Men are the Canaries in the Coal Mine and the Hope for Our Future on Planet Earth

          I’ll be 70 years old in December, 2013.  I’ve done a great deal of healing over the years.  I’ve had to deal with my own health issues.  Like my father I’ve suffered from manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder) where I’m exuberant and high, get lots done, feel like I can juggle 8 balls in the air at the same time, but then want to reach for 9 and 10.  When that happens I get edgy, then angry, then filled with rage, the balls crash around me and I fall into an agitated depression. 

          To say I wasn’t easy to live with would be a vast understatement.  Which is why my first two marriages failed and I wasn’t able to have a chance at a successful marriage (Carlin and I have now been together for 33 years) until I dealt with my dis-ease. 

          Kay Redfield Jamison captured the essence of what it was like for me in her book, An Unquiet Mind:  Memoir of Moods and Madness:

             “You’re irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding, and no reassurance is ever enough.  You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and ‘you’re not at all like yourself but will be soon,’ but you know you won’t.”

             Having worked with more than 30,000 men and their families over the last 40 plus years, I know I’m not alone in my suffering.  Men have unique stresses that we face and must deal with.  As psychologist Herb Goldberg told us in his book, The Hazards of Being Male, “The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power.  He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically, and physically.” 

             I’m not sure the physical, emotional, and spiritual life of men has improved since Goldberg wrote those words in 1976.  It may even be getting worse.  Yet, I don’t think this is just a personal issue.  When millions of men are breaking down and the suicide rate for males is 3 to 18 times higher than it is for women at the same age, we know we are dealing with problems that are systemic.

              I believe that men are the canaries in the coal mine alerting us to the major changes going on in the world today.  Suicide is the ultimate statement of pain and despair and when more and more men are ending their lives, it’s telling us we are not dealing well with the changes going on in the world.  Richard Heinberg , author of Peak Everything:  Waking up to a Century of Declines, speaks to these mega-changes.  “I am not referring to a war or terrorist incident, stock market crash, or global warming,” he says, “but to a more fundamental reality that is driving terrorism, war, economic swings, climate change and more.”  Heinberg concludes that not only are we reaching the end of easily available fossil fuels, “peak oil,” but we are reaching limits on all resources, “peak everything.”

             From the time of our hunter-gatherer past, it has been men who left the comfort of the camp and hunted far afield.  They were the ones who noticed changes in the environment, game becoming scarce, water holes drying up.  They are the ones who returned to camp to tell the tribe it was time they must move on. 

             I believe it is men’s calling at this time in human history to sound the alarm and get us moving.  But this time there’s no place we can run.  We’ve filled up the earth with human beings and have reached the limits of growth.  We can’t continue to use up more and more of the earth’s resources, pollute our air, land, and water, destroy bio-diversity, and heat our planet beyond temperatures that support life as we know it.  We will change our ways or we will die.  Sam Keen, author of many books including, Fire in the Belly:  On Being a Man lays it out for us:

 "The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that determines either our survival or our destruction is simple:

     1. The new human vocation is to heal the Earth. 

     2. We can only heal what we love.

     3. We can only love what we know.

     4. We can only know what we touch."

 And here’s the deal, healing the Earth and healing ourselves go hand in hand.  We might also say:

 The new human vocation of men is to heal Ourselves.

  1. We can only heal what we love.
  2. We can only love what we know.
  3. We can only know what we touch.

 

        So let’s get more deeply in touch with ourselves and some part of the Earth that we feel called upon to heal.  I look forward to hearing from you.  What needs healing in you?  What part of the Earth’s healing do you feel drawn to engage with?

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Jed,

This is awesome. Just last week, I had a group of friends on FaceBook suggest that we needed a group where men could go and be authentic and vulnerable, a men only group where it is safe to explore our spirituality, our fears, our journeys. I know you are already doing a lot of work with men, I wonder if this is something that makes sense to you.

Bravo for your own authenticity in this post.

Namaste, Ken

Ken,

As you know I have been working with men for more than 40 years.  I meet with a regular men's group that has been together for 34 years.  My web site www.MenAlive.com is a focus for a focus and discussion about men's health issues.  Happy to discuss ways to expand what I do. Tell me more about your thoughts about a "men's group" 


Ken Jaques said:

Jed,

This is awesome. Just last week, I had a group of friends on FaceBook suggest that we needed a group where men could go and be authentic and vulnerable, a men only group where it is safe to explore our spirituality, our fears, our journeys. I know you are already doing a lot of work with men, I wonder if this is something that makes sense to you.

