Review of the 30th NMMW Fall Conference






 OCTOBER 23-26, 2014


The 30th New Mexico Men’s Wellness Conference was held October 23-26, 2014 at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  Over the four days the theme of “Friendship – Men in Community” was explored in depth from many perspectives.  Almost a quarter of the men participating were new to a Men’s Wellness event with over 100 in attendance.  Quite a few men invited friends from many-year relationships, some who had known each other for over 60 years!  In addition, many men left the Conference with newly found friends, ready to take what they learned into the world and build new friendships there.

This year for the first time, this page, which was the “registration” and information page for the Conference has been turned into a page about the Conference to be shared with the participants and anyone who happens upon it on this web site.  For participants, it is a spot to reflect on the weekend and perhaps share their reflections on it in the comments section at the end.  For others we hope that you will learn something about the annual New Mexico Men’s Wellness Conference is about and what we do as an organization to help men grow in healthy community with other men, and to take that community into the world of their everyday lives.


Sunset at Ghost Ranch


Leadership and Planning for the Fall Conference

The NMMW Conference is unique in that it does not draw upon outside “experts” to provide information that we “need” to know, but relies on a planning process involving a large number of men from the community who contribute their ideas, energy, creativity and talents to craft a home-grown program around the theme of the conference.  Thirty years ago Victor LaCerva started New Mexico Men’s Wellness and initiated John-Gerversthe first Conference with a focus on men and their health. Our mission continues  “to nurture wellness in body, mind and spirit through the sharing of experiences across generations and cultures in safe, collaborative settings”.  Our strength is the participatory nature of Men’s Wellness.  This year’s leader John Gervers with co-leader and successor Charlie Lamson started the planning process in late July and continued with meetings every two weeks in Santa Fe and Albuquerque until just before the conference.  The heart of the Conference is this Planning Committee, open to all intended participants, who volunteer their time to develop the theme, create the sessions, and lead various elements of the Conference.  This year more than 30 men participated in the planning process developing the three days of themed “blocks” around the overall topic of Friendship with the block leaders drawn from the participants who planned the conference.

Eclipse at Ghost RanchAn Auspicious Opening

The conference opened on Thursday, October 31.  During the registration time, there was a partial eclipse of the Sun that felt like a significant transition leading into the weekend.  Joseph Woods captured the photo at left with a solar filter on his small telescope that shows a couple of sunspots that are about as large as the planet Jupiter (Click on the image to see it full size).  A great start to the 30th Fall Conference!

 The Buddha was asked, “Is good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship a part of the holy life?”

The Buddha answered, “No, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship are not ‘a part of the holy life’, they are the entire holy life”.


The Conference Organization and “Blocks”**:

Thursday Evening: Welcome, Opening Ceremony, Introduction to the theme of “Friendship”, Breakout of small groups and first meeting, “Assessing our Friendships,” followed by Closing Circle.

Early Friday Morning: Optional exercises including Meditation, Qi Gong and Yoga.

ConversationFriday Morning: Announcements, Warm-Up Exercise.  Block topic on “Isolation and Other Barriers to Friendship” to explore how we inhibit the initiation and development of friendships.

Friday Afternoon: Block topic on “Conflict Resolution.”  Skit: Friends in conflict Cassius and Brutus from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”; Exercise to explore unresolved conflicts in our relationships with other men.
Late afternoon optional activities including Art Project, Poetry Circle, Jam Sessions (Electric indoors, Ukelele outdoors), Hiking.

Friday Evening: Choice of Activities including: Passing of the Sword Ceremony, Outdoor Fire Circle and Drumming Circle, Sweat Lodge (Hot), and Movies with the theme of Friendship.

Early Saturday Morning: Grief Circle to honor and remember those lost to us

Saturday Morning: Announcements.  Early Block on “Nurturing Old Friendships”; Later block on “Creating New Friendships”

Saturday Afternoon: Block on the topic of “Creating Friendships with Women.”
Late afternoon optional activities including Art Project, Sweat Lodge (Mild), Yoga, Hiking, etc.  NMMW Annual Meeting just before dinner.

Saturday Evening: Elders and Sages Ceremonies, followed by “Saturday Night Live” — performances, music, skits, drumming and silliness.

Early Sunday Morning: Optional exercises including Meditation, Qi Gong and Yoga.

Passing-LeadershipSunday Morning: Announcements, Passing of NMMW Small Group Drum and Compassionate Hands, followed by Large Talking Circle with reactions about the weekend from all who wish to share.  Final small group meeting with take-aways and commitments.  Walk to Canyon for Closing Ceremony and Passing of the Leadership.

