a final poem from David Whyte, Faith.

We brought our stories to the fire to release them and to ignite them as living wisdom for ourselves and those we are close to. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

Let this, then, my small poem, like a new moon, slender and barely open, be the first prayer that opens me to faith.” – David Whyte

Serving

How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

We will continue on Tuesday, July 11 by exploring authentic male friendship. I plan to utilize the teachers of local author, Rob Garfield. Rob wrote the book Breaking The Male Code: Unlocking The Power of Friendship. As you reflect, ask yourself, “Who has been my closest male friend in life? What made this relationship meaningful?”


Thank you to and Thom, John F., John K., Barry, Dave, Jim and Ted for your financial support of Men Sitting By A Fire!

What is the mask you wear? What is behind the mask?

Our second meeting of Men Sitting By A Fire took place on Sunday, June 11. We will meet on six evenings throughout the summer of 2017. We meet again on Monday, June 26.  To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com.

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This new group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and experience authentic male friendship.

Introduction

We gathered to explore how we express our identity and emotions with others.

jabbawockeezmask_front_large__53841_zoomWe all wear “masks” in a variety of environments in order to conform to social rules. Our expression of class identity, gender identity, ethnic identity, sexual orientation identity, religious identity and a multitude of other identities help us shape our lives. But these identities can also be limiting when they are used to simplify and stereotype ourselves and others.

Each gathering is organized around the “Five Touchstones”, based on the work of Franciscan Richard Rohr. They are:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We are men who are grounded in the power of the here and now.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We are men who choose others with whom to walk, shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We are men who let go of the ways that no longer serve us.
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We are men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community.

Centering

Awakening Rights

by Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo 2

We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved,
and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed
and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves
so that the doorknob feels cold
and the car handle feels wet
and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.

Gathering

The documentary The Mask You Live In explores men and young boys as they navigate America’s narrow cultural definition of what it means to be a man. The messages they receive, most prominently “You must be strong, you can’t show weakness,” dictates behavior and personality. Young men conform to “display rules” which allow for the expression of anger but little else. In this way, we build a mask that hides our true nature.

Our guiding questions for the evening were “What is the mask you wear? What is behind the mask?” Participants spent five minutes writing their story (story template) and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some common themes:

The Mask I wear

  • Calm and Collected
  • Reliable and Trustworthy
  • Energetic
  • Certaintysupermancry_1050_591_81_s_c1.jpg
  • The person with all the answers

What’s behind The Mask

  • Exhaustion
  • Fear, Anger, and Confusion
  • Uncertainty and Doubt

One participant shared “People see me as ‘the rock,’ steady and reliable, but ‘the rock’ is beginning to show its wear.

With several teachers in the group, approaching retirements for others, job changes and summer plans, our group recognized the challenges of times of transitions, where our mask no longer fits the situation. Who am I without this mask?

Connecting

Our time of reflection continued as we spoke with partners to address the question, “Who gets to see behind the mask?” Participants expressed surprise with how little of what lies beneath gets shown to the world. It is true that this revelation may not be appropriate in certain situations. Our mask is protective and adaptive but not  always supportive.

With “exhaustion” as a common theme behind the mask, we explored the concept of emotional labor. Emotional labor refers to the task of managing ones behavior, speech, actions and feelings to conform with perceived social rules of an environment. Often this is through the lens of women because of how complicated these rules can be. But with men, there is really only one primary rule – “Don’t be weak.” This has been explored in the workplace as well as in relationship.

Releasing

As we moved towards closure, I shared the story of the Golden Buddha of Sukotai. This Buddha had been covered in plaster in the 18th century in order to protect it from theft.

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Golden Buddha of Sukotai

In wasn’t until 1954 that a crack appeared, revealing the brilliant golden Buddha underneath. Here’s the story from Jack Kornfield: https://www.lionsroar.com/discovering-our-nobility/

 

 

There’s a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen, Anthem

We brought our stories to the fire to both release the masks that don’t serve us and to reveal the beauty behind each mask. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

Serving

How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

We will continue on Monday, June 26 by exploring what it means for our mask to display calm, reliability and certainty. As part of this, we will ask questions about vulnerability and shame, through the work of Brene Brown. How can I share my vulnerability with those that have earned the right to see it? 

 

 

When did you become a man? What does it mean to be a man?

Our first gathering of Men Sitting By A Fire took place on Thursday, May 18. We will meet on six evenings throughout the summer of 2017 to gather in the fellowship of men. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com.

This new group will be dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and experience authentic male friendship. We’ll begin each meeting with a brief centering practice followed by discussion on a new topic each time. You can participate as much or as little as you like.

This group was inspired by Mindful Men Meeting, a monthly membership group; author Rob Garfield’s book Breaking The Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship and the work of Robert Bly and the Men’s Movement at the end of the 20th century.

Introduction

We plan to use the “Five Touchstones”, based on the work of Franciscan Richard Rohr, which I found at http://www.illumandc.org/joi/five-touchstones/. Straight from their site, they are:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We are men who are grounded in the power of the here and now.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We are men who choose others with whom to walk, shoulder-to-shoulder.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We are men who let go of the ways that no longer serve us.
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We are men who honor the earth and serve the whole human community.

Centering

What to Remember When Wakingdavid_whyteBW_300pxw

by David Whyte
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?994
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

Gathering

Boston Globe reporter Billy Baker writes, “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” He continues, “Men need an activity together to make and keep a bond. . . We need to go through something together.”

evolutionOur guiding question for the evening was “When did you become a man?” Participants spent five minutes writing their story and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some common themes:

  • An emergence from childhood – “you feel like a boy and then it hits you.”
  • A revelation or transformation that forever shapes you.
  • An ongoing process shaped by family – spouses, children and parents.
  • An experience of loss or grief.
  • An experience of freedom, independence and responsibility.

One participant shared “You become a man when you are comfortable enough with yourself that nothing else matters.”

Connecting

Our time of reflection continued as we spoke with partners to address the question, “What does it mean to be a man?” In this way, we can reshape the narrative of how we became a man and define it through our words and actions in the world. For example, can being a man mean expressing a full spectrum of emotions and qualities, not just anger or strength? What if being a man means crying in the company of others when he is suffering.

Releasing

Burning-Paper-318x239.jpgAs we moved toward closure, we encircled the fire and released our stories, both literally and figuratively. The fire is a symbol of our connection, our energy and  universal experience of being a man and being a human being. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

Serving

How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

Next time, we will explore The Mask You Live In. What expectations limit your expression of your identity because it doesn’t fit with social and cultural norms? We all “wear masks” in a variety of environments in order to conform to social rules. Our expression of class identity, gender identity, ethnic identity, sexual orientation identity, religious identity and a multitude of other identities help us shape our lives. But these identities can also be limiting when they are used to simplify and stereotype ourselves and others.


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You will find a variety of guided meditations from Mindful Men Meeting on my website or check out the YourMindfulCoach.com podcast and the Your Mindful Coach blog.

c062b05952539ffa27b011b00ecd683eMarc Balcer has received training in Mindfulness­-Based Stress Management, Mindful Self-Compassion and Mindful Schools. He leads workshops and groups locally and has worked with local education experts Jenny Mills and Gloria Shepherd to develop ways to bring mindfulness to youth. Marc teaches Social-Emotional Learning at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA.

Marc leads regular open retreats and mindfulness groups as well as a monthly men’s mindfulness group in the Devon/Strafford area. Limited private consultations opportunities also available.