‘Roasted chicken and vege’s with lots of gravy is my favourite food!’
You understand that because you have experienced it. So what is Soul Food. Sure, it is still an experience but subjective , often personal and unique. Let me describe five experiences of Soul Food or spirit journey work, which reflects my understanding of the concept.
1. Feeling spaced out and a sense of oneness with the blokes in my men’s group. Just done a meditation and called in love and kindness to be present and hold our space. No one feels like breaking the silence. We invite the ancient ones to be present share their wisdom.
2. Sitting in the men’s gathering tent, feeling connected to an awesome of togetherness in a sacred space, with a profound sense of love.
3. On a cliffs edge overlooking vast forested gullies. Birds are singing, the wind is caressing. Feeling a part of it all: on my own yet not alone. Looking up to the clouds picturing the ancients and mates now gone. Saying “g’day, send us some love and wisdom brothers.” An eagle is soaring above and buzzes the sound of his wings as if to say: get on with it.
4. Feeling nervous and vulnerable, sitting among a bunch of Vietnam Vets about to do a meditation. – I called it relaxation, to avoid the reaction to meditation as ‘hippy shit’. After finishing, the men sit in silence with a sense of peace and awe. “What happened?” I thought. “The meditation was not that good. Maybe it was the sense of love and kindness, being nurtured and tapping into something bigger.” It doesn’t really matter why it worked. It just did.
5. After starting a workshop with some meditation, my friend is playing the guitar gently, along with some aum chanting. A man approaches and says “that was gold, can we do that again tomorrow.” The next day a didge player turns up and joins us. The men’s work over that two days was good – we were held.
Men come to men’s groups and gatherings in search of something different. They find that the job, relationships, media frenzy, acquisition of more material things and the general razzmatazz of life are not doing it for them. What am I looking for? Where is my tribe, can I share who I am and be accepted, can I get support and guidance on my journey? Soul Food in men’s groups is part of fulfilling those needs and assists men in becoming softer on the outside yet stronger in the soul’s engine room.
How do we recognise the Soul Food in men’s work?
The Soul Food and spirit journey in men’s work is part of our tradition. It is about shedding the barriers between ourselves and the universal life forces around us. Melting the protective armour built up as a coping mechanism on our journey. It requires leadership, practice and confidence to bring it in and there is often a sense of love and kindness, truth, wisdom and humility when it happens. Having said that, it is not all serious and there is also a great deal of enjoyment and laughter.
A soul food cook or mentor is most likely present. They will have done some walking on their own spirit journey and had experience with facilitating groups, meditation, chanting and other activities that support men’s growth in groups. It’s about doing it: walking the walk.
As a men’s group facilitator, I have seen how the depth and quality of spirit practice can ground our work. Soul Food is essential and we need to be clear and confident, to honour it and invite into our spaces. Like all good nourishing food, we need the cooks and the right ingredients otherwise we might as well order takeaway Of course, it is often daunting for me invoking the spirit work, amongst a new group of men. In the same way it can be daunting for those participating. Maybe the group will not want to open up and allow the bonding to happen? Maybe they will not like me or even feel I am a wanker? Of course there are always these tricks of the mind but it is taking part in a men’s group that really matters.
I will be running a workshop, ‘Soul food, men’s journey with Spirit’ as a contribution to the development of this work. It will be a practical workshop, involving meditation and chanting, exploring the spiritual energies of the local forests, men’s circle work, poetry and a trip to the underground meditation cave at the local Buddhist forest monastery. It will be on the July weekend of the evening of Friday the 26th to afternoon of Sunday the 28th. Men are invited to come a bit early if they can or stay over for a few days afterwards. I have a 5-bedroom house and a flat and outhouse that can accommodate 12, in all. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Paddy has a long experience of working with men. From construction sites to shearing sheds, setting up and running a large homeless men’s village, and being a Buddhist prison chaplain in a maximum security prison. He is a trained counsellor and has run a variety of programmes for men both one on one, and in a group. His journey with spirit started with Yoga and Buddhist practice over 30 years ago and he respects the practice and philosophies of all spirit traditions, including the way of the Shaman. He has run workshops at the first three Man Alive Berry gatherings involving meditation and shaman work and recently wrote a resource manual for affinity or tribal groups at men’s gatherings.