Last weekend I got together in ceremony with a few of my college roommates. Some of my best friends in the world. Lawyer, banker, accountant, big finance, all men. None the sort of guy you expect to find doing this work. We have been intentionally coming together over the last year and half. We are healing our hearts. And becoming more free.
These are still the early stages of the Better Men Project. I’ve been working with different groups of men, in different ways. Learning. Learning from the interviews. And learning from each experiment in coming together.
The deep work I’ve been doing with some of my most intimate male friends has also been the most remarkable. I am witnessing real change take place. The work is building upon itself. And it is sustaining over time. These men are paying more attention to what is happening in our hearts.
One of the key findings from my first round of interviews is that men don’t have enough intimacy with other men. Those who are in a relationship may tend to burden their partner with emotional labor. Or they may opt to shut down instead.
But bringing men together in ways that facilitate vulnerability and intimacy opens the door for the sort of healing that is all about taking responsibility. It is the most fundamental work. The work we have to do is to turn inwards and love ourselves. It is by making this choice that we are able to choose our own healing. It is by becoming responsible for our own healing, it is by becoming whole, that we can find our way to conscious masculinity.
Patriarchy has a devastating impact on men. Holding and ritualizing spaces that allow us to come into emotional and physical contact with each other is a direct antidote to the lie we have been told. There is immense freedom in turning to one another. In knowing that we can support each other as we seek to become better.
There was a moment during our most powerful night together. One of my friends called me to him and said: “Come here. I’ve seen you doing a lot of holding tonight. It’s time for you to be held.” And he held me.
As I allowed myself to be held I became aware of how much I needed it. And I had no idea. It mattered the world. It fed my sense of love, connection and trust. It made me strong.
I wonder about the men who are out there, needing to be held. Devoid of true friendship with other men. Needing to learn to love themselves. I wonder how much of Patriarchy's thirst for power and domination could be quelled by fulfilling this basic human need? How much more emotionally present could men be if we allowed ourselves this medicine?
Let’s keep experimenting. Let’s keep finding ways to come together. These spaces help us to heal. They make us more accountable to each other. And they may become the spaces that strengthen our resolution - and our concrete strategies - to disrupt toxic masculinity not just within ourselves but also in the world that we inhabit.