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Exercises for Going Deeper Again

Exercises from Talking with Our Brothers


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Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah

Chapter 10: Exercises for Going Deeper Again

1. Entering a Man's House Discussion

2. Naked Came the Stranger Discussion

3. Group Massage Creative Arts

4. Healing Family Violence Creative Arts

5. Writing our Eulogy Creative Arts

6. Oracle Wisdom Ritual

7. Fairy Tale Writing Creative Arts

8. Spontaneous Poetry Ritual

9. Forgiveness Meditation Ritual

Title Entering a Man's House

Type Discussion

Description

We forget how our possessions and our home reflect our values and affect our moods. In this exercise, group members receive feedback about the relationship between our inner lives (our soul and character) and our outer lives (our homes).

Steps

0. Prior to the meeting, The group agrees to do this activity and decides which house to meet at. The man who is hosting should set appropriate limits about how far he feels comfortable letting the men into his domain.

1. The group leader starts the group in the usual way.

2. Each man in the group spends fifteen-thirty minutes going through the man's house: drawers, possessions, office, refrigerator, garage, car. He thinks about the man's possessions, about the way the man lives, and what he knows about the man from the group or any other contact.

3. The group makes a circle, and one by one, each member tells the man what he has learned about him, in a non-judgemental way.

4. Optional: The man tells the story of his house and his possessions for ten-fifteen. Does he feel good about his home and his "stuff"? How does he feel seeing the men move through his physical domain?

5. The man responds to the group after everyone has spoken, or after each man has shared with him.

6. Optional: The group can end with some form of blessing and thanks for the man opening himself up in this way.

7. The leader ends the group in the usual way.

Comments

This activity was suggested by Denis Sutro, Corte Madera, CA

Title Naked Came the Stranger

Type Discussion

Description

This exercise allows men to release old shames and secrets about our bodies. We carry in secrecy so many judgements and beliefs about the way we look, and comparison with other men is a constant inner voice.

Steps:

1. The group leader starts the group in the usual way.

2. Then everyone in the group takes their clothes off.

3. One man stands before the group and talks about the various strengths and weaknesses of his body. He describes how he feels about his body: its various parts and as a whole; then he describes how it is changing over time.

4. When the man is finished, the group members may ask him questions or make comments about anything they see in his presentation, posture, expression, etc.

5. Each man in the group talks about his body in this way.

6. Then the group can share together what it is like to see all these bodies. Members can talk about their comparisons between body appearances and feelings of competitiveness which might arise.

7. Optional: Take individual or group photo of naked men.

8. The group leader closes the group in the usual way.

Comments

Men should agree on this activity the meeting before, since there is a tremendous taboo against group nudity. Groups can build up trust in each other by taking saunas or hot tubs together or by a massage activity. When I think about my own body, I remember all the wounds I received, from baseball spikes, kitchen knives, and sexual disasters, and all of its incredible vitality and athleticism. I keep so many of these joys and sorrows secret, not sure that anyone really wants to hear about them.

This activity was suggested by Bob Densmore, Woodacre CA with added ideas from Chris Harding, Dorchester MA.

Materials

A camera and film, if the group wishes to record all these male bodies.

Title Group Massage

Type Creative Arts

Description

This exercise gives men the human touch that they so often forget to give themselves; often feelings and memories about abuse, parents' touching, and fear of men will come up. We need to practice nurturing touch and receptivity.

Steps:

1. The leader starts the group in the usual way.

2. One man lies down in the middle of the floor or on a massage table and each man helps massage him for ten or fifteen minutes.

3. Optional: As the volunteer lies in the group, the leader says to him softly, "Let yourself breathe in and receive the good wishes and affection of the group. Just relax, breathe and feel the touch of the men." The leader can repeat these statements a few times.

4. Optional: The leader can say, "Let yourself remember other men's touch, both affectionate and harmful. Just breathe into these memories and send love to them, as the men send love to you."

5. If he wants to, when the group massage is done, the man can reflect on any memories or feelings which came up for him.

6. When the first man is complete, then the next man lies down and the process continues.

7. When all the members are finished with their massages, the group is usually quite relaxed. The members can check in if they want to.

8. Then the leader closes the group in the usual way.

Comments

Our lives are so busy that we forget the simple pleasures: sunrise, fresh air, the touch of a friend. This exercise lets men relax into a simple human need: affectionate touching. The group should be prepared for deep feelings being stirred up.

Men are so often criticized for lacking nurturing qualities, but I have noticed that we are capable of nurturing, if we are given permission, models and a safe environment.

This activity was suggested by Ken Cross of San Rafael, CA.

Materials

Massage table, oil, etc., if the group wants these.

Title Healing Family Violence

Type Creative Arts

Description

Each man gets to share deeply his feelings about a family scene from his youth which had a big impact on him. Often in the original scene, he couldn't express himself fully. During the exercise, deep truths can come out which allow the man to understand and change his own emotional patterns.

