A message from the Associate Director


I write this with lots of gratitude for many people especially the ones who made this retreat so great.  Much of what makes our MCLA retreats exceptional are not only the speakers and the breakouts, but the care and love given to our sacred containers.  I want to thank the veteran men of MCLA for being open to new ideas, ceremonies and locations.  For the new guys, I hope you had a great and fulfilling retreat.  The other day I was on the phone with Rob and we were discussing how fast the “thrill” of the retreat can subside with all the tasks and demands of life in Chronos.   After many moments of recollecting the years of retreats we’ve collectively done, one realization ultimately flowed to the surface:  The hill is simply practice for life off the hill.  So, how do we take what we “got” on the hill and bring it down with us?  Sorry to say, but you can’t.  To take the magic, the comradery, the energy, the smells and all the other things that moved you on that mountain is virtually impossible.  Therefore we must find acceptance that life on the mountain is separate than life off of it—Herein lies the grief.  So to deal with the grief, let’s first accept the loss.  Next, find someone that you had a shared-experience with so you can commiserate as well as celebrate those memories.  Talk about how you are feeling being off the mountain and how you are doing with the transition.  Burn some sage to indulge your limbic system and remember that the only time that ever exists is “now.”  You are worth it.  We are all here for you.

With love from your brother,

Michael Lewis, MD

Director's Message: November 2017


Greetings MCLA Sacred Path community,

Changes are in the Fall air.  Starting with our 31st annual men’s retreat in which close to 60 participants witnessed the changes first hand from the revisioned commencement ceremony all the way through to our refashioned closing ceremony.

The Newly inspired Intention-Tipi on the lower field - now called the TPC (Tipi Container) was created to supplement our existing indoor container

I want to express a deep sense of gratitude to Dr. Michael Lewis and Rob Bruce, our Associate Directors, for their creativity, commitment to excellence, intentionality, dedication and all around competent leadership.  Their hands-on shepherding of this last retreat was certainly of value to me and it made an imprint that could be felt by all involved.

Thank you Wisdom Council brothers for your generosity of spirit in stepping up in so many valuable ways. The program was quite full, including Tribe and Community times including a variety of presentations and breakout sessions facilitated by Clyde Terry, Mike Henry, Mitch Roth, Nick Stein, John Mafrici, Michael Lewis, Bruce Figoten, Ed Carrico, Rod Louden and Bill Flaxman.  Kudos to Anthony DiMaggio for engineering the Sacred Container to hold the space for us in such a good way!

Award winning director, Frederick Marx giving a moving presentation on the struggles veterans endure upon returning home. CLICK PHOTO TO LEARN MORE https://warriorfilms.org/

Award winning director, Frederick Marx giving a moving presentation on the struggles veterans endure upon returning home. CLICK PHOTO TO LEARN MORE https://warriorfilms.org/

With gratitude to our two keynote presenters Dr. Pierre Grimes and Frederick Marx for sharing your wisdom with us.  The brilliance of Christo Pellani still has men commenting on his Fisher King Myth performed in two sections. The Inipi Sweat Lodge ceremonies facilitated by Bill Arena and Dan Stanton with the able assistance of fire keepers Paul Stanton and Adam Zawadzki deepened the spiritual impact of our program.

We’re currently in discussion regarding a potential one-day program for sometime in January or February and the planning for the March River Retreat is already underway.  Enrollments for the March retreat have begun and there are still some openings at this point.  If you haven't attended this special retreat before, it’s a wonderful experience. You can sign up today.


Stay tuned for more updates. 


In brotherhood,

Stephen Johnson, Ph.D.



Director's Message: October, 2017

The Lone Wolf: White, Past Mid-Life & Angry;
Join Us On The Mountain in 10 Days;

Tom Petty Heartbreaker

Hello Sacred Path MCLA Community,

Late in the day, one week ago Sunday, a 64-year-old Nevada man opened fire on a concert crowd in Las Vegas from his 32nd-floor hotel room. Fifty-nine people were killed and over 500 injured in what's been deemed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Survivors say the ordeal lasted around 15 minutes. The man shot himself as police were entering his room.

Post 9/11 America was once again stunned by the horror of an unspeakable act that caught us off guard and this time it appears that we have been attacked from inside. And, by one of our own who happens to be a man with no obvious history that as yet explains why he would do such a thing. However, what we know is that he was white, past midlife and angry. What can we learn from this tragedy?

The truth is . . . there's something troubling many of today's men and very troubling to the world when these men are in trouble. Nearly every recent killer has been dubbed a "lone wolf." The term aptly describes a man who lacks a network. It's a man desperate for a support system. And in our "every man for himself" society, we see the violent effects every day. We see it on the roads . . . we see it in business . . . and we damn sure see it in politics.

Dr. Jed Diamond

Jed Diamond and I have been in communication about what occurred in Las Vegas as well as other current world events.  He shared the following, “As I told my clients who just left my office who are struggling with their own relationship anger, I think the stress in the world is getting worse. Just like global warming, we can't predict exactly when the next big storm will hit or how much devastation it will bring, but we know as long as we keep heating up the planet, we're in for a rough ride. Likewise, as long as we continue to live out of balance with ourselves, each other, our communities, and our world, we will continue to see violence increasing.”

Jed went on to say, “I believe the work we are doing can go a long way to healing some of the personal, interpersonal, and planetary wounding going on. Healing men is a big part of what will heal us all.”

In another part of the world a men’s community offers a very unique program to help men who are troubled, angry and possibly violent deal with their pain and tendencies to act it out aggressively.  See how the Vikings have inspired a way to heal through the creation of a program based on their history.

