Retrospective: The 2009 Conference

May 5, 2010

The 2009 Conference

by Hari Meyers

The 19th and our most recent conference was entitled Rebuilding the World from the Inside Out.

Men, this is a call to action. In this time of loss, cutting back and stagnation, the pull to personal depression is great. Issues of self-esteem come up, and we feel not good enough, “not up to it.” But, if we are going to get through this, we’re going to get through it together. The challenge is for each of us to hold our own, even expand, when all about us wants to contract. We have the opportunity to rebuild, from the inside out, our lives and our world. How might we reimagine ourselves, our society, our planet? Times are tough; we just can not afford to miss this dialogue among good men.

I have spoken a great deal of the risk, the trust, the depth, the grief of the work undertaken at the conferences. This is all true but another truth should be mentioned and that is the freedom each man is granted to be precisely who he is and exactly where he is emotionally and spiritually for the entire weekend, to be held in love and respect even if he feels he cannot participate actively and needs time to himself, time to simply be in the unspeakable beauty of the natural setting.

Nor have I spoken of the celebrations that take place honoring our breakthroughs.  Usually occurring on Sunday has been the work of reframing our wounds, once the medicine in them has been absorbed.  What was perceived as limitation, hesitancy, or defensiveness can be released, and the underlying service the more cautious strategies may have provided can be appreciated.  For example, the fear of judgment which may have caused a man to hold his tongue can be, once the fear is relieved, honored as a trait that, perhaps, fostered contemplation and depth of thought.  I have already given the example of the poet in our midst, who was not a poet when he first came to Gualala in fear and full of self-recriminations but who broke through, over time (It took him a number of years to be able to say to himself and the world, “I am a poet.”) into a bounty of expression—and this because he was welcomed, seen and held in community by his brothers, brothers who could relate to his fear, who could relate to his self judgments, who could relate to his need to be seen and held

Nor have I spoken of the celebrations that take place honoring our breakthroughs. Usually occurring on Sunday has been the work of reframing our wounds once the medicine in them has been absorbed. What was perceived as limitation, hesitancy, or defensiveness is released, and the underlying service the more cautious strategies provided can be appreciated. For example, the fear of judgment which habitually caused a man to hold his tongue can be, once the fear is relieved, honored as a trait that perhaps fostered contemplation and depth of thought. I have already given the example of the poet in our midst, who was not a poet when he first came to Gualala, how he broke through into a bounty of expression once his pain and shame moved from judgment in the realm of his persona to a gratified appreciation at his Soul’s level of his capacity to endure, even prevail.

When it is safe, men love to display their talents and gifts to one another. While men remain in competition, envy and judgment rule the day, but, once released, the pure joy of self-expression pours out in lavish measure. I know this well. The warm reception my stories have received from the men at the conference has worked wonders in healing my own father wound. Having been dismissed as a “show-off” whenever my enthusiasm threatened my own father’s unhealed competitive edge, I had come to expect enmity if I displayed my talents. Most men have experienced some similar dampening of their enthusiasm, as if our growing grandeur took away from another’s greatness. Released, as I say, men love to display and our Sunday nights were often the most amusing and moving “talent shows,” followed by exuberant dancing.

[Next, looking forward to the 2010 Conference.]

[Hari Meyers was an early Associate of the Redwood Men's Center.  He attended all of the Conferences since their inception and was a major organizer and planner on every one of them since 1996.  His primary interest in composing this article was to articulate the essential archetypal passages through which men must pass on their journey to mature masculinity, and all such interpretations and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Redwood Men’s Center itself.]

Retrospective: The 2008 Conference

May 4, 2010

The 2008 Conference

by Hari Meyers

In our 18th conference we sought Sanctuary: In the Kinship of Men.

We all long for real connection. For men, that urge for relationship often is masked by competition, by fear, by the pressure to be “what a real man is supposed to be.” Beyond these old guises of warrior and hero lie our authentic selves. At this conference, we will gently uncover, look each other in the eyes, rediscover our genuine natures, and celebrate the beauty and truth that we find in the sanctuary of our kinship.

Over the years a basic committee or crew of conference planners has evolved. We have had two others join us each year in the planning, but for the most part of this decade the planning has been consistently taken up by an enthusiastic crew of four. After Robert Johnson retired from the conference, we enlisted Doug von Koss to become an ongoing member of the planning committee, as well as continue his role at the conference as our “ritual elder.” In addition, our core team consists of Gordon Pugh, Richard Naegle, and myself, Hari Meyers. We have our individual strengths and unique pieces we reliably contribute, and we have over the years come to work intuitively and well together.

We have received the benefit of our trust and practice, have experienced what we believe all men wish to experience, and may have experienced, if at all, only in childhood, the joy of hanging together as friends. We know each others strengths, count on and defer to them. We brainstorm, feed off of each other, joke outrageously, but do not compete with each other or fall too often into any “upstaging.” We have experienced personally what we invoked generally, a non-guarded, non-competitive, non-judgmental communication amongst men. To turn those “non”s into positive statements, we have experienced what we had dared to hope possible, the open, cooperative, holding in high-regard and unconditional support of brothers.

