Follow Gord as he explores his journey from the relative safety of the feminine to the less familiar realms of the masculine. Through initiation rituals and the company of men, Gord finds safety in the challenge and nurture of male love. And strangely, this leads back to the feminine…
Seems to have been this way for a long time. Somewhere just out of high school, I began to gravitate towards having more female friends. At some level, this was a matter of interest, as I didn’t tend towards the impact-ridden sports like ice hockey and football, nor could I change a timing belt or even know what it was for. It’s not that I was isolated from the guys – I was studying IT, which was and is male dominated. I also played volleyball and went running, most of the time with male friends. However, when it was time to hang out and talk, those spaces tended to be with women.
I learned many things in these spaces. I learned the emotional cycles of women, and discovered how different they were in their thinking from me. I found that they had steady shoulders to lean on, and that they were always willing to discuss the ins and outs of whatever relational situation that I or they were in at the moment. Through these, I started to explore some of my own internal workings, and began to expand my emotional language.
I should explain that I was raised on a small Manitoba farm on the Canadian prairies. Life was lived within the tight boundaries of a simple faith, and as long as my interests didn’t venture outside of these boundaries, everything, including my mental and emotional landscape, was very straightforward. However, this was not the natural domain for emotional expression, and my family rarely displayed negative emotions. The bones of past mistakes were not picked over, instead a curt, “As long as you’ve learned your lesson from this”, served as reflective thought.
My personal makeup didn’t fit very well into this mix – I was drawn to questions instead of answers; to the ‘Why not?’ instead of the ‘Why?’; and into university instead of the family farm.
So, there I was, privy to the sometimes morbid musings of my 20-something female cohorts. It wasn’t all roses. There were long seasons when, through feminist studies or long relational droughts, I, as the token male, absorbed a range of man-hating energy – at this stage, a mere premonition of the battles yet to be fought on this front.
Fast-forward a few years and I left the cold wilderness of Canada for the sun-baked eastern coast of Australia. I knew one person in Australia, and, through her networks, developed a friend circle, that once again, resulted in close friendships with women and acquaintances with the men. My being single, most of these friendships at some stage became complicated. Some went over the line to defined relationships, and back again, most without too much drama. At times, though, this dynamic threatened my place in the larger circle of friends.
I didn’t have any issues with the shape of my life until a very different stage of life. At this point, in my low thirties, sporting a beautiful woman and child, we decided to go to a tantra workshop. I had no experience whatsoever of this, in theory or practice. So the three weekends at the workshop were spent paddling to keep from drowning. I learned much, but both of us in our relationship were so overwhelmed by the experience that we have not attended a mixed gender workshop since.
My appetite for energy-based, somatic experiences grew out of the ashes of these tantra workshops, and it wasn’t long before I found myself sitting around with a group of men looking at the basics of shamanism. It was at this point that I found myself quaking in the company of men. As I looked around the circle at these other strong hairy guys, I felt that I didn’t fit in. All my emotional grooming had been done by women, and the energy coming off some of these men was intimidating, to say the least.
Here was my quandary – I had the emotional perceptiveness to feel what I was lacking, but absolutely no sense of working out how to go about righting this. It also didn’t make sense. By my standards, I was doing everything that would make me a man – I had two kids, a relationship that I gave my heart and soul to, had been a stable provider in the material world – yet I felt like a boy.
The dominant emotions for me in these men’s groups were inadequacy and fear because I didn’t feel strong enough, or loving enough, or angry enough, or manly enough. It scared me that others appeared to be.
Thankfully several other dynamics were at play. First, my wife was doing her own soul work in the women’s space, and was growing into a stronger, juicier version of herself. Seeing her transformation encouraged me to delve deeper into the men’s space. Secondly, what I was doing felt really authentic – I was responding to a true call that came deep within me, and reflected in the men around me. Finally, the men around me turned out to be different versions of myself – each with their own issues, but able and willing to speak of their own adventures on their journey to becoming the man they now were.
A familiar pattern – a fear-management system – showed up during this time. I would hear about something – a vision quest, a men’s gathering called Manshine – and each time I’d feel a rush of possibility, drowned out in a flood of fear. Over a period of a year, the fear would slowly drain away and I’d find myself stepping up to experience what these had to offer.
These were times of transformation. The journey of vision quest brought me into close community with a company of men for eight months, culminating in three days and nights of battling my demons of complacency and comfort. I emerged stronger, less fearful, more powerful, yet also gentler, humbled by the experience, and with a deepening sense of my place in the world. My first experience of a large men’s gathering showed me what was possible when normal men can open their hearts and be together.
This last year, I joined with some other men to bring a men’s gathering to Victoria. I put my hand up to lead the opening ceremony, though I have no experience of this. Six months out from the event, I spoke to the committee of how I would like to approach my role. I opined that, since the opening ceremony was so important to set the stage for the rest of the weekend, wouldn’t it make sense to bring on board a known gifted facilitator, who could ensure the success of the opening ceremony while at the same time mentoring me for the future. My views were met with characteristic bluntness: “Bullshit. You’re just scared”; and a slightly gentler: “Sounds like you have some concerns. How can we help?” Six months of learning later, I experienced an evening of ‘I was born for this moment’ as the opening ceremony unfolded beautifully.
This experience highlights my transformation. From a place of initial fear, authenticity with men, combined with direct feedback and support, I was moved to achievements I couldn’t have reached on my own.
This isn’t restricted to one area of my life. Where once I veered from the things that I should do, I now move with increased purpose, vision and direction.
Through the safety of being seen by other men, I have the courage to be seen by women as well. For me, paradoxically, this is more difficult. I’m not sure whether it is mummy issues (no offence intended) or sexual tensions, but being in an open-hearted space with women is more challenging than being with men.
My current edge is vulnerability – the ability to be open-hearted in moments when I want to be guarded; to have the courage to be seen; to extend compassion to myself when I judgementally despise what I see. I can see a future where my relationships, with men and women, are open-hearted, honest, generous and authentic.
Gord Funk is a happily married father of three, equally at home creating IT solutions or sitting with good men around the fire. He believes in possibility, goodness, and an abundant future for us all.
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