Colorado River Kayak Retreat Launches in 61 Days

Colorado River Kayak Retreat Launches in 61 Days

COME JOIN US ON THE RIVER MARCH 7-11

by SCOTT EWING
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.

BRINGING GOOD MEN TOGETHER . . . AND BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN THEM

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.

THE PRINCESS OF WOW! GROWING OLD, STAYING YOUNG!

AGELESS WONDERS: WHEN DID I BECOME A SENIOR? 

Amazing One-Woman Show with Mindy Fradkin and MCLA's own Roland Mousa

Friday: January 19
Whitefire Theater
Sherman Oaks

"Ageless Wonders: When did I become a Senior?" is a triumphant one woman performance designed to enlighten people on aging in modern times under the direction of Best National Solo Artist Jessica Lynn Johnson. This musical/dramady ultimately aims to give new perspectives, and will shed light on the benefits of entering the club of senior wonderhood and how ageism in our society is rampant yet there is evidence that it is beginning to wane.

Throughout a one hour performance, this musical could evoke some tears, guarantee smiles and even laughter. The play has a catchy original score written by Roland Mousaa & Mindy Fradkin, both of whom had the privilege of working and befriending the late great Pete Seeger.

"Ageless Wonders: When did I become a Senior?" features Mindy Fradkin, the writer, actress and singer with a comic flair. Her story is unique yet strikes a universal chord. When Fradkin made the realization that she joined this club as a senior wonder, she began to research it and found information that inspired her as profound and helpful, and wanted to share it with others. Mindy went to the extent of finding metaphysical solutions which embodies who she is. Ms. Fradkin realized that sharing her story through edu-tainment would be a help to others.

 

Mindy Fradkin has been involved in the arts her whole life-as a performer, hat & accessories designer, more recently as a singer/songwriter with MCLA's own Roland Mousaa, former radio show host, music promoter & founder of The Smile Revolution. See more on her blog, www.thesmilerevolution.com.

Princess WOW, which is her stage name, while her design label is now called, Fradkin Hats, started performing as a child when she booked herself for her own birthday party and her cousin, Mark, talked about it for decades. The young performer naturally created laughter wherever she went. She sang her whole life in the shower, until she met Roland Mousaa, who quickly realized that she had good pipes, and started encouraging her to sing, and became her vocal coach, and co-writer of songs to promote The Smile Revolution.  READ MORE

 

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

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LOVE: THE KEY TO ALL THINGS

Message from Artwan, freshman year
New Mexico State University 2012

Hey Stephen,

College is definitely a wake-up call. I was not mentally nor emotionally ready for it, however, I am doing the best I can. It has truly been a journey since my last trip to the mountain and I have had one hell of a college experience, so far.

As your read this letter to our brothers I want each and every one of them to think of their past, their childhood. Imagine everything being different; come on guys challenge yourself, what would you change?

Sacred Path storyteller STRONG BEAR

Personally I would not change anything. I have been through so much and my past experiences have shaped my philosophy on life. Many of us were not as privileged as others but does that mean the underprivileged do not deserve a shot at success. Success is determined by the decisions you make and though most of you may believe that at risk kids place themselves in the flames that they spark; it's more complex than that. I have learned so much about myself and can say since our last encounter I have developed as a young man. This retreat means so much to me. This retreat was our safe haven, our heaven away from hell, not a piece but a whole chocolate cake.

TIMOTHY WHISPERING EAGLE

The memories I created are forever implanted in my mind and on my heart. Strong Bear, Stephen, and our dear beloved Timothy whose obituary is hanging on my wall as I type this letter, are real role models and men. They listened to us and understood us as misunderstood. The majority of us were crying for a way out, and most of us have gotten lost on our journey to freedom. My twin brother has been my biggest concern for years now. At the age of 20, he has already had two kids, been to prison, released on parole and now he's back there facing two attempted murder cases with young Myron as well who is only 17. All I can say is pray.

