“I showed up, got into my beginners mind, and was transformed.” ~ Scott Johnson
“The MROP moved me from the center of a circle to its circumference. I am one with all others.” ~ Bob Strange
Men’s Rites of Passage as Transformational Stew
by Bob Sabath
I have come to think of the Rites of Passage as jumping, or maybe being thrown, into a “life-changing stew” where I simmer for five days in the “transformational mix” of silence, wilderness, and powerful ritual that breaks open my heart, allows me to see new possibilities for myself, and creates “living questions” to percolate within me and guide me.
I went on a Men’s Rites of Passage with Richard in upstate New York in the Fall of 2006 with a few friends, joining 102 other guys. I was 59 years old, and life had already initiated me. I didn’t really need to be “initiated,” so I thought, but I did want to learn how Richard did these remarkable events so that I could “copy” them and start “doing” them at Rolling Ridge. Not exactly the frame of mind that I would recommend for coming to one of these occasions.
But after the initial obligatory moments of “what in the world am I doing here” and “what have I gotten myself into,” I quickly put away my note pad and realized that this was not just something to observe and take notes on, but something to jump into with my whole self. And so I threw myself into the soup. It was an incredible five days that in many ways is still “living” within me.
I realized that the deep inner work that began in me that week was not initiated by lecture or words, but by silence in the wilderness and my own struggling to hear more clearly what true new things were longing to be birthed within me. When I returned home and the tumble of life events dimmed the week’s imprinting, I still realized that the compassionate presence of other men who “held the space” awakened within me new possibilities and fresh courage to risk one more time and take one more new step, and that something in me was still alive after all these months. In many ways I was still “wandering in the wilderness,” but with an open and surrendered heart.
We were told three things at the end of the retreat. Don’t talk about it too much — too much talk will freeze frame the experience and stop its growth within you. Create time each day for silence and each month for wilderness. And find a group of men that are asking the same questions and who are hungering for the same thing and begin to work out your life with them.
So I didn’t talk too much. I struggled each day as the world’s crappiest contemplative to find space for silence. I moved to the wilderness. And I did find a group of men. There are now about twelve of us that have been meeting this past year and working with Richard and Stephen to prepare a place in the wilderness and in our hearts for you to come and experience this “Rite of Passage.” After fifteen years of these life changing Male Initiation Rites, over 4,700 men have now been initiated. We warmly invite you to consider joining this journey with us. We know we need each other, and cannot do this journey alone. And we both need and want you too.
Rumi’s Chickpea to Cook
A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it’s being boiled.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
The cook knocks him down with the ladle.
“Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you.
I’m giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.
Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
“Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can’t do this by myself.”
The cook says,
“I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.”
“My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher.”
Bob Sabath is the part of the regional planning team for Men as Learners and Elders (MALEs), Washington DC Region (MD, DC, VA, WV). He is Director of Web and Digital Technology for Sojourners Magazine.