Finding Joy in Life

I’ve been getting increasingly involved with the ManKind Project. Over the weekend just gone, I did one of their staff training weekends and was absolutely blown away.

This post is about re-writing the stories of my upbringing to find joy in my life by becoming more comfortable as I am, in my own skin.

The ManKind Project is a non-profit progressive men’s movement that provides the kind of initiation and community that has been lost in the modern human story.

I did their initiation weekend in June - an incredibly intense 48 hours of terrifying and liberating shadow work - working with anger, fear, shame and grief.

Through this and subsequent outings, I came to discover the personal meaning of a word that I don’t think I’d ever said or written in my life - brotherhood.

This most recent weekend took me even deeper to a new peak of deep community where I discovered the joy that lies within us all - often buried deeply beneath layers of "I am not good enough to be seen, accepted and loved for who I am."

When this story “I cannot be myself” is drummed in repeatedly through early experiences, it becomes institutionalised in the mind and body, and we no longer know who we are. All we know is who we think we are supposed to be to please and appease others who seal our fate - and this contracted self image is guarded by boundaries of fear.

One of the most powerful moments of the weekend actually occurred in the recreational time on the Saturday evening. It was after dinner and we were in the mood for entertainment.

We found ourselves in a lounge lined with comfy old sofas, a piano and about four guitars. Things naturally sparked and escalated. Before long, we were all singing and playing music together - not as separate egos, but as a single musical organism of joy.

Perfectly imperfect. Hilarious. Ecstatic. Wild, free and deeply moving.

I realised that one of the reasons I learned to play guitar was so that I would never have to sing. I hid behind the instrument. But in this circle of men, I felt safe enough and held enough to sing for the first time in my adult life.

It literally re-storied parts of my adolescence around bonding with other males that for me had been full of rejection and shame, and now is just full of love.

And I wanted to share a bit of a poetry with you. It's from Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman..

"From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,Listening to others, considering well what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space,

The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought,I did not know I held so much goodness."