When I speak to my best friends, Darren and Nijal, we always reminisce on the retreat and most times state that we wish we never left the mountain because we’d rather die to the mountain than at the hands of ignorance. That retreat was our home away from home. It was the first step to different lives. It started to build leaders, instead of followers. It helped mold men instead of cowards. The type of ethical values it taught were teamwork, responsibility, humility, endurance, and to simply enjoy life. Something memorable was the Call to Adventure, we will never forget the challenges and how we were supported and able to complete those tasks. I miss that place more than home . . .

Stand-up comedian/TV/film star KEVIN HART was a special featured guest along with Meta World Peace at the MCLA poker tournament fundraiser produced by Richie Biren that raised $25k for the Call to Adventure program.

I attend New Mexico State University where I am a part of so many organizations and I'm the spokesperson for BSA (Black Student Association). I am planning on becoming a Doctor, pediatrician to be exact. There have been so many challenges during my college experience, but nothing tougher than my past. There is so much that needs to be said that won't, but I'm going to wait for those nights where you hear the beat of the drum and the voice of Strong Bear telling those stories. Those are the night's expression flows from our hearts.

I look forward to seeing you guys soon and, Kevin Hart, it would definitely be a pleasure to meet you one day sir. Keep up the good work. You are doing a wonderful job and I'm happy to see you supporting a cause that will benefit teens that have nowhere to go nor hide. So for them I want to say thank you. Thanks to all of you because you help create a life-changing experience for young men that might not see the end of next week. These young men are confused and feel like no one is there for them. From experience even parents turn their backs and lack support. So join the cause, the movement, it's worth it I promise.

In brotherhood,

Artwan Green

 

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Message from Artwan, 
New Mexico State University Graduate 2017

 

LOVE: The Key To All Things

Love! The key to all things. My journey began years ago, when I was a child filled with rage and disappointment towards life itself. The oldest of five siblings in the house with no solid father figure present. Forced to take on responsibility that made me feel less than a child and more like a slave to my household. My community was infected with gang activity and I felt trapped in my mind. A boy far away from his dreams. A boy in the shadow of the peers in his community. A boy unaware of his destiny.­

ARTWAN and CHRISTINA, close friends and brand new New Mexico State University graduates

I have been a member of The Sacred Path community since I was eleven years of age. That’s approximately fourteen years of exposure and dedication to a community filled with inspiring men. I have had the opportunity to be surrounded by men who are not afraid to say that they are broken. Men who look past the color of my skin and promote strength through my pain. Men who are chasing after serenity and peace. These men have been fuel to my flame. These men have inspired me to seek humility and grace. These men have shared their most intimate memories. These men helped me develop character. These men are spiritual warriors.

Throughout my college journey I have experienced a great deal of loss and adversity. I was homeless for a whole year living in a small single occupancy dorm room with a friend. I lost my Grandmother to Parkinson’s, my best friend to gang violence, and two cousins to cancer. I also was sick for about 8 months during my senior year. In and out of the hospital experiencing multiple procedures.  All this while working two jobs. 

Front row L to R: CHRIS (Artwan’s older brother by father Arto), ARTWAY, DEREK (oldest brother by Stephen) Back row: MEAGAN (Arto’s current wife), ARTO (Artwan’s father), FRAN aka “Mom”, DR. J aka “Dad," AISHA (Artwan’s aunt) KATHY (Artwan’s mother), PETE (Artwan’s uncle)

Through all this adversity I was constantly reminded by Dr. Stephen Johnson, my mentor and father, that I was not alone. That I was not going to be easily defeated. I have many great accomplishments and have been awarded and honored by my university on multiple occasions. Robert Frost wrote a piece titled “The Road Not Taken.” I constantly read through this poem as a reminder that I took a road many guys with similar circumstances have avoided.  As I approached the finish line I began to weep. I wept because the support and memory of my spiritual tribe and family on that mountain was present. This leads me to the purpose of this note.

THANK YOU SACRED PATH. Thank you for seeing a warrior in a young boy from the streets on Los Angeles. Thank you for molding me into the man I am today. Thank you for all your support mentally, physically and especially FINANCIALLY. A lot of men have contributed to my cause and I have not forgotten about that. I appreciate every single prayer, every single donation, and, most importantly, the relationship we have shared. You men have changed my perspective on life and have given me a real understanding on what it means to be a man of honor, a man of responsibility, a man who walks with purpose, a man who loves without borders, a man unafraid to express himself, a man who has always been a brother!

