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
Part Three: Home in the World
In the first decade of the new century the conference passed through its adolescence and into a coming of age. A consistent factor in our collective maturing was our commitment to community. In the latter half of the nineties we shifted from a professional conference to a gathering of men willing to be vulnerable with one another, to build brotherhood and accountable community together, and, even more, to be in enough Soulful agreement to actually imagine and dream together.
How do we attract such men to the conference, how entice whatever level of longing is drawing them? We found step by often bewildering step that the only way was to surrender at each stage and release ourselves into Trust’s next challenge. There was a time when we attempted blanket mailing our brochure, fishing the likely psychotherapy and self-help waters for possible candidates. We purchased many mailing lists. The return was always very little for the effort. But we had over the years built up a mailing list of our own. Now we would trust to word of mouth amongst those who had attended at least once. If the conference were of continuing value, the growing community that had benefited from it would see that it continued.
Our largest attendance was a bit over 100. At that time with the conference still a collection of academic offerings we aimed for 80. When we chose to pursue it as a communal, Soul-building-and-bonding experience, we aimed for and achieved the smaller, more manageable number of 60 plus participants. This more intimate number helped create the depth we were seeking. Once or twice we had only 40 to 50 attendees, and that, felt even more effective, but our current goal remains 60, to cover expenses with a margin for scholarships. We trust that a few extra brochures in the hands of our regular attendees will bring in that number, and that those who actually do show up are precisely the ones who are “supposed” to be there.
Our eleventh conference was entitled Weaving the Fabric of Community, Remembering Our Vision, Revealing Our Purpose.
Everywhere we look we see the depletion of the spiritual, vital and physical resources of our planet and are no longer content to lead unexamined lives as consumers of those resources in pursuit of various illusions towards self-aggrandizement. Rather we are impelled to travel further along the journey towards a mature masculinity that can both protect and foster nourishment of the environment we share and the next generation we are to influence. Each of us will, no doubt, follow our own threads toward greater fulfillment of these goals – but how much more effective and rewarding it can be as we undertake the journey consciously together!
An important metaphor in this conference was taken from William Stafford’s poem “The Way It Is:”
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
This is a call for each of us to bring our individual threads to the Gathering. We do not know how our thread fits into the tapestry nor what the pattern is that will emerge. We do know that each thread is sacred. It is the inspiration that keeps us on our path, the purpose that helps shape our passion. The thread has been our enduring and generative link to the whole. It is time once again to re-member our collective purpose and design. In preparing for the conference, we ask each man to take firm hold of his thread, check in with the impulses that are stirring in him and ask himself the following questions: What is the source of your inspiration? To what thoughts and actions is it leading you?
We were asking more of the participants, requesting that they help us shape each conference. They could no longer come as passive consumers themselves. If we were truly a community, if our efforts were truly collective, then we must all contribute our piece to the common urge, weave our own threads into the tapestry. We, the organizers, had some facilitating abilities, had indeed our own insights, issues and preferences, were perhaps by nature, age, and experience elders, but we never posed as teachers nor deluded ourselves that we had some esoteric secret to impart. We had long ago given up our egotistical attachment to hierarchy, had abandoned the podium in favor of the more egalitarian circle.
In Africa there is a species of ladybug in which each individual displays a slightly different shade of color. When they alight as a community on the branch of a tree or bush they manage to camouflage themselves by forming the image of a flower. No single ladybug sees the flower as a whole but each brings their indispensable part to the pattern, so necessary for the survival of the community. We can not help but wonder what image we collectively create when we bring our unique portion to the whole.
The main task for us in preparing for the conference was to keep ourselves open to what Spirit was telling us, both as to what Time’s evolution might require and wish to bring forth in the way of feelings and ideas and also, more humbly, what we, the collective, might be prepared to accept. Any individual brilliance each of us might possess could be appreciated but hardly applauded, could not be displayed for ego gratification but had to be placed in service to the whole. There was no room for self-aggrandizement at any stage of this sacred undertaking. Although humor was never lacking, we took our mission seriously, were committed to and hopefully worthy of the endeavor.
… when we are fully present with our sincere intentions that great wisdom is aroused to help us in our quest. We believe that the collective Soul is drawing us into greater energy and consciousness as we aspire more clearly to serve the needs of our times. Our work, it seems, is to honestly aspire, to take our place on the branch of the world tree and shine forth with our brightest color. Who knows what pattern will prevail, what glorious image we might present or what wondrous eye might behold us?