I had tried out a couple of meetings at a Bay Area men’s group before but found it lacking in depth, intention, and authentic spirituality. A few weeks ago I saw a flyer for a Men’s Retreat Day at the Santa Cruz Vipassana Center. Their intention, as listed on the website, was to gather “a community of people who support each other’s meditation practice and the application of the Dhamma (Dharma) in our daily lives. Our goal is to reduce the suffering caused by greed, hatred, and delusion; to do this, we cultivate wisdom and compassion.”
Dhamma is, essentially, “the truth taught by the Buddha, (which) is uncovered gradually through sustained practice. The Buddha made clear many times that Awakening does not occur like a bolt out of the blue to the untrained and unprepared mind. Rather, it culminates a long journey of many stages….”
The retreat flyer said there would be plenty of silent meditation, mixed with shared dialogue. It was time to give a men’s group another shot.
It was nothing like I expected. Several of the men were new to meditation, a dedicated Christian came, a Chicano interested in truth teachings, a former gang member, and a recently cleaned up heroin addict. Men from age 25 to age 75, twenty-eight in total, showed up, gathered around like distant cousins with a common purpose: confront their fear of intimacy with other men, and watch their minds. All of them coming together to share their hearts.
To truly hear other men open up about anger, sorrow, and heartache was powerful. So much of the time men are engaged in some form of competitive jockeying, escapism, or distraction, that we never hear each other, never have the space to speak our truth or get quiet enough to hear the whispers of intuition and guidance available to us. Each man, in his own way, was battle weary and laid down armor, stopped the internal warfare, saw into his patterns of projection, and made room for authenticity. Watching other men expose their perceived inadequacies and be vulnerable was awe-inspiring. Thank you men!