With all my relations.

Artwan Green

 

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Click here for Dr. Johnson's reflections of MCLA's Sacred Path role with Artwan  
 

 

 

"HEY, I'M ARTWAN GREEN . . ."

"Hey, I'm Artwan Green. Who are you?"

 

DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE
JANUARY 2018

 

Greetings MCLA/Sacred Path Community,

Saturday, December 9th, was a very special day for one of our men. It proved to be a true coming of age acknowledgement of a young man who stepped onto the Sacred Path when he was a mere 11 years old.

I recall the first day that I met this young man 14 years ago. The Parks and Recreation busses had brought the youths up to our Hilltop Camp from Helen Keller Park for one of our Call to Adventure Rites of Passage Retreats. The boys piled out of the busses and immediately continued their fun by throwing a football around.

I was headed over to the registration area in the direction of the boys when I heard one of them, who was looking my way, yell “go long” as he poised to throw the ball to me. The youthfulness in my muscle memory heard the words that I had heard many times as a boy so I took off running long as he threw a perfect spiral pass that I caught actually rather perfectly for an older guy. Then I looked over my shoulder to see him running toward me in an I’m-going-to-tackle-this-guy mode. I braced, however, he wrapped his arms around me giving me a big hug while exclaiming, “Hey, I’m Artwan Green. Who are you?”

I had met many wonderful young men through our CTA program, but there was something unique about my connection with this young man, a connection that grew over the years. 

Artwan and his Church men with whom he provides guidance

Artwan never wanted to miss a retreat. He even ran after one of the busses that was pulling out of the lot at the park when he hadn’t gotten the message that the retreat was being held that weekend. We had already lost some of our boys who had been killed as a result of gang violence and Artwan’s twin brother, Arshawn, and a couple of our other boys were in prison on attempted murder charges. 

During one of the retreats, when I feared that Artwan’s life was in danger, I put my arm around him in the center of one of our retreat community gatherings and stated that it would break my heart if anything happened to him and that he had become like a son to me. From that moment forward he referred to me as “Dad.”

Artwan had met my older son, Derek, at one of the retreats and they had an instantaneous bond.  I invited Artwan to come home after a retreat to meet the other members of my family. He was accepted with open arms and the love that we extended to him was received and returned 10-fold. He has attended many family events over the years bringing so much joy and fun into our lives as we have witnessed him becoming the mindful man that those of you who have met him, know him to be.

Artwan has had a challenging life.  The early years were particularly difficult for him.  You can read what he has written that is included in this newsletter (click here).  I have been most impressed with how he has endured and overcome the pitfalls of growing up in the hood and having to deal with the ordeals that come along for the ride. But, I knew that he had tremendous potential and drive. I felt that he was a gift to the world and that the world would suffer a substantial loss if he didn’t make it.

Front row L to R: Chris (Artwan’s older brother by father Arto), Artwan, Derek (oldest brother by Stephen) Back row: Meagan (Arto’s current wife), Arto (Artwan’s father), Fran aka “Mom”, Dr. J aka “Dad”, Aisha (Artwan’s aunt) Kathy (Artwan’s mother), Pete (Artwan’s uncle)

Both my wife, Fran, and I felt honored to be called “Mom” and “Dad” while at the same time I would remind Artwan that he did have a mother and a father who gave birth to him and were still alive. One of the most telling things about the character of this young man is that he put in the extra effort to resolve his issues with his biological parents so that they could reconcile and get to the place where they could be fully present to him as he graduated from New Mexico State University on December 9th.

His mother and father were nervous to meet Artwan’s “mom” and “dad.”  However, what occurred was a function of the love that we all have for such a wonderful young man. It does indeed take a village and as Artwan expressed when he spoke to all of us following the graduation, we are his Tribe. There was no enmity or competition present because the love was the foundation for everyone to experience the joy and admiration for Artwan’s accomplishments. It was truly quite a remarkable experience as the pictures included herewith reveal.

