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.
We 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for Men Sitting By A Fire 2017 – 3rd Thursday monthly beginning September.
Each 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.
Local 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.”
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.
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.”
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
In 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:
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.
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!