A few years ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends called me up to tell me his life had been changed and he wanted to let me know that he was sorry for all the things he had done in our friendship that were less than par with what I deserved. He told me that his head was no longer “up his ass” and that it was largely in part to an amazing adventure he had just had in “new warrior” training with the ManKind Project. At the time, I had never heard of the project but imagined it was something kin to a 12-step program or women running wild in the woods.
Then little by little over the past few years, I have noticed a strange phenomenon. Oftentimes, when I find myself talking or interacting with a member of the male species who seems to be just a notch higher on the caliber scale in regards to quality men, I will no doubt come to find out that they, too, are a member of this mysterious brotherhood. The last time this happened, I was asking my recently discovered (and in my opinion most talented out there) massage therapist why he worked so well in really understanding each patient’s individual bodies. He told me that it was only part of many lessons he had learned about being fully present, engaged and responsible in the world in all you do through his training with the ManKind Project.
Intrigued, I explored more into this unique brethren through their website. What I discovered was an organization with an inspirational message for all men to not only find their true missions in life but to thrive in today’s new world and culture with a new way of being that is about leading by example, embracing service and becoming role models amongst their personal and public communities.
According to their website, their self-proclaimed “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals” are to build a body of men a million strong creating a safer world in circles around the globe; establish a ManKind community in every city in the world that is home to at least one million souls; within 15 years achieve international recognition on par with Doctors without Borders and other institutions of merit; and lastly, within ten years to develop and deliver an internationally recognized curriculum for mature masculinity for all ages and stages of a man’s life. And most impressively and courageously, the group has adopted values and institutional-wide stances in support of bisexual and gay men and against abuse of all kinds.
I decided to interview both of the men I currently know and admire who are involved in the project about what effect their involvement has had on their lives and how they hope to spread its message among others.
How did you first hear about the ManKind Project and what compelled you to get involved personally?
Ian: I spent the day with a man who was in the program. He was trying to raise money so that he could go to Mt. Kilimanjaro to be the first quadriplegic to climb the mountain fully unassisted. I donated my time to direct a short film for the Internet to raise funds, which ended up generating over 12 thousand dollars towards his trip. At dinner, while talking, this man asked some questions and the conversation turned to the state of my life, which was pretty low at that point. He told me that I needed to do “the weekend”, described it a bit and gave me the website address. From there I felt something inside that said it was time to face my demons.
Scott: My psychologist recommended the ManKind Project to me. He said I needed more positive men in my life. I have had men in my family that were either mean men or invisible men. I was excited about going. I have been involved with 12-step stag meetings (men only) and enjoyed the honesty and opening of men talking together.
Describe your first experience with the Project and how it affected you?
Ian: After that evening with that man I did go to the website and fill out an application. The cost of the weekend was $670.00 at that time and I had almost no money at all. I’d read that they had an assistance program but I was pretty sure that money was going to be the reason I didn’t go on the weekend.
A local man from the organization called me. He was the “weekend coordinator” and he talked to me about the weekend. This was the end of May 2006. I told him that I wanted to do the weekend but that I didn’t have any money. He offered me assistance and with the aid of others made it possible for me to go on the weekend. Receiving assistance from people I didn’t know was truly amazing and eye opening. It made me want to be with these people and do the weekend even more.
Scott: I was invited to a man’s home and felt a part of the group instantly. I remember not sharing much at my first meeting and felt supported by the men in sharing more. I loved the mystery of the work where they talked about a New Warrior Adventure Training weekend but did not give me many details on it. The steps that I needed to take to become a part of the group actually made me want it more. As if this work took some blood, sweat and tears before I could enter. They don’t give out membership for free. Somehow this made me feel safer.
What did you like most about what you learned and what message did you take from your first experience out into the world?
Ian: That it’s ok to love myself.
Scott: I liked taking back my power as a man. I was able to tap into this fierce anger and harness the power to stand up for myself. I felt worthy. I felt worth something. My wants and words mattered. I was not selfish when I spoke up for myself even if others might not agree. I am not a bad man (I know this) so even me asking for everything I want is spoken in a likable way.
