4th of July Special Newsletter

Greetings Sacred Path Community,

I would like to mention a few newsworthy items in this Director’s Message which include the recently held Firefighters Down Mindfulness in Nature Retreat, the upcoming Whole Life Challenge and a special July 4th Flash Sale for our December Sacred Path Men’s Retreat.

To commemorate the service that brave men and women have dedicated to preserving our freedom and independence we are offering a special discount off of the total cost of the retreat.  Just register with your deposit before midnight tonight and receive a $75 discount.  We welcome veterans and first responders to join us on the mountain in December as we gather to explore mindful manhood.

Last week, I participated with LA County Fire Dept. Captains Mike Henry and Rick Brantelli of Firefighters Down Organizaiton  in a two-day pilot project retreat held at an Insight LA location in Benedict Canyon for Firefighters, their wives and other family members. We were joined by 5 couples as well as individuals who were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In addition to two skilled presenters on PTSD, two of our men, Christo Pellani and Philip Folsom offered their gifts accompanied by Dragon, a red tailed hawk from a wildlife preserve in Topanga Canyon and two wolves from Tonya Littlewolf’s preserve in Big Bear.

You can read what Capt. Mike has to say about his vision for helping Firefighters and their spouses recover from the PTSD that they have sustained on the front lines of years of service to our community.  In addition to fighting fires and being first responders on the scene of accidents, suicides and other horrific events, Firefighters are more and more at risk of being victims of violent attacks.  See: Firefighters Down

Coincidentally, on the first day of the Mindfulness in Nature Retreat, Capt. Dave Rosa, a 17-year veteran of the Fire Department was shot and killed when he was investigating an explosion in Long Beach.  Rosa, 45, is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 16 and 25.  These kinds of tragedies are becoming more common and contribute to the  pervasive nature of the collateral traumas that firefighters incur.

Capt. Mike and I envision having at least 10 Firefighters attend our December (6-9) retreat at Hilltop Camp in Malibu.  Last October we hosted our annual retreat inviting veterans and first responders to participate.  It adds quite a dimension to our men’s work when we are joined by the men who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

December 2018, Sacred Path Retreat Attendees

 
 Philip Folsom coming face to face with a wolf

Philip Folsom coming face to face with a wolf

Philip Folsom, who has kept us safe on our ropes course for several years, is inviting men from our community to join his Tribe to be a part of the 6 week Whole Life Challenge that kicks off on July 7th.  Philip told me that he would be honored to have any of our men join the Tribe on his team and it would be a great contemporary way to empower the men who are united in working on optimizing their lives.  This is the link .  You can also communicate directly with Philip at philip@philipfolsom.com.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and joyous July 4th celebration,

 Stephen

Stephen

 
 

The Mindfulness in Nature Retreat

L.A. County Fire Captain Michael Henry

 

InsightLA and Firefighters Down partnered to host the Mindfulness in Nature Retreat that was held on the insightLA -17 acre Beverly Hills (Benedict Canyon) property on July 25 and 26. This two day retreat was attended by Firefighters and their spouses, one Firefighter who brought his teen daughter and the wife of a deceased Firefighter along with a few guests. Accommodations were provided by the Sportsmans Lodge which was a stone’s throw away, allowing all attendees to remain in a sacred state during the after hours.

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Earlier in June, Lakota Elder Soldier Bear traveled from the Pine Ridge reservation to perform a ceremonial blessing of the property and the upcoming retreats. This ceremony was empowered by having a Red Tail Hawk and a Turkey Vulture present while sacred drumming and songs were offered. This ceremony cleared the space for the Firefighters Down team, InsightLA executive team, sponsors and partners, all on a path of truth to feel united in a good way.

Each day was commenced under the same Pepper Tree that was previously blessed by Soldier Bear with prayer, song and smudging. Dr. Nasazi Malonga of the Dharma Health Institute delivered a soul-stirring narrative on day-one and Dr. Stephen Johnson,  Executive Director of The Men’s Center Los Angeles, provided powerful opening words, a prayerful blessing and smudging on day two.

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Following each day’s opening Ceremonies all participants transitioned inside for Dr. Babette Rothschild and Dr. Christiane Wolf’s teachings on mindfulness practices.  Everyone shared, learned and grew in awareness and insight. Dr. Johnson shared his knowledge to the group at key moments.

Day One was ignited when Christo Pellani created a sacred drum circle under the Pepper Tree. It brought all of our souls closer to the power of nature and spirit.

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We drummed in unison under Christo’s guidance to the 7-sacred directions followed by the director of Nature of Wildworks Sanctuary in Topanga entering the circle with a majestic Red Tail Hawk named Dragon.  The beauty, power and creativity of his spirit enticed all attendees to leave the industrialized city behind and connect deeply with the beauty and simplicity of nature.

We were honored to have a powerful presentation on Day Two presented by Philip Folsom on the four archetypes of the mature masculine and feminine followed by a visit from two prized wolves from Wolf Mountain Sanctuary.  The impact and intended goals of the first Mindfulness in Nature Retreat were realized and surpassed.

Our closing ceremony was also attended by our sponsors and all couples received a sacred feather and sage to commemorate their experience.

National Recognition

A highlight of Day Two was a key visit from LA County Deputy Fire Chief Montoya, who expressed a message that our program has the full backing from La County Fire Chief Osby..

Official recognition and acceptance by the 4000 member La County Fire Department is extremely special and a big step toward National Recognition. La County Fire is the head Department for the United Nations Urban Search and Rescue team.  We believe that international recognition of Firefighters Down is within reach.

Sadly, June 25, the first day of our retreat, was the day that Long Beach Fire Captain David Rosa was shot and killed in an ambush while he was in the line of duty.
We spoke about the dangers that Firefighters are dealing with now on levels that were not present in past years.