** “Blocks” vary in structure, but generally introduce the topic in the large circle of men then break into dyads or small groups to explore the topic in more depth, sometimes returning to the large group at the conclusion of the block.  Blocks vary in length but are typically 90 minutes to 2 hours in length.

A song about friendship, Through Your Eyes was written by David Kuenzli specifically for this conference and was distributed to all conference attendees.  It is linked here for playing or downloading.  It may be freely played and shared but please give David credit if you do share it.

30 Years of NMMW Conference Leaders

While not all of the former Conference leaders could attend, there was a large contingent of former leaders of the NMMW conferences represented at this 30th Conference.  In the photo below from left to right are John Gervers, Mike Pedroncelli, Kurt Faust, Shel Goldman, Michael Wilkinson, Lawrence Cook, Charles Fisher, Phil Davis, Michael Kaufman, Barry Cooney, David Johnson, David Kuenzli, and Victor LaCerva.  Also attending (but not in the photo) were Mark Bennett and Barry McIntosh.  (Click on the photo to see it full size)



The costs of the Conference are as low as we can get from Ghost Ranch, and by far the bulk of the fees go toward meals, lodging and use of the facilities.  We want men of all financial circumstances to be able to participate in the Conference if they wish to do so.  For this reason we encourage men who want to participate but need some assistance to connect with the conference leaders for assistance.  We also encourage men who can contribute to the scholarship fund to do so, to support those men who need it.  NMMW is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational corporation, and all donations to the scholarship fund or to other activities of the organization are deductible as charitable contributions.  There is a page on this web site that will accept online donations with our gratitude:

For your feedback or to get more information:

Call-to-closingThis page is open for comments.  Please see the comments section at the end of the page.  Some men who participated in the conference have already submitted comments to webmaster Jim Connolly ( who has incorporated them into the comments.  Comments may be submitted by anyone who has registered for access on this website and blog.  Click on this link and you will be taken in a new “tab” or window to a page that will help you to register for the site so that you may post comments or other materials that you would like to contribute to the NMMW community via this website and blog.  We encourage registration so that this site can benefit from your input, but if you would like to just have your comment about this page posted you can send it via Email to Jim Connolly via his Email address and he will get it posted for you.  You must include your actual name and contact information with your Email, but it does NOT need to be included in your comment; just clarify that when you send your Email.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for this year’s leader (John) or for the leader of next year’s (31st) Conference (Charlie) please contact them:

For more Online Information about NMMW:



Adobe Acrobat Reader is handy to view (or download) many of the Acrobat PDF documents found on this site.  To download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader, please click on the graphic below:

Click to Download Adobe Acrobat Reader

(Most of the photos on this page are from Uwe Schroeter with one from Joseph Woods.)

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8 Responses to “Review of the 30th NMMW Fall Conference”
  1. JimC says:

    It was absolutely fantastic to see so many of my old friends once again! I had not been to the conference for 8 years. What a treat to return to New Mexico and reconnect with all my brothers. Seeing all you guys, and being there in New Mexico for such a spectacular weekend, has me wanting to be there more often. I have already committed to returning to next year’s Fall Gathering. Love to you all.

    — Paul Steinkoenig

    (received comment posted by Jim Connolly)

  2. JimC says:

    I want to thank all the guys that attended the Sword Ceremony. The attendance was way better than I expected. Thank you guys.

    PS: It was a great conference. I am so glad I was able to go.

    Manuel Tafoya

    (received comment posted by Jim Connolly)

  3. JimC says:

    At this juncture, my thoughts from our 2014 year’s mega soiree would be: MY PREFERENCE FOR THE SIZE OF THE CONFERENCE IS 80 TO 85 DUDES!!!

    “Rhonda Flemming”

    (received comment posted by Jim Connolly)

  4. JimC says:

    I thought the presence of Grandpa Scott, Manish and Gabe was extraordinarily cool. Gabe was simple and as mature and concise as they make ’em. I believe that we could have learned a bit more from the bigger circle with more time allowed for some of the non-new attendees picking up the talking stick. As it were, much of the three day teaching and exchange happens within our rooms, in the presence of intimate friends.

    Ray J

    (received comment posted by Jim Connolly)

  5. JimC says:

    I believe one of the most significant contributions of all who come to a NMMW event is to “set intentions” before coming, as to what each would like to have happen – this can be stated or just contemplated with significant intent.

    The 30th Fall Conference had very clear intentions set by the conference leader, John Gervers – e.g., to have friends be invited, to have as many former conference leaders as possible attend and to return the number of attendees to c. 100. With those intentions set and met, we had a very significant conference.

