DISCLAIMER: This week’s post isn’t really about any specific professional reflection or learned pedagogical insight, but it does have a significant bearing on how I continue to move forward in my professional career as a learner, educator, and leader. And maybe on you, too.
I am part of a weekly men’s circle. The group consists of twelve men from our community all from different walks of life, careers, aspirations, relationships, challenges and strengths. The circle has been in existence for nearly two and a half years when I formally joined in early August last summer. This particular circle of men is supported by the ManKind Project (MKP). MPK provides protocol and framework for how the work within the circle is carried out, and more importantly, how it is supported by members of the circle.
Vulnerability at Work Heaare!
Last week I took a risk. A gamble. I volunteered to hold the king chair. In MKP parlance, the king is essentially, the host, moderator, time keeper, and holder of the space for the two and a half hour session. He holds the energy of the room. While I still have much to learn about facilitating the group and helping to support the men doing work within the circle, I am very proud that I listened to the calling to step towards connecting with my own fears around intimate and vulnerable discussions with other men. That evening three men came forward through a the safe and tightly held space wanting to do their work. While other more experience members of the circle led the facilitation for those doing their work it was simply inspiring to see the process and to witness the subtle changes that came about within the individuals and group. Subtle. But transformative.
Driving home last week after serving as king, riding a spectrum of emotional exhaustion and buoyed by what could only be described as an endorphin/adrenaline-infused high, I experience a wave of readiness. Ready to share. Ready to display my shadows (those deep parts of us that we are embarrassed or feel guilty about but rarely show others). Ready to be vulnerable. Ready to change. It was as if I needed to firstly hold space for the group (however superficial it may have been) so that the group could now hold space for me to do my work.
The following week flew by and I found myself driving to last evening’s circle. Also was mindful that I was neither nervous nor anxious. My self-induced mantra for the four minute car ride was simple: It’s your turn, Jeff. A self-admitted introvert, I have but a few close friends. Well, actually one. And quite frankly he’s not really even that close proximity-wise. And let’s face it, you can only connect so deeply with someone over irregular phone calls, random text messages, and convenient emails.
What, no Quorum…?
I should back up. Through our group Facebook thread it appeared as though many of the members, for a variety of reasons, would not be in attendance that evening session. Our final turn out (your truly included): five. Whoa. I pondered the dynamics of this downsized version. That’s kinda small, don’t you think? Is this enough for a quorum? Oh, we don’t need to make quorum. If two men show up then the work is done with two men, I was reminded. And it can get intimate, intense, and very raw.
For many of the previous weeks the group size averaged ten members a session. And for a two-week stint we had eleven men at the circle. The inside joke among any support group is that the larger the number the easier it is to hide yourself. Oddly enough, I plotted based on the opposite. I relished the small number. Hey, fewer people hearing my dirty laundry, my shadows, and my challenges. Plus, I had committed myself the week before and I wasn’t about to turn back (I mean, why bother attending at all if I want willing to do the work?). Either way, big or small group it didn’t matter; I needed to do some of my work.
As is customary, the king decides the agenda (within the MKP framework) of the circle. One of the options is to have a sensei question prepared for the men that you provide (after greeting them). It’s meant to help get people settled and focused. Steve (a pseudonym), a founding member of the group, would ‘king for evening’. He offered up several sensei questions and welcomed participants to address in no order (or at all) during weekly check in round. The question that fascinated me the most (and one that I did not acknowledge during my check in)? What is the gold that you bring to this circle?
And since I did not address that one last night, I would like to address it now. Publicly.
I should first clarify what Steve meant by “the gold” although it is probably self-explanatory in nature: What skills, gifts, offerings, etc. do you bring to this community of men?
Here’s what I would have shared…
A willingness to take risks.
A commitment to be vulnerable.
A desire to ask questions of both myself and others in the group.
Offer unwavering support by helping to hold a safe space for all to share.
Help any other men in the circle to be held accountable (if they so wish) to themselves.
Story as Journey
The past two weeks at the circle have done more to support me as a father, husband, learner, teacher, leader, and community member than twenty-two years of professional development. Looking forward to the next twenty-two years.
So, what’s your journey?