On the Future of Mens Wellness

3

(The following letter from Christopher King is being shared on nmmw.org as “Men’s Musings” blog post, and a variety of replies are being posted as comments.  We are planning to share the post and associated comments at the 25th NMMW Conference at Ghost Ranch where the theme of the Future of NMMW will be a significant part of the “Roots and Wings” theme.  Please register at this web site and add your input to the discussion.  – Jim Connolly, Webmaster, nmmw.org)


Dear Men of New Mexico Men’s Wellness,

I am writing to share some ideas I have been incubating for the last few weeks. I have had the opportunity to share some of this with our fall conference leader, Lawrence Cook, and I promised him at the time something in writing.  So I decided to craft a letter and send it to a bunch of my comrades in NMMW (a partial list for sure). I welcome your responses all–regarding our beloved organization’s mission and future. Please forward this to other men in NMMW who might find this worthwhile.

I am of two minds. I am deeply concerned about the future of New Mexico Men’s Wellness. I have zero concerns or worries about the future of New Mexico Men’s Wellness.

Are you familiar with the Shriners – those grey haired guys with the funny hats who have raised money for decades – to build and fund hospitals for children with severe illnesses?  At a St Patricks Day parade in Tucson about 5 years ago I watched their remarkable street performance – each man wearing a tasseled hat driving a motorized go-cart – about six of them at a time moving in tight formations.  Very low to the ground, they weaved deftly and flawlessly in and out of each other in cloverleaf patterns. The parade moved on – lots of red haired and freckled kids and adults riding floats and waving to the robust crowd. A while later a second group of Shriners appeared in go-carts half the size of the first ones. And their finale was a third group – riding even smaller carts – roughly the size of a toddlers ride-in sports car.  The men in all 3 groups were clearly having fun – while executing their choreographed motorized dance – with focus, humor and grace.

So below, I offer my views of areas of NMMW deserving attention.

One – We have the opportunity to further define our mission statement. I know that we are about achieving spiritual growth and development, about raising our children, supporting our families, living life fully and down to the spiritual marrow – about reveling in the wisdom, humor and stories of other men, of avoiding harm to self and others, of assisting those men we encounter on our journeys to overcome inner and outer challenges.

Is there a clear written framework for our outreach?  Given the name of our organization, what is our commitment to touching men who are brand new to our state, as well as to men whose families have dwelled here for centuries, to men whose first language is other than English, and to men who are hospital-bound or house-bound – due to old age or infirmity – physical, emotional or spiritual.  Are we concerned with men who live in Clayton, Hobbes or Deming – as well as with those who dwell in our major cities.

Two – We have the opportunity to beef up our collective service endeavors.  The opportunities for serving New Mexico based men and boys and their families and loved one – at this time in history – have never been more varied and compelling.  I am thinking of the huge veteran population – here in Albuquerque, and spread throughout our rural communities. I have had the privilege of working with many of these men for going on 2 years. I can attest to the tremendous depth of their individual and collective suffering – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – as well as to their honesty, deep caring for others, their survival skills and their resiliency. New Mexico Men’s Wellness has veteran-members, and has assisted veterans in the past. I believe we can do more.

I am recalling our boys and adolescents – many of them growing up in chaotic settings where they lack a father a mother or both. They are doing the best they can with limited guidance – in confronting abuse, substances, peer pressure, hunger and despair. NMMW has helped these boys and teenagers in the past. I believe we can do more.

I am thinking of our men living under incarceration – men who have suffered, are struggling to survive, and are in need of love, spiritual training and healthy connections with men living on the outside. Men’s Wellness has assisted these men in the past. And yes, I believe we can do more.

Finally – We have the opportunity to develop our formal NMMW structure/organzation. At a post fall conference meeting, held at Phil Davis’ sanctuary in the winter of 2008, we engaged in some planning -around forming a board, refining our bylaws,  enhancing our nonprofit status, and putting our finances in order. And I believe there is more to be done.

Down the road we may lose critical mass in our organization – as older guys die or move away at a faster rate than younger guys join us. Eventually a man picks up the stick – perhaps at the summer gathering -and over the course of the next 12 months, is unable, despite major efforts, to recruit others for the event he has solemnly agreed to host, and so the tradition dies. The fall conference would likely be the last conference – with its status as flagship gathering – and its record of having the largest attendance among the 5 yearly gatherings – 4 seasonal plus Father-Daughter.

