A beautiful house on a beach of a lake, somewhere in the wine country of Interior BC. 9 men have gathered here for a weekend of being together. While we are all members of the Mankind Project, this is not an official gathering. It was more of a spontaneous initiative, an invitation, with no tangible plan or agenda in advance. There is anticipation, openness, authenticity, willingness, courage, heart, and a knowing that this is the right place to be.
The theme for the weekend emerges during the opening circle. Living Fully. A beautiful and rich inquiry, yet what does it mean, really?
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” – Cicero
Many moments stand out for me from this weekend.
Taking turns preparing delicious meals, followed by blessings and gratitude and laughter and stories as we sit around the table.
Dancing. While it appeared that we all have different (sometimes, very different) taste in what constitutes dancing music, late night dancing and movement transcends individual preferences. The body wants to move, to release, to feel alive, and to have fun. The rhythm takes over the mind, and whatever happens next allows one to feel present and in the flow.
A morning dip in a very cold lake. There are parallels for me between this experience and shadow work. As I dive in, the grip of the cold water almost forces me to freeze and hold my breath. This, though, would be a bad idea. Moving and exhaling allows to cold to move through me, losing its grip. Much like in the work with our shadows.
The moments of spontaneous conversations, in a corner of a living room, or while wandering on the beach. Authentic. Real. Vulnerable.
Catching up to some work, during the quiet nights, when the world is drifting to sleep and the moon shines her silent lullaby across the lake.
Feeling deep gratitude, sitting in a circle with 8 other men, finally seeing that healthy, kind, loving, strong, authentic, and vulnerable male role models do exist – right in front of me.
There was a favourite word of mine, spoken loud, that I don’t hear very often. Juicy. It adds a dimension to life, like throwing a bucket of vibrant paints on a black and white movie.
Diving deep into the exploration of our shadows, sharing the impact and the victories along the way. In a circle of friends, the shadows become a little bit more transparent, a little less scary to look it in the face. Gratitude for witnessing and sharing the joy, the fears, the tears, and the vulnerable and radiant hearts of men.
“Without black, no color has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there’s shadow – no, not just shadow, but fullness. You’ve got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that’s real.” – Amy Grant
Yet, ultimately, as I sit with the experience of this weekend, a week and a half later, it is not necessarily the moments themselves and what happened in each of them.
Perhaps this is what Living Fully means. I have had many adventures in my life, whether traveling in unique and special places (like my cycling and backpacking through Chile and Argentina in 2002) or participating in exciting events and experiences. The memories of these still have – and probably always will – have a place in my memory and heart. Yet, sitting in a circle of friends, with an open heart and soul, seeing and accepting and loving each other as-is, is a whole different level of Living Fully. Deeper. Richer. Juicier.