Our work in the world, the mission of MCLA for the past 30-plus years, is to support men in dealing with their pain, their wounds and their anger and to become their personal best.  The theme of our retreat last year focused on the need for community and the benefits that “belonging” can provide. 

The theme of our upcoming retreat, less than two weeks from now, is on moving beyond merely surviving to thriving.

I know that survival is much more on the minds of many these days and that we rarely even hear one utter the word “thriving.” It’s like it has no place in our lexicon any more. That’s why we decided to offer a retreat on a theme that would zero in on what it means to live a life beyond just surviving and what it looks like to actually thrive and experience vitality, exuberance and joy.

There’s still time to sign up. If you’ve been contemplating whether this one is for you, I invite and encourage you to join a gathering of mindful men who have grasped the importance of belonging to a men’s community. It does make a difference to have a network of men who are on the path to conscious manhood. We have 55 who are on board right now and we have room for more. Click here to register.

Our hearts go out to all who lost their precious lives a week ago in Las Vegas and to those whose lives will forever more be altered as a result of the trauma that they have sustained. I also want to acknowledge the First Responders and the heroes who put their lives on the line to be of service during the unfolding minutes and hours of the Las Vegas shooting. We believe that whether you are wearing a uniform and have chosen a career as a Firefighter, or in Law Enforcement or in the Military, to some degree we are all first responders. One never knows when we may be called into the line of duty. 

We have a very full program with some amazing presenters that will cover a vast array of topics designed to prepare us to deal with whatever comes our way.

As I wind up my message, I want to acknowledge someone for the gift that he gave the world for over 40 years. In the midst of everything that was unfolding late on Sunday we lost another giant in the world of music.  There have been several brief tributes this week and we’ve included herewith a very moving tribute video capturing Florida fans bidding farewell to one of their own. Thank you, Tom Petty!


See you on the Mountain!


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.


Click here to register now for the 31st Annual Fall Sacred Path Men's Retreat

Viking Therapy: Where Men Fight Their Demons

The Viking Therapy Club:
Where Men Fight Their Demons

By Douglas Shaw
BBC World Service UK

It looks like the set of Game of Thrones. Wolin in Poland hosts one of the world’s largest gatherings of Viking enthusiasts each year.

Hundreds come to recreate Viking culture - and take part in fierce, competitive battles. Many are drawn by a passion for history. But, for a significant number, it’s a way of escaping their past - a past scarred by violence.

The Viking scene attracts people who are combat veterans, former football hooligans and others struggling to come to terms with violence.

It also seems to appeal to men who have lost direction in their lives and are looking for a sense of purpose.

Four members of the international group called the Jomsborg Vikings, which is about 2,000 strong, explain what draws them to the Viking world, and how it has changed their lives.

Max Bracey - or Maximas von Bracey, to give him his Viking name - leads a British Viking contingent called Ulflag.

His day job is running a shop that sells Viking paraphernalia in Walthamstow, London.

“A lot of these people are adrenaline junkies,” he explains.

“They really want to take part in something where they feel alive, with a sense of brotherhood.”

It gives them a release of the natural violent urges that we humans have”

He continues: “This is [also] a way of exploring how our ancestors lived.”

He embraced Viking re-enactment at a low point in his life.

His father had died of cancer, and a long-term relationship with his girlfriend had come to an end.

He tried various martial arts, but none fully satisfied him:

Qanun Bhatti is the chief trainer of the Ulflag Vikings in the UK.

He suffered abuse as a child, when he was six years old.

“I had quite a lot of anger issues. Violence just became a bit of a way of life.

“An angry child doesn’t know how to deal with emotions, but by being violent.”

Even as he was struggling to come to terms with the abuse, he had more violence to deal with in his adolescence.

Growing up in London in the 80s and 90s, he says he was victimised for being Asian and Muslim, picked on at school and attacked by skinheads.

Qanun believes joining the Vikings has healed him.

“Being able to let out my frustrations and aggression in a controlled manner is very beneficial for me.”

It has also given him a new sense of belonging.

[I feel] accepted and for want of a better word, loved.”

Qanun has experienced racism within the Viking world, too. People have commented that he should be playing the part of a slave, on account of the colour of his skin, he recalls.

But according to Qanun the true Viking message, which the Jomsborg Vikings try to promote, is one of tolerance and diversity.

“Vikings were so curious about anything that wasn’t the norm, it was part of their special culture. They were inveterate explorers.

“If someone walked in and was a different skin colour, rather than being: ‘You are different to us, we are afraid,' they’d be like: 'Wow, who’s this? We want to know about this person because they are different to us.’ They were excited.”

“It’s a brotherhood, once you’ve been taken in, you’re in.”

Norman in the 1990s (Dariusz Gis, 1996)

But Norman Hewitt struggled for a long time to be accepted as Jomsborg’s first black Viking.

His first job was to convince himself.

“It’s not really my scene. I thought there weren't any black Vikings because we weren't taught anything like that back in school.”

In the early 90s in London, he was embroiled in the world of football hooliganism. He was persuaded by a friend to join the Jomsborg Vikings. This gave him a new focus and outlet for his physical aggression.

On joining and doing some research, he decided to take the Arabic name of Bin Yusof, to reflect that Vikings mingled with North Africans.

Norman fights less these days, but remains an international training officer for the Jomsborg Vikings, where he is held in high esteem.

Anyone who is ethnic, or say, female, has to work double-hard to gain respect.”

Norman believes that if he had been a poor fighter, he would still have been gradually accepted, but he would not have achieved the same level of respect.

He experienced racism and “funny looks” from some quarters at Viking events across England, he says.

Some people were uncomfortable seeing a black Viking.