The Firefighters Down partnerships have evolved into a beautifully designed coterie of people and organizations in support of our program:

Men’s Center Los Angeles, Dharma Health Center, UCLA Operation Mend, NFL Travel Directory, Wolf Mountain Sanctuary, Wild Note Sanctuary, Essentia Water, and California Casualty.

We plan to have several Firefighters in attendance at the December 6-9 MCLA Sacred Path Men’s Retreat.

Happy Father's Day - Healing the Family-Father Wound

Our friend of MCLA, Dr. Jed Diamond, has just written his 15th book which is a memoir about his own relationship with his father.  It’s an adventure story of how Jed found the father he lost when he was five years old. It’s also a tale of redemption and healing for both Jed and his father.  My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound, has been recently published and launches today,  Father's Day, 2018.

Jed is offering the first chapter for free, "Mad Father, Dutiful Son."  You can learn more about his new book and can get the free chapter by simply clicking on this link:  http://menalive.com/my-distant-dad/  

The father wound was central to the rallying call of the baby boom generation of men as we gathered to explore manhood when we were entering midlife over 30 years ago. Our fathers, members of the “Greatest Generation,” were also men who came back from WWII and didn’t speak about hard truths.  Often as a result, there were those among them who could be heavy handed and crush their children's spirits; and perhaps worse, the ones who went missing-in-action going out of their children’s life, tearing a hole in their psyches. 

For many of us, our fathers are our heroes. We appreciate them for their love and guidance. A good father can set an example of strength, honor, sacrifice, and responsibility. On this Father's Day, we honor dads for .png

Many of our offspring are approaching midlife now, a time when unresolved issues from childhood tend to come to a head.  Even though there has been more attention to parenting during the past couple of decades, the father wound is still a crucial concern. 

Jed’s latest gift to humanity, his heartfelt memoir and playbook, are the companion pieces for those on the journey to heal their own unresolved wounds and inherent tendencies to wound others as a result. Thank you Jed for sharing your very personal story with us.

MCLA has provided opportunities over the past 30+ years for men to explore what it means to be a man.  Our retreats have been safe venues for men to heal their wounds and set new courses for transforming their lives to have improved relationships with themselves and others. Our 32nd Annual Sacred Path Men’s Retreat is scheduled at Gindling Hilltop Camp, north of Malibu, from Thursday, December 6th through Sunday, December 9th.  Advance registration is now open.

Happy Father’s Day,

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Stephen

Longing, Loneliness and Loss: How Belonging to a Community of Men can Save Lives

It was 2:30 am Friday morning when my wife said, “Steve,,, Anthony Bourdain killed himself!” I was shocked to hear this stunningly devastating news. I reflected for a while on the loss of such an amazing man who has brought so much to so many. 

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When I fell back asleep I went into a remarkable dream in which my wife and I were together with Anthony, cooking, eating, drinking and talking. The dream was so real and went on for a long time.  I even awoke hungover. I could actually hear his voice and we felt so close to him as though we had been friends forever.

I have learned that it was like that for people who would have a chance-meeting with Tony. Even in passing, he would take the time to snap a photo and chat about whatever was on each person’s mind. Those who knew him intimately said that he was kind, loving and generous. He was hugely talented and yet extraordinarily humble. He was a “cook,” not a chef. He was a “storyteller,” not a journalist. And, he combined both of those passions as he opened up the world with it’s parts unknown to many who may never venture to those areas, but will have had the virtual experience of visiting them with Anthony as their tour guide.

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As the world reels in the wake of back-to-back suicides of designer, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain, experts warn that these are just two of many that draw less global attention yet nonetheless leave grieving friends and family behind bereft in their struggle to find meaning and solace. The suicide rate in America has surged upwards of 30% over the past decade and men lead the pack.

Men’s suicides and preceding struggles with mental illness often go overlooked. Men in the US kill themselves at 3.5-times the rate that women do but may be less likely to seek medical help or community support. What’s the cause for that? We seek answers to the hard questions that linger after a personal loss, or one that’s on the world stage that feels as personal as losing a close loved one. A current headline posed a probable cause:

The rise of male depression: Doctors warn masculinity forces men into loneliness - and makes it harder to confide in others about mental health

  • According to the CDC's latest figures, nearly 45,000 people may kill themselves in a year
  • Men account for seven out of 10 of these deaths
  • Mental health issues often go unaddressed for men who are taught to hide their emotions
  • Two experts told DailyMail Online how loneliness is fueling men's mental health crises, and how simple communication could save their lives 

Among the leading theories for why suicide is so much more prevalent among men than women is that men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Journalist Natalie Rahhal of DailyMail interviewed Dr Jonathan Gerkin, a University of North Carolina psychiatrist, “He takes a therapist's approach and believes that our culture - particularly in the US, but worldwide - has not conditioned men to be reflective about, let alone accepting of their own emotions, and that can lead them to a profound sense of loneliness.

Dr. Gerkin states that 'Loneliness is such an attention-grabbing feeling, and if men can't reflect and respond to that, they can get caught up in trying to eliminate those feelings by minimizing, acting macho, or acting out in dangerous ways,' including substance misuse, he says.

'Acting out can be outward, or it can be self-directed, like taking one's life,' Dr Gerkin adds.

He says that this isolation happens to men who are not 'lucky to encounter more acceptance, or be raised in a family that encourages it, or to be exposed to it in therapy.'

But by adulthood, many of these opportunities have already passed men by, or they have already been taught that to seek help is seen as not a masculine behavior, leaving them unsure where to even begin when they are confronting mental health issues.”

