Men_as_learners_and_eldersIn late August, 44 men gathered for the annual Men’s Rites of Passage retreat over five days in central Scotland.  It was an extraordinary event, completely unlike any previous retreat or workshop that I have been on, and as profound in its impact on me as the est Training that I undertook in the 1980’s or the Body Electric work of ten years ago.

The Rites enable men, in an all male environment, to review all the pain and hurt of our lives that have made us the way we are.  We are faced with reality, stripped of illusion.  Amidst loud drumming, several large rituals, and a great deal of spiritual reflection, we are invited to explore three themes from the perspective of being in liminal space:

  1. Our own death – both the physical death that awaits us all, but more immediately, the death of our false self, our ego, that maintains and projects an inauthentic identity;
  2. Our own mourning – for hurt and pain in our lives, for all that might have been, for all that we have lost, for the opportunities forsaken, for the things that we would have wanted otherwise
  3. An initiation into true male adulthood.

The Rites have been developed by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar, ordained priest, and inspirational spiritual teacher.  They draw upon malehood initiation rites from different cultures around the world to create a powerful process for bringing us as men into full maturity and authenticity, overcoming the lifelong fears that hold us back, and enabling us to step out into the world as adult, spiritual men and elders.

“This is not about religion, but about spirituality, about age old traditions that guide men into manhood, about coming to trust that there is something much greater at work in their lives than they could ever imagine.”

I loved the balance of solitude and community, the deep periods of silent reflection, the renewed access to my own anger, the intimate and very personal stories of teaching by the elders, the day-long vision quest in the wilderness, and the raw power of the final initiation rites.

I came to see that ‘my life is not about me’.  My true self is in God; I am a son of God; I can be vulnerable, open and immensely strong in this knowledge.  By putting myself aside, I enter fully and authentically into my ministry and myself.  This is the teaching and the experience that I will take into my continuing ministry of service with gay men and straight men.

The 2011 Rites of Passage will take place near Newport in South Wales and booking is now open.  I recommend it.