In contemplating meeting with other men in Circles and creating some kind of foundation for these meetings I came up with the following. Please feel free to send me comments so that I might expand on the ideas.
Perhaps the first stage of building a group is that every man who attends is welcome and helped to feel welcome. You are truely welcome here.
I experienced this many years back when I attended a Native American Circle. My wife had just died and I entered the 3 day ‘Sun-Moon Dance’ to help me with my shock and grief. On arriving at the place I entered a room to check in and one of the leaders said to me, something to the effect, “it is good that you are here”. I responded with a kind of automatic “thank you” and they replied with more emphasis : “it is good that you are here!” They wanted me to hear it and acknowledge it and accept that they were actually pleased for my presence and participation. I felt truely welcomed.
It can be challenging to get a new group established and just as busy when a new man starts attending. It takes time for the new group to form or a new man to get used to how we meet. No matter what challenges present at this time, it is important to remember that all are welcome here. We all have inner and outer challenges and each are important members of the Circle. We just need to get used to one another and how best we can meet in harmony and openness and enjoyment of such.
Another aspect of building a foundation might be to encourage, and assist, all involved to be in a state of mindfulness. Both mindfulness and its equivalent in being present in one’s heart.
To encourage all to be actually present.
In being present you will experience how it is to be most alive. It also helps in supporting each other by being present. We do this through consciously relaxing, being mindful, showing respect, and being open in the moment to whatever may unfold.
We are as mindful as we are able while we sit with each other in the Circle. Being present and relaxed is an invitation to whatever hidden energies lay dormant within us. By being present we are closer to meeting, ourselves and each other, in truth. The more we can meet in truth the more we can rise above our standard, day-to-day, mental habits.
In practical terms, I find it helpful to call everyone to begin with a brief (3 to 5 minute) time of ‘Going Within’. By being present and consciously relaxing we all can let go of whatever else was going on before our meeting.
By Going Within we also come to a state of being relaxed where we can meet in a way that is most harmonious and peaceful and enjoy each other’s especial company.
For my experience, being able to meet with other men in a relaxed and mindful way is when the real growth occurs. When each man is mindful enough to sense if someone else needs to speak, or indeed if he himself feels it is the right time for him to say his piece. In being relaxed and mindful we operate as a harmonious and unified whole and every man gets to have his share of being heard and supported at that meeting.
To be able to be with other men in an open and honest way then we need to build trust. To know how to trust, and who, and when. At birth perhaps we trusted everyone and over time we learned that trust is something we give and need to be wise about whom we give it to.
To get the best from the group, as well as to be able to support each other, we need to be kind to ourselves and each other as well as be truthful. We need to know that it is safe to share who we are, and what we think, and to know that the others in the group will respect and support us in that. This requires trust and this is developed over time.
The first thing to do is to make a set of agreements in how we meet. One of these agreements is respect; another is confidentiality. We set an intention of our aims as a group in how we will support and care for each other. We practice some agreed on qualities and parameters from our first meeting and develop these in subsequent meetings.
Respect involves respecting yourself as well as the other men. Whether you agree with someone or not you can still give them the respect to hear what they are saying and support them in giving space for them to say it. They will in turn give you that space as well. Respect allows each man the opportunity to say what he wants to say and allow him space to do that. Respect may also mean that we are honest with each other. Not just in thoughts, which can be cold and insensitive, but especially when we can include our heart in such feedback.
Confidentiality involves agreeing to not speak of others business outside of the group. What you hear in the Circle is for your ears only. If you want to speak of how it affected you that is fine. You just do not speak of what the other man said. That is his business. Your business is what it stimulated or awakened in you.
4. Personal Responsibility (also, response-ability)
I have realised over time that no matter how much I try to care for every man who is part of the group that, ultimately, it is their responsibility, not mine. As facilitator I do my best to create and maintain a safe and supportive space, the rest is up to each individual man who attends.
As such I remind each man on entering that he should get clear on why he is there and what he hopes for from attending. We often do processes to assist in this. To help each man to relax and tune in on why he is there; for that particular meeting as well as overall.