So in October we will celebrate 25 years of vibrant community and successful gatherings. What will NMMW look like in 2036?  One obvious possibility is that NMMW will have no gatherings, no ceremonies, no website, no board of directors, and no bank accounts.  In this case, NMMW would have a legacy – its remarkable history – the rich stories, oral and written, and sensory memories in the minds of the surviving members – memories of gatherings past, lifelong friendships, transformative ceremonies, and men’s groups spawned, forged and steeped in many settings.

I see a young bearded history buff fingering timeworn copies of Man Alive or perusing the Internet – having typed in a Google search – using the guidewords: men, spirituality, community, New Mexico. A friend of mine Iris Keltz, a writer and retired APS teacher recently crafted a book – Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie – that recounts the history of the New Buffalo Commune – during its early 1970s heyday at Morningstar outside of Taos. Perhaps someday there will exist a published definitive history of NMMW – and an avid historian NMMW guy will cart his boxes of hardcover editions to book signings at places like Bookworks in the North Valley – where he will engage his audience with a selection of spiritually rich and colorful male-intensive stories. The audience will listen raptly – while sipping decaf and munching on chocolate covered strawberries.

The coincidence I am living is that my smaller men’s group, aka the Gila Monsters, (started in 1993, currently 9 members strong) is going through its own evolutionary choicepoint. Having collectively identified and voiced a recent pattern of diminishment – in attendance, and clarity about our purpose – we have elected to confront the trend. In our summer meetings we are talking over our future as a men’s group – what are we about and how will we structure our future endeavors/gatherings?.  My hope for New Mexico Men’s Wellness Community is a similar conscious engagement – with the important issues of the times.

For myself, I am eager to add my hands, heart and mind to the collective enterprises of refining our mission and crafting our future.

Viva New Mexico Men’s Wellness!

With sparkling eyes and a broad grin,

Your brother, Christopher

Comments

3 Responses to “On the Future of Mens Wellness”
  1. wlhoffman says:

    (Comment from Will Hoffman, wlhoffman@earthlink.net)

    Thank you Christopher for your thoughts about New Mexico Men’s Wellness (NMMW). I particularly appreciate your statement of our mission and special interests, as well as your visions.

    I think NMMW is reaching a watershed or a crossroads and our roots and wings are coming to bear. In the stages of the development of an organization, we have reached maturity and could become more formalized with all of the ingredients such as bylaws, officers, mission & goal, membership fees, etc. It is a natural process, especially for an organization that is unique, that essentially has no “competition,” that fills an important niche and could do a lot more for a lot more guys.

    I think our foundation is strong — vital, committed, engaged men, doing and being. What we want to do can be a gamble while I think we have the “right stuff” for where we are going and can go. There are risks: we could become a group which perpetuates itself, whose main goal is self-preservation marked by what I call institutional hemophilia. On the other hand, we could become an elitist group or one that ventures to far from its core mission, or we could divide. Another risk is that while we grow numerically and with activities, the real life-blood, the core, of the organization could shrink and our membership, although more diverse, could be more nominal, going through the motions, maintenance of effort.

    My response to this is to live and create dangerously, to sin boldly, to wager all that we have. If we succeed, I think a true measure will be that other, similar organizations and activities will develop. We certainly don’t need vanity or monopoly. And the ways in which we go about what we do — the form, the process, our face — will change and evolve, if the ideas are sound and the people committed.

    We have many choices and many gifts. Collectively we are strong, four times a year. Individually, the remaining 358 days, we live out our lives, hopefully carrying the flame we rekindle the other eight days. We are headed in the right directio.

     

  2. Michael Wilkinson says:

    (Comment from Michael Wilkinson, lookfar99@gmail.com)

    Nicely done, Will, and thank you, Christopher, for your concerns, or lack thereof:

    As a newbie to NMMW, I momentarily resisted responding, but I got over that pretty quickly. I too have some comments about NMMW from my limited perspective.

    I believe that NMMW is a lighthouse on rocky shores. Too often we as men have been pinned under the illusion of powerlessness, emasculation, and despair with which our society neuters us. The precept that we are limited, one-dimensional people, a beer in one hand and a remote in the other, is a canard all too readily bought into by many of our dear brothers, and NMMW is an antidote to this. I celebrate the changes NMMW has made in my life, and I make a stand for the continuation of the incredible benefits the organization generates for young and old alike.

