David Owens: "Why did you decide to offer a workshop for Men only?"
Junod: I think the best answer to that is that men in today’s society face so much pressure just to be men. If you look at our role models and the people we pattern ourselves after, look at 007, UFC fighting, even when the president of the United States gets up to give a speech, he has to project what we think of as a commonly manly attitude in order to get a positive reaction. Men have a lot of pressure to fit a common mold that in many ways is not good for us. We figured that having a forum to talk about our issues and talk about the pressures that we feel, which is something that we’re not “supposed to do”, is a good way to open up to some new territory that we don’t usually get to explore.
David Richeson: There’s something I’ve learned here at IHP: that the art of being a man is a lost art. We get so many images of how you should be from the outside, but when it comes to a real internal feeling of what its like to be a man, to have honor, to keep your word, to have a wellspring of masculinity, it's a lost art – I know my father didn’t know it, his father didn’t know it, it's a lost art. So beyond just a workshop for men, but this institute doing a workshop for men, there is a lot of power in that.
David Owens: "In your experience, what are the most common issues for men, especially men who are trying to be more aware of themselves in life?"
James Reardon: First of all, this subject is a taboo. There is an unspoken code among the average man that you don’t talk about this. You don’t show a chink in the armor. That it's a jungle out there – And you get up, go out, put on your armor, and you do battle. That’s a game of diminishing returns over time. What I’ve experienced in myself is, by trying to fit the mold, I’m slowly internally ground down. I’m trying to fit myself into a machine, almost dehumanize myself in order to fit today’s “ideal” of what it means to be a man, which is a distorted perverted ideal. So it's a breath of fresh air to be able to expose my real issues, seeing them, accepting them, and learning to take responsibility for them, I find I’m moving more toward peace, self-respect, self-esteem, all these things.
David Richeson: I would say the ability to be vulnerable, and find strength in vulnerability, and not being afraid of it - growing this internal strength, then with this strength I can start to build real character traits like having my word, having honor, being chivalrous, the things that the knights used to have. I don’t mean pretending to be a knight, but working on those internal virtues by first being honest with myself about what I need to work on to have those qualities, and slowly day by day, brick by brick actually having a stronger word, being able to be a stronger man - but from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Register Today for this rare and special event - the Men's Workshop.
This is part two of a conversation with David Richeson, James Reardon, and Junod Etienne, the presenters of the May 2014 Workshop titled What is Being a Man? The interview was conducted by David Owens at the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy's midtown Manhattan space.
David Owens: How have you changed as a man during your time at IHP?
Junod: That’s a great question. To answer that question, I’d have to answer the question “what is masculinity?”- something which I’ve never asked myself before I started this work. When I came here, even though I was bright kid, and aware of myself physically, I can see I had so many holes in what I considered to be my manhood. I was not able to talk emotionally about my world, and for me, that’s a big part of being a man. If you are not able to talk about what you are feeling and experiencing, then you are really shut off, and its an issue that is going to come up again and again your life.
I feel that as I’ve worked on myself, the energy of masculinity lives in me more than before. It's a more active energy, meaning if I have a problem or issue, instead of reacting or running away, I will put all my energy towards that problem and work to solve it – it's a much more direct and powerful way to approach an issue.
David Richeson: For me, I grew up with all women for the most part. I didn’t really have any strong men in my life. Although, I did well, went to ivy league schools, boarding schools, I didn’t have any concept of what a good strong male figure would be. I remember a long time ago going with James just to pick carpets with his wife, and just watching the male-female relationship there. I’m getting choked up because I recognized the beauty in it, and I didn’t see that as a kid – it was something that was so foreign to me. Over time, I have been able to build that in myself. Now I’m married, and can be supportive of my wife, and be the kind of man that I used to see, yet not have any frame of reference to project myself into that situation. That’s all from the Institute and having great brothers like these guys to work with, and have the support and sharing.
James: Our formative experiences shape our responses to these questions – the common theme being that we are examining ourselves and looking to see where we can improve. My formative experience was my Dad and my brother, we were very physical, would resort to physical violence to solve problems. They talked about the typical ideal of a strong, macho guy. My Dad was the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to fight in a bar fight, but on the other hand he had such a quick triggered temper that he was very weak in that respect. Of course, some of that rubbed off on me, and what I began to see through this work, is that I had my own reactions. And the work here has given me an opportunity to unwind, to “watch a video tape” of these things happen in me – they are happening automatically, someone provokes me, I respond, and I’m basically creating a destiny through some programming that doesn’t belong to me. So this work gives us a chance to figure out what the heck is happening, not feel ashamed to talk about it, because the opportunity is to literally change your life, to digesting them and realize why they happen. This helps me with my relationship with my wife, and work. And just being a human being.
Junod: I wanted to add something that struck a nerve for me when James was talking. As far as us working as men and realizing the vast difference between what society tells us a man is, and what through inner work we discover to truly be masculine behavior - What seems weak on the outside, is often strong. Talking about how you feel inside, being vulnerable, sharing yourself on a deep level with the people around you, forgiving someone – all these things are usually seen as weak. Whereas being physically tough, flying off at the handle, getting angry is seen as tough. It’s really the opposite – the strongest masculine behavior that I’ve seen has involved incredible self control: the renunciation of pride, showing yourself as you truly are, transparency –absolutely courageous. Walking away from a situation where you want to hit someone, or show them they can’t mess with you takes a lot of internal strength. That’s the type of strength we want to focus when we present this workshop.
David Owens: As you explore all these avenues of what it takes to be a man, Can you say something about working on yourselves as men, and how it affects your relationship with women?
David Richeson: I would say its’ transformed, night and day. The ability to be harmonious with my mother, my wife, my sister – all the important women in my life transformed. Women are no longer some scary force, I used to call them crazy when the storm would come and I would know how to deal with whatever emotion was coming at me. I might have been successful in one sense, but having real relationships that were harmonious was always a challenge for me. Now I’m definitely able to listen, to respond, to hold on to myself, even if there is some reaction coming at me, and be more loving. Its brought all these relationships where everything was more difficult to a place that is more loving and understanding.
Register Today for this rare and special event - the Men's Workshop.