Bravo for your own authenticity in this post.

Namaste, Ken

Jed,

I've still yet to review your site but here goes on the "men's group/community" idea.

On FaceBook, I am part of a Closed group where members are primarily women, but there are a few men. It is a group where we can explore our spirituality in a safe, open, authentic and vulnerable forum. As people reveal their fears and worries, as well as their successes and accomplishments, it opens other people up to do the same. The group is incredibly supportive of each other, and it really feels like "home" in so many ways. Last week I put up a post sharing my frustration with a lot of women's only groups being the type of place I'd like to get involved because of their overall message, but I usually shy away because of the "women only" label. I asked people in our group whether this was a form of separation or if there were good reasons. Many came back suggesting that a lot of the groups should be open to "enlightened men and women". Others came back with the response that a lot of women need to be in a space where there are no men, because of their own fears and where they are in their life and their healing and/or spiritual journey. A number of the folks from the latter group suggested that maybe it was time for me to start up a similar type of group for "men only", where we can be just as open and vulnerable, without fear of what women in the group might think.

I immediately thought of you and a couple other guys I know as people to bounce this off of. There are a few groups out there (Mankind project, etc.), but these folks suggested "my" group might be a bit different.

Here's what I wrote as the premise of the invitation only, closed FaceBook group, would love to hear your 100% authentic response, regardless of whether it's positive, negative or neutral.:

+++

Awakening Men was created to meet the demand for a sacred, inspirational, supportive space for men who are enlightened and/or awakening to life in a much more meaningful way. 

There is a lot of information about the Divine Feminine and how we're switching from a patriarchal society to a matriarchal society, and many amazing groups have been created "for women". We believe that the Divine Feminine is in all of us, and especially so for a lot of men who are going through their own awakenings and transformations. It seems that the shift we're talking about is more about achieving balance (between the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine) within all of us.

Why are we a men’s only group? Based on today’s societal values, it has been difficult for men to share their crazy thoughts, their inner feelings, to seek and pursue their life path. This group is intended to be a safe space for men that don’t know where to turn, that don’t know how to ask the questions, that feel like they have been stuck in the “societal norm” and want to explore things about themselves a bit more deeply. We are all awesome, we all have gifts to share, and we need a place to express it.

The focus of this group is to build relationships, share frustrations, cheer triumphs, develop creative collaborations, shatter limitations, brainstorm issues and provide endless inspiration and encouragement. It's about supporting and uplifting the business of the Universe. Consider this group a spiritual hub for those who are called to follow their passion, live their purpose and serve others in the work they do. 

We trust that you have come to this group with an open mind and are willing to share authentically and with vulnerability. You will find that a number of people are feeling the same way and will be appreciative of you opening up the discussion and providing your responses.

We ask that you come to this space with a respect for every member, their views/work and where they are in their personal journey. Any member who is abusive, negative or aggressive will be respectfully removed from the group. (We choose to not focus on negativity and hope this resonates with you.) 

PLEASE share a brief, general description of who you are and what you are doing when you join the group. You may share the link to your Facebook Fan Page OR website address in this introduction so we can learn more about you. If you are open to friend requests please feel free to mention this too. 

Ken,  I think that's great.  I believe that men and women need their own groups, not just so they can feel save, but because we need to be surrounded by the masculine energy of life if we're guys and similarly by the feminine if we are women.  My friend and colleague, Robert Bly, reminds us that all boys (and men) need to be surrounded by men so that "we can hear the sound that male cells sing."  I've been in a men's group that's been meeting for 33 years, 7 guys who continue to go deeper and deeper in sharing our truth, supporting each other through the changes of life and aging, and listening carefully to the sound that our male cells sing.

I've never been in a cyber-men's group.  I'll be interested to hear how it goes.  

Thanks Jed,

I'll be setting the group up on FaceBook any day, just finalizing a name. I'll be certain to let you know about it, and I'll probably even ask you to join. Maybe you can lurk us for a while to see how we do :)

Thanks for your feedback.

Cheers, Ken

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