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Posted By Opening the Heart

I'd like to tell you about my men's book club. First, it's all men, but you could probably tell that already. The fact that it's all men is, actually, more interesting to me than the fact that it's a book club. We meet every six weeks or so (depending on the number of pages- I'm probably the slowest reader) at someone's house. We share some trail mix and store bought cookies and diet coke. We talk about the book, and we go home. There are a lot of us, about 16 men, so there are usually 10-12 of us who come for any one week. I've been a part of this group for at least 15 years.

To give you a better flavor of who we are, I'll tell you a true story about our meeting 6 months ago. After the meeting ended, I walked out with my friend, Paul, and I gestured to the two guys walking out ahead of us and I whispered "Paul, do you know the names of those two guys?" He said "I don't have a clue". I said "Paul, they've been coming to book club for at least two years!" He said "Pathetic, isn't it." And we each got in our own car and drove home.

My wife belongs to a women's book club. One Sunday it was held at our house and I was out doing an errand with my daughter, Abby. As we approached our house, I said to her "I want you to notice something when we get home." She didn't notice anything unusual so I helped educate her about the difference between a men's book club and a women's book club. First, there were three cars in front of our house. In other words, Women Carpool! If we have 12 men at a meeting, you will see 12 cars parked out front. Second difference: women dine, men eat trail mix! Each woman brings food - not store-bought - homecooked! Third difference: women may or may not talk about the book! They connect and catch up on each others' lives and their children, and, if time allows, they'll talk about the book.

So, why am I telling you about my men's book club? Maybe, because I just returned this past weekend from leading an Opening the Heart workshop at Omega in Rhinebeck, N.Y. where the men were outnumbered by the women 4 to 1. Sometimes it's 2:1, sometimes 3:1- 4:1 is not unusual. And I give these men so much credit for showing up and doing this work. I think it's fairly easy in our culture for a man to be a warrior- but not so easy to be a loving warrior. And I think about all the men who would never, ever, come to a Heart Workshop- and who might always prefer trail mix to a connection over a home-cooked meal,- and who will always drive home alone.

With Love and Respect, Jon

Posted By Opening the Heart

     "There is little that can move a man to tears. He can talk about a failed marriage, disturbing children, career disappointments, ruinous business decisions and physical suffering with dry eyes. When a grown man cries in therapy, it is almost always about his father."  Raising Cain


Some years ago, I was leading a "Fathering" workshop at a parenting conference in Rhode Island. About 40 men came to the session. We sat in a circle and I asked the men to introduce themselves- "as their father would have introduced them". As it turned out, that was the workshop. One man had trouble looking into any other eyes, but managed to say he didn't really know his father who left the family when the man was 2 years old. His voice faltered but he was able to choke back any emotion.


 Another man, a policeman, said his father had beaten him, many times, and he said he felt that he had "turned out alright". He admitted that he hit his two sons and he didn't feel there was anything wrong with that. One man said his father would have introduced him as "The Failure" because the son had given up a chance to go to law school in order to follow a path of becoming an artist and sculptor. Another man said his father would have said that he was proud of his son, then a long pause as the man admitted that he never was able to tell his father that he loved him before he died that past year. The stories went on. Stories mostly of sadness, bitterness, anger and shame. It occurred to me how many good men I'd seen in my practice, as a therapist, who had been hobbled by the emotional distance they'd grown up with that kept them from being better fathers, better partners.
    In her beautifully written book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes said that what women most wanted from a man is "to cry the tear of his own wound". She said that once a man faces his own pain, his wound, the tear comes naturally and he becomes his own healer. He no longer looks to a partner to be his analgesic. He sees how he has lived his life protectively and what he has missed because of it. Only self compassion for his own wound heals him, not the love from another. I think that it takes tremendous courage for men to do this kind of work- the kind of courage I saw in them that day of the workshop.
Near the end of the session that day, the policeman, who'd said he didn't see anything wrong with hitting his two sons "when they needed it", looked around the group, looking into the other men's eyes as his own eyes filled up, and said "After listening to you all today, I think, maybe, I see a different way to be a father".

    Men don't come to the Opening the Heart Workshop nearly as often as women. It's not unusual for the ratio to be 2 or 3 to 1. When I welcome men at the workshop and I see their amazing courage, I have more hope that the world can be a place of more kindness, more love, less fear. I am proud to call these men my brothers.


   With Love and Respect,  Jon


Come meet and work with Jon at The Opening the Heart Workshop™ at Kripalu Institute, Stockbridge MA March 19 - 21 2010