FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why & how did we start running menswork?
After a life-changing shamanic experience in Winter 2009, Arven (a Tantra student & recent graduate in Transpersonal Studies) became very interested in authentic masculine identity. And began asking: where is the deep & potent work for men equivalent to the powerful women's workshops around, and what exactly does it look like?
Extensive research uncovered a whole lot of ideas and a few specific examples of menswork that felt potent: in America and to a lesser extent in Europe, but not in Australia. So he began sketching out some ideas for a workshop series (that became 'Being Men'.)
A few months earlier Arven had attended a Qi Gong workshop run by Jared where only men had turned up, and so that event had become a men's practice night and been very powerful. This supported his idea that embodiment training was essential as a foundation of the work.
Jared, with a long history in Qi Gong, Tantra and martial arts, had also started to consider the value of menswork, partly inspired by the same workshop.
Next time they bumped into each other (at St Andrew's market) the conversation quickly revealed this mutual awakening interest in creating & running menswork. They began designing, trialing and running groups immediately, and ran the first of them in Spring 2009. Very quickly it became clear that creating conscious space for men's development was rewarding & fun for everyone involved.
What perspectives do we base the work on?
Being fully human means being on a continual journey of self-realisation. Without that journey people can become starved for meaning, and subject to social and psychological dissatisfaction and even illness. This society presents a very poor definition of what it means to be a man, and many natural masculine qualities have been completely lost or squashed into a restrictive mold. (Which we usually just assume is 'being a man' since we have so few other examples.)
Whilst being a 'provider' and behaving with respect are both valid aspects of male identity, they are only two parts of many. Other aspects that have been forgotten, misdirected or devalued include: courage, wildness, forthrightness, raw honesty, empathy, knowing and asking for what we want & need, embodiment, holding space, honoring the feminine, direction, ambition, wisdom, owning our anger without aggression, deep self-worth, and accepting & more deeply understanding our sexuality (in a culture where male desire is misunderstood, misrepresented & demonised).
What is 'Embodiment'?
Embodiment exercises are part of any event we run. By 'embodiment' we mean a re-training of experiential self-perception (via exercise series' taken from several disciplines including Qi Gong & Tantra Yoga) of being 'in our bodies'. We think we are 'aware' of our bodies, but that is usually only watching them with our minds. With many participants, real awareness comes often as a surprise: "I never knew I couldn't really feel my body until I did this work. Now I feel so much more alive!"
As men in this society, our minds have come to be in charge of everything, rather than us being in charge of them. Our true embodied sensitivity, instinctual strength and intuition have been neglected so much that few even suspect we have worlds of experience simply in being exactly who we are. Men often know emotions as thoughts rather than feelings, and value achievement but not experience. And we are often deeply out of touch with the feminine (receptive/instinctual) in ourselves and in women (making it difficult to have expanded experiences of physical intimacy).
When our inner sensitivity to the world is unacknowledged our masculine personality moves into the typical patriarchal ways of being, which are actually more 'puerarchy' (boys) than 'patriarchy' (father). And when our sensivity is indulged it leads to the shallowness of the 'New Age Guy'. However, when we consciously embrace both our sensitivity and our healthy desire to express ourselves powerfully in the world we create a strong, empathic, conscious and resilient masculinity.
What is our approach to teaching/facilitating/holding space?
We embrace and acknowledge our skills and focus that has allowed this work to come to be, and to be so effective. And also we are very human. We do not run this work from any sense of being 'more evolved'. Using this work as an ego-trip for ourselves would totally go against one of the main reasons we run it - mutual empowerment for men. We continue to learn from every event we run, and profoundly enjoy being part of the groups.
The learning available is through your own experience, not from us 'telling you what to be'. Most direct 'teaching' will be spontaneous in response to specific questions about something a participant has experienced and described. Indirect teaching also often arises from interacting with, or witnessing, fellow participants. Our main purpose as facilitators is to create and maintain a solid framework in which we all learn through being rawly present to one another in a variety of carefully-designed experiential exercises.
We promote and hold a supportive space where communication and co-operation is valued. Where no-one is judged against another, but where we are all acknowledged as having both strengths and weaknesses. No definition of the 'authentic man' is put forward to be compared to, nor are we here to score points from each other. This work is not 'therapy', nor is it anger-management training. It is a journey of investigation.
What do we aim for the work to bring to men who become involved?
The Evolving Man work is designed to open up possibilities of becoming more easefully assertive, more proud and confident of who we are, and more congruent to express our needs & desires in functional ways. As well as becoming more empathic to others - which is a companion journey alongside authentic personal empowerment.
It is based on a journey of self-discovery, that nobody can know the details of except for yourself. Most of all we want to assist men to discover their sense of self-worth and the realisation that they can discover and define themselves in a world that presents us with vague ready-made definitions that are often demeaning.
This work is designed to be challenging. Though not through gruelling physical exercise, since you have responsibility for engaging in the physical practices only to the extent that is safe for you. (And they are in any case rarely endurance practices.) Nor through tearing strips off each other, to prove how 'manly' we are. But challenging in the sense that much of what we are is not pretty, brave or noble, and that is a simple fact of life, often unacknowledged. (The unpleasant shadow needs to be accepted/released before it can be moved beyond.) And in the sense that personal development requires focus and a willingness to see, admit and address unconscious restrictive beliefs & behaviors.
