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
The 19th 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.
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.