Steps

1. The group leader starts the group in the usual way.

2. The group leader says, "Think about an important scene in your past, a scene in which emotional or physical violence was done to you. Imagine where you were and who was with you. How big were they. Remember the physical positions of all the members of the family, whether or not they were there in the scene. (For example, in a scene with your father abusing you, you can include your mother in a different part of the house. Maybe she turns her head away; she didn't want to know.) Let yourself see and feel this old scene in your memory."

3. One by one, each group member creates the family scene, using the other members of the group. He selects someone to play each of the participants in the scene, then he puts them into the scene and arranges their bodies and their expressions so that they represent what the creator of the scene remembers.

4. The group member then puts himself into the scene as the boy who went through this event.

5. He recounts to the other members what it is like to be the boy in the scene. He can express whatever he wants to the other members of the family

scene. (Expressions of rage or great pain can occur here. The leader should

help the man share as deeply as he needs to.)

6. Other members in the scene can express their feelings about being in the scene, or what they feel about the boy. Dialogue can develop between these characters.

7. When the dialogue ends, and the member feels that he has expressed whatever he wants to, that scene dissolves.

8. The group can either discuss the scene, or go on to the next man's.

Comments

This is a very evocative exercise! It comes from Virginia Satir's work with families. The group should appoint a leader for the night who can help and encourage the full expression of the feelings. It may take a whole night for one man's drama to come to completion. This exercise can also be designed to dramatize times when each man did violence to others. Great learning about our own violent patterns can be uncovered.

Title Writing our Eulogy

Type Creative Arts

Description

This evocative exercise helps men see who they are and who they would like to become. The presence of death is constant in our lives, but how many of us have the courage to live with this reality?

Steps

1. The leader for the night starts the group in the usual way.

2. He then distributes pencil and paper and says to the men: "Write as quickly as possible for about ten minutes. The topic is your eulogy. What would you like people to say about you? What do you imagine they will actually say."

3. Men start writing and the leader can put on some soft music if he wants to.

4. After the men write, they share their eulogies in turn. The group gives each one feedback after his writing.

5. After each man has finished, the leader can start a general discussion if he wants.

6. The leader closes the group in the usual way.

Comments

One time after we did this activity, a man said, "I started to hear the eulogy at my father's funeral. It was given by a priest who didn't know him. I felt so enraged then. No one knew what a bastard he was. I'm so tired of all the secrets. No one know me either, when I think about my isolation. Goddamn it," he shouted. "I want to live." He was standing and shaking with energy now. "I want to live. I want to express love for my kids and my wife." He started howling and dancing for life as the men in the room clapped time to his wild dance. "I want to live," he shouted over and over. Men cheered loudly, and when the man stopped several minutes later, winded and happy, one of the other men said, "Best funeral I was ever at." We all laughed till we hurt.

Materials

Pen and paper for participants

Title Oracle Wisdom

Type Ritual

Description

A man going through a transition (death, birthday, divorce) can receive support in a deep way. Men can use this process to share knowledge from their soul or imagination. Touching these voices outside of our normal personalities and our points of view is an important part of the healing process.

Steps

0. Prior to the meeting, the group should plan this event, since materials have to be brought, and since it takes a good deal of group time.

1. The group leaders starts the group in the usual way. The man whom the group is focusing on explains the transition which he is going through.

2. The group leader then puts the bundle of sticks in the middle of the room. The group sits quietly together and imagines what characteristics they want each stick to represent: humor, insight, courage, honesty, etc.

3. Each man in the group picks up a stick. At that time, each man decides on a characteristic from the list above. He will try to speak to this man from the point of view of that quality. Then the men stand randomly in the group room and form an imaginary forest, each one holding his stick.

4. The group leader then asks for a few minutes of silence so that the men can meditate on their characteristic and what they want to say to the man.

5. The man in transition wanders through the symbolic forest, and requests advice and help from each tree. The man holding that stick (honesty, courage, etc.) speaks directly to him from that point of view, and says what he thinks the man should do or be careful of. For example: I am courage. I see you taking a risk. I see you strong enough to not know what is going to happen and still going forward. You will land on your feet."

6. After the man has gone through the whole forest, the circle reconvenes and men share and talk to each other.

7. The leader ends the group in the usual way. This is a good opportunity to give a group hug to the man who went through the process.

Comments

This exercise seems complicated, but it has proved to be very powerful.

Materials

A bundle of sticks (1-6 feet long, but uniform in length) one for each man in the group.

This activity was developed by my Thursday night group, Mill Valley and Fairfax, CA.

Title Fairy Tale Writing

Type Creative Arts

Description

This exercise helps men to practice thinking mythologically and imaginatively; it shows us how our lives are shaped by myth.

Steps

0. Prior to meeting, members should agree to read at least one fairy tale the week before, so that images are stirred up in their imaginations.

1. The leader for the night starts the group in the usual way, and tells them the procedures.

2. The leader creates a short discussion of the fairy tales which men have read based upon the fundamental building blocks of the fairy tale listed below. In other words: what are the qualities of the main characters; what are the common locations, conflicts; and the agreements and bargains which help make a fairy tale work? (The discussion serves as preparation for the writing.)