It was worse at festivals in northern Europe. He even thinks he was specifically targeted at some battles:

“Being black, it was hard to be recognized. One of the main reasons I do it is because we were there. I don’t see why it’s not written in history”

Blunt weapons are used in competitive battles between Vikings, and marshals enforce safety rules

Igor Gorewicz has been organizing the battles at the Wolin Festival in Poland since the late 1990s.

He says he has seen it transform the lives of hundreds of men.

People who had problems in their lives became good Viking citizens by releasing their aggression in a moderate way.”

The change can take effect after just a week of Viking martial training, he reckons.

The Viking code is all about creating strong men who know how to behave well, says Igor:

It allows you to be a tough man, while still respecting others. It also allows someone to escape the baggage of their past because one's Viking reputation rests purely upon their actions in the Viking world.

Igor, himself, used to be part of a violent scene in Poland called ‘metal-heads’. He describes it as football hooliganism, without the football.

Igor now takes his Viking message to schools and correctional facilities for young offenders.

He believes he can reach out to troubled young men that traditional authority figures, like teachers or magistrates, cannot.

Igor admits that the world of Viking re-enactment does draw a minority of people with racist views, attracted to the idea of re-creating a white, warrior culture.

“In all the cases I know, when they join our society, after a short time, they stopped talking bullshit.”



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Read Douglas' original article on the BBC World Service UK website

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THE 31ST ANNUAL SACRED PATH MEN'S RETREAT returns to the mountain Oct. 19-22. It's a truly life-changing event that shifts men's consciousness from Surviving to Thriving. Click here to register today: MCLA Fall Retreat Registration.

THE 31ST ANNUAL SACRED PATH MEN'S RETREAT returns to the mountain Oct. 19-22. It's a truly life-changing event that shifts men's consciousness from Surviving to Thriving. Click here to register today: MCLA Fall Retreat Registration.

Sacred Path Men on the Mountain in 10 Days


The clock is running. Exactly 10 days from today an incredible group of mindful men will gather on the mountain for the 31st Annual Sacred Path Men's Retreat beginning Thursday, October 19th. This is the perfect time and place for men to recharge their batteries, to examine what's truly important in life, and share the good energy and positive male companionship of other good men on the path. Click here to register right now and be part of the action.




"The Spiritual Psychology of Mindful Manhood"

Our very own Dr. Stephen Johnson, founder and wayshower of the Sacred Path retreats for the past 31 years, kicks off our program with "The Spiritual Psychology of Mindful Manhood."




Click the video at right to view MCLA's heartfelt tribute to Dr. J entitled "The Sacred Path," the amazing 30-year story of our annual Sacred Path Men's Retreats.



"Sacred Breathing"

John Mafrici and Dr. Stephen Johnson will co-facilitate Sacred Breathing sessions, a gentle yet extremely effective way of touching our feeling center, locating and releasing unconscious causes of negativity, empowering us to reverse old decisions and make new choices, grounded in high self-esteem and spiritual certainty. Powerful. Life-changing.



"The Betrayal of the Self
and Power of Dreamwork"

Internationally-acclaimed philosopher and master teacher Pierre Grimes has been hailed as "A true Jnana Yogi" and "The only living Platonist on Earth" among many other descriptive superlatives. Come learn from a true master.
Click here for details.

"From Stress to Strength
. . . through Meditation"

Nick Stein will facilitate a breakout session on Mindfulness Skills and explain the best, most practical methods for enjoying the phenomenal benefits of meditation. 
Click here for details.



"Men's Health & Hazards"

Dr. Michael Lewis will and Dr. Bruce Figoton will share some shocking facts about men's overall healthcare, pharmaceuticals and tangible things you can do right away to live a strong, healthy lifestyle.


"Emotional Transformation Therapy (ETT)"

Presentation by Mitch Roth introducing this life-changing, non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical approach combining traditional psychotherapy with the use of visual brain stimulation and colored light therapy for fast results.
Click here for details.





Frederick Marx will discuss his new film about the terrible challenges facing veterans today as well as his personal Buddhist approach to living a good life.
Click here for details.


"PTSD & Firefighters Down"

Clyde Terry & Mike Henry will share the challenges faced by military people and first responders and the common traits of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). MCLA is a proud supporter of FireFighters Down and supports the amazing, healing work of this local organization. Click here for details.



"Curriculum Movement For Men"

The body shares its ancient wisdom with us when we listen. David Carico leads us in an amazing technique to improve our health and vitality by simply listening to and following the movement that is naturally occurring every moment in our bodies. Click here for details.




Manly Musicians Christo Pellani & Tommy Holmes team up for other-worldly musical meditative journeys to enhance the mind, body and spirit. Click here for details.


"Monster Relationships"

Taming the beasts that are killing your relationships. Rod Louden will share some amazing insights about positive relationships beneficial to ALL men in ALL walks of life in ALL of our relationships with other people.
Click here for details.



"Orchestrating success in your life"

Dr. Bill Flaxman will explain how to self-manage difficult or uncomfortable emotions and problem behaviors that arise from challenging health-related, work related, or personal relationship situations that men face.
Click here for details.


The 31st Annual Sacred Path Men’s Retreat will be an excellent opportunity for good men to withdraw from the typical pressure and constant challenges and unrelenting drive for success in the modern world.

Go ahead. Be bold. Take a few days for yourself to relax and regroup and go inward and connect with your higher self. When you join us on the mountain you'll experience the profound peacefulness and energetic bliss of being part of a tribe of good men. You'll feel such power and peace and joy. The Sacred Path men's retreats have been called "life-changing" and "extremely positive." You deserve a break. Come join us.

Life is short. Go ahead. Reserve some time for yourself in the presence of other great men. Come join us on the mountain in October. Click here to register today.