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Following Robin Williams’ suicide I decided to write an article concerning male depression and the apparent causes that have led to the proliferation of men’s suicides. The title is, When Depression Turns Deadly: The Mask Men Wear. I followed this with another article titled, Depression in Men and Women: Recognizing and Understanding the Condition. The third article which focuses on Bipolar Disorder is titled, The Ups and Downs of Depression: Treating the Disruptive Cycle that Turns Your Life Upside Down. We are including the links herewith so that you can familiarize yourself with the facts, warning signs and recommendations for prevention, treatment and recovery. There is also a self test that you can take to determine if you’re depressed and at risk.

I started doing “men’s work” and founded The Men’s Center of Los Angeles and the Sacred Path Community over 30 years ago in part to surround myself with brothers of like mind on the path to mindful manhood, as well as to create opportunities through our retreats, workshops, seminars and therapeutic men’s groups for men to gather in the company of good men who bring out the best in each other.

Our 32nd Annual Sacred Path Winter Men’s Retreat is scheduled for Thursday, December 6th through Sunday, December 9th. For the past 20 years, we have held our retreats in October and April at Gindling Hilltop Camp north of Malibu. We haven't’ held a Spring retreat in a few years. This is the first year that we’ll be meeting at Hilltop over the holidays, which also happens to be a time in which many people develop the holiday blues. Alcohol and drug abuse levels soar due to the celebratory nature of the season mixed with the potential for depression that can take the place of the joy that we’re expected to feel. Suicide tends to peak during the holidays.

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We will focus the theme of our retreat to coincide with the time of the year and the prevailing issues that often arise. I commend the 8 men who took advantage of the $100 discount that was offered when we opened advance enrollment during the first two weeks of May. We are offering a $50 reduction in the fee now until Saturday, October 6th. Go online and place your $150 refundable deposit to secure your registration and make your plans to be with us on “the mountain” in December.

You are invited to gather with a group of men who are seeking a better life by virtue of putting themselves in the company of other men on the path to mindful manhood. I also encourage you to look among your family, friends and acquaintances for any men who you feel could benefit from this camaraderie. Especially keep your eyes open for any man who might be struggling with the issues that could put him at risk and in harm's way. Being on retreat in December could make a world of difference for a man including just possibly saving a life. Reaching out to him now can make a significant difference and having something to look forward to can help as well.

I, for one, am looking forward to sharing this opportunity with you in December. If you’re interested in getting involved in a therapeutic men’s group, let me know. I have some openings in the ones that I’m facilitating and am also aware of some of the others that are occurring.

Thank you for taking the time to read my monthly message.

In brotherhood,

 Stephen

Stephen

 

 

 

 

Stephen

Director's Message May 2018

May 2018

Greetings MCLA/Sacred Path Community,

If you’ve been following my messages in the past 2 -3 newsletters concerning our Fall retreat, I have an important update for you.  For those of you who are not aware that we will not be holding our Fall retreat in October as we have for the past 30 years, we are taking a potentially bold step in moving our date this year at Gindling Hilltop Camp to Thursday, December 6th through Sunday, December 9th.  To know more about this, you are able to review the previous newsletters by going to menscenterlosangeles.com and clicking on The News.

We held a Wisdom Council meeting in mid April and the consensus was to move forward with the December dates.  It’s a positive gesture of commitment from the staff, so the next crucial step is to have an affirmative gesture of commitment from the community of men who attend the retreats.  Thank you to those of you who offered comments following my April Director’s Message.  By and large, the comments were in support of the 4-day retreat in December.

What we are requesting now is a further demonstration of support for moving forward with our commitment to the camp to secure the dates that are being held.  We would like to have from 10 - 20 men place a $150 refundable deposit down to hold their places for attendance on Dec 6 - 9, 2018.  We are requesting that those deposits be in place by May 15th so that we feel a sense of assurance that we will be able to meet the attendance numbers that work for the camp and for MCLA/SP.

Those of you who step up to evidence your commitment via your deposit will be eligible for a substantial early bird fee reduction.  Historically, men have tended to wait until the last minutes to register even though they have to pay the full retail fee at that point.  I encourage anyone who is frugal to take advantage of the early discount fees. 

I’ve further suggested that you feed your piggy bank on a weekly basis starting now so that the money is there when it’s time to plop down the balance owing.  We’re approximately 30 weeks from the retreat.  $15-20 a week tucked into your bank will cover the costs depending on whether you enroll early or wait until after the early bird specials are over.

You will read in this newsletter about the premiere of Joseph Culp’s new film, Welcome to the Men’s Group on Wednesday night, May 16th in Beverly Hills.  It is a fund raiser and MCLA is one of the non-profit organizations who will benefit.  I spoke on a panel following a screening of the film at USC over a year ago and Joseph has again invited me to participate on the panel following the premier showing.  It will open to a wide distribution after the 16th.  I hope you’ll be able to attend the premiere or one of the screenings.  Go to the link enclosed in the information herewith to get your tickets.

Many thanks for taking the time to read through my message and much gratitude for your support of our vision to bring good men together and to bring out the best in them.

In brotherhood,

Stephen

Welcome to the Men's Group, Premier Event!

The new feature film WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP is a comedy/drama about the modern phenomenon of men's support groups. It takes a very intimate look at the need for men to learn to talk about their feelings and find their integrity in a world with changing attitudes on masculinity.  By turns funny and poignant, the film soberly tackles issues of male shame, relationships, fatherhood, sex addiction, suicide, competition and grief.   After playing multiple festivals and doing dozens of preview screenings with panel discussions in the U.S. and Europe, we will hold our official Los Angeles premiere on May 16.  This event will act as a red carpet gala event fundraiser, with proceeds going to support several non-profit organizations that raise awareness on men’s issues today.  The film opens on May 18 at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills.

