Monday, May 26, 2008

Is the Mankind Project Right for You?

[This is in no way an endorsement or advertisement for The Mankind Project. I have never attended a meeting or a workshop.]

One of my clients has been actively involved in the Mankind Project for several years. He has been through several trainings and leads a group here in Tucson. He has invited me in the past to attend a meeting of his group, but I have so far chosen not to do so.

Since starting this blog, however, I have become a little more curious again. So I decided to check out their site on the web. I've always been drawn to the Jungian archetypal approaches to some elements of masculinity, as anyone who has read this blog will no doubt notice. I like the idea of the New Warrior (see below), but my concern is the New Age feel of it all.

Here is their statement of values:
Accountability & Integrity
The New Warrior Training AdventureTM is about taking a look at our lives as men - how they work and how they don't work. Here a man learns how to be fully accountable for his actions and their consequences; how to begin integrating the dark and soulful qualities of his masculine nature; how to stand up and take full responsibility for his life. He learns to find courage in the face of his deepest fears, and to understand the he has the opportunity to live a life of integrity and congruence. He learns to transcend the momentum of toxic masculinity, finding within himself the sacred masculine energy that is capable of discernment and protection that seeds life with passion, zeal, and creativity. He learns to step forward as a man without apologizing for who he is, stewarding that energy with an open heart and compassionate mindfulness.

A mature man is one who knows himself well enough to understand why he is here and what he is committed to. A man spends his energy on what he values. We have been conditioned to value things outside us. Sooner or later, the material life gives way to the interior life, and we have only one place left to go to discover the real richness of our lives - inside our own hearts and souls.

Connection To Feelings
Many men have been taught to value thinking and to distrust feelings. They have been desensitized, taught to endure pain without complaint, and told that it is an honor to sacrifice our bodies for society. As a result, many men suffer from isolation and are prone to addictions and to acting out their feelings in dysfunctional ways. Many are afraid of intimacy, both with men and with women. They hide behind masks that are brittle and in need of repair.

Many men are sad, lonely, frightened, angry, and ashamed, and don't even know it. And with the loss of their feelings, they also lose what is most precious to them: Their ability to value their world and to hold life dear.

Other men know their feelings perhaps too well. They have learned to indulge in their feelings and use them to manipulate others, often the ones they love most. They lack the ability to stand in their own authenticity. Lost in their feelings, they too lose what is most precious to them: Their ability to be trusted and loved.

There is another way. On the New Warrior Training AdventureTM men re-discover their feelings with their feet on the ground. They begin to learn to clarify what they're feeling and to express those feelings directly and authentically. They begin to learn to balance the depth of the heart with the wisdom of the mind.

"Closing down in the midst of pain is a denial of a man's true nature. A superior man is free in feeling and action, even amidst great pain and hurt. If necessary, a man should live with a hurting heart rather than a closed one."

David Deida

Stepping up to lead or mentor takes courage. It means putting oneself on the line, taking a risk, becoming vulnerable.

It means confronting the fear within that wants to keep us small and safe. But sooner or later, we run out of places to hide. The only way out of our fear is to move through it. Real courage only has meaning in the face of our deepest terrors. Once we find the courage to stop running away from ourselves, we finally step into our lives as men. We become fully alive and present, able to give our gifts to the world with a sense of purpose and clarity, with neither apology nor arrogance.

We step into our relationships more fully:
  • able to commit
  • able to be intimate
  • able to listen with our hearts
  • able to speak our deepest truth
We discover a man who can be open and vulnerable, grounded and powerful. We discover how to live in the paradox of being tender and fierce, compassionate and wild. We learn the meaning of real warriorship.

Our culture is beginning to awaken to the reality that we are collectively suffering from a lack of healthy fathering. More attention is being focused on the importance of fathers, "not just as economic providers, but as nurturers, disciplinarians, role models, mentors, moral instructors, and skill coaches" says Dr. Wade Horn of the National Fatherhood Initiative.

Many of us grew up either without fathers or with fathers who rarely gave us the attention that we deeply and secretly yearned for. Every young boy needs the clear and loving reflection of an older man, one who sees him not only for who he is, but for who he might become.

