I sent the following in an email to some friends from over 40 years ago that I reconnected with between 2018 & 2019, as a way of passing along something that's been helping me live an authentic life. I invite you to eavesdrop...
We are men transforming men through a power greater than ourselves.
Here is some information about a men’s movement I've been part of for over 4 years - one that’s helping me learn how to live as an authentic man. By this, I mean illuminating my gifts and my shadows, my light and my darkness, so I can learn how to live as a free child/man of the Light. I got involved because I was looking to meet other guys who were trying to live life more consciously. I had heard about this gathering of men called Illuman, which had grown out of the men's work begun years ago by the man I consider my spiritual father - Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, and went looking online for more information.
BTW – Mikey liked it! Mike went with me to a recent Whitestone meeting when he was here in NY. You can ask him about his experience.
Steve: I’m including you because I thought you might find the Native American influences interesting. This movement started in the Southwest – Mike’s country.
All: If you’re interested in scoping out one of these gatherings, let me know so I can notify the person that orders the breakfasts. Also, let me know and we could carpool.
BTW - the Bay Shore group has coffee and a breakfast sandwich and it’s coffee and bagels in Whitestone. The New Hyde Park group doesn’t have any physical food, believing that “man does not live by bread alone...” : ))))
Richie: I gotta play that Johnny Cash song you mentioned to me for the New Hyde Park group. I might even suggest a topic for them – “eating as a path to God.” : ))))
And for visuals and some tasty hands-on, I’d include bagels (“eternity” – no beginning and no end) and donuts (“soul” - the best part is [the crème] in the center).
All: How I got involved
My introduction to the Illuman process came a few years ago when I went online and found an event at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Brooklyn side of the East River. It was there that I met Brian - a bear of a guy in his 40's. It was a beautiful summer day. What I remember most was a ritual in which Brian said some words, reached for his water bottle and poured some of its cool, refreshing contents onto my hands. Baptism! Initiation! Ritual is very powerful - penetrates much deeper than words.
Since that first transformative encounter...
Through monthly meetings and several weekend retreats I am being enabled to see the blockages I’ve either placed myself or allowed others to place on the path to spiritual growth and deeper relationships with G-d, myself and others. This time with other committed men allows me to hear their stories – both their successes and their failures. Their no-bullshit-zone honesty encourages me to connect more deeply with my own story and also with the Spirit within me that’s trying to help me recognize and then overcome what's in the way and thus walk a more authentic life of loving service.
I always take something from the topics that are presented and from the things the guys share afterward. As an example, during this summer, one man led us in an exploration of how the game of baseball can be seen as a path to G-d. Lots of funny stories were shared. For me, I went back to my baseball days in Smokey Park and on the streets of Richmond Hill, playing stickball, stoop ball and baseball. We also played handball against the A&P wall on 117th Street & Liberty Avenue, stopping only when Levinson’s deli dumped the wooden barrel of kosher pickle brine into the gutter facing our court. “I’m not hitting THAT smelly ball!” Hey, I just realized we could have invented a new game – matzoh ball.
At another Saturday gathering, we looked at the story of the potter and the clay and then got our hands dirty molding clay. This reminded me of a former pastor's self-effacing humor when he'd tell us that he had clay feet...that started at the neck.
Local Council Meetings
I participate in three monthly meetings:
1st Saturday – 9:30-11 am in Whitestone
2nd Saturday – 8-9:30 am in Bay Shore
3rd Saturday – 9-10:15 am in New Hyde Park
Each monthly meeting is about 90 minutes and, while keeping to the overall guidelines, varies somewhat from location to location and from month to month. The presenter will usually bring a topic and may include an appropriate piece of music, a poem, a sacred reading or something we can get our hands around – like the clay.
Afterwards, we are invited to share with the group what we heard and felt, utilizing The Four Intentions of Council:
Listen from the heart.
Speak from the heart.
Be spontaneous and authentic.
Be lean of expression.
Here are a few links:
"We understand the Way of Council as a communal contemplative practice. It affirms the importance of listening and speaking from the heart within a circle of men. Describes the recommended format for all times of gathering. This teaches us how to speak and more importantly how to deeply listen." Click link for more.
Helpful page describing the larger scope of this vital men’s work. "This process challenges you to show up and pay attention daily to the need to overcome the weight of your routine in order to realize a full, intense and well-grounded spiritual journey. Doing so is not easy, but it does involve clear elements." Click link for more.
This page lists the various virtual meetings where men can connect with others that are seeking a deeper experience of Life.
Click the link to learn about this 5-day, 4-night journey of transformation.
5 PARTS OF THE JOURNEY OF ILLUMINATION
Show Up and Observe
"Each day challenge yourself to make contact with your true Source.We are men grounded in the power of the here and now." Click the link for more.
Show Up and Get Together
"Regularly look for support and accountability with other serious brothers.We are men who listen deeply to each other’s stories." Click the link for more.
Show Up and Share "Challenge yourself to find spiritual disciplines that keep your mind and heart open and connected, your body centered, and your emotions grounded." RELEASING
Show Up and Let Go "Living in the present moment requires us to release the past. Solitude and silence are traditional ways of allowing this to happen."