    With that said, I believe that the most significant element of any NMMW event is not who the leaders are, nor what the theme is, but who is present and fully participating to the best of his ability. There is a heritage in our community that links each event through the years, that makes the continuation of NMMW viable for each man who comes and participates to make that particular gathering meaningful for himself and others.

    Genuinely submitted,
    Lawrence Cook

    (received comment posted by Jim Connolly)

  6. JimC says:

    This was a very meaningful conference for me as it enabled me to reconnect in a special way with my long time friend Nick who I have known since we were both barely in Elementary school. As serendipity would have it, the timing was perfect for both of us and we look forward to continuing and expanding upon our friendship. The conference also provided some significant new connections and seeds of new friendships that will help me move forward in a positive way.

    My only criticisms center around the size (I think 80-85 is a better upper limit than 100 but I understand the special dynamic that pushed the limit this year), and the need to incorporate more sharing throughout the weekend in the large talking circle. The time for an open large talking circle was restricted to Sunday morning. This often provides the “cement” for lessons learned in small groups and dyads over the weekend, and there was not enough time nor was there the ease that comes with more experience of this kind of sharing. I would suggest that we lose a couple of “blocks” and add a couple of large talking circles instead.

    Thanks to all of you for being there. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that regardless of the theme, the planned events, and the attempts to herd all of us cats, it is ultimately everyone who participates that make the conferences so special. Hope to see you all again.

    Jim Connolly

  7. JimC says:

    The following comment was intended for last year’s (2013) gathering comments but got lost in the ether of the Interwebs. Though not directly applicable, I (Jim Connolly) think it is worth sharing and I thank Manuel for his willingness to share it:

    The Mystic Journey

    By Manuel Tafoya

    One of the most dramatic activities at last year’s Fall Conference was a Friday night hike ending close to where the closing ceremony takes place. If a person had had a birds-eye view of what was going on, he would have seen close to a hundred men snaking, single file up a deep dark canyon in almost total darkness, their only guides, strange, dark-robed, hooded men with glow sticks at the end of long staffs; the only sound, a single, mournful drum to break the night’s eerie silence.

    The atmosphere was deliciously haunting for it was as if we were seeing an old Arthurian Legend play while being part of the cast. Along the journey we would meet different characters each one having a story to tell. Before the journey began, Balzac, the story teller, told us that this Mystic Journey was about ourselves and our actions, but it was being interwoven with the old legend of the struggle between The Wounded King and The Boy King as they fought for power to rule the land, each in his own way.”

    As the long column climbed up the winding canyon we came upon the Portal Guardian, who told us the story of a tiger that had been raised by goats and thought he was a goat. It was when he set out to find his true identity that he found out, that before he could do so, he had to first give up his old identity. The Portal Guardian told us that we too, like the tiger, had to let go of who we were before we could find out who we truly were. To symbolize our giving up who we were, the Portal Guardian made us turn in our name tags. “Now you have no identities,” He said.

    After walking deeper into the Portal we were accosted by a creature with branches and leaves growing out of his head. In a deep sonorous voice he told us he was Earthman, that he represented the planet we live in. He then told us how disappointed he was in what we were doing. “You are tramping and destroying the earth. You are striping the land of its resources. You are polluting the atmosphere.” He begged us to mend our careless and insensitive uses of the land.

    We then walked on until we came to Merlin, the wizard, who told us that the magic of goodness was still around if we would listen to our hearts instead of letting greed, avarice and corruption rule our world. He pleaded with us to think of the planet rather than of our own materialistic ways. “When you came through the portal you gave up your identities. Now as you climb out of the canyon and regain them back, let this new identity reflect a better you. Let it reflect someone who loves and respects our wonderful planet

    Once out of the canyon there was a grand ceremony where we once again regained our identities by getting our name tags back. The Mystic Journey was now over, we were free to go. Most of the men stayed around the roaring fire until growing tired and sleepy, in groups on twos, threes and fours, they slowly walked out into the night, on their long trek back to their sleeping quarters. Some of us remained long into the night, sorry to see the end of this great Mystic Journey.

    (received comment posted by Jim Connolly)

  8. J.D. says:

    Thanks to Jim for pulling this site together, and thanks again to John, Charlie, Jon/Joseph/Mike, and dozens of others who made this event so successful for this first-timer. I indeed made some new friends (perhaps including myself), and with much thought, enlightening discussions, and deepening introspection, came away more grounded, challenged, and peaceful. While the “blocks” were extremely valuable, I got almost as much substance from the “space between the lines”…those ad hoc conversations during walks, between events, and at the dining table. Thanks again…