See special Q and A with Dr. Johnson and the director, Joseph Culp by clicking on the image to the right..

Our goal with making this film is to shine an empathic light on evolving male consciousness today and further the community, growth, and healing for men.   In the rising tide of awareness on male sexual misconduct and the empowerment of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the timeliness of the film’s message couldn’t be better. 

We have received strong support from men’s and women’s organizations, including Planned Parenthood, The Mankind Project, The Good Men Project, Movember, and Men’s Center Los Angeles.  Women in particular have hailed the film as a “breakthrough for male and feminist awareness”.  We believe this is a great opportunity to draw more attention to the current gender issues with a Los Angeles event prior to our theatrical release in select cities. 

To attend the event, see below:

WHEN:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018   Red Carpet Reception 6:00PM  Screening 7:00PM

WHERE:

The Ahrya Fine Arts Theater

8556 Wilshire Boulevard

Beverly Hills, CA 90211

TICKETS ON EVENTBRITE

Firefighters Down Honored by NFL, Changing Lives for the Better

FIREFIGHTERS DOWN IS A "WOUNDED WARRIORS" ORGANIZATION FOCUSED ON PROVIDING ASSISTANCE TO FIREFIGHTERS INJURED IN THE LINE OF DUTY.
 
 

Firefighters Down Honored as 2018 Charity for NFL Directory

 

Our very own Firefighters Down Captain Mike Henry and Captain Rick Brandelli were honored on March 25-26 as the 2018 Charity for the NFL Directory at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles. Firefighters Down has now recieved 23 sponsorships from NFL teams such as the New York Giants and the Green bay Packers. 

Sunday, March 25, was a cocktail/fun event on the Patio of the Onmi in which Rick, Mike and five other Firefighters along with their spouses mingled and shared stories with members of the 32 NFL Directory teams and Representative from every state's major hotel chains. 

 

Day two of this amazing event was a grand sit down dinner attended by 250 persons, in which Captain Mike received a standing ovation as he spoke about the effects of Traumatic rescues not just on the Firefighers but also on his or her family.

"It's very exciting that we shall have each of the 32 teams sponsor a specific firefighter and their family. This allows for a wonderful ongoing relationship between Firefighters and the NFL," explains Captain Mike.

"Firefighters' healings and experience will be recorded and provided to each sponsoring team. The growth of this relationship is very exciting," he adds. 

 

MCLA Proudly Assists FIREFIGHTERS DOWN
to Deliver Healing & Hope

  • There are over 2 million emergency calls to firefighters each year in the U.S.
  • Even in the face of personal danger, firefighters rescue victims of fire, accident or violence, provide first aide and ultimately risk their own lives to save the lives of others on a daily basis.
  • Sadly, there are few resources in place to assist firefighters with the necessary healing processes. Physical and emotional scars continue to amass until they become debilitating. 
  • The primary goal is to provide services to physically and emotionally injured or ill firefighters from departments across the United States. 

FireFighters Down founder Captain Mike Henry has collaborated with Dr. Stephen J. Johnson, Ph.D., LMFT (author and founder/executive director of MCLA) and a dedicated group of therapeutic service providers united to help injured Firefighters.

The process created is called “Hero Consciousness”

  • Individual & Group Counseling
  • Meditation
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Therapy
  • Immediate Explosive Disorder Therapy
  • Mental & Physical therapies
  • Sweat Lodges
  • Higher Consciousness Practices
  • Yoga
  • Professional Fitness training
  • Family Counseling
  • Online Follow up program
  • Contracting and collaborating with the Firefighters Local therapeutic resources

The program not only supports the healing of Firefighters after injuries but also the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that haunts firefighters and their families for months and even years following the occurrence of the trauma.  

This powerful therapeutic process is designed to restore the spirit of the injured Firefighter.  With support from corporations, celebrities, a caring community and firefighters from across the nation, the injured Firefighters will quickly understand the value of their sacrifice as well as how many people admire and support the service Firefighters provide to the community. 

Dr. Stephen Johnson and the Men's Center Los Angeles are proud to support and endorse our very own Captain Mike Henry and this excellent program designed to assist Firefighters. Your support of this important work is greatly appreciated.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT AND SUPPORT
WWW.FIREFIGHTERSDOWN.ORG

 

 

  

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MCLA Future Men's Retreats: It's Decision Time

MCLA Future Men's Retreats: It's Decision Time


Director's Message
April 2018

Greetings MCLA Sacred Path Community,

My message this month will be very brief and to the point.  I encourage you to take a few minutes to read this and respond in the comments section at the end.  Your thoughtful and forthright feedback is needed and will be seriously considered.

You may be aware, if you’ve read my messages over the past couple of months, that we lost our October date up at Gindling Hilltop Camp. I have previously written about the reasons so I won’t go into it again.  It’s difficult to find another site that is comparable that has not already been reserved.  Camps are usually reserved a year in advance. Nonetheless, we have a decision to make.

Gindling Hilltop has offered us 4 days and 3 nights in December, the 6th through the 9th.  These dates are being tentatively held for us to decide whether to take them or not.  The question before us is:  would we have enough men willing to attend at that time of the year?  The weather is typically mild then and should not pose an issue.

I think it comes down to whether we could attract 60 and preferably more men who are willing to commit to attending in early December.  Another option would be to forego the 4 day retreat and have a one or two-day event in October, somewhere.

Please contemplate and comment as to whether you are personally interested in attending in December.  Furthermore, will you commit now to coming and bringing one or more other men with you?  Or, do you feel that a shorter event in October would be preferable?

