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Essence: Poetry of the 2012 Conference, Part 8

July 14, 2012

From Hari Meyers: And I did three poems during the Slug Clan fest —

I’m Listening

I’m listening. But I don’t know
If what I hear is silence or God.
I’m listening. But I can’t tell
If I hear the plane of emptiness echoing
Or a keen consciousness
That at the bounds of the universe
Deciphers and watches me.
I only know I walk like someone
Beheld, Beloved and Known.
And because of this
I put into my every movement
Solemnity and Risk.

- Sophia DeMello-Breyner

(translated from the
Portugese)

The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when  the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

One Hour to Madness and Joy
by Walt Whitman
(1819-1892)

One hour to madness and joy! O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
O to drink the mystic deliria deeper than any other man!
O savage and tender achings! (I bequeath them to you my children,
I tell them to you, for reasons, O bridegroom and bride.)

O to be yielded to you whoever you are, and you to be yielded to me
in defiance of the world!
O to return to Paradise! O bashful and feminine!
O to draw you to me, to plant on you for the first time the lips of
a determin’d man.

O the puzzle, the thrice-tied knot, the deep and dark pool, all
untied and illumin’d!
O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last!
To be absolv’d from previous ties and conventions, I from mine and
you from yours!
To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature!
To have the gag remov’d from one’s mouth!
To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am.

O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
To escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts, with invitations!
To ascend, to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate soul!
To be lost if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.

Essence: Poetry of the 2012 Conference, Part 7

July 11, 2012

From Hari Meyers: During the discussion at the end of the Gilgamesh tale, I recited the following poem –

To Be a Slave of Intensity

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think. . .and think. . .while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.

If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because  the body is rotten–
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of
Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you
will have the face of satisfied desire.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this:  When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that
does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.
— Kabir
version by Robert Bly

Essence: Poetry from the Conference, Part 1

June 6, 2010

This entry marks the first of a series bringing some of the poetry that spoke to us so deeply at the Conference two weeks ago. They will be published in no particular order. These first two were spoken by Hari Meyers.

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self
and wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance,
long, difficult repentance, realisation of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.

 

-       D. H. Lawrence

Then, inside the first section or prologue to the Joseph story as Hari was referring to Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, he recited this remarkable poem:

The Man Watching

 

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

 

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

 

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

 

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when  the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

 

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

 

-   Rainer Maria Rilke

 

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.]

Retrospective: 2003 & 2004 Conferences

April 18, 2010

The 2003 and 2004 Conferences

by Hari Meyers

2003: Living on the Verge, Our Wounded World, Our Healing Selves was the name of our 13th conference.

At this time of great uncertainty — with our world poised ready to self-destruct or self-realize — the struggle for clarity, sanity, direction, and purpose is churning inside of us. Out of the chaos in front of us, a new world will coalesce.

Corresponding to our loosening and easing up in the matter of recruitment of participants, we also began to trust that the content of the conferences, the processes, the rituals, and the creation of sacred space could evolve more spontaneously from the needs of the attendees during the conference itself. Progressively, we let go more and more of the need to tightly choreograph every moment of the event.

We are on the verge — of terror, compassion, vengeance, reconciliation? Where is my edge, my entry, my place to take a stand?

We wanted to open to guidance, needed to live on the “verge” of our creativity itself. Believing that responding to the needs of the moment would be more profound overall than our struggling beforehand to plan out every detail, we were willing to let go of reliance on the structural template for the conference. For example, we no longer held to a tightly pre-planned design for the Saturday night grief ritual but trusted that the right form and process would present itself as needed.

We surrendered a step further and, although we considered the grief ritual as an important element and Saturday night still a good time for it to occur, we let go of any insistence that it had to occur unfailingly. We have had conferences in the last few years that have allowed the expression of grief to be more integrated throughout the weekend and not just reserved for that ritual in that place. We always have the template and lots of ideas and pre-thought-out possibilities to apply if needed, but we are much more willing to remain flexible and be innovative in the moment. It is possible that a Saturday night grief ritual might be called for again as new men enter our circle, bringing their own needs. We trust ourselves and our community more and more, and it seems more and more that what we call “spirit” trusts us.

Within the sense of personal helplessness, isolation, and pain lies each man’s medicine, authority and ability to act effectively in the world.

The 2004 Conference

Our 14th conference had the intriguing title Desires and Differences, Healing the Breach between Men and Women. Despite the cliché notion that what men do when they gather with one another is talk, disparagingly, it is feared, about the women in their lives, our conferences, and all the men’s work I have experienced, have been peculiarly absent of such talk. I suspect it is a subject we generally avoid, one that might be too rife with conflicted feelings, too charged a minefield to negotiate.

We encounter women, this other half of the human race, every day in ways that complement and violate each other. While embracing our love, respect, and gratitude for women, we men, whatever our sexual orientation, also need to address the challenging and disturbing aspects of our relationships with women. After all, they are intimately and intricately involved in both our deepest pain and our highest inspirations. We seek their approval and fear their rejection. We admire their wisdom, yet too often seek to control their expression of it.

Traditionally, perhaps even biologically, considering the driving force and genetic agenda of the “alpha male,” men are conditioned towards power. Alas, in the external world of social interactions this is predominantly power over others rather than inherent personal power. Men know all too well how to defeat other men, how to organize resources and energy to get things done, how generally to impose themselves. It is with women that men experience their hidden insecurities, experiencing feelings often forbidden in the company of other men. Perhaps Freud had it wrong and “womb” rather than “penis envy” is a primary cause of the mistrust between the sexes. Every man since infancy has experienced various dependencies upon women. Such a perceived weakness flies in the face of his essential masculine posture of independence and self-sufficiency.