What has being involved in the project led to in your own life?
Ian: That’s a story that seems to go on with no end. And it’s a journey with ups and downs and stops and starts. In many ways I’ve completely changed who I am. I’ve made a whole new set of things the most important in my life. I now eat and live a more sustainable lifestyle. I work daily on optimal fitness and health and those paths strengthen my self-image and add to my power. The more I love myself the happier I am, is a message that I chose to believe in on my weekend and it is still today, six years later, the driving mantra in my head!
Scott: I am a better father within my family. My kids get the real me. I can show them my feelings and they can see a man follow through with what he says. They see their Dad being able to act with volition instead of just following what everyone else does. I am able to discipline my kids lovingly and directly without wimping out and giving them a free pass when they mess up.
What are some of the ways you are spreading the message and doing the work out in your own personal world today?
Ian: I live my truth and it inspires others. I know this to be true because I’ve been told it does. Today in my life I truly try to lead by example.
Scott: I serve on staff for New Warrior Adventure weekends. I just completed my 7th staffing in two years. I also serve on the ManKind Project Council for the Los Angeles community. I love supporting men in this work. It is so beautiful to see a man release shame and fear in his life or get support for his sadness. I thoroughly enjoy connecting with men on a deep level.
What kind of man should get involved with the ManKind Project and how does one get involved if they want to?
Ian: Everyman should get involved, if not for themselves because they are healthy and whole, then for the men they can help.
Scott: All men are welcome. There are some exceptions, like if the man is not mentally stable, but our trainings are generally geared for all men – any challenged man is welcome. There is no requirement for physical abilities or depth of introspection into themselves.
How do you think this project benefits men in our society today the most?
Ian: The idea that mentoring as a natural part of parenting has been mitigated by the demands of life is at the core of why this is so much more important today.
Scott: We bring authenticity into the world. Men are challenged to be authentic and really do what they say they will do. They are challenged to feel their feelings and accept responsibility for the future of humanity.
What is your current involvement and anything exciting to report?
Ian: I have no current involvement other then ongoing personal relationships with men I met through the organization, one of which was on my weekend and a part of my life-changing moments.
Scott: I just staffed for the Northern California community last weekend. It was so exciting to see men come through the doors scared and fearful and most having issues in their lives that they did not know what to do. On Sunday, they left with the beginning tools of a new way of looking at the world and their life.
What are some things you would like to impart to your fellow man about being fully engaged with the shaping of our current society?
Ian: Everything begins with true self-love. When you love yourself you are inclined to love everything else, more tolerant of life-stressors and disagreeable people. Love yourself. Believe in your self. Take great care of yourself. Your life will be grand.
Scott: There is nothing like being supported by my Warrior brothers. I always know where I stand. I am able to create a world of connection. These men actually pick up the phone when I call them. Who knew there were men like this!
Anything else to add?
Scott: My animal totem is a Cheetah which means to me that I am running with Integrity in everything I do. It is a reminder to me that I am on a path of integrity. Even though my story above talks about me becoming more self-focused, this is not everyone’s story. I was a man that did everything for everyone else. By knowing who I am and what I want, I am able to serve the world and protect what I value and love. Every man has a different story and a different mission. Together we can heal the world, one man at a time.
Written by Kimberly Nichols
Newtopia managing editor KIMBERLY NICHOLS is author of the book of literary short fiction Mad Anatomy, a contributing editor to 3AM Magazine and has exhibited as a conceptual artist throughout California for the past decade. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in magazines and media internationally. She was a founding editor of Newtopia in its former incarnation where she was also a member of the NewPoetry Collective. She is currently at work on her novel Fish Tales: Looking for the Bird with the Golden Feather. She has recently embarked on a journey of study in shamanic and medicine lore and wisdom under a series of respected teachers. Follow her daily beat poetry on Twitter @LITGFOA or her arts and literature blog.