Artwan wanted to write a message to the community (click here) acknowledging the assistance, particularly the emotional encouragement and support, but also the financial help that he has received from so many of us. In a big way he is our son and wants you all to know that he could not have made it this far without the love of the Sacred Path Men’s Center LA Community. 

As we close out 2017 and turn our sights toward what’s ahead as we enter a brand New Year I want to thank you all for the past 30 years of wonderful men’s retreats and programs for men and women. It’s been a genuine honor to have been at the helm of MCLA and Sacred Path. It’s with gratitude to the men on the Wisdom Council who have been at my side over the years, and to all of you who have participated in our programs that I thank you with all my heart for the opportunity to be of service to you while I’ve been able to actualize my own destiny on The Sacred Path.

 

To you and yours, a very Happy New Year,

Stephen

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

 

 

 

 

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CLICK HERE for Artwan's messages to Dr. Johnson and MCLA: 2012 and 2017

 
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.

 

BE AN ELF THIS CHRISTMAS!

BE AN ELF

Patrick Reynolds, long time member and participant of MCLA Sacred Path Retreats, Executive Director and founder of  "Smokefree America," has put on his altruistic hat and has taken the executive director role of Be An Elf, A Christmas Charity. 

Be An Elf's mission is to make underprivileged children smile on Christmas morning, and to inspire the public with the real spirit of Christmas. Starting December 1, the non-profit group launches a nationwide annual campaign to recruit volunteers for the US Postal Service's® Operation Santa program, which for over 100 years has been distributing letters to Santa written by kids in need. Their letters often ask Santa only for a toy, Christmas dinner, clothes or other basic needs.  
 

CLICK BELOW TO READ THESE HEARTFELT LETTERS

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Anyone from the public may read children's letters to Santa starting the first week of December. Volunteers may adopt the letters that move them most, take them home, and later mail their gifts directly to the needy child or family. There’s no middle man or charity when people participate in this way; it’s micro-philanthropy, direct from each volunteer to a child. Volunteers catch the true spirit of the holidays and put smiles on the faces of underprivileged kids on Christmas morning.

In 2017, children's letters will be made available at 15 post offices around the US, mostly in large cities.

Some people feel alone and sad over the holidays, and find comfort and inspiration being part of this program. Others have families and bring their kids, to teach them the meaning of Christmas.  

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Be An Elf was awarded a continuing $10,000 per month in-kind grant from Google for free advertising. Be An Elf is not affiliated with the US Postal Service's®Operation Santa program, but supports the program by recruiting new volunteers and making it easy to learn where and how to volunteer.

Every year around December 1st, the group posts a list of the current season's participating postal branches and hours of operation, and sends out a news release to create additional public awareness of the venerable USPS® program. The website offers a roadmap and excellent tips for volunteering for this wonderful holiday program. To learn more, visit www.BeAnElf.org 

DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE DECEMBER, 2017

December 2017

Greetings MCLA Sacred Path Community,

On Saturday, November 11th, I had the honor of walking my 33-year-old daughter, Dana, down the aisle in preparation for the exchange of Sacred Vows with her fiancé, Alex Kapustin.  During the five years of getting to know each other, a friendship developed and a budding romance blossomed into a bond that appears to be well suited for longevity.

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I was asked to contribute a reading for their nuptial ceremony and I chose to speak on the significance of Sacred Vows.  I’ve included my message to Dana and Alex and those in attendance in this newsletter.  I think you’ll find it helpful, especially if you haven’t re-read your vows in a while, and maybe not even since you first exchanged them

At dinner, following the reception, I offered a toast to the Bride and Groom, their wedding party and guests. In the closing of my toast I expressed that life can be hard.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But, we don’t have to go it alone.  Family, friends and loving companionship can get us through even the most arduous of challenges. 

If you really want to get to know yourself, put yourself in a committed and intimate relationship, preferably with someone who you feel is your soulmate,,, at least your equal

Dana and Alex, I trust that the two of you will aspire to remain the best of friends.  As a therapist for many years I know the research on what constitutes a sustainable relationship.  And, the cornerstone of the foundation is the friendship stone. 

