Council of Men
An initiation is both a death and a birth. For a birth into a new experience to occur, something has to die; something has to be left behind. The Council of Men session held on September 4th and 5th at Sunrise Ranch was that kind of time. It was the most joyful and victorious time I’ve ever had with a group of men.
I’m glad for the fact that there are men around the globe who are realizing that the world has offered some pretty poor images of what a man is supposed to be. The John Wayne image doesn’t do it, but neither does weakness and lack of manliness. We are realizing that a man has the opportunity to transparently be who he really is. That was what was happening for us as a Council of Men.
I’d like to read a poem that I wrote during the session. I entitled it “Upon Your Holy Mountain.”
It seems I never spend time
with the late-afternoon breeze
so filled with pine,
or walk high into the peaks
to feel Your sun upon my head
and breathe the chill of snow
that has cooled the mountain air.
It is in those golden hours
that I think Your new-born thoughts,
shining with star light
in the azure blue of the August sky.
And I am with You,
feeling the peace of knowing
my place among the elk and deer,
the moose and the falcon
that inhabit the wild wooded hills
of Your domain.
So I go to be with You,
to talk and tell You of my life;
to seek Your wisdom,
and the sunlit embrace of Your love.
Upon Your holy mountain,
I will rest my soul,
in the vastness of Your spirit.
To be a man of God, a man has to be a friend to a reality he cannot see. Who among us could say that when we’ve gone to a still place in ourselves, when we’ve tuned in, that there has been nothing there? There’s a vastness and a greatness and a majesty that is present when we tune in to it and open to it, and there’s a conversation to be had, a communion to be known, a love to be received and shared.
I wrote this poem during a time of contemplating deeply the third of four spheres of experience we know as men. Here are the four spheres:
- Meeting Your Commitments
- Clear Relationships With Other Men
- Being a Man of God
- Honorable Relationships With Women
We ordered these spheres of experience for men in the way that we did because we believe that each of these four spheres are pivotal in a man’s experience, and that they go in that order. If a man tries to put the last sphere first, he will not have a firm foundation for his life. We ordered the day in the way that we did because we believe that it is important for a man to have the foundation of meeting his commitments, of being a man of his word, of knowing what it is to get something done and see something all the way through. Those qualities in a man build fiber and strength and a foundation upon which the rest of his life can be built.
With that kind of strength, a man can look another man in the eye without flinching, without fear or aggression, because he knows the strength of his own commitments and the strength of his own word and the fiber of his strength as a man. He doesn’t have to cower in the face of another man, nor does he have to impose. He can simply be himself and stand on the rock of who he is as a man when he knows he’s a man who meets his commitments.
This deals with two great spheres of a man’s life: meeting commitments and clear relationships with other men. When a man has those experiences, he has a foundation from which he can meet his God. He can meet his God and know he has his own strength, his own clarity, to offer to that God. He can say, in truth, “I am here for you. I am a man and I am here for you. And I’m not cowering in front of you. I’m standing in my strength, open to serve, to love, to be there in the world for you.”
It is only a true man of God who has the capacity to have an honorable relationship with the women in his life. I understand that in any man’s life, things don’t necessarily come in that order in his own experience. I reflect on my own life. I dated a girl in high school, from the age of fifteen to seventeen. I hadn’t learned to meet my commitments. I hardly knew what commitment was and I didn’t know what I wanted to commit myself to.
I didn’t know what it meant to have clear relationships with other men. I was scared of men who had authority, and I was angry, because I hadn’t found the example I was looking for, the blessing that I was looking for, or the guidance that I was looking for.
I had no idea what the word God might mean. I certainly drew nourishment from my relationship with her, and I’m so grateful for what she meant to me in my life. She is a wonderful person. But I hardly knew how to have an honorable relationship with a woman at that point in my life.
So I understand that for all men, things come as they do in our life. And yet there is a process to build a firm foundation for that life. That firm foundation is built when a man makes his word mean something, when his promise means something, when he commits to himself that his work will be of value. I was so grateful to see strong men yesterday with open hearts, willing to learn, being vulnerable and honest about this area of their lives. There are few things more beautiful than to see such men.
I’ve had weird experiences in groups of men. I’ve had the experience of men thinking they were being men, hanging around, smoking cigars and doing so-called manly things, which didn’t seem at all manly to me. I’ve seen men together being harsh and cruel, and hated to see that. I’ve seen men accept some kind of weird discipline from other men, or at least so it seemed to me; discipline that perhaps had the benefit of teaching some self-discipline but ultimately didn’t ennoble the soul. So I’ve seen a lot of weird ways that men can be together.
