What is more ancient then men, in a safe and very male place, possibly sitting in a circle around a fire and speaking their minds. I can only imagine there was talk about the techniques, frustrations, and success of getting the meat. There was probably some talk about tribal politics, women, dangers on the horizon, initiating the new crop of boys, and men's work in the village that needed doing. I know there was guy humor and, given their diet, some farting.
I have sat in many men's circles over the last 30 years, and each time, maybe every time, my life got incrementally better from the exposure to the ideas, heartfelt expressions, data, and just the good men there. Because of that, I want to draw your attention to an open circle initiative a few good men in Springfield, MA, USA have started. It's called Open Men. The Mission Statement of this group says, We create safe families, communities and institutions by taking collective responsibility for our actions as men in the world.
In the hopes of creating more "mature men," the founders of Open Men offer this description of what belonging to their group entails. We don’t try to make friendships, we make powerful bonds between men, whether they like each other or not. A ‘regular guy’ can step into this space and feel empowered to tell the unvarnished truth about his life. We’re not here to put on a show for each other. We’re not here to set ourselves up in opposition to a perceived ‘other’ in the world. We’re not here to offer salvation. We’re here to cut through the bullshit that we’ve been taught are the fundamentals of being a man. We’re here to step through the fear of showing up authentically, warts and all, in our lives and loves.
In their format, the Open Men website says at a point in the evening men will be asked to volunteer if they have something going on in their lives that they want to examine in-depth. These conversations will be facilitated by one or more men in the group in a way that avoids giving advice or making any declarations about a man’s experience or worth. He will have the opportunity to be witnessed and supported by other men. Men will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own beliefs, actions and emotions. They also state that the evening may end with an opportunity to say what, if anything, a man is grateful for in his life, or in the group. He may also choose to offer a blessing to anyone or anything he chooses.
IF a man can find the courage to step into such a circle, and IF he can find it in himself to share something about his life, there is a very good chance that in addition to the sense of belonging and camaraderie, he will likely move his life along in important ways. Boysen Hodgson, one of the founders of Open Men, described some of the changes in his life based on his involvement with Mankind Project and sitting in men's circles:
Not a bad outcome for a small investment of time and taking a risk to see if there is a men's circle out there for you.The last four years have been awesome for me. I have closer connections to everyone I interact with. I have more self confidence, less fear, less anxiety, more stability, more laughter, more intimacy with my wife, more commitment to social justice, and men all around me that I can count on to support me and tell me the truth. This work made some of the reading and searching for "IT” I have done over the years come to life! I realized I had “IT” all along. And the great thing is – I’m NOT FIXED! I am as human as I ever was. I still break things and mess up. I just seem to have a much wider variety of CHOICES about how to act and take responsibility for my life.
You can read more about the Springfield, MA, Open Men initiative at their website. If you're interested in starting an open men's circle of your own, you can contact Boysen through the Open Men website for some "how to" advice. You can also learn about men's circles sponsored by the Mankind Project, or if you are aware of other similar opportunities for men somewhere else, send them along to me and I'll write about them here.