I engaged. I battled. And I triumphed. So it was with my own hero’s journey this past weekend. My family and friends say that my eyes are now warmer and that I carry myself with greater confidence.
These are the outer signs of a dramatic inner shift. They are just a few of the gifts from my 48 hours as a participant in the ManKind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure.
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 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. Let me just say that the weekend brought many physical and emotional challenges to overcome. There were points during the weekend when I wanted to cut and run. But I stayed…I stayed with the other 23 men who, like me, burned for something to bring freshness and vitality to our safe and stale lives. We stayed because we knew that what we hungered for was more important than fear.
And we were right. The intensity of that weekend shook us awake from the sleep of society’s conditioning. In the fires of MKP’s training, we emerged re-forged as men. This is the efficacy of the ancient initiation ceremonies that for millennia have powered the rite of passage for boys to become men. Tragically, they are absent in our culture except in the often sadistic initiation practices of gangs and fraternities.
But they find renewed expression in MKP. More specifically, 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. As I returned from the journey, I felt transformed as I proudly proclaimed to my fellow warriors, “I stand victorious in the truth of who I am.”
Campbell said, “The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” For me, that treasure was coming to terms with the shame that my rageholic father burned into me as a child. I have always felt less-than others because that shame taught me I was a bad person…that I deserved his verbal abuse.
I was not alone in living with dysfunction. Each of us brought to the weekend wounds that have kept us sidelined to our own lives. 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.
I have walked away from that weekend ready to engage in life with a new sense of purpose, appreciating myself for who I am, trusting myself, and believing that I can make a difference in this newly expanded arena that I now celebrate as my life.
In parting, I highly recommend the amazing YouTube video called Finding Joe that pays homage to Campbell’s hero’s journey. If it resonates with you, then what is keeping you, my friends, from reaching out to MKP and reclaiming your inner warrior?