“‘Guys, what are you feeling?’
“Until 2002, when I was asked that question, a great abyss of silence would open up in me. My reply would have been. ‘I don’t know: OK, I guess.’
“Then, at age 56, I attended the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure Weekend (NWTA), thanks to my son-in-law’s persistent invitations. It was and continues to be a transformational experience for my family and me.
“‘What are you feeling?,’ asked this guy wearing sweats and built like a linebacker. Looking at him, I would have expected a different kind of question, maybe, ‘How much can you bench press?’
“‘I don’t know. I’m feeling good.’
“‘Good’ isn’t a feeling,’ he said. ‘Mad, sad, glad, fear or shame?,’ he asked, ticking each one off on a thick finger. ‘Pick one.’
“I couldn’t, at first. It took me a minute. I ran through each one on my own fingers — mad, sad, glad, fear, shame — trying them out. I was getting a little frustrated. Was ‘frustrated’ a feeling?
“I looked at the guy, expecting him to be showing signs of one of the many impatient coaches I had played for, the impatient father I had grown up with. Will you hurry up already, for chrissake, men who didn’t have time for feelings. But he was just standing there, calmly, arms behind his back, giving me the time to get out of my head and feel whatever it was I was feeling.
“I ticked them off on my fingers again, slowly this time: mad, sad, glad, fear, shame. ‘Sad,’ I finally said, ‘I’m feeling sad.”’ And I suddenly felt the tears forming in my eyes, my body telling me I had picked correctly.
“‘Good,” he said. ‘Your sadness is welcome here.’ Hearing that for the first time in my life, your sadness is welcome here, released the tears. I felt them rush down my face without feeling a drop of shame.” — Peter Putnam
ManKind Project’s (MKP) NWTA teaches men how to connect with their feelings and to connect with their shadows. Shadows are those things we hide, repress and deny. We all have them. My goal is to keep the shadows in front of me and own them. If I recognize my shadows, I am much more likely to live my life in integrity with others and myself. I will be more willing to hold myself accountable and be congruent in my thoughts, words and actions.
MKP guided me to a “life’s mission,” teaching me about the mechanics of self-sabotage (“shadow mission”) and creating the opportunity to gain support on an ongoing basis in the weekly Integration or I-Group meetings (in I-Group we are not your friends, not your family. We are that third group which is willing to offer you accountability support — “tough love” in sacred space).
The southwest Colorado/New Mexico chapter of MKP, a non-profit secular international men’s organization, will host a NWTA May 15-17. To learn more or register, go to www.mkpnm.org. To view men’s NWTA experiences, go to www.mkpla.org and click on NWTA video. Or call John Gwin, 731-9666.