With gratitude to all of you who have read this and are offering your feedback. It will make the difference as to when, where and even perhaps, will we gather together next Fall.  I’ll update you in the May newsletter.

Finally, bravo to the men who attended the Colorado River Kayak Retreat and who braved the flash flood.  Quite an adventure!  Read about it in this newsletter.

IT'S DECISION TIME. Please leave your feedback in the comments section below. We're all in this together. 

In the spirit of brotherhood.

Stephen

Stephen J. Johnson Ph.D., LMFT
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Stephen Johnson is founder and executive director of the Men's Center Los Angeles and leader/wayshower of the Sacred Path men's retreats for the past 30+ years. He is a gifted therapist and master facilitator for the experiential journey that unfolds during his counseling sessions and workshops. Dr. J is a skilled and seasoned psychotherapist who has the sensibilities of a wisdom teacher. He provides a safe space for freedom of expression in accessing one’s pain while fostering transformation, personal expansion and spiritual growth. Click here to visit www.DrStephenJohnson.com

 

 

Dr. Johnson is author of "THE SACRED PATH: THE WAY OF THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR," an amazing how-to book for men who want to become better men . . . AND for the women who care about them.
 

 

 

"THE SACRED PATH MEN'S RETREATS" MCLA's Wisdom Council honored Dr. J's amazing 30+ years of mindful leadership and mentorship with a special commemorative tribute film. See for yourself the incredible men's work that we do on the mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Men's Retreat & Flash Flood Baptism on the Colorado River

Men's Retreat & Flash Flood Baptism on the Colorado River

by Bill Arena
MCLA Wisdom Council

MCLA's ANNUAL SACRED PATH spring 4-day, 3-night kayak camping men's retreat in the Black Canyon wilderness of the Colorado River was an incredibly wild and crazy adventure this year. We shared powerful work with an intimate and eclectic collection of manly mindful men on the path. Our entire group was tested in, oh, so many ways. Survivors. Warriors. Good men. Grateful. Empowered. 

We enjoyed an absolutely spectacular time in Mother Nature, mindful, powerful men's work deep in the wilderness, a surprise guest visit by an amazing woman traveling alone with her dog adding sacred balance to our intense male-female work, powerfully purifying Inipi Sweatlodge prayer ceremonies, and deep male bonding with other good men.

BAPTISM ON THE RIVER __ And then, to close out our spring men's retreat adventure in a magnificent way and literally lock in the powerful energetic cleansings we each enjoyed in our mindful men's work, just before dawn on our final day on the river we survived a flash flood that literally exploded through our secluded campsite. 

I've personally been blessed to attend many MCLA Sacred Path men's retreats over the years but, for me, this one was definitely the most memorable, empowering and life-enhancing event ever. 

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RIVER SAFETY orientation meeting at the Hoover Dam Lodge Wednesday evening before our Thursday morning launch. Casino energy, neon lights, electronic music, people smoking cigarettes indoors . . . "Oh yeah Scott, we’re ready. Let’s get this show on the road."

 

Our small and intimate but extremely powerful group launched from the base of the Hoover Dam on Thursday morning: Jason Zelin, Richard Ford, Zach Fisher, Dylan Arena, Bill Arena, Adam Zawadzki, Michael Mohr and Scott Ewing. We were all so grateful to Dan Stanton and his father, Paul, who launched two days ahead of us to deliver the extensive Inipi ceremony supplies and firewood to our campsite on the river. 

KEEP THE FIRE BURNING __ The Black Canyon Wilderness is one of the most beautiful and energetically-charged sacred spots in the world. We launched from base of the Hoover Dam. No cell coverage. No distractions. No nothing. Just sacred and divine communion with Mother Nature. Love your Mother. Feed your Soul. In the beautiful Lakota language: Pheta kin ileya han cha waste' / "It is good to keep the fire burning" 

 

INTIMATE MEN’S WORK in the big-middle beauty of Mother Nature. We were so blessed to hang out peacefully in some spectacular and amazing natural settings and discuss and reflect upon all kinds of intimate men's topics and issues. So therapeutic. So empowering. 

This amazing natural hot springs grotto is located high up on the mountain and provided such a wonderful, natural bonding experience for all the men in our group. The ages represented by the men in our group this year ranged from 33 to 82. 

 

CLIFF DIVING __ Our personal water safety director Scott Ewing closely observes the action as we experience the Colorado River in an intimate and visceral way. Water temperature an extremely brisk 52 degrees. Huge wilderness reality check and sacred wake-up call physically, emotionally, spiritually (and thermally).

 

MINDFUL MEN __ Special thanks to Scott who did such a beautiful job coordinating the mindfulness aspects of this retreat and providing the topics and forum and safe space for each man to share and express and do this important work. We're also so appreciative of our own DR. STEPHEN JOHNSON who started this work over 30 years ago and helped facilitate our river trip again this spring. Many of the first-hand topics from Dr. J's book, "THE SACRED PATH: The Way of the Spiritual Warrior," were included in our group discussions. Thank you Dr. J for all your great work for the men (and the women) of our world. Mitakuye oyasin (Lakota) / We're all related. We're all in this together.

DIVINE SYNCHRONICITY __ As we’re sitting in the circle passing the sacred football and discussing intimate male topics in a good and respectful way, this woman suddenly shows up with her dog who was cold and wet from jumping in the river. She politely asks if her dog could get warmed up by our fire. Of course. Without missing a beat, our discussion suddenly gets supercharged. It's always incredible to me to witness the universe at work. In real life CHRISTINA CASTALDO is a guide and Lightworker from Phoenix. Just by "coincidence" she happens to be way out here on the river at this same exact moment camping by herself with her dog, doing the exact same work. She politely and respectfully agrees to join in our intimate conversation. It was so beautiful. Amazing sacred balance of divine male and divine female energies converged before our eyes. Our entire group dynamic so enhanced by this woman's presence. It was just what the doctor (J) ordered. So honored and privileged to spend quality time with this incredible woman and these mindful men sitting together in this beautiful, healing energetic vortex on the banks of the Colorado River. 

