Men’s groups have been around since the first two cavemen could talk to each other. Cavemen’s fires gave way to the salons, monasteries, ashrams, and campfires that have seen men, throughout history, gather and talk about great matters. Until recently, it was believed that unless men were physically in the same place, the intimacy and power of a great men’s group could not be achieved.
My experience with Virtual Men’s Groups has dramatically changed my thinking. A Virtual Men’s Group is a format that allows men from all over the world to meet on online platforms such as Skype, Google Hangouts and, my favorite, Zoom. The men appear in boxes like in the image above.
I first was introduced to the format when invited to join a worldwide group by fellow Good Men Project contributor Graham Reid Phoenix—now Sat Purusha. Our group has been meeting every other Friday for three years. The ten men are from North America and all over Europe. We have become very close and the meetings get just as intense as an in-person meeting. The virtual format is the ONLY way this geo-diverse a group could have happened.
Last summer I had been facilitating an Open Deep and True Virtual Men’s Group, weekly, on Thursday nights, at 8pm EST. After a few months I crossed paths with Jim Channon. (If you don't know who Jim is, he is a former US Colonel, planetary visionary, and subject of the (mostly) true story depicted in the film The Men Who Stare at Goats.) We connected on Facebook and soon began co-facilitating the groups together. Here Jim describes how it came about and his new-found appreciation of the power of these new virtual formats.
THE DOT MEN
Men’s work goes deeper into the heart
Yesterday a new kind of men’s work began. It was new because it was open to all on the web.
It was new because it didn’t just focus on the heart but the compassionate state of being. And most important this purely electronic format, called ZOOM, was more than technically competent, as it not only brought each talking head zooming up in scale, so that the smallest subtle expressions were seen to each player on screen, but also to any watching beyond.
The approach was launched by a marine corps vet, Tom Kelley, who had a dozen or more friends in his men’s group, but they were out of driving range, for the most part. They also decided to focus on three concepts: DEEP… OPEN… AND TRUE… thus the DOT MEN.
Tom connected with me much by chance on the web. He found common ground when he saw a picture I illustrated with a heart on my field jacket. Some of my recent experiences included the compassionate surrender I expressed, as helping with my recent losses through the deaths of friends and family.
So, he called and asked if I would help lead his group online. That just happened and we have a 90 minute video available on youtube. The open hearted contributions on this video may usher in a new genre of men’s work and more. The individual stories that came from each of those on line revealed the many ways we can serve by simply making space available to others in distress. That was only the tip of the compassion. The ways these men shared on video, as they explored their manhood, showed them as champions of compassion.
Several months into our collaboration, Jim and I were leading a group that an old friend of mine logged on to. My friend and I knew each other 35 years ago, from a different kind of men’s group—the Marine Corps. He had been through two wars and some tough times and said (after my fifth or sixth invitation) that he would try the group out. He was quiet and reserved the first week. Then, in the second week of his participation, magic happened. The simple combination of a trustable container of men, and a man who has held his emotions inside for too long, produced the following.
Play the video to enter the experience.
This is the flower of the plant that grows in all men’s groups. A cathartic expression of what is REALLY TRUE, but has been suppressed because of outdated modes of ‘being a man’. This was a Marine pilot who was just done with ‘holding it together’. This was a friend and brother in pain; and in expressing that pain, connecting and feeling the love of a group of men.
All of it happened separated by hundreds, or thousand of miles, in an online connection, with little or no loss of intimacy.
As Jim Channon so aptly put it, a new kind of men’s work has begun.
—Photo and Video Credit: Tom Kelley—Open, Deep and True