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Click here to register for MCLA's Sacred Path Fall Men's Retreat


Healing the Father Wound You Never Knew You Had

Healing the Father Wound You Never Knew You Had

By Jed Diamond

There is one problem that surpasses all others in its impact on men, women, and society. It is the father wound. We focus on the importance of mothers in determining the well-being of children. However, the father wound, resulting from physical or emotional absence of the father, has been largely ignored. The father wound may be the most pervasive, most important, and least recognized problem facing men and their families today.

Here’s how one man described his wound:

“My dad had a ‘nervous breakdown’ when I was around 5 years old. I’m 73 and still remember the ‘shame.’ My mother used to take me with her to collect him after he had been given ECT – still hurts today. Not only the father wound, but because my mother took me as a surrogate partner, my life has been littered with very nice women who could never live up to her standards, even though she’s been dead for 32 years. I’m okay but still working on those wounds and doing my best to help others heal too.”

The father wound doesn’t just impact men’s lives. Here’s how one woman described her experience:

“I feel very threatened and feel like my partner is going to leave me all the time. I have a lot of chaos in my life and nothing seems for certain. I was the ‘black sheep’ of the family on top of the dysfunctionality of a father who was present physically, but not emotionally. I feel that getting older I have become more scared and in more pain. It has been very difficult for my partner. I don’t want to hurt him anymore. He is too good for that.”

On May 7, 2016, six months before the Presidential election, I wrote an article “The Real Reason Donald Trump Will Be Our Next President.” In the article I concluded, “Mr. Trump seems to have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment as a child.” He was raised by a father who worked seven days a week, whose basic value was “win at all cost,” and had little time for his role as a parent. Many people identified with Mr. Trump’s rage, without recognizing the underlying cause, and voted for him. When wounded children grow up to hold important political offices, the impact can be felt throughout the world.

As a psychotherapist who has treated more than 30,000 men and women over my long career, I have seen the devastating impact absent fathers can have on the lives of their children and how the wounding causes problems at all stages of life. Boys and girls who experience the father wound often become adults who unknowingly wound their own children. Once I recognized and understood the prevalence and importance of the father wound, I could help people recover from problems that had previously been resistant to both medical and psychological interventions.

According to the National Center for Fathering, “More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.”

The father wound impacts four critical areas of our lives:

  • Our physical health
  • Our emotional health
  • Our relationship health
  • Our social and political health

The effects of growing up without a loving, engaged, father ripple through the generations and contribute to many of the most serious problems we face in our society today including:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Depression and suicide
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Sexual addiction
  • Poverty
  • Divorce
  • Crime
  • Broken marriages

In order to help people, we need to understand why most people don’t recognize that they have a father wound or that it is the cause of many of the problems they experience in their lives. It’s difficult to believe that childhood trauma can be at the root of problems that occur thirty, forty, or fifty years later.

The life-long impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has been demonstrated by landmark studies by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Kaiser Permanente. These studies have been conducted over the last twenty years and show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with four ACEs— including living with an alcoholic parent, racism, bullying, witnessing violence outside the home, physical abuse, and losing a parent to divorce — have a huge risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.

Scientists are still debating how emotionally damaging experiences in childhood can have physical effects years later, but by now it’s pretty well established that they do. One of the more promising lines of inquiry shows that adverse childhood experiences damages the immune system.

The impact of absent or abusive fathers is one of the ACEs that has been largely ignored. For most of us, we block out early trauma. It was painful at the time, but we survive and get on with our lives, hoping to put the memories behind us. However, what we don’t remember can cause problems later in life.

Fortunately, we now have a host of treatments to heal childhood trauma and its impact on adults. I wrote about four helpful techniques in my book Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well. These techniques include EFT (tapping), heart coherence, Earthing (grounding), and attachment love. They work equally well for women.

Healing begins with understanding and accepting the father wound and the impact of other ACEs in our lives. To see if you have been effected by Adverse Childhood Experiences you can get your ACE score here and you can also learn more about the ACE studies. If you’d like to learn more about the book I’m writing, From Madness to Manhood: Healing the Father Wound You Never Knew You Had, drop me an email. Put “Father Wound” in the subject line and be sure and respond to me spamarrest filter if you’re writing for the first time.

Please share your own experiences and comments, which are always appreciated. They are my reward for spending so many hours writing articles that I think will be helpful to you.




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Read Jed's original article on www.MenAlive.com

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Jed Diamond, PhD, LCSW, has been helping men, and the women who love them, for more than 40 years. He is the Founder and Director of MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men's Health Network. He is also a member of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male and serves as a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Gender and Men's Health. His work has been featured in major newspapers throughout the U.S. and more than 1,000 radio and TV programs. Jed lives with his wife, Carlin, on Shimmins Ridge, above Bloody Run Creek, in northern California. They are proud parents of five grown children and 12 grandchildren.

Philip Gross, A True Spiritual Warrior

Philip Gross, A True Spiritual Warrior

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

I recall the day I was packing up in my room at the end of one of our retreats in 1997 when Hector Escarcega, who was on the Sacred Path Wisdom Council at the time, brought one of the participants to meet me.  Hector suggested that Phil Gross, AKA “Coach” Phil would be a valued member of our Council.

Phil expressed how much he enjoyed the retreat and declared that he would very much like to get involved with our organization. He was encouraged to attend 3 retreats in a row, which was our policy, and if he still felt the passion, he would be invited to participate in a Wisdom Council meeting so that he could learn more about the inner workings of The Men’s Center/Sacred Path.

Phil followed through with the protocol and did indeed join the staff and commenced what would become a 20-year tenure in our organization. He served as a Tribe Leader, managed our bookstore, and then stepped up his game by suggesting that we return MCLA once again to a 501c3 non-profit organization. It had been a non-profit for at least the first 10 years of the 30+ years that it has been in existence. Phil did the work and paid for the fees to recreate the corporate entity. He also purchased, out of his own money, handsomely embossed mugs as retreat takeaways, and monogrammed shirts to commemorate MCLA’s 25th Anniversary. He was a frequent contributor to our scholarship fund.

