The Power of the Men’s Circle
[Please note that this is written purely for men – I know that women are struggling with similar issues, but I am not going to address it here. These are my quick notes]
Over the last year, there is one blessing that has supported both Krishan and I the most – the Men’s Circle.
From the many hats I wear, of being a wife, transformational / relationship coach, healer, student of love & psychology – I see this group as being a vital medicine for the modern man – and specifically, the design structure of the ‘program’ and the quality of men that make up the group make it truly unique and potent.
I first want to start with saying that, as a woman, just knowing that your man is part of such a group makes him profoundly sexy and exciting. The association makes the man seem grounded, wise, empathetic, mature, trustworthy and responsible – and that he’s got friends who have his back – and he has space to be a ‘man’s man’. It’s raw and earthy. It’s mysterious.
As a wife, on a basic level, there is a kind of friendship and emotional intimacy that I cannot offer to Krishan, which he sorely needs. As a woman, it’s hard sometimes to understand the sides of men that we don’t have – and also seem either vulnerable or scary – ‘lone wolf’, ‘cave man’, ‘warrior’, ‘patriarch’ and other gender-based stereotypes associated with men.
It’s hard for me to understand my own psychology, let alone his – and as I’m learning/growing about myself, sometimes it’s hard to hold space for Krishan in a judgement-free way. The men’s circle allows him to grow, shed, discover, be – without my scrutiny and lack of compassion and understanding. It grows our own level of intimacy and emotional connection.
This also helps feed our masculine and feminine polarity, as there are wild spaces for us to both reconnect with our gender in a wholesome way.
As a student of love and psychology, I notice that more and more people are disconnected and distracted. Men are busy with their careers, or seeking distraction through sex, phones, movies, sports, social social media all the time – and these seem to be ways of fulfilling a craving of social connection and emotional safety.
Men right now are embedded in the wounded patriarchy of our times – power ‘over’ rather than ‘with’ structure, hierarchy, status, isolation, ‘being a provider’, need for financial security, control via humiliation or scarcity, and so much more.
This wiring has made men more insecure than ever, operating in lone wolf spaces – seeking distraction through avenues like sex and validation through status.
There are 3 needs that our brains are wired to seek: “I am safe, I belong, and I am loved”. Right now, men don’t have too many avenues to safely meet these needs, except perhaps through work – and are thus operating in a space of fear. As a society, we also suffer from ‘attention deficiency’.
Also, many men carry a heavy energy of guilt and regret. The feeling of not having achieved enough, or having disappointed their father. The need to be the primary financial and physical security provider – to always seem ‘with it’, strong and successful – and seeking approval from male figures – is taking a toll on men.
This is only going to grow, with more uncertainty in the economy and less job security.
There is also a conflict between living the American Dream and the path of self-actualization.
Men are also confused by new gender definitions – given that the two genders are ‘neutralizing’ in a way – and although many men want intimate relationships, they have a tough time understanding their own evolution and that of modern women – and what a new partnership and dating looks like.
The loss of ‘masculine connection’ makes men feel depressed, victim-like, punished, unrewarded or misunderstood, inadequate, impotent, ambivalent.
In my opinion, this type of general disconnection cannot be solved through therapy, or traditional spiritual spaces, team sports, friends, family books, work, bars – the other resources that are available.
Again, this type of men’s circle is invaluable and sorely needed to help men reconnect in a safe, healthy way.
Destruction and recreation of relationships
As gender and romantic partnership norms are shifting, and we’re moving from independence to interdependence as a society, we need to refocus on the health of relationships and the art of fostering them.
Unfortunately, many men are sorely wounded in this area. Many men are also hurt from past relationships, their childhood – and women’s expectations of them. Women are also capable of hurting men emotionally.
Also, with many of our relationships now transactional and non-committal, with a focus on self-reliance, we haven’t needed to be vulnerable and depend on others. Most goods and services can be bought through money. This helps people keep a safe distance from each other.
There are many forms of capital – social, cultural, environmental, financial, etc – but as a society we focus on just one.
There is something about one of the men gifting his sacred space that helps men beyond the transactional quality that many of us live in. When someone gifts you a space, you are being opened to receiving and sharing – outside of what is monetarily valued – and it makes open hearted and even vulnerable.
Most relationships have a sense of obligation and guilt. To not have this implicit obligation is so unique.
It also starts to rewire for healthy relationships. There’s a devotional and co-creational quality to the circle – where you simply show up for each other, regularly – assigning each other homework, connecting with each other, creating mutual understanding, respect and trust outside of a work or traditional family setting.
Each 7 is intentional, which is beautiful because it is a choice. You are always choosing who you are being and when/how to show up for a relationship. You are choosing what you show up with mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You are choosing to invest in these relationships on every level. This is profound – and rewires the wounded thinking that relationships generate obligation and duty.
Interestingly, if you choose to be in a relationship, the not so fun things come with it too to continue to feed the ecosystem of the relationship. And yet, you need to do these things with a sense of equanimity and joy. Frankly a lot of people are not used to it – this group is great for reprogramming around commitment.
Creating new social structures
This group is a strong training ground and a great experiment of what can be created outside of our normal structures. This seems like a worthy experiment.
Finding similar structures is hard.
I have seen models where you pay into membership and get certain benefits. Even when it seems that money can be enough of a driver to keep people together, it doesn’t. Stepping outside of the model that everyone feeds and nurtures is unique — and, I yearn for that.
There is so much insecurity and impostor syndrome. This idea of co-creating with peers in this way is fantastic and unique.
There are also new ways of exploring personal responsibility – coming from a place of commitment to a greater cause – rather than attachment to an outcome. I remember my father used to be involved in our Jain community – setting up the temple and community, Sunday school, Hindi classes. He did it out of a sense of responsibility. And I find this level of integrity and devotion sorely missing today.
In this group, there is no expectation, so you get to explore what responsibility looks and feels like for you.
In the corporate world you can feel responsible for others, but it is not about co-creating with peers. This is a new experiment and a new way of being. We’re also moving from central figures (like Gandhi and Mandela) as leaders to being more decentralized and self-generated – each of us is a Creator and influencer.
Design principles of the group
The design of the group is different. In a spiritual community, you can come and go, and you can take/give as little as you want and that point is to deepen one’s spiritual practice.
A men’s circle like this allows for integration and healing of the different parts of self.
I simply love the design principles of the circle and think they are remarkable:
- Limiting to a small group –this allows for intimacy, understanding and a sense of ‘tribal’ connection
- Meeting bi-weekly for seven sessions – this allows for the understanding of the impermanent and fragile nature of relationships, and again, allows for people to choose to commit and invest
- Making a commitment – this builds resilience, emotional maturity, safety, belonging, trust, intimacy within the group
- Showing up and leaving on time – This allows for the group to stay focused on the intention and values only
- Each person being a leader – This allows for each person to explore responsibility – and also be vulnerable in sharing one’s wisdom and guidance – learning to trust one’s own gut and heart
- Sitting outside: Sitting around a fire is a neutral and non-secular place to open one’s heart – reconnecting with the essence of self outside of one’s social conditioning
- Assigning homework – This creates stickiness and deeper connection – and a sense of growth outside of a classroom setting. There is a vulnerability in the ask to do the homework, there is a trust to follow through. You get to make the vulnerable and know you will still be safe.