Woman has become the mysterious “other” to men. He fears her censure and resents deeply his disavowed but desperate need for her approval. It is no secret that historically men have brutally dominated women. Such a relentless need for control can only be based in its turn upon fear, such fear upon a lack of understanding… of women.

Being out of balance with the women in our lives, as well as with the Feminine in ourselves, might just be the root disturbance which throws all else out of balance.

From the late eighties and on into much of the nineties when the “men’s movement” was at its notorious height much of the focus was on the “father-wound.” Issues relating to the mother were conspicuously absent. Perhaps we were waiting until we were collectively strong enough to deal with the inchoate complexity it would bring up. Robert Johnson spent a great deal of time educating us about the Mother, her archetypal and historical aspects, the “mother complex” itself, speaking to us of the multifarious emanations from our anima within, with which we were generally so “out of touch.” But his talk remained in the archetypal realm. It was quite another matter to deal with the real flesh and blood women in our lives.

This three day conference will focus on our relationships with women — whether mother, sister, daughter, friend, mate, lover, or muse. Let us risk gathering in a community of men to find strength, inspiration, and direction as we explore this issue through honest talk, open hearts, grief, celebration, story, ritual, art, music and movement.

To our credit we made a start, a beginning. We touched tender places in ourselves, melted sometimes in gratitude, sometimes in remorse, forgave and asked to be forgiven. It was powerful, but once again, as with our foray into our relations with brothers of color, many of us felt it did not go far enough, that an enormous amount of work remains to be done. The women’s movement has had tremendous impact in the lives of women and over western society in general. Women have effectively gathered together to liberate themselves from a vast array of oppression and subjugation. The men’s movement lagged by decades and has not yet had a parallel effect in society at large.

Many, including a great number of women, denigrate the men’s movement, wondering from what exactly men, who seem to have all the power, need to be liberated. Others, including an even greater number of women, support men working on themselves, understanding that there can be no lasting change in the world until those who wield the apparent power come out of their ignorance, become more authentic with their feelings, shortcomings, and their gifts. I often feel that women are waiting, mostly supportive and patiently, for us men to get on with our self-realization, hoping as mothers, sisters, friends and daughters that we might get “there” soon.

[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 2002 Conference

April 17, 2010

The 2002 Conference

by Hari Meyers

By the time of our 12th conference, Rising from the Ashes, Calling Forth the Vision, Reshaping the World, the events of September 11th had occurred. They had commanded not only our attention but that of the nation, the entire world. Seldom do more than a few events in a lifetime command such universal focus. There had been the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy when I was a young man, so for myself and my contemporaries we may have reached our share and quota. We could hardly miss the opportunity to consciously experience together the myriad of feelings, thoughts, fears, confusions, hopes and prayers that such a shattering event might engender.

In a time of crisis, what is it that men call forth — demons from the past or angels for the future? Men new to this work and returning elders as well, the time calls to us all equally — a time to stand up for what we know in our soul, a time to create a real alternative, a world that supports rather than crushes Humanity.

That year our opening Friday night ceremony in the meadow was especially stunning. Each of us brought from a prepared pile of shaved and shaped wood two pieces, one to symbolically contain our private grief and the other to carry the weight of what it was we were grieving in the world. Our two pieces were then stacked together with everyone else’s two pieces to form two separate towers of wood. The towers were then set on fire. We all stood in silence and watched these towers burn to the ground. Everyone was incredibly moved. Such collective witnessing brought on a cathartic release of our grief – no blame, no explanations, just our grief in the witnessing of this particular image of sorrow. It stood in a stark contrast to the vociferous reactive re-plays we had endured all year with the media images and their interpretation of the events of September 11th.

The present challenge is to create a new, potent, caring and benevolent vision, an imagination of bravery that leads to peace and shared prosperity. How can we help transform the world? When we stand together in a united imagination, we are powerful beyond all dreaming. We will explore these questions through ancient folklore, ritual, small group sharing, art, grief, laughter and music.

We had been led deeper into our creative imagining. At whatever point any one of us had entered the “men’s movement,” whatever limits we had placed on how much transformation was possible, whatever the doubts of our own will and abilities, we were inspired by the pressing realization that change, some change was absolutely necessary. None of us could go on in the old patterns any longer; we felt compelled to invest in some perceived hope, and our intention, perseverance, and willingness to change ourselves was what we had to invest and was, I believe, blessedly, enough. Forces hitherto unrecognized came to our aid, “a great wisdom,” as the previous year’s brochure had called forth, “aroused to help us in our quest.”

Now we knew not only that we had nothing to lose but that collusion with the old world was less and less acceptable. September 11th and the war which mendaciously followed rubbed our noses in the poverty and cruelty of the imagination that seemed to be taking the world further down the path of endless destruction. There had to be a better way and we had to be able to create it. We discovered our common longings and we were moved enough to allow them to lead us. Our collective awareness that change is not only necessary but eminently possible led us to the discovery of our ultimate resource, a “united imagination.” To gather, define and then learn how to apply this united imagination remains our ongoing work.

We started by resurrecting a different set of towers in our minds and hearts, sacred towers that might carry us to larger ideas of ourselves and place our hope on a firmer footing. We invoked two such images:

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

and I have been circling for a thousand years,

and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm

or a great song.

R.M. Rilke

But as the Tower crumbles it reveals a sturdier foundation, something which perhaps you did not expect but which, nevertheless, arrives fully formed and strong into your life.

- Major Arcana #16 from the Ryder-Waite Tarot.

[Next: the 2003 & 2004 Conferences}

[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.]

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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.

Click here to go to the Registration Page.

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The Conference will be held from 4pm Friday, May 23 until 12 noon Monday, May 26, 2014.  The Conference is held at the Mendocino Woodlands Camp, in Mendocino County.  Built by down-and-out men of the [...]

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