We are at the edge of our Soul’s evolution. Nothing new or wondrous can happen without our conscious engagement. Could it be that we each already are enough? Could it be that we each already belong? Could it be that this is what our troubled world is waiting for? Come prepared to touch the urgency of your life as a man.

And we know that we must have others join us so that we can all stay fresh and current. And, as we honor rather than hide from the mortal cycle in all things incarnated, we know we must replace ourselves. We have no worry about that, know that the spirit guiding the conference will supply what the conference needs as long as the conference is needed. The camaraderie and genuine brotherhood has grown as we fervently hoped and in directions we couldn’t imagine. We know it is possible for each of us to experience actual live working models of authentic brotherhood.

Men have stepped forward. The community circles, the very heart of our intimacy, the container that holds us all, have been facilitated for several years now by a steady conference attendee.  In holding and maintaining the sacred space for the council he, himself, has blossomed into a blessing elder. Our small groups, although remaining “leaderless,” have become more effective as the seasoned men within each group bring their own growth and maturity to assure the safety necessary for their brothers to be seen at whatever level of vulnerability they may wish and to be held in the depth desired.

[Next, the 2009 Conference.]

[Hari Meyers was an early Associate of the Redwood Men's Center.  He attended all of the Conferences since their inception and was a major organizer and planner on every one of them since 1996.  His primary interest in composing this article was to articulate the essential archetypal passages through which men must pass on their journey to mature masculinity, and all such interpretations and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Redwood Men’s Center itself.]

Retrospective: The 2007 Conference

May 4, 2010

The 2007 Conference

by Hari Meyers

Our 17th conference, Turning Points:

Is every moment we live a turning point? Do we recognize them as they happen? Some are revolutionary – a catastrophe, falling in love, a sudden insight, a shattering loss. Some are evolutionary – schooling, career, parenting, depression, health, aging, changing of administration (inwardly and outwardly). What transitions do we now each face in our lives? How might the community of men help us find the courage to fully embrace the direction that is required?

The first task seemed to be the healing of our own wounds; we moved from perceiving them as unique and individual to an appreciation that our sufferings are universal, a necessary part of every journey, an entry point to collective Soul.  Appreciating how kindred are our dreams and aspirations, we formed stronger and stronger bonds together.  Community then increased our capacities both in witnessing and testimony.  How do we now apply the salve of our own wholeness to the world at large?  How can our own movement from isolated suspicion of each other to a trust in brotherhood turn the world we dream together from harshness to harmony?  How to collectively nudge this seemingly intractable world more and more towards a worthy habitation for Soul? That “turning point” refines its challenge to us in every conscious moment.

There is a rhythm to our returning to the Gathering each spring – we reaffirm our connection, acknowledge our community, bear witness to each other’s journey, to our welcoming old and young, new men and seasoned men alike, and to knowing that the questions we ask and the stories we tell are simply a framework within which, regardless of particular theme or story, our community comes home.

[Next, the 2008 Conference.]

[Hari Meyers was an early Associate of the Redwood Men's Center.  He attended all of the Conferences since their inception and was a major organizer and planner on every one of them since 1996.  His primary interest in composing this article was to articulate the essential archetypal passages through which men must pass on their journey to mature masculinity, and all such interpretations and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Redwood Men’s Center itself.]

Retrospective: The 2006 Conference

May 4, 2010

The 2006 Conference

by Hari Meyers

We entitled our 16th conference Your Truth, Man to Man, a Dialogue Among Men: Taking Your Place at the Table.

Men today are urged from childhood to be strong, independent, guarded with our feelings and successful in all we do. For many of us this leads to loneliness, despair, competition and a mistrust of life in general.

How, after their standard conditioning of competition and wariness, after their training towards dominance and “winning at all costs,” after becoming skilled in hiding their hurts and vulnerabilities, just how are men to trust one another? The common experience of men is that the world at large betrays their trust. The precise trust being asked of us now – in order to grow into a greater sense of ourselves, to forge a new and healthier paradigm of being, to promote the wholeness towards which our longing tends – a trust large enough to express the truth of our feelings, the yearnings of our hearts, is the very same trust that frequently resulted in our past wounding. Now, men are being summoned from their dim hideouts of isolation into the exposed light of communal accountability. We are well aware how daunting the task, but that is the call we hear, the call we issue, and the very call the conference hopes to serve.

Fortunately, men are beginning to come out of these defensive postures and to share more of themselves with their family and community.  A man learns certain essential things when opening his heart to other men. There is both safety and power in being witnessed when a man speaks his truth. What seemed to be his own private struggles and dreams are truly shared by his fellows. The old burdens of isolation and shame begin to lift, and he may experience a renewal of his unique vision and feel supported in realizing that vision. The world no longer seems a place of obstacles but rather a land of allies. Finding our true selves again and again at the various stages of our lives is or real work.