When the veneer fades over time, and it will.  When the due is off the lily so to speak, it’s your friendship that is enduring and will get you through the hard times.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SACRED VOWS

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SACRED VOWS

One more piece of advice, if I may, keep your vows where you can see them.  Reread them to each other at least once a year on your anniversary,  if not more often.  The Sacred Vows that you have spoken today are the other cornerstones to your foundation.  You have set your intention in the bedrock for your future together for the years ahead.  And we are all blessed to have been your witnesses.

Changing gears, a long time friend, Mindy Fradkin AKA “The Princess of Wow” and founder of “The Smile Revolution,” is bringing her one woman show (Ageless Wonders:  When did I become a Senior?) from New York to Los Angeles for one night only at the Whitefire Theatre on Friday night, January 19th, 2018. 

Roland Mousaa, who attended one of our retreats a few years ago is Mindy’s musical arranger and will accompany her onstage.  Roland’s roots are embedded deep in Woodstock and go back to his relationship with music giants Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and others.  Click on the promo flier herewith for advance tickets.  It promises be fun with plenty of smiles, levity and hilarity.  It’s also a great opportunity to include the women in our lives who I’m sure will enjoy Mindy’s off-the-hook creativity.

The March River Retreat is on schedule and proceeding nicely.  Advance registration is now open and there are spots still available; but, if you’re interested, please don’t wait to place your deposit to reserve your spot since they are limited.  Read more about this event and join the Tribe that will have an experience of a lifetime.

CLICK TO BE TAKEN TO AMAZON.COM TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY NOW

CLICK TO BE TAKEN TO AMAZON.COM TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY NOW

Obviously, many men are being taken to task for their apparent inappropriate behavior toward women with whom they have been in contact.  I’m going to address this in a new article that I’ll have ready for the January newsletter, if not before.  In the interim, I want to encourage you to reconsider my book The Sacred Path:  The Way of the Spiritual Warrior - Journey to Mindful Manhood.  It was published 5 years ago and yet it is probably more on target for what’s going on with men today.  If you know someone who is going through the challenges of being a good man, please consider encouraging that he read the book.  And, 'tis the season for giving, so it will fit nicely in someone’s stocking or as a gift for one of the nights of Hanukkah. 

In the spirit of the holidays, we at The Men’s Center/Sacred Path Community wish you and your family a very Happy Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas!

Namaste,

Stephen

THE SACRED VOWS

THE SACRED VOWS

Reading on Sacred Vows for Dana and Alex’s Wedding

During the wedding in Cana, Jesus performed his first miracle when he became aware that the hosts had run out of wine for their guests.  Jewish weddings could last a week and running out of wine could be a disgrace for the bridegroom since it was his responsibility to have plenty.  So, Jesus transformed the water for washing, held in earthen jars, into wine. More than enough; and, actually the very best wine, for all of the guests. 

What was the significance of this miracle? 

One interpretation is that it was a manifest expression of the renewed Covenant with God through Christ.   Perhaps the transformation of tasteless water into precious wine also served as a metaphor for raising one’s consciousness. In other words, change your thinking, change your life. 

Dana and Alex, the sacred vows you are going to speak today are more than just words. When you speak a sacred vow out loud your voices project your promises into the deepest reaches of the universe.  Universal Intelligence and Divine Creativity engage with you to support your pure intentions.

A vow is both a tool in order to facilitate transformation within yourself as well as an expression of Will.  A sacred vow, once spoken, becomes a part of your existence forevermore.

When you make a promise, a subtle yet powerful shift takes place in your soul where your intentions are stored.  Thus, to make an oath is to communicate to the universe and to your deeper self your commitment to the principles most important to you.

Your view of the world around you may change, and your predominant thoughts and feelings will no doubt evolve with time, but the Spirit in which your oaths are spoken today will remain unaffected.

It is up to you to determine how you will stay true to your vows while your inner-and outer-world existence is transformed. Your strength and character will inevitably be tested as circumstances may make keeping promises increasingly challenging, but after you have shown yourself steadfast many times, your appreciation of the sanctity of your vows will become securely consecrated in your mind and soul, forever.

 

 

 

 

 

A message from the Associate Director

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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

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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.

 

 

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.