More morning musings from the land of the open heart . . .

April 17, 2012


It has been some time since I have taken time to sit down and visit with you.

This morning much is on my mind but I am especially aware of how quickly our annual conference is approaching–Memorial Day weekend, May 25th to 28th — Friday afternoon/evening through Monday morning, beneath the towering redwoods in Camp 3, nestled in the valley of the North Fork of the Little River — more like a stream than a river — between Camp 1 and Camp 2 at the Mendocino Woodlands, a twenty or thirty minute drive  inland and down from the South end of the town of Mendocino — certainly we arrive at a sacred space at the end of that descent.

As I write to you I am sitting with my laptop in Portland, Oregon, in the home of my one time high school classmate, June Quackenbush, where I have come to visit each April for the last three years and where I will move in early 2013. Obviously, the land of the open heart is not limited by geography but geographic distance does have a profound impact on how we experience connection with each other. Relocating to Portland will allow the intimate daily partnership that June and I have, by some miracle,  been graced to discover with each other. At the same time the profound, certainly life changing connections and even the more casual ones that I have been blessed to make and develop in the Bay Area over the last twenty years will be wrenched and stretched by this new distance — challenged to be redefined, cared for and developed in new ways.

Even as I embrace the gain, the joy of my new life, I embrace the the loss, the sorrow that is there. In fact, it is only by the constant acknowledgment of and holding of and the grieving of this loss, that I am free to love the new life I am already living.

The Jimenez poem on the front of this year’s conference brochure represents that moment of profound awareness, that, in turn, raises the question for us, “Are we already standing in the new life?”

My answer is, “Yes, we always are!”  Embedded in and central to this affirmation is an acknowledgment of our loss that must be grieved as surely as our new life must be embraced, if we choose to be alive at all. As in the Jimenez poem, moments of insight are passive but they always allow a way forward, allow for action, even call us to action. So my question is always, “What is mine to do in this new life that is constantly becoming old and then new again and old and new again?”

There are many ways to go at this point but what comes to mind as a kind of companion piece to Jimenez — and I’m not entirely sure I could explain why it comes to mind — is Rilke’s 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


What I do know, my brothers, is ours is not a passive “standing” in that realization but an active wrestling with the large angles in our lives as we try to figure out how to engage and manifest personally, among our friends, in this community and in the broader world which teeters always on the brink . . . what is mine to do? What is ours to do?

Looking forward to joining you and wrestling together under the redwoods. Until next time, I hold you in my heart,

Brother Bill





  1. Jim Miller says:

    Hi Bill…..can you send me your snail mail address…..I may send you something in a few weeks, when it gets published..

  2. Scott DuRoff says:

    Rilke’s The Man Watching is one of my very favorites.

    “Winning does not tempt that man.
    This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
    by constantly greater beings.”

    The sentiment in those lines is so very precious. We are not made great by our victories, our successes. As Rilke says:

    “When we win it’s with small things,
    and the triumph itself makes us small.”

    If only we can embrace the call to try great things while accepting that our failures are not to be avoided but celebrated as powerful enriching opportunities for growth. It sounds so annoyingly new age and yet it couldn’t be more authentically true. And once again, in this moment, it is the advice I need the most. Thank you.

    Portland is a beautiful, progressive city and I have no doubt you with thrive up there. Just be sure to “Honor Thy Raingear” so you don’t get rusty! But then you are already up there regularly so you already know.

  3. Bill says:

    Thanks, Scott.

    How often poems come to me at appropriate times–both old familiar ones and new unknown ones.

    The Rilke poem comes to and through me from Brother Hari. If I remember correctly, I first encountered it when I heard him speak it aloud at a mini-conference before our 2010 annual conference. I may have also heard Doug speak it on occasion–can’t remember . . . or Larry . . . or Barry . . .

    Imagine being ignorant of that poem.

    Imagine how many poems are left to discover and rediscover over and over. Imagine that nourishment.

    From the beginning, this community of men has offered this feast. Do I love it? I do.

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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