CONNECTING WITH MOTHER NATURE __ Jason savoring the beauty of the Black Canyon wilderness and incredible peacefulness of the majestic Colorado River. 

BAND OF BROTHERS __ River warriors, teammates, survivors, all for one and one for all. 

RIVER TRIP ABDOMINAL WORK __ So many personal river retreat highlights and blessings this year. Topping the list for me personally was this guy, world famous U.S. Navy veteran and Texas-based wannabe standup comedian Dylan Thomas Arena. I was also blessed to enjoy incredibly powerful, two-way ab/core workouts right there on the river 1) paddling the bow of our vessel, AND, 2) laughing my ass off at Popeye's unrelenting, machine gun social commentary coming from the stern. Mama mia. It's a full body workout on this river.. Love this stuff.  

RIVER TRIP ABDOMINAL WORK __ So many personal river retreat highlights and blessings this year. Topping the list for me personally was this guy, world famous U.S. Navy veteran and Texas-based wannabe standup comedian Dylan Thomas Arena. I was doubly blessed to enjoy incredibly powerful, two-way ab/core workouts right there on the river 1) strong lead paddling from the bow of our vessel, AND, 2) laughing my ass off at Popeye's unrelenting, machine gun social commentary coming from the stern. Mama mia! It's a full body workout manning a canoe with this guy. Love this stuff.  

 

INIPI SWEATLODGE __ Wopila tanka to our brother Dan and his father Paul who respectfully and carefully harvested the willows in California and then packed up the tarps and Grandfathers and firewood and tools and transported everything to Nevada and delivered them directly to our special spot on the river. This sacred Buffalo medicine (at left) arrived by canoe courtesy of Adam, a Sundance fire tender in South Dakota. Our second day on the river each spring such sacred synchronicity . . . exactly 100 DAYS to TREE DAY in the Black Hills. 

 

(at right)
NIGHT BEFORE FLASH FLOOD BAPTISM
We set up our camp at the base of this 60-foot tall rock wall. It was the perfect place. Shielded from the weather. Quiet. Intimate.  Soft, sandy area to pitch our tents. Nobody around to bother us. We built a fire. Passed around the sacred football. Did some good, intimate men's work together.  Settled in for our final night on the river. We were good to go . . . or so we thought.

FLASH FLOOD BAPTISM BY FIRE __ After a steady rain all night, just before dawn at 6:45 am Sunday morning we suddenly hear a big, thundering, rumbling noise echoing from the darkness somewhere high above us. Uh oh, this can't be good. Intense ominous sense of foreboding with earthquake undertones. Instantly jolted awake. BAM!  Within two minutes a flood of water comes gushing out from the ravine and crashes through our tents, the ground immediately swells with rushing water and mud. Everyone scrambles to grab his tent and gear and stuff and drag everything 20 feet over to the still-dry side of the gully.

My big Kelty tent, however, won’t budge, loaded with equipment, securely staked down at the corners, rapidly filing up with water and mud and debris. No choice. Dylan whips out my camp knife, I quickly slice open my beautiful, relatively new tent and we dive in and grab all our stuff and drag everything to safety . . . . DIVINELY PROTECTED. Each man does great. It's a huge rush. Together, we all dodge the water bullet in a good way. Quite an energetic experience on many levels. This photo (above) is the after shot. Warriors working together. Survivors. Teammates. Good men. Connected. Oh yeah, we got this! Facciamolo! Come on! We can handle anything! Great empowerment energy on the river. Supercharged. Grateful.

 

 

(at right) 
FLASH FLOOD AFTERGLOW __ Jason models the appropriate (and obviously quite stylish) rain gear that Scott dutifully advised each of us to pack beforehand. 

RIVER WARRIORS __ After we all survive our early morning flash flood baptism by raging water, we regroup, we laugh, we pack up all our stuff, carefully load up all the Inipi tarps and rocks and sacred items, then enjoy an incredibly beautiful final 8-mile trip down the river to the marina. Our brother Dan Stanton is there to welcome us home. Powerful time on the river with good men. Grateful. Invigorated. 

 

 

BEST RETREAT EVER __ Big thanks to our equipment suppliers, father-son team LES & CHRIS MARTIN / BC RIVER RIDERS. Fantastic job. My son Dylan had the priviledge of riding shotgun this time on our return from the river in the equipment van to our original hotel staging area and talking mano-a-mano motorcycles with our river co-host and good friend Chris Martin, a professional motocross racer and 9-time winner of the Baja 1000.

This year's MCLA kayak river trip was an absolutely amazing time shared with some incredible men. Warriors. Survivors. Teammates. Good men on the sacred path. Yes, this was definitely our best retreat ever. Psyched now to order a new tent and begin prep for next year’s river retreat. We launch in 338 DAYS.

 

BRINGING GOOD MEN TOGETHER AND BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN THEM

Thank you Men's Center Los Angeles and DR. STEPHEN JOHNSON and Scott Ewing and Dan Stanton and everyone who helped facilitate another incredible journey on the Sacred Path. It was an awesome and empowering adventure with good men. Planning ahead, we launch next year on the Colorado River on MARCH 7, 2019
 

A look into the Men's Center Of Los Angeles' Sacred Path Men's Retreats.