Phil had a special place in his very spacious heart for our Call to Adventure Rites of Passage program for fathers and sons, boys and mentors. He always brought his “A” game sharing his multifaceted background with all of the skills, talents and gifts he so generously offered to each and every member of our community from the younger ones to the older men.

Phil loved who we are and what we do. He was truly one of the most decent, kind, caring and generous men who has been involved with MCLA over the years. We have lost not only a really good man, but also a key player within our organization. He served in so many capacities and yet was so understated that it would at times be tempting to not fully appreciate who he was and the gifts that he gave. He deserved all of the acknowledgement that he was afforded, and more.

I was lifted up by his belief in me and my vision for the Sacred Path Community. He was fully in support of the mission of MCLA. In addition to everything that he offered, he also gifted me a full year of weekly coaching as I was writing my first book. That provided me with a very personal experience of Phil’s coaching prowess.

I know that Phil was also very engaged with his LandMark Forum community and as an instructor with the L.A. Unified School System. He was also involved in the administrative and policy making part of academia. We shared a bond in being fellow Trojans. We would text each other around our football games and the traditions and spirit of being a member of the USC family.

Perhaps the most telling example of his generosity was demonstrated via his relationship with someone he befriended at the Inside Edge Mastery organization.  Nick Rath was a true mentor, having supported hundreds of Foster children and providing parenting education within the L.A. Unified School System. Phil realized that Nick’s life was on the line, and would be drastically shortened if he did not receive a donated kidney.  Phil volunteered to determine if he was a match, and he was.  The surgery was scheduled and successful.   Phil and Nick became blood brothers from that point forward.  It was such a pleasure to witness their bond at our retreats.


To sum it up, Phil’s passion for serving others became one of the cornerstones of the foundation for our SP/MCLA work in the world. He is missed and will be missed. Each member of our community who has passed has left an indelible mark on the history of what we stand for and what we have endeavored to do. Phil’s mark will stand out for many years to come.

Thank you Phil for being you and for leaving us with memories of the mindful man that you shared with us . . .

Rest In Peace,


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

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Philip Henry Gross Memorial Celebration
-- Sunday, September 24 --



A Memorial Celebration honoring the life of our very own Philip Henry Gross was held Sunday, September 24:

400 S Main Street
Los Angeles 90013
1:00 pm to 4:30 pm

Contact Susan Hornik
(323) 447-8154

Click here for event details on facebook:  PHIL GROSS MEMORIAL CELEBRATION


January 21, 1954 ~ September 4, 2017
(age 63)




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memorial celebration obituary page
Philip Henry Gross  
January 21, 1954 ~ September 4, 2017
(age 63)






Colorado River Kayak Retreat Returns in 2018

Colorado River Kayak Retreat Returns In 2018


Ewing Ventures

I’ve been kayaking this stretch of the Colorado River since before I can remember.  In fact, this year’s retreat marked the fifth year in a row that I’ve been on the river that exact week.  I think it’s a powerful place to unwind and let go and unplug and just enter a different kind of flow.  It’s a slower pace, filled with wonder and beauty, where the new things I’m doing help me to be fully present to a new and different reality than my own.

Over the years, taking groups to the river and conducting retreats there and just visiting with family and friends, I have introduced about 150 people to this little piece of paradise.  It’s where I want my ashes spread.  And I would like to take you there.

After an evening at a local hotel where we gather and smile and hug and have a meeting about logistics, we retire to our rooms for final preparations and our last night’s sleep in real beds.  Heads are filled with excitement and reflection, gear is packed and repacked, food and clothing are set out.  And, if we’re lucky, we get a little shut eye.

Bright and early, we get up and it’s launch day!  Each man reports to the parking lot for gear check and I.D. check, we load up, and off we go.  We’re part of just a small number of people who pass through a government secured gate annually to the base of Hoover Dam.  There, we help each other to unload the kayaks and get them to the water.  We help each other load the boats, and it's float time.

To me, this is the best day of the whole weekend. Immediately, we become a school of men, a tiny few of the living, breathing organisms in this slow-moving river of water.  There may be twenty of us, but we may not see another human all day. 

We picked these days at the beginning of March, because, if we’re lucky, the weather is not too cold, but also not so beastly hot that we have no interest in the hot springs.  Because men, this place has got some of the most amazing hot springs in the world.

The entire trip is a flat-water, eleven-mile, down river journey, but the first stop is just two hundred yards away. I call it the vapor cave.  We go in one at a time and gather at the far end.  Those who want to examine fears of the unknown, fears of the dark – they go first.  In there, we tune out, drop in and talk about why we’re there.  It’s a perfect and powerful start to an amazing retreat.

From there, we visit several stops, including a natural hot shower, several hot spring rivers, streams, pools and brooks, and then arrive at camp late in the afternoon to make camp.  It’s a day filled with adventure . . . and it’s just the beginning.

Whether you’re an avid boater, a life-long camper or a man who has never been off of pavement in your life, if you can walk, we hope you’ll join us and enter the flow. You’ll be part of a band of brothers that has your back for a potentially life-altering experience.  You’ll learn a little more about self-reliance, too, coming off the river with an expanded sense of what it means to be truly alive.



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Scroll down for more photo memories of the 2017 Colorado River Retreat
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SCOTT WAYNE OBRIEN EWING  is a long-time member and leader Men's Center Los Angeles. He studied Technical Theatre and Design at Peppedine University and today works at Quest Theaterworks in Grass Valley, California. Click here to visit his Facebook page.