There is a suspension bridge over the Gualala River. It shakes and sways as the men cross over it. It leads from the dining-hall side of the camp, where most of the conference work takes place, to the open meadow and the old growth redwoods, the more mystical location where our opening ritual is often held and where the stories are told in chapters at the fire-site amphitheater. We often crossed the bridge in silence. Sometimes sentinel-men at the bridge’s head would whisper phrases or questions into the men’s ears, “What wound do you carry? What vision do you serve?”

YOUR TRUTH – YOUR STRUGGLES, PASSIONS AND CREATIVITY, ARE THE GIFTS YOU BRING TO THE TABLE.

The bridge feels fragile and the first time a man crosses it his heart is in his mouth. The fear lessens the more it is traversed. Men get jaunty in their walk, jump, stomp a bit, attempt to put extra sway into the creaky bridge, let their hands leave the wire cables and rope railing. The risk remains but the trust increases.

[Next, the 2007 Conference.]

[Hari Meyers was an early Associate of the Redwood Men's Center.  He attended all of the Conferences since their inception and was a major organizer and planner on every one of them since 1996.  His primary interest in composing this article was to articulate the essential archetypal passages through which men must pass on their journey to mature masculinity, and all such interpretations and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Redwood Men’s Center itself.]

Retrospective: The 2005 Conference

May 1, 2010

The 2005 Conference

by Hari Meyers

Our 15th conference Walking a Path with Integrity, Finding Light in the Dark:

As men, how can we walk a path with integrity in our personal and community lives? Our culture erodes our truth, dignity, honor, honesty, self-esteem, and even our voices. With so much conflict and discouragement within and around us, where do we find light in the darkness, and how do we live hope?

We were all, planners and participants alike, feeling more and more reliant on trust. This growing trust, a trust in our wholeness, a trust in the collective Soul rising within us, this trust itself became our doorway to initiation. We had known, all the men undertaking men’s work whether in or out of the “movement” know, that some sort of initiation is necessary, an initiation from the naïve and puer aspects of our escapist selves, from the defensive and manipulative agenda of our controlling selves, an initiation into a deeper understanding, a more mature experience of masculinity.

The understandable response is to imagine that some sort of initiation ritual is necessary, one that will carry us forward into the wholeness and gravitas of our deeper Self. Such a ritual would indeed be wonderful if we could create an authentic, effective and meaningful one. Again, it is difficult to do so. After generations of fragmentation, after having wandered in our individuality so far away from any collective and agreed upon “tribal” values, who or what do we trust to do the initiating? Whether or not we have agreed-upon means of symbolically engendering such a ritual, some sort of initiation into manhood remains necessary.

Life itself, the spirit guiding our lives out of ego into Soul, will provide it. Either through some deepening experience, divorce, loss of a depended-upon job, my son’s accident, there are countless ways that life will guide us to the needed deepening and maturation. Also joyous events can initiate us, the commitment of marriage, birth of a child, devotion to a cause, but, immature and shallow complacencies being the most frequent blocks to our passage towards our greater selves, it is often by something we deem unwanted or tragic that we are shaken sufficiently enough to provoke real change. Heart-break breaks us open, commands our undivided attention. Our job is to allow, and learn. To do this we must hold at bay immediate and reflexive reactions and judgment, be willing to wait and see how it all plays out on a larger curve of the spiral of awareness. We who have undertaken the work of changing ourselves have learned to trust that a revelation of greater purpose is at hand. That trust, I believe, is the sacred oil anointing our initiation.

What better initiation for any man or boy than to be welcomed into the community of other men, like minded and open hearted.  In such a community a man of goodwill becomes even more benevolent and hopeful, “joyfully celebrating,” as Joseph Campbell says, “the sorrows of the world.”

We have learned many important things:

  • The wounds of our fathers and their fathers have impacted our lives.
  • Men have much to offer each other through their differences — be they cultural, racial, sexual, political, spiritual, generational or personal.
  • Beauty and creativity, art and music, ritual and poetry are sources of inspiration, healing, and deep pleasure.
  • Communication, relationship and understanding among men form the foundation for a politics of peace and justice.
  • We must continue learning how to creatively deal with conflict.
  • Our personal, community and global lives can not be separated.
[Next, the 2006 Conference]

[Hari Meyers wasan early Associate of the Redwood Men's Center.  He attended all of theConferences since their inception and was a major organizer and planneron every one of them since 1996.  His primary interest in composingthis article was to articulate the essential archetypal passages throughwhich men must pass on their journey to mature masculinity, and allsuch interpretations and opinions are his own and do not necessarilyreflect those of the Redwood Men’s Center itself.]

Eros and Its Shadow

24th Annual Men's Conference

2-EROSMemorial Day Weekend, May 23-26, 2014. Mendocino Woodlands Camp Two, Mendocino, California

We define ourselves in every part of our lives by our gender and our sexuality, often in terms of what we are not. Have we as men the courage to examine our programming around the erotic to see how it hinders our quest for wholeness?

Click here to download the Conference Brochure.

The attendee information packet with required release form is here (requires Adobe Reader.)

Click here to go to the Registration Page.

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