MCLA DECISION TIME:  Click here to read DR. J's APRIL DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE and leave your feedback for the future of MCLA's annal Sacred Path fall men's retreat at Gindling Hilltop Camp on the mountain overlooking Malibu. This is a critical transition time for the Men's Center Los Angeles. It's time right now for good men to step up to the plate. We need your feedback and your commitment. This men's work started by Dr. J over 30 years ago is more important right now than ever before.  Pheta kin ileya han cha waste' (Lakota) / "It is good to keep the fire burning."  CLICK HERE TO CAST YOUR VOTE!

 

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BILL ARENA lives in the east bay San Francisco. He's an MCLA Wisdom Council agitator, Men's Work facilitator/guide, Sundancer/Pipe Carrier in Lakota Sioux spiritual tradition, Jin Shin Jyutsu hands-on energy healer, Animal/Bird wrangler, Black Belt MMA instructor, Guided Group Meditation leader, Olympic-style Discus thrower, open ocean Endurance Swimmer, and head writer/editor ARENA CREATIVE GROUP.  His live-each-moment vibrational focus handed down by previous life Renaissance-era mentor and Italian paison, Leonardo da Vinci: "Sto ancora imparando" (I am still learning). “La vita è molto, molto buona.” (Life is very, very good). "Facciamolo" (Come on dudes. Let's do this).

OTHER ARTICLES BY BILL ARENA:
THE LAKOTA SUNDANCE Prayer Ceremony
MNI WICONI: the Sacred Stand at Standing Rock
Indigenous Prophecy of THE CONDOR & THE EAGLE

 

 

 

Manhood in the Age of Trump

Manhood in the Age of Trump

The author of ‘Manliness’ suggests the president’s vulgar appeal may be the beginning of the end of the push for gender-neutrality.

WALL STREET JOURNAL OPINION / THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW
WITH HARVEY MANSFIELD
/ BY TUNKU VARADARAJAN


Cambridge, Mass. -- A wise and nuanced playfulness is Harvey Mansfield’s forte. He’s just turned 86 and has been teaching at Harvard since he was 30, making him one of the longest-running shows in this clever little town. A professor of government, he’s among the foremost experts on Tocqueville and Machiavelli. But since 2006, when he published a book called “Manliness,” the public attention toward him has focused on his uninhibited and mischievous put-down of Western feminists. “I think I’ve got the best critique that exists of feminism, what its nature is, and what it wants,” he says of that book, chuckling immodestly. 

Mr. Mansfield’s study of manliness is acutely topical today, what with the #MeToo movement and the cries of “toxic masculinity” on college campuses, coupled with a startling masculine eruption in the White House. One wonders if there is a connection between the near-banishment of manhood from America’s social sphere and its sudden prominence in the political one. Although, it must be said, there are strong men in powerful positions elsewhere, too, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and India’s Narendra Modi.

“Let’s look at the Washington, D.C., kind of manliness,” Mr. Mansfield says. “Trump’s manliness is of a raw character, the kind you find, also, in Erdogan and Putin, who are rough and gross and discourteous.” In the Mansfield scheme, there’s a hierarchy of manliness, ranging from animalistic strength on the bottom rung, then rising gradually to gentlemanliness, and then to “the highest form, philosophic manliness: the willingness to take on dominant opinions and subvert them by questioning and argument.”

The “raw type of manliness,” Mr. Mansfield says, “coincides with a political situation of polarization.” A polarized democracy is “an invitation to the vulgar. I think what’s interesting about Trump is not so much Trump himself as the people who voted for him.” They are a reminder that democracy “wants equality, but the equality it gets tends to be at a lower level than the best.” America could, he suggests, have equality like the ancient Spartans, “requiring everyone to be courageous. But that’s too difficult for us and doesn’t answer our needs.”

We are in Mr. Mansfield’s home, a garrison colonial hidden behind a high fence, and at this point in the conversation a bustling German lady enters from the garden, her face flushed from the cold. She is Anna Schmidt, Mr. Mansfield’s third wife. (His first marriage ended in divorce, and his second wife, with whom he collaborated on a masterful translation of Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” died of cancer in 2006.) She gives the impression of being twice as tall as the modestly built professor, and at 43, she’s half his age. With a certain amount of hamming it up about her duties in the kitchen, she disappears to cook dinner.

Mr. Mansfield, who betrays a visible pride in Mrs. Mansfield, returns to the subject of Mr. Trump’s supporters. “They rather like and appreciate his vulgarity and his baseness, his impulsiveness,” he says. “It doesn’t bother them that he’s rich and wears flashy, bright ties.” They think “that this is how they would be if they were rich. Trump is an image of their notion of what money can buy.”

In 2016, Mr. Mansfield continues, Mr. Trump won “a majority of white women—and women are attracted to manly men, I think.” He agrees that there’s a connection between the campaign for gender-neutrality in the U.S.—seeking, as he sees it, to erase all differences between the sexes—and the “hunger” that made Mr. Trump’s political rise possible.

In Mr. Mansfield’s view, Mr. Trump’s success wasn’t a racial reaction to President Obama as much as a backlash in favor of masculinity. Mr. Obama “had the scolding demeanor of a schoolmarm—very much, I think, following the temper of today’s feminists. It’s all a matter of correcting the behavior of misbehaving juveniles, and of condescension.” Here, he checks himself, allowing that this observation “is a little unfair to Obama, because some of his speeches were pretty good, and he did have a vision of America and the way America ought to be.” But it was not an America that “throws its weight around. That’s precisely what he wanted to avoid. So, in his foreign policy, and in his domestic role as condescender-in-chief, he showed his hostility to manliness.”