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The Sacred Path Colorado River Retreat 2017

by Daniel Stanton


On March 9th, 2017, twenty-one men from the Men’s Center Los Angeles began a four-day, three-night journey in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, between Arizona and Nevada, downstream from the Hoover Dam.

The best way to describe the Black Canyon is that it is one of the most beautiful, majestic, and incredible places within the United States, if not the entire world.  The Black Canyon is a 12-mile stretch of river that is home to big horn sheep, bald eagles, striped bass, and a variety of birds, reptiles and plants.

On most visits to the Black Canyon, one will find sun-baked mountains and canyons with very little vegetation and an abundance of emerald green, crystal clear water that averages about 58 degrees year round.  With all of the rain the west coast has received this year, we witnessed an abundance of “green scape” that covered the mountains and canyons, with blossoming cactus and wild flowers everywhere. 

The weather conditions on the river were exceptional with temperatures in the mid-70s to low-80s during the day and mid to upper 50s during the evening.  The water level on the river was high, but there was little to no current on the river, which made the maneuvering of the kayaks and canoes easy to handle. All in all the conditions on the river during the four days was exceptional.

The Sacred Path Colorado River Retreat was the third time the Retreat was hosted in the Black Canyon.  Several of the men had attended all three retreats including Clayton Norcross, Tommy Holmes and Daniel Stanton.  The 2017 retreat was co-led by Rob Bruce, Dr. Michael Lewis, Scott Ewing and Daniel Stanton. 

The Sacred Path Colorado River Retreat began by launching our kayaks and canoes from the base of Hoover Dam, then taking most of the first day to experience the Sauna Cave, Gold Strike Canyon, which has a great walking trail, water falls, and hot springs, followed by a visit to “God’s Wall” which is too incredible to put into words.

The Black Canyon is known for its natural Hot Springs, clear emerald green water, big horn sheep, bald eagles, calm water, and connecting with Nature and yourself in a way that you may not have ever experienced before. We enjoyed a nice leisurely pace where there were no schedules, no cell phones, no computers, just connection with Nature and yourself.  We explored incredible caves that can only be accessed from the River, including the Emerald Cave which is a popular location to stop relax and enjoy the beauty.

We arrived at our Base Camp, located at a place called the Arizona Hot Springs. approximately four miles downstream from our launching point at the Hoover Dam, mid-afternoon where we unloaded our kayaks and canoes and set up our camp for the next three days.


Some of the best Natural Hot Springs were located at base camp.  There is also an incredible view of the River from a “look-out” point.  At base camp we set up our Sweat Lodge, build a couple of fire pits, enjoyed our meals, shared stories, kicked back and relaxed, and woke up to the smells of fresh brewed coffee. We even saw some big horn sheep across the river from our camp. Each morning after our coffee, some light breakfast, and a morning dip in the natural hot springs, we enjoyed incredible hikes, jumped off rocks into a beautiful lagoon, and paddled upstream to explore more wonderful trails.  The day was ours to seize.

On Friday afternoon Dan Stanton and Bill Arena coordinated the building of the Sweat Lodge.  With willow, twine, tools, tarps, and stones that were brought down river in the canoe barge we successfully built an incredible Lodge.  Dan and Bill led the Sweat Lodge ceremony on Friday and Saturday evening under the curiosity of a nearby father/daughter group of campers.

On Saturday, Rob Bruce led a Tibetan prayer flag blessing ceremony where each man wrote the names of family members or those who have passed on their prayer flags. 

A heartfelt anthem about the Individual prayers that each man inscribed indelibly onto genuine Tibetan prayer flags which we then endeavored to stretch and fly across the 300-foot width between the sacred canyon walls.

The prayer flags were then strung together to create this amazingly long prayer flag that was then connected to the back of a kayak, with a long pole mounted from a paddle.

We will never forget the emotion of listening to Tommy Holmes’ soulful voice and stirring lyrics bound and echo off the river’s ancient walls while we witnessed Anthony Dimaggio heroically paddle his kayak in a warrior–like pilgrimage with our detailed, intimate prayers to the other side while Rob and Patrick Mannion helped feed the prayer flags as Anthony paddled across the river. Adam Zawadzki videoed the event on his Go Pro.

“Prayers across the River, Prayers across the World” are just a few of the passionate words our retreat brother & poet troubadour, Tommy Holmes, spontaneously crafted and played on his acoustic guitar for our band of brothers on the second day of our Colorado River adventure. 

Our intention, purpose and aim, quite literally, not just metaphorically, was for our collective prayers to bridge the divide and as Tibetan tradition suggests, be "blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion”  into the flow of the river and all pervading space throughout the world.

So, as the flags soared and fluttered across the river and our moonscape like campsite during sunset and while a bonfire blazed under a full moon rise, Tommy shared his song one more time at the end of our traditional community talking stick time.

There had been challenges during our 4-day hero’s journey in the wilderness. Brother Anthony didn’t know it until he returned home from the trip that had he had actually fractured his foot and still he soldiered on.

Brother Michael received some heart wrenching news and was required to hike back four miles to civilization. A platoon of brothers and spiritual warriors walked by his side to assure a safe return over the difficult terrain to the main road so that he could head home after receiving devastating medical news about his sister. The men made sure Dr. Mike did not make that journey out of the canyon alone.

The entire Sacred Path Colorado River Retreat was a huge success and we could hear the words, “This was the Best retreat ever…” as we repacked our boats and headed home.  There were many special moments during the weekend that the men will need to share for themselves. 

The men all wanted to make the Sacred Path Colorado River Retreat an annual Spring event and that will be discussed at a later date.  In the meantime, check out the “Prayers across the River” retreat photos on our MCLA Facebook page.  You’ll have to come to the Sacred Path Fall Retreat in October to hear the individual stories.

