I have often felt broken inside. At best I felt fragmented. I have sought alcohol and drugs to make me feel whole. Recovery allowed me to reclaim my life, but I still felt partial as a man.
As I cast my mind across the expanse of my life, I see that I have always struggled to forge close connections with other men. This includes my father, my friends, my colleagues, and my bosses—all the males in my life.
Like some of you, I was raised by my mother because my father was often absent. In that absence, I was deprived of the masculine role model I needed to nurture me, shape me, and define me as a man.
In this feminized world, I often felt much more comfortable trusting and sharing my thoughts and feelings with women. Though women can teach me valuable things, they cannot initiate me into manhood. For that, I need the company of other men, as men’s leader Wayne M. Levine points out in his article “The Importance of Trusting Men in Your Circle.”
I have often demanded too much masculine support from my female partners, a common issue that Levine says often leads to the breakdown of those relationships.
Men need men to be men.
As men we are aware of the efficacy of the ancient initiation ceremonies that for millennia have powered the rite of passage for boys to become men. Tragically, however, they are absent in our culture except in the often sadistic initiation practices of gangs and fraternities.
There is an answer. It’s the ManKind Project.
The ManKind Project (MKP) is a men’s global nonprofit that hosts personal development events, challenging and transformational trainings, and sponsors local men’s groups. It is not a religious organization or a cult but an international collection of men committed to becoming more self-aware, and in the process becoming more emotionally mature and more skilled in relationships at home, at work, and at play.
I recently attended their New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA), which is as close as men today can get to those ancient initiation ceremonies into manhood.
I don’t want to give away details about what happens on a NWTA weekend because entering the experience without preconceptions or mental rehearsal is part of the program.
What I can tell you is that the weekend brought to life for each of us the hero’s journey that American Mythologist Joseph Campbell popularized. Campbell was credited by George Lucas as the inspiration behind Star Wars.
Simply put, the hero’s journey is about departure, initiation, and return. In honoring this journey, the MKP staff empowered us to depart the work-a-day world, to awaken the warrior within, to enter the arena of our fears, and to battle our self-defeating beliefs.
It was absolutely awe-inspiring to be present to the sights and sounds of these 9-5 men breaking through their barriers to cross the threshold from ordinary to extraordinary.
In the trust and safety this circle of warriors, I felt for the first time that I could shed the costumes I have worn for the world and could step off the stage into my authentic self. Within this circle, I could finally claim my title as a man.
Men need men to be men.
So welcome, brothers, to the company of MKP men where trust allows us to re-forge our broken selves and to emerge from the fire whole. This is the place of trust where we become the men that our family, friends, and colleagues depend on us to be. Welcome, men, to the sacred and magical space of MKP.