Do you do individual coaching as well as groupwork?
Yes. We focus on working with men, but also are happy to work with women who are interested in the energy/perspective on personal development described throughout this site.
Jared runs 'Sex & Intimacy' coaching around transforming energetic, physical and emotional blockages to deeper relating. For those wanting to take their sex and intimate life from 'normal' to exceptional, as well as for those facing a range of challenges, both physical and emotional.
Arven currently offers 1:1 'Transformational Coaching' integrated with his Counseling studies Practicum module. He is also a Breathwork facilitator, specialising in using Breathwork to release physio-psychological armoring. (Accessing more of our ecstatic life-force energy so as to live more fully, feel more deeply, and express more powerfully in the world.)
What are some good sources of information on menswork and men's identity?
We start off this section with a three-part disclaimer:
1) People at different times/spaces in their development find different sources of material to be more or less valuable, because they provide a doorway forward from exactly where you are right now. IE something I would have recommended 10 yrs ago that really helped me then I might find a bit limiting right now. Or something that I personally find a little bit naeve might be exactly the right thing for someone who is just beginning to explore self-work because it matches their beliefs and history (and gives them a good place to start from). So this list will cover not only what we are into now, but stuff that assisted us in the past, with a few words about why we liked it, to make it a bit clearer.
2) This is all our personal opinion, put here because several guys who attended our workshops have asked us what we recommended. Any comments about something here is our own personal opinion and is in no way meant to be the defining 'judgment/assessment' of that particular resource. If you are intrigued by it use your own discernment, including seeking out other fuller reviews & opinions.
3) Use your own discernment. Just because we like a book doesn't mean we agree with everything it says. (Read that line again!)
This section of the page is a work in progress and will expand over time.
"Earth Honouring" (Robert Lawlor): I [AA] read this years ago and don't recall much about it other than at the time it opened my world to some much more positive ideas about masculine identity, and assisted me to feel good about being a man.
"Fire in the Belly" (Sam Keen): I [AA] also read this a long while back. I recall it as being supportive in my feeling prouder about being a man in the face of shallow/empty perceptions of what a man is that my cultural upbringing had told me.
"Finding God Through Sex" (David Deida): I [AA] enjoyed this much more than Deida's more-often mentioned 'The Way of the Superior Man' (TWOTSM). Deida's work to me feels better the more recent it gets, and TWOTSM was one of his first. Much of TWOTSM seemed to subtly present the perspective that 'men are a bit crap' and need to 'shape up'. (That doesn't feel like a useful approach to me. Steve Biddulph sums up my objection well: "It’s not possible to build a new identity on an inferiority complex.” [Biddulph, 1995].) I felt that FGTS was much more upbeat and celebratory of masculinity.
"The Flowering Rod" (Kenny Klein): An odd book in some ways, it's still the only book I've come across [AA] that explained how the empowered natural masculine was suppressed historically by the straight-line cultures such as the Romans. And that was eye-opening & awesome to gain clarity on!
"The Hidden Spirituality of Men" (Matthew Fox): More recently read [around 2009: AA]. Provided some new and much more empowering archetypes of masculinity that were well-illustrated and explained. Assisted me to expand my inner landscape of belief.
"Cultivating Male Sexual Energy" (Mantak Chia): I [AA] read this when I was 20 and it was a pivotal moment in my life. Doing the muscle-locks and micro-cosmic orbit alone totally transformed me sexually in just a few months, and the benefits have stayed with me ever since. However, knowing what I know now, I would recommend doing at least one workshop or short course of Jared's Golden Warrior Qi Gong if you plan to use this book. Chia concentrates on the Yang approach, which is only one way to approach this powerful transformative field of practices. You may find, as I do, that the Yin approach is a potent missing element that makes cultivation practices even more effective & balanced.
"Radical Honesty" (Brad Blanton): [AA] A great basic guide to being authentically truthful as a way of life. Warning! May totally change your life and relationships. Only to be pursued by the courageous and responsible.
"Blink" (Malcolm Gladwell): [AA] A book that investigates our wisdom, explaining how and when to trust your instant instincts, and the process of how that works. As Gladwell says: "trusting the moments when we 'know' something without really knowing why we do".
CANCELLATION POLICY: If I book but then can't, or choose not to, attend a workshop..?
We occasionally have people book and then cancel at short notice. Designing and administrating workshops takes a lot of time and effort, so if you make a booking be aware that you are making also a commitment to attend. If you are not committed to attending, then don't book a place until you are certain you want to be there.
(i) If you cancel at least 10 days before an event your money will be refunded in full except for a $20 admin fee.
(ii) If you cancel 4-9 whole days before an event we require a $40 admin. fee. ($55 if the workshop charge is $160+) Any remaining payment can then be refunded or used as credit towards other workshops within six (6) months.
(iii) If you cancel less than 3 whole days before there is normally no refund. Unless you simply don't turn up, the payment can be used for future workshops with us within six (6) months, except for an admin. fee of $70 ($90 if the workshop charge is $160+).
In the case of credit it is YOUR responsibility to track that 6 month period. Credit not claimed after 6 months is forfeit.
In exceptional circumstances such as extreme sudden illness these conditions may be waived.