Mr. Trump saw the electoral opportunity. “Trump’s not a clever man,” Mr. Mansfield says, by which he means that the president has little propensity for abstraction or intellectual complication. “But he’s shrewd. He saw that there was a way to be appealing, and to knock off the competition of his rivals in the Republican Party, by a display of manliness and an attack on political correctness.” Mr. Trump is “really the first American politician to use that, to see that there was a political opening there.”

Laughing lightly, Mr. Mansfield recalls Mr. Trump’s masculine belittling of “Little Marco,” “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted.” “That was very effective with a lot of voters,” he says, “particularly the less educated. You could look at 2016 as a revolt of the lower-IQ half of America against the upper half, which is dominated by the universities.” Now in Washington there has been “a replacement of the people who reflect the values of American universities, where manliness is taboo.”

The Trump election, Mr. Mansfield muses, is one sign that the steady march of gender-neutrality is slowing and may even be halted. “We haven’t had a real political debate about manliness,” he says, “and maybe Trump is the first stage of it.” Mr. Trump presents issues “in a manly way, which is to say, ‘Take it or leave it.’ Like the wall—the wall is an intransigent object that justifies and encourages an intransigent mode of speech.”

Similarly with “Make America Great Again,” Mr. Trump’s political shibboleth. “It invokes the manly, and allies it with patriotism,” Mr. Mansfield says. “And the ‘again’ is a strong critique of recent presidents, because it states that ‘we had it once and we lost it, thanks to you.’ ” Mr. Trump could have said “Make America Manly Again,” Mr. Mansfield says. “That would have been too much. But I believe that’s what he meant.”

The thrill of competition is an intrinsic part of Mr. Mansfield’s idea of manliness, which suggests that, in his worldview, political campaigning is an inherently masculine pursuit. “American elections,” he agrees, “have traditionally been, in great part, tests of manliness.” Was the last election a test of Hillary Clinton’s manliness as well? “Yes it was,” Mr. Mansfield responds, “and she showed it a certain amount. Maybe it’s difficult for a woman to do that in a graceful way, and to maintain her femininity.”

Mr. Mansfield isn’t sure whether Mrs. Clinton lost in 2016 “because of electoral difficulties in being a woman, or just because of the kind of woman she was. It would be necessary to untangle those different possibilities.” He adds that Margaret Thatcher, who won three terms as Britain’s prime minister, “is one of my models of manliness.”

If Mr. Trump’s manliness is vulgar, which presidents’ were refined? He’s quick to cite the Bushes—“almost courtly, but friendly; people who couldn’t be pushed around and who had a controlled anger.” One of the chief attributes of a good politician, Mr. Mansfield says, is knowing “how to be angry in an effectual and impressive way, without losing it.”

Mr. Mansfield doesn’t see it as an accident that Mr. Trump’s presidency coincides with an impressively indignant national movement against sexual harassment. #MeToo, he believes, “is really directed at Trump, and people like him, accusing them of being ‘deplorable.’ ” (He uses that “Hillary word,” as he calls it, deliberately.) The movement “represents a particular critique of Trump for his sexual harassment, or at least his lamentable sexual reputation. It’s against the aggressive male, the presumptuous male, the male who hasn’t had his ‘consciousness raised’ sufficiently. That’s Trump, and the #MeToo campaign sees him as the embodiment of everything male they don’t like, and want to oppose.”

Yet Mr. Mansfield sees a “contradiction” in Mr. Trump’s manliness: “It’s his ‘art of the deal.’ A person who makes a deal all the time is unmanly, just as economics is inherently unmanly because it always wants a trade-off.” A manly person “stands for things, and when you stand for something, that means you’re not willing to make a deal against it.” He views Mr. Trump’s recently announced tariffs as a way “to get him to a deal.”

He doesn’t expect Mr. Trump to change over the course of his presidency—to acquire more polish or refinement. “He’s had a chance to do that,” Mr. Mansfield says. “He’s an unapt pupil, a rebellious pupil. But his alliance with the Republicans seems to be based on the realization that—and here I give him some credit—to make America great again he has to be a success as president.”

Mr. Mansfield is, however, critical of Mr. Trump’s dealings with Kim Jong Un. “It’s a personal contest between him and this tin-pot dictator,” he says. “The crisis needs some delicacy to obtain what needs to be a siege, and a blockade. That requires allies and aggressive, pushy diplomacy.” Mr. Trump “doesn’t have the patience, and he has that in common with the American people. This is in Tocqueville, so it must be right—that democracy is ‘impatient.’ ”

Still, Mr. Trump’s manliness is playing out differently in the rest of the world from its reception in America—and North Korea. “He doesn’t seem to have the fans abroad that he does here,” Mr. Mansfield says. “But in order for him to be successful outside America, he doesn’t have to have fans. He just has to have people impressed and a little perturbed.”

Mr. Trump has the world’s attention, for sure, and “it’s possible that he could use it for some positive purpose.” Europe, Mr. Mansfield says, “was just falling asleep by stages. Now, Trump is worrying them. . . . That’s good, isn’t it?”


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Click here to read Tunku’s original article in the Wall Street Journal

 

TUNKU VARADARAJAN is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
"Manhood in the Age of Trump" appeared in the March 31, 2018, print edition Wall Street Journal

HARVEY CLAFLIN MANSFIELD, JR (born March 21, 1932) is an American political philosopher. He is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1962. He has held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships and has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center; he also received the National Humanities Medal in 2004 and delivered the Jefferson Lecture in 2007. He is a Carol G. Simon Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is notable for his generally conservative stance on political issues in his writings.

Mansfield is the author and co-translator of studies of and/or by major political philosophers such as Aristotle, Edmund Burke, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Thomas Hobbes, of Constitutional government, and of Manliness (2006). In interviews Mansfield has acknowledged the work of Leo Strauss as the key modern influence on his own political philosophy.