We thank everyone who accepted the challenge to get out of their comfort zone, to spend time with other good men out in the wilderness, to partake of the hero’s journey. It was an amazing retreat.


We especially thank our founder and wayshower, Dr. Stephen Johnson, for creating the Men’s Center of Los Angeles over 30 years ago and leading us in such a powerful and soulful way. Dr. J’s mindful work has touched the hearts of all of us and empowered us to become better men.

Ho, Mitakuye Oyasin (To All of Your Relations.



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More photo memories of the 2017 Sacred Path Colorado River Retreat
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“Bring good men together . . . and bring out the best in them”

THANK YOU DR. J __ The 21 men of the 2017 Colorado River Men's Retreat extend our deepest thanks and sincere appreciation to Dr. Stephen Johnson. Thank you Dr. J for listening to your own internal guidance and taking action on your dreams. Click the video at left to see our heartfelt tribute to this man's indomitable leadership. 

COMING SOON: Colorado River Kayak Men's Retreat -- March 7-11, 2018. Spots are limited. Click here to reserve your space.

COMING SOON: Colorado River Kayak Men's Retreat -- March 7-11, 2018. Spots are limited. Click here to reserve your space.

Firefighters Down 9/11 Benefit Concert

(Photo courtesy Alex Martinez)

MCLA Executive Director Dr. Stephen Johnson (center) with LA County Fire Captains and Firefighters Down co-founders Mike Henry (left) and Rick Brandelli (right) . . . (Photo courtesy Alex Martinez)

Firefighters Down Benefit Concert Memorializes Late Firefighters, More

by Barbara Burke
Malibu Surfside News


On the evening of Sept. 11, a crowd gathered at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater to pause and reflect on three principles: remembrance, awareness and action.

The Firefighters Down 9/11 benefit concert offered an evening of music, as well as an opportunity to support injured firefighters across the nation.

Members of UCLA’s Operation Mend program (L to R) with Lou Gossett, Jr (center), Melanie Gideon, Operation Mend program director, Captain Mike Henry, FireFighters Down co-founder, and Rob Bruce, MCLA associate director . . . (Photo courtesy Alex Martinez)

Firefighters Down was created by LA County fire captains Mike Henry and Rick Brandelli after their friend, who was a fire captain, reportedly committed suicide. 

Attendee Louise Fontana donates to Firefighters Down on Sept. 11 during the nonprofit’s premiere benefit concert at Smothers Theater in Malibu . . . (Photo by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media)

Henry and Brandelli created the organization to provide support to firefighters dealing with the effects of rescuing victims from everything from terrorism to accidents to horrendous, out-of-control fires. 

“Our firefighters do their jobs so well and we take them for granted,” said Malibu resident and famed actor Lou Gossett Jr., a special guest speaker at the event. “We are unaware of the atrocities that they see. They only ask us to get out of the way so they can do their jobs. Every single person in America is protected by them.”

The event featured a touching and beautifully shot film depicting the horrors that firefighters encounter each day, as well as the unique challenges firefighters encountered on Sept. 11.

A Flock of Seagulls drummer Kevin Rankin dons firefighter gear at the event . . . (Photo by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media)

“We always have to remember,” attendee Caitlyn Jenner said as she provided support to the cause.

In the film, Henry converses with everyday citizens eliciting their thoughts on the emotional challenges that firefighters encounter and the ripple effects their sometimes haunting, stressful experiences have on those they love as well as their colleagues.

“When there is a collapse, a crush, an injury, a death or an illness, Firefighters Down wants to be able to respond and support the firefighters and their families,” Henry explained. “We want to bring them to Malibu and provide them support consisting of multiple therapies for them and their family members.” 

LA County Fire captains and Firefighters Down co-founders Rick Brandelli (left) and Mike Henry (right) gather for a photo with Malibu resident and actor Lou Gossett Jr., who spoke at the organization’s Sept. 11 event . . . (Photo by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media)

The program offers a four-day intensive therapeutic and rehabilitation program for firefighters. 

The film revealed that most Americans do not realize that more than 30,000 firefighters are injured each year on the job and that the rates of PTSD, suicide, divorce, depression and addiction – consequences of firefighters dealing with the stressors inherent in their job – take serious tolls on firefighters, those who love and work with them, and in turn, on the greater community. Dr. Stephen Johnson, psychotherapist for the organization, discussed the effect of stress on first responders, explaining the lengthy process of healing. 

“Acute trauma can take three to four months to heal,” he said. “PTSD can take months or years.”

Henry emphasized that one of the most healing things for those affected by these challenging conditions and emotions is so very simple: showing appreciation to the firefighters for what they have done for all of us. 

“We want to take the firefighters down to the Pier, to dinner, to help them relax and know that we are all thankful for all that they have done,” he said. 

Of course, the stressors are an institutional hazard.

“When there is an event, as all the people are running away, we’re running in,” Brandelli said. “Someone has to take care of the problem. That’s what we do.”

Synthpop band A Flock of Seagulls performs at the Sept. 11 concert in Malibu which memorialized and supported firefighters . . . (Photo by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media)

The benefit concert featured A Flock of Seagulls, a British ’80s pop band. Attendees appreciated the entertainment as they paused and reflected on the presentation and how fitting it was on 9/11 to focus on supporting first responders and fallen firefighters’ unique needs.

“This was enlightening, informative, sincere and heartfelt,” attendee Regina Grundy said. “It’s imperative for people to know about the mental stability needs of our firefighters.”

Members of UCLA’s Operation Mend program . . . (Photo courtesy Alex Martinez)

Attendee Karin Lloy (Von Falckenberg) was very touched by the presentation.