As part of personal responsibility we each have to realise how we affect others. Ideally, who we are and how we are in the world is of benefit to others. That our heart-mind and spirit is of a caring and considerate nature. That part of our belonging to any group that supports us is to use that support to work through any issues we might have that we need help with. To be kind, considerate, sensitive, aware and generous in how we support ourselves and each other to be and become our best selves. To live our most positive potentials.
I find that in my role as facilitator I often comment where others might remain silent. Out of duty-of-care I sometimes make a comment that someone does not want to hear. I do this not simply because the idea comes into my mind but after I have considered if my opinion is the right thing to offer. I wait until I feel it is the right thing to say and the right time and if I can say it with right intention as well.Sometimes I just blurt it out as well. As we are all 18 years of older I think it fair that I give you my best and you are, of course, free to reply. It is only fair that each of us can speak openly and honestly and help each other. For me this is an essential aspect of meeting in an open and honest way as we create a safe and supportive group environment. To be truthful with each other as we develop our ability to be in best selves.
5. Enhanced Creativity
Perhaps this comes from my own artistic spirit but I believe that creativity improves one’s enjoyment and appreciation of life. Creativity is an aliveness of spirit where, in any given moment, something new can be created and brought into being.
Creativity increases one’s ability to be resilient, strong and able to manifest more of one’s positive potential in life.
If you are able to be creative you can become the alchemist. Not necessarily to turn physical lead into gold but to be more able to lift yourself when in a dark space or see the positive aspects of any situation.
Creativity is the magician’s ability to make something lighter out of something heavier. To know how to play and not take life too seriously.
To lift oneself during difficult times or to seek a solution when those around you may be locked down in focusing on the problem.
Being creative means being willing and able to move something forward or see it in a new light. To re-frame what you think so that you might see the benefits in it as well as the challenge.
Through enhancing your creativity you may challenge old beliefs about something; if those beliefs no longer serve your wellbeing and enjoyment of life.
As facilitator I often bring in creative exercises and encourage the other men when they do so as well. My main aim is to stay relaxed and present in the moment but this is sometimes challenged by the other men. At these times I do my best to stay present and feel my way through what is of most use to the individual, and group, wellbeing at the time. This of course is work-in-progress.
There is nothing more helpful than a positive input from one of the men if any of us get stuck in a negative view of life. In my opinion it is healthy to speak of and to feel our difficulties in life but it is also unhealthy if we get stuck there. A creative inspiration often helps to jolt us back into positive flow.
The value of play is, in my opinion, unconsidered and underrated. To be focused and striving and accomplishing goals, etc – still needs to be balanced by an appropriate amount of rest. Yin and Yang. Night and day. Summer and winter. Seriousness and playfulness. Balance is an important ingredient in any personal development.
Supporting each other is serious business and we also require rest and play to balance that.
There are times for focus and times for play.
Sometimes the best learning and growth can come out of play. When we let our problems go and allow that spark of life to re-enter.
To allow the spirit of our inner-child to simply play. After a childhood stuck in the structures of schools and the necessary restrictions of going to work and other more serious aspects of life – we need to allow life itself to flow again.
In Men’s Circle we focus on what is important to each man – and we also play whenever the spirit takes us.
Healing is what I call coming into greater wholeness. When we allow our whole self to be present and the lesser known aspects to come into conscious awareness. When we are willing to acknowledge and accept our darker nature and nurture that in our more refined and positive nature.
Being human we are complex. We have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects as well as in-between. Sometimes we can be saint-like and other times we discover a more rough and harsh aspect.
Often we suppress or somehow hold down these darker aspects, but as we develop and establish a conscious and civilised way of meeting together, we can also allow these deeper truths of our being to be seen and heard.
We learn how to allow the darker and unconscious aspects of our being to be held and nurtured and integrated in the light of consciousness. We begin to welcome all of who we are into our more conscious side. To welcome all we are into a greater whole. We begin to grow and become more of our whole, integrated, full and true Self.
These are just some of the thoughts that came when I asked myself what the essence of Men’s Circles might contain. Questions can be powerful in helping us find our way out of our difficulties and into a better life.
I hope that these thoughts are of help and encourage you to contemplate joining or starting up a Men’s Circle where you live.
(c) Greg ‘Arjuna’ Govinda (13 May 2022)
For more information contact Arjuna Govinda