In 2010 we celebrated our 20th Annual Men’s Conference. In honor of that occasion, Hari Meyers, the Redwood Men’s Center Master Storyteller put together a retrospective of the first twenty years.
A History of the Redwood Men’s Center’s Conference-Gatherings
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.