The Dance – Preparing for a big decision
OK, now let’s be honest about what happens next. Getting to one of the trainings is actually fairly easy. They’re offered all over the U. S. and in many other countries-United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Australia. You can find out the dates online and begin the registration process in about 30 seconds. But what usually happens in the process of getting there is The Dance. One step forward, two back.
You know you’re dancing when you have one of these thoughts:
- “I’m too different (old, young, gay, straight, fat, thin, poor, rich, black, white) to go.” There’s no excuse that’s too trivial to be used as the reason I can’t change.
- “That’s way too much money. I’d rather buy toys or pay the rent.” That’s right-it does cost some money-averaging $650 in the United States. The more important question may be, what is your future worth? Many men who attend the New Warrior Training Adventure go forward into their lives with more financial success and fulfillment. You have the opportunity to make a quantum leap, there’s a price. The price is worth it. And if it is any consolation, almost every man who staffs an NWTA also pays for the honor of staffing. And no person involved in the ManKind Project at any level will be getting rich from your experience. We are a not for profit organization. The individual communities operate at break even, sometimes making enough profit to pay for minimal administration. Nearly all the men you will meet in MKP are volunteers.
- “Wouldn’t it be possible to read a book or magazine article and get to the same place?” No, actually the training is an experience, not a set of ideas. Sorry, you’ll need to show up, and not just with your brain. You should pack your body, your passion, and your soul, too.
- “I’ll do that someday-next year, next millennium. Only now I’m not quite ready. I need to. . . (return some library books, mow the lawn, de-fragment my hard drive).” One of the most common things men say after they go through the training is, “What was I doing for the last twenty years?” The best time to do the training adventure? Right now.
- “I’m in therapy, so I don’t really need this.” Or “I’m not in therapy, so I’m not prepared for this.” Nice try, both of you.
The NWTA is a peer-support educational environment, and while it is not therapy, it does require enough emotional stability from participants to be able to know if they’re feeling stuck. For participants to benefit from the experience they must have a desire to change self-defeating behaviors and perceptions.
We strongly recommend that men in therapy talk to their therapist before registering, and for those in recovery programs to have at least 6 months clean & sober. Many mental health care professionals have suggested the NWTA to their clients who have demonstrated the commitment to personal growth and responsibility for their well-being.
The NWTA and its follow-up support groups can be a valuable adjunct to working with a counseling professional but it should not be considered a replacement. Get the help you need, and we’ll be here when you’re ready.
- “All right-this is some sort of pyramid scam with a lot of people getting rich, right?” The Mankind Project is a non-profit organization. The vast majority of those who staff a training pay money themselves for the privilege of staffing, and devote huge chunks of time and energy to make the training happen. The training leaders get paid, but not much. If people get rich from the trainings, the enrichment has nothing to do with money.
- “I know how these workshops go: You get a little insight, a little warm-and-fuzzy bonding, then you go back to your life and do business as usual. Pretty soon you ask, remind me-what exactly did I get out of that?” Actually, that’s probably right, if the training were the only thing a man did. The heart of the Mankind Project is the I-Groups which start after the training, composed of those who have finished a weekend. These usually meet weekly, and (here’s the good news) after 6-8 weeks of learning the ropes with a facilitator, they run on their own with no cost to the members.
- “This is a bunch of navel-gazing men who have a good experience together, gain some insight into themselves, then resume destroying the planet and terrorizing their families without making a real difference.” A key part of MKP is action in the world-men define themselves as men of service. There are many areas of possible service-working with kids, building a more compassionate company, saving the planet, working in prisons. Even being present with your family is a kind of service.
- “Hold it-this sounds like some sort of religious cult. I already have a religion, thank you.” Or “I can’t stand religion, so count me out.” Men from all major religions are currently active in the MKP-Jesuits, orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Protestant Christians. Also, many are involved who see themselves as non-religious.
The point I’m trying to make about The Dance is that it’s normal, maybe even necessary. A man shouldn’t enter the change process lightly. When we approach change of any kind, one part of us says optimistically, “Maybe I’ll change,” and another part freezes and says, “Oh, oh. . . Maybe I’ll change.” This is true whether it is a job change, moving in with a domestic partner, or buying a house. Change is serious business. If you’re doing The Dance, this means that you’re taking the process seriously. It means that all parts of you have their eyes wide open.
Entering the weekend is jumping into the unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no syllabus, no schedule circulated in advance. So the dance you do when you’re deciding about going to a weekend is the same dance you do when you’re entering the dark future of any change in your life. You may or may not know a man who has gone through the weekend. If you do, he may be enthusiastic, but is generally vague about what happens. One thing I guarantee, though. You will be challenged-physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and personally. (Yeah, ok, a lot of adverbs). So another unknown is this: how will you respond to the challenges? Will you isolate? Lie to yourself and everyone else? Blow up? Freeze up? Screw up? Open up?
Just Doing It
Doing the weekend is an adventure. No, you haven’t done this before. After you’re done dancing, if you decide to do it, you may have a hard time explaining to the significant people in your life what you’re doing and why. You may have a hard time explaining it to yourself, like Edmund Hillary did when he made that feeble statement about Everest: “because it’s there.” But you know, as you stand at the foot of the mountain in your life, that there is something which demands that it be climbed–that there is something about that one peak that will orient things and won’t let you rest. No, the weekend won’t climb the mountain for you. That’s your life and your job. But it may help you name the mountain, it may help you begin to hear its insistent whispering.