I so long for a transparent way to be with other men in which we are truly being ourselves, being the greatness of who we are, without pretense. I long for an experience with men in which we are leading when it is our turn to lead without doing so out of some ego compulsion. Where we are being strong, not because we need to try to be or look like we’re strong in front of another man, but simply because we’re being ourselves and that’s our nature. I long to be with transparent men, men who are transparently being who they are. I believe it is only such a man who could be in an honorable relationship with a woman.
I saw an interesting tit-for-tat on the news this morning between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, those sages of the political world. Apparently Donald Trump had made the comment that he cherishes women. Hillary corrected him this way:
If it’s all the same to you Mr. Trump, I’d rather you stop cherishing women and start respecting women.
I take her point that respect for women has been a hard-fought battle over the last several decades, and an important one. Equality for women in the public square has been so vital, and it’s something I believe in deeply. My father held that value and taught his daughters that they should value their own work and their own place in the world; that they should make sure they could sustain themselves financially, and their families too, if they needed to. My older sister is a doctor and my younger sister is a finance professional. I’m proud of them both.
I’m proud of the women who lead at Sunrise Ranch. It’s my view that women at Sunrise Ranch should lead without respect to their gender, as should men. We have a general counsel of the Emissaries who’s a woman. The other Trustee who serves at Sunrise Ranch is a woman. There are other women at Sunrise Ranch who hold important leadership roles. If a person has proven their ability to do something and they are the best person for the job, they should be given that responsibility without respect to their gender. So I believe deeply in that kind of respect for women, and respect for all people.
At the same time, while I’m not one to follow the declarations of Donald Trump, I also believe in cherishing women. Without respect, the cherishing of women can be a put-down. I understand that some of the men of Islam cherish the women who walk around with burkas and can’t be seen in public, and I’m not in favor of that kind of cherishing, which to me isn’t truthful. But I know there is a way that we are different as men and women, even though we’re equal in the public square. We are different, though, not better than or worse than, but different in a wonderful way. It is honorable to cherish that difference.
We have the opportunity to have a relationships with all the people in our life at an appropriate proximity. So when I speak about a man cherishing the women in his life, I am speaking about an attitude that applies to all women at whatever proximity they may be, geographically and spiritually. There are women who are geographically far removed from me but whom I love and cherish, who I honor and adore from afar. And there are women who I have the privilege of working with more closely, and there is my own family.
Adoration and cherishing from a man who can’t meet his commitments, a man who is not clear with other men and has not learned to be a man of God, is addiction. And there is addiction to women all over the place in men’s experience, or at least to the illusion of women that’s in a man’s mind. There is addiction on the one hand, and then aloofness on the other, neither of which is honorable in a relationship. A man is not in position to have a truly honorable relationship with the women in his life until he’s learned to meet his commitments, and until he’s learned to look another man in the eye without fear or aggression but with love and friendship and kindness; until he’s learned to meet his God and know his God, and know that he’s responsible to his God to stay centered in that reality and never move from it; to never remove his listening heart from the thoughts of God or from the impulse of the spirit of God. Only a man who has surrendered in that way to his own centering in the Divine can move out of a pattern of addiction to one of friendship and love and truly cherishing the women who are in his life.
It’s so clear to me that there is a bond between men and women everywhere that has suffered greatly in the world as it is. It has become more of a wound than a bond for so many people, and for men at large and women at large, so that the grace and the majesty, the power and the love that’s possible turns into jealousy and resentment, fear and loathing. How sad!
This wound between men and women is a reflection of the wound in a man’s heart. It reflects the emptiness that comes when a man has not come to know that he is a man of God, and when he hasn’t come to know his centering in God—when that primal bond has become a wound for a man.
There’s an individual picture in all this, and this primal wound in a man’s heart must first be dealt with at an individual level by that man. As individual men do that work and do it together—as they meet their commitments and have clear relationships, and know that they are men of God—there’s a healing of the primal wound between a man’s heart and his Creator. And in that healing is the hope for the healing of the relationship between men and women, individually and together as a race.
I’m grateful for the men who engaged deeply in the healing of men’s hearts at the Council of Men session at Sunrise Ranch. I invite any man around the world who is ready to commit to this work to consider himself a member of the Council—to share with us the brotherhood of men who meet their commitments, who have clear relations with one another, who are men of God and who have honorable relationships with the women in their world.
To the women in our life, welcome to the deepening spirituality that we’re coming to know together, to the deepening flow of the Divine Masculine that is bigger than who we are as human beings and which flows through us as we open to it. Welcome to this peace that we are coming to know. Welcome to this steadiness. Welcome to this profound love that pours through us as men. Welcome to this rock that we know. Welcome to this mountain. May we abide together in the mountain of God. We welcome your knowing and your gifts.
September 10th, 2015
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