2. Men take the handout (described below) and make quick notes next to each of the entries in the list: what kind of characters do they want in their story, what conflicts, what magic, etc.

3. After a brief period of notetaking (five to ten minutes), men write a short fairy tale in about thirty minutes.

4. Then they read their fairy tales one by one to the group.

5. The leader asks the men to answer the key question: how are the conflicts and plot in this fairy tale like your life right now? The men answer the question individually, and then the group also answers the question for each story and each man.

6. Optional: The group can end with a ritual blessing to all the archetypes and inner characters who got brought into the group.

7. The group leader ends the group in the usual way.

Comments

Men often find this writing and talking stirs up their imaginations and is very enjoyable. This activity, like other creative arts work, helps men develop their right brain, with its imagination and poetic consciousness, and its direct access to our intuition. These pathways are the 'roads less taken' in our hurry-up lives. MATERIALS

Pen and paper; a handout with the following words in a vertical list: Characters, plot, conflict, magic, agreement, location(s), bargains, happy ending.

Title Spontaneous Poetry

Type Ritual

Description

Men practice using a more creative language than usual; and this exercise takes us outside of our usual thought system. It also engenders spiritual feelings, and helps us open our vision to see our lives in a broader perspective.

Steps

1. The group leader starts the group as usual.

2. The leader asks the group to begin gentle drumming.

3. One by one men recite poems, from memory if possible (from Rumi, Kabir, Rilke and others) as inspiration.

4. Then when a man is moved, he stands and dances and recites from his heart what the presence of life, or beauty, of energy, of god or his higher power, means and feels to him. Men should focus on using images of nature.

5. After each man speaks, drumming becomes a little louder, then it quiets as the next man speaks and dances.

6. After each man has danced out and said out loud his inner vision, more poems are read or recited, and the drumming comes to an end.

7. The leaders ends the group in the usual way.

Comments

Men have to do a little research in poetry books to find the types of spiritual poems to use at the beginning as models. The modeling at the beginning is very important to set the proper mood of appreciation and inspiration.

This activity was suggested by Peter Santulli of Sausalito, CA.

Materials

Drums, poetry books (if needed).

Title Forgiveness Meditation

Type Ritual

Description

Inner journeys, such as this visualization, help us to open to feelings which we may be having, but which we do not pay attention to.

Steps

1. The leader for the night starts the group in the usual way.

2. He tells everyone to make themselves comfortable, either lying down or sitting up straight, and asks them to listen to his voice.

3. Slowly, he says something like this, speaking very slowly. "We all have need for forgiveness. Bring into your mind the picture of someone whom you would like to forgive. It may be for a recent injury, and it may be for something which happened long ago. Do not force the forgiveness. Try to let it grow inside your heart for them. Imagine all the stress and pressure that forced them to hurt you or to be unkind to you. See if you can't forgive the person who did the action to you. No one is asking you to forgive the injury itself. That happened, it was painful, and it was wrong. But can you find in yourself to be your big self, to forgive the person who acted blindly and unconsciously.Ò

4. ÒSee if you can remember a time when you may have acted in a similar way, and hurt someone. Can you now forgive yourself for your own fear, for your own anger? Try to find in your heart some forgiveness, some loving kindness for yourself. Try to see how you were trained to react the way you did, and forgive yourself for being human, for making a mistake, for hurting another.Ò

5. ÒSee if you can let the feeling of forgiveness grow in your own heart, the feeling of loving kindness and acceptance. Let your heat grow warm and big with the knowledge that we all need forgiveness, we all need love, all the humans who ever walked on this planet need love and kindness. See if you can't imagine in your heart love for yourself, and then let your heart swell up with love for someone close to you whom you care about. Let your heart open and let yourself feel the greatness of your love.Ò

6. Now let the feeling swell and wash over others, others in this room, others you may have seen today, friends, and family. Let their faces and their voices come into your consciousness and touch the feelings of connection and love which you have for them.

7. ÒSee if you can't now open your heart to all humans, living and dead, who just like you sought love on this planet of potential of loss. Just breathe into your heart and open to love for people.Ò

8. ÒNow begin to bring the meditation to a close. Feel your body and the weight of gravity, let go of any deep feelings which you have and let your breathing be natural and slow. When you feel ready, open your eyes and connect with the group and we can begin to talk together.Ò

9. After a discussion, the group leader closes the group in the regular way.

Comments

This meditation can be done as a group ritual. One man sits in the middle of the circle and tells the group who he wants to forgive and why. Then he either imagines the person in front of him or picks someone to role play or symbolize the one to be forgiven. The man speaks out loud, saying, I forgive you (says the person's name) for ..."The group itself can ritualize forgiveness by having each man sit in the middle and go around the circle, asking forgiveness for any harm that he may have caused to the other men, one by one, and asking him to share any hurts with him which may have been done consciously or unconsciously.

These activities are taken from a longer chapter in Talking with Our Brothers, about activities which you can use when your group appears to be stagnating or having communication problems. Sorry, the book is currently out of print. E-mail me if you eant to be notified if it is again available.

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