First - and second - time staffing the "Adventure"!

Following my initiation weekend (February 2009), I was one of those men who take time to digest what happened and how to integrate it into daily life.  In the past, my first instinct or reaction after having a perceived life-changing experience was to jump in and start to use what I’d learned to help (or maybe convert) others.  The Warrior weekend, although leaving me ecstatic and elevated, also left me in a state of shock.  What had happened to me during that weekend changed me on a cellular level:  I needed time to work out “what next”.  Eighteen months later the “next” manifested when I stepped up to staff the June 2010 weekend (bolstered by the work I’d done in my I-group).  I was nervous - but I knew it was the right time. Even before the weekend began I managed to get wounded by an email response from another brother.  Making matters worse was the fact that the brother in question was a man who had helped me so much during my own work.  My response was - how the hell am I going to be able to clear with this man? And when would I be able to do it anyway? It left me angry with him for writing what he had, and feeling stupid for taking it to heart.  Knowing that I needed to own this I tried to clear it myself but every time the charge came back stronger and stronger.  My decision then was to go - and hold it till I got there, hoping maybe the charge would go when I saw the love in his eyes.

Weekend came, saw the man. Nope, charge still there!  So when it came to building the container, and the clearings, I was dreading it.  But when my chance came I took it - I cleared with the man and felt a huge weight off my shoulders.  To do that in front of all those men in such a place was a big learning curve for me and it really helped me to finally start accepting myself as one of the lads - and in turn I truly began to trust other men.  From that moment on I started to see, perhaps for the first time, how important this work is, and how it can only be done with a community of men, working, striving, loving, fighting for the health, safety, integrity, and even the lives, of all the men who come to get what they want - and who are risking a lot to get it.

The first weekend was mind-blowing.  From the moment we, the staffers, assembled to the time when the initiates arrived, the process was eye-opening - especially seeing how serious and dedicated men were to getting it right.  As an escort the moment I met an initiate at the door I started to relive my own initiation all over again - but I also felt it was an honour to be able to walk every man through the process.

There are two moments that really stand out for me. On the Friday, the final staff ceremony before the men arrived put me in such an emotional space and left me with a strong sense of urgency and importance for the work we were about to do.  Bringing my shadow(s) up front was one thing - but to have this witnessed in such a way was a very powerful event.  At that moment I felt a bond fully manifest between all of us. 

The other moment that remains embedded in my psyche from that weekend was being part of the process work for the initiates. This was even more powerful than my own weekend.  The magic in that container was palpable.  And time and time again I was asked to stand in to help a man do his work.  I thought about it later and wondered what that was all about?  Now I know it’s part of the medicine I bring to my life and my work. I always have.

I can contain energy - and I am happy to do it - for other people: to stand in a place from which I can reflect back what they need to do their work.  All my life I struggled with this bit.  Taking on too much from others, reflecting back at them their own shadows, and being very sensitive to things people left unsaid.  Back then I isolated myself and used anger and reactivity to protect myself from other people’s fear and shame.  I told myself “they all can’t be wrong; this must be my fault”.  Now I know differently.  I can stand in that space if someone needs me to do it and at the same time not become part of the drama. 

With my first staffing experience so exhilarating, my second staffing (in September 2010) couldn’t come quick enough.  This time I knew what was coming. I was comfortable doing some of the same tasks as the first weekend although I would have liked more responsibility.  However, a part of me was telling me to slow down, take a deep breath, not to fight it, and continue to learn.  Little did I know an unscripted piece of work was waiting for me during the weekend. 

Some staff had fallen away so the carpet teams were a bit light with men, especially experienced men.  Again I was pulled in to contain the energy for several initiates; some of their work touched me deeply.  It is amazing how watching a man do his work helps me do mine, but playing a part is even more special.  I wondered what it would be like to actually lead with a man.  Of course, when you ask, someone answers. One of the experienced guys asked me whether I wanted to start a man off and see where it went.  At that moment a wave of fear came over me and I nearly said “no chance!”  But, trusting the process, I said “Yes!” and I started the next man off, took him a bit further and then an experienced man took over.  Part of me was disappointed because I could see where I wanted to take him.  Afterwards, though, I had a deep sense of gratitude for the trust that was placed in me and a sense of joy that I was the one who took that first step. 

In that moment I knew I was made to do this work: to walk with men into dark places (or jump in after them) with no fear - and show them a way back. I know how it makes me feel when other men stand beside me and “hold” me with their fierce love:  it gives me the power to leave the fear behind.  And this is a gift all men should have.

The ManKind Project, and especially staffing the Adventure weekend, has shown me my shadows clearly, but more importantly it has revealed my gold.  MKP has been part of my mentoring family (in the true sense) and now I am starting to fully grasp the unique genius in me - and I’m not afraid to say it.

For me, the work really started not on the day that I was initiated but on the day I started staffing.  Now I know that no matter where my path in life takes me, to become fully who I am I need to be working within a community of men, and our work needs to be given freely for the benefit of all communities on this planet.  Otherwise, the risks to myself and to the Earth are too grave to even think about. 

As a Man amongst Men, I am a man who, in his need to remain whole, must work in service to all.

If you don't know the kind of person I am and I don't know the kind of person you are a pattern that others made may prevail in the world and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep; the signals we give - yes or no, or maybe - should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford

In love, honour and service,

Neil McNulty