A young man ventures out into the world along the path that his father has prepared for him. If he has been blessed, admired, and fed by his father, he will step out into the world with a strong sense of who he is. If he has been abandoned by his father, or told that he is not enough, his steps will be tentative and cautious. He will remain hungry and empty, and will continually look for validation for what he has done.

Our training creates an opportunity for each man to be honored and blessed, not for what he has done, but rather for who he is. When a man finally accepts and believes that he is enough, he can offer his gifts freely, rather than selling them for recognition.

Our training will not necessarily make a man a better father. But it will certainly put him in touch with the theme of fatherhood that he carries within himself. We often father our children in precisely the same ways that we were fathered, and if we are to turn the tide, it is essential that we examine the legacy we've received from our own fathers.

The Blessing of Elders
In traditional cultures, elder men have been valued as repositories of wisdom, strength and unconditional love. This is much less the case in a world that worships youth and the acquisition of material objects. There is a hunger in younger men for the "grandfather energy" that only an elder can provide. Within the ManKind Project the elders are a powerful circle of men that bless, counsel and gift younger men with the experience and learning they have gathered though the years. If you are 50 years old or older we invite you to join the ManKind Project's Council of Elders after you have completed the New Warrior Training Adventure™.
I've deleted some of the blatant advertising, but there was very little.

These all sound like good qualities to pursue in a group. It has a bit of a New Age, beating drums in the woods feel to it, which I'm sure is part of the attraction for many men (though, not me), but I also know they have looked at incorporating integral values and Spiral Dynamics into the program, though I don't know how extensive and/or widespread this has been.

Their vision of the New Warrior is in line with both David Deida and the Jungains:
Men have been warriors since the beginning of time and every man has his warrior side. But social forces pressure many to repress this part of themselves. They unconsciously substitute a distorted shadow for the healthy warrior energy so essential to sustaining individual and communal balance.

The New Warrior is a man who has confronted this destructive "shadow" and has achieved hard-won ownership of the highly focused, aggressive energy that empowers and shapes the inner masculine self. Sustained by this new energy, the New Warrior is at once tough and loving, wild and gentle, fierce and tolerant. He lives passionately and compassionately, because he has learned to face his own shadow and to live his mission with integrity and without apology.
This sounds suitably Jungian to me, which is good. Shadow-work is crucial for men and women alike to face and transform the worlds within.

Chogyam Trungpa called this the tender heart of the warrior -- not an external thing, but an internal quality of the warrior that we can access through surrender to our tender hearts, not through battle and confrontation with the shadow.
For the Shambhala warrior, the actual, basic notion of victory is not so much that you have one-upped your enemy and therefore you are victorious. Rather, no enemy exists at all; therefore, there is victory. This is the idea of unconditional warriorship and unconditional victory. In connection with this, the concept of sacredness is that fearlessness is carried into everyday life situations, even brushing your teeth. So fearlessness occurs all over the place, all the time. Fearlessness here is also unconditional. In this way, fearlessness becomes cheerful and very light. There's no need for cowardice or fear at all, or any moments of doubt. Actually what we're talking about is doubtlessness, we could say, rather than fearlessness. There's no doubt. There are no second thoughts. Everything is a complete warrior's world. So here victory is not having to deal with an enemy at all. It is the notion of no enemy. The whole world is a friend.

From OCEAN OF DHARMA: The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa. 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion. Number 119.

[Unpublished excerpt from Talk Five of Warriorship in the Three Yanas. August 1978, Rocky Mountain Dharma Center.]
This is the vision of warriorship that resonates with me. Yet I think both approaches are true but partial. We need to confront the shadow if for no other reason than it is sly and will trick us if we let it. But we must do so with compassion and gentleness, or it will fight back angrily. The warrior's approach is through a fierce compassionate heart.

Is the Mankind Project right for me, or for you? I don't know yet for myself. Some of it feels attractive, but I tend to be a hermit in my approach to healing and growth. But I'll sit with it for a few days and see what I think.


Sweating Through fog said...

I went through the new Warrior training many years ago, and for me it was a transformative, liberating experience. It is intense and demanding, and because of this is not for everybody. I know about a dozen men who have done it, and all save one have found it very beneficial.

I've heard claims that it is a cult. Not in my experience. I was involved with the organization for a few years, and left it with no pressure at all.

WH said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. One of my clients leads a group, and there is no pressure at all in his experience.