    That said, I know there will be, and need to be, changes. Nothing is static; the universe is in contant flux, and NMMW is no different. Could we have more members? Certainly. Could we open ourselves to inmates, minorities, veterans, fathers, sons? Certainly. Could we create an organization thousands strong, giving birth to similar themes, groups, and workshops which reach not only men but the women and children related to them? Yes! We already have begun this process with the Father/Daughter weekend, Cook’s couple’s weekend, and other outreach programs. AND, I caution, the larger an organization is, the more impersonal it can be. I would hate to see NMMW become an institution, whose main purpose is maintaining itself at all costs. So, there is room for growth and change, but let’s be thoughtful and clear in the changes we bring.

    The recent flutter about the sweat lodge brought up for me a concept I’ve been thinking about for a while. Robby runs the sweat in a jocular, playful manner, and I, for one, really appreciate this. I understand the need for significance and meaning – Lord knows I need some of this – and I want to caution against becoming TOO significant and meaningful. One of the things about NMMW I appreciate the most is the ability to play with my brothers, something I didn’t do enough of as a child. Personally, I would like to see us go toward more fun and play rather than toward more “significance.” I have, sometimes, found myself chafing during circle talks, as men ponder meaning and profundity with their intellects, rather than feeling things with their hearts. I want to SING! I want to PLAY! I want to CRY! Sometimes, the “mental masturbation” gets old. After all, how significant IS human life in the eyes of the forces that created the universe? I t’ink not much… That’s not to say things don’t matter; they do, but lightness, laughter, and love are FAR more important to me than mattering.

    Thank you, gentle men, for listening. I look forward to seeing you all again soon…

    In love,

    Michael

  3. ReneDom says:

    (Comment from Rene Dominguez, ReneDom@aol.com)

    VERY WELL STATED

    I share many of these concerns also.

    In my emails to Lawrence and Michael, I also identified my concerns about New Mexico Men’s Wellness, a trepidation that I believe has added so much to so many men of New Mexico and the USA.  While I had to drop out for a few years due to some very significant financial problems, I like others want to rekindle a light that has some energy to try to have NMMW around for another 25 years.
    My recent email to Lawrence and Michael sums up some of my concerns and I share this with you not to boast, but out of genuine concern for NMMW’s future as I recommit myself to the group.

    Food for thought:

    I heard some items that struck a curiosity (at the planning meeting for the 25th).

    I heard the NMMW had a surplus when there were 135 participants.  Were there other years that a surplus was generated and if so what was the attendance?

    While, I understand that a larger group means that we do not know everyone who is in attendance and that fact may be uncomfortable for many.  In my initial year, I did not know anyone and was very impressed by the group’s longevity, openness to accept me for who I was, and contribution to men’s wellness. Some of my associations at the first conference, have turned out to be some enduring friendships, and men who have been there to support my growth and development. While I never was one of the original group, and I would have been much more comfortable and more at ease in knowing someone, it was in getting to know those men, hearing their stories, that I gained from their wisdom, life experience and increased  my participation in the conference and realized that I had been blessed.  I truly believe in and have felt the value in NMMW’s motto:

    Personal Growth and Development is something YOU have to do … but YOU don’t have to do it ALONE.
    While, I am not the most intelligent guy on the planet, I believe that the more “new blood” we get into NMMW, the more support we all receive from each other and the more the group can leave to future generations.

    In another comment was made in meeting with someone from the VA Veterans Administration: we used to have a veteran’s get together for all early one morning. I have been to some of those get-to-gathers and learned even more about the men who have served or country and, as a vet, felt very welcomed into the community.  Perhaps we should consider having the VA sponsor some vets in having them return or attend, for the first time, our conference. Appreciation needs to be demonstrated to the vets from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and all of the other conflicts in which our country has participated rightly or wrongly. For it is the men who supported our nation, from whom we and they can help each other grow and develop.

    Great Planning meeting. and a BIG THANKS to both of you.

    I could go on but many of you have voiced my concerns.  I hope we will be able to assemble a session at this year’s conference that addresses these issues for OUR FUTURE.

    From my heart,
    René