“We all know the importance of firefighters as individuals, their being there for children, the elderly, the animal kingdom, our city, to help with elderly people, to help with traffic and to help those who are ill,” she said. “They are always there and it takes a very special person to dedicate their whole life to doing this tremendous task. At 9/11, I realized that it was not just the loss of so many souls, but of our firefighters who could not run, but who had to go in and provide the victims help. In an age of so many catastrophes all over the world, we need to be especially grateful to them and support them.”



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Click here to read Barbara's original article in Malibu Surfside News
Click here to visit FireFighters Down.org



The Men's Center Los Angeles is proud to support and endorse our very own Captain Mike Henry and this excellent wounded warriors program designed to assist Firefighters and the people who love and care about them. Your support of this important work is greatly appreciated.
For more information, call (310) 770-0766
Email: captainhenry@firefightersdown.org
Web: FirefightersDown.org; Facebook: FirefightersDown

10 Ways to Build Your Mental Strength

10 Ways to Build Your Mental Strength

Acting tough is about surviving while being strong is about thriving.


Developing mental strength takes a conscious effort, dedication and daily practice. Start with these 10 exercises to work out your mental muscles.

1. Establish goals.

The human brain is naturally predisposed to reach for and achieve goals. And not just one big goal, such as I want to lose 50 pounds. Also set more manageable short-term goals such as I want to work for 30 minutes without checking my phone or I want to reply to all of my emails by noon today.

With each goal you achieve, you’ll gain more confidence in your ability to succeed. You’ll also learn to recognize when your goals are unrealistically ambitious and when they’re not challenging enough.


2. Set yourself up for success.

Becoming mentally strong doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to temptations every day. Make your life a little easier by modifying the environment.

If you want to work out in the morning, leave your shoes next to the bed at night and sleep in your gym clothes. If you want to eat healthier, remove the junk food from your pantry. When you set yourself up for success, you won’t exhaust your mental energy trying to resist the urge to sleep in or to dig into a bag of potato chips.

3. Tolerate discomfort for a greater purpose.

Discomfort can lead people to look for unhealthy shortcuts. Rather than deal with a problem, they reach for something that provides immediate emotional relief—drinking a glass of wine or binge-watching their favorite show, for example. But those short-term solutions can often create bigger long-term problems.

Practice tolerating discomfort by reminding yourself of the bigger picture. Push yourself to work on your budget even though it causes you to feel anxious; run on the treadmill when you feel tired—don’t escape the discomfort. The more you tolerate discomfort, the more confidence you’ll have in your ability to do difficult things.

4. Reframe your negative thoughts.

Strive to develop a realistic yet optimistic inner monologue. Reframe catastrophic thoughts, such as This will never work with If I work hard, I’ll improve my chances of success.

You can’t eliminate all of your negative thoughts. Everyone has rough patches and bad days. But by replacing those overly pessimistic thoughts with more realistic expectations, you can stay on course and equip yourself to manage the bad days.

5. Balance your emotions with logic.

You make the best decisions when your emotions and logic are in sync. If all your decisions were emotional, you wouldn’t save for retirement because you’d be too busy spending your money on what makes you happy right now. But if all of your decisions were logical, you’d live a boring life devoid of pleasure, leisure and love.

Whether you’re buying a house or thinking of a career shift, consider the balance between your emotions and logic. If you’re overly excited or especially anxious, write down a list of the pros and cons of moving forward with the decision. Reviewing that list will boost the logical part of your brain and help balance out your emotions.

6. Strive to fulfill your purpose.

It’s hard to stay the course unless you know your overall purpose. Why do you want to earn more money or hone your craft?

Write out a clear and concise mission statement about what you want to accomplish in life. When you’re struggling to take the next step, remind yourself why it’s important to keep going. Focus on your daily objectives, but make sure those steps you’re taking will get you to a larger goal in the long run.

7. Look for explanations, not excuses.

When you don’t perform as well as expected, examine the reasons why. Look for an explanation to help you do better next time, but don’t make excuses for your behavior.

Take full responsibility for any shortcomings. Don’t blame others or the circumstances for your missteps. Acknowledge and face your mistakes so you can learn from them and avoid repeating them in the future.


8. Do one hard thing every day.

You won’t improve by accident. Purposely challenge yourself. Of course, what’s challenging to you might not be to someone else, so you need to analyze where your comfortable boundaries are.

Then pick something slightly outside those boundaries and take one small step every day. That could mean speaking up for yourself when it’s uncomfortable or enrolling in a class you don’t feel qualified for. Push yourself to become a little better today than you were yesterday.

9. Use the 10-minute rule.

Mental strength won’t magically make you feel motivated all of the time. But it can help you be productive, even when you don’t feel like it.

When you’re tempted to put off something, use the 10-minute rule. When you eye the couch at the time you planned to go for a run, tell yourself to get moving for just 10 minutes. If your mind is still fighting your body after 10 minutes, give yourself permission to quit.

Getting started is often the hardest part. Once you take the first step, you’ll realize it’s not nearly as bad as you predicted, and your other skills can help keep you going.

10. Prove yourself wrong.

The next time you think you can’t do something, prove yourself wrong. Commit to doing one more pushup at the gym or closing one more sale this month.

Your mind will want to quit long before your body needs to give up. Prove to yourself that you’re more capable than you give yourself credit for, and over time, your brain will stop underestimating your potential.



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Click here to read Amy's original article in SUCCESS MAGAZINE



AMY MORIN  is a psychotherapist, college psychology instructor, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a best-selling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. In addition to private consultation, she provides mental strength training to individuals and groups through her Mental Strength eCourse, speaking engagements and workshops. Follow Amy on Facebook.