Men's Groups

Exercises for Beginning the Group

Exercises from Talking with Our Brothers

Copyright © 1995 by George Taylor


Help us help men
$20  
Every $20 helps!

Sorry, the book is currently out of print. E-mail me if you eant to be notified if it is again available.




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

CHAPTER 7: Exercises for Beginning the Group

1. GROUP CHECK-IN, Discussion

2. GROUP BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS, RITUAL

3. USING THE TALKING STICK, RITUAL

4. IMPORTANT GROUP Discussion TOPICS, Discussion

GROUP CREATION

5. IMPORTANT GROUP Discussion TOPICS, Discussion

PERSONAL DYNAMICS

Title Group Check-in

Type Discussion

Description

This basic activity provides a safe way for men to tell their ongoing stories to the group. Although it seems so simple, the activity is so valuable that some groups do it to the exclusion of other exercises. A quality of listening and of support in it is deeply nourishing to us.

Steps

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

2. Optional: The leader can start with a short guided meditation in which he invites the men to breathe into their bodies, to let go of the errands of the day, and to find the deep truth that they want to share tonight.

3. Each man takes five-fifteen minutes (depending upon the agreement that night) to tell group members on how his life is going. He can talk about anything he wants for that period of time; the group and the leader should help the man emphasize the emotional content of his experience.

4. Optional: Sometimes after each man shares, the group can take a few minutes to give him feedback.

5. The next man takes his turn, until all men have checked-in.

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

Comments

What seems like a simple exercise takes on an emotional richness over time, as men find listeners and supporters for their life's pains and victories. This acknowledgment feeds a man's need for love and affection, and helps him feel better about himself and his life.

I look forward to my group's bi-weekly check-ins, since I draw strength from watching men I know so well wrestle with their life issues with courage and awareness. I know that I don't have to hide myself there; all my awkward, embarrassing, weak parts can be acknowledged, as well as my power and my successes.

Often a man's issue will create group discussion or evoke group support, or often a man will have strong feelings while he is sharing. These developments can effect how long a man's story will be. A solution to timing problems is to have a clear ground rule: Everyone will take ten minutes. And then the group should agree if someone wants more time. Otherwise some men will start feeling anxious about their turn, who's in charge, etc.

Title Group Beginnings and Endings

Type Ritual

Description

These short exercises open and close the group in a conscious way. Following these practices, or others you develop, helps men to remember that we have come together for a special time and special focus. This remembering feeds our soul's desire for intimacy and wisdom.

Steps

1. Group meetings may start or end with all men standing together and hugging each other. At the group's end, any man who has shared deeply or who wants support can enter the middle. Men gather around him and touch him or hug.

2. The group may begin or end with a period of silence; men either look at each other or close their eyes.

3. The group may begin or end with a sitting or standing circle of men holding hands for several minutes.

4. The group may begin or end with a chant (OOOMMMM; AAHHHHH or a phrase created by the group.)

5. The leader can start with a short guided meditation in which he invites the men to breathe into their bodies, to let go of the errands of the day, and to find the deep truth that they want to share tonight.

6. The leader for the night ends by saying, "Well I guess that's it."

Or "Go Niners, Go Giants, What about them Lakers, or See You." (This is a joke.)

7. Check the creative arts sections for possibilities for movement and sound endings.

Comments

Groups will experiment with various beginnings and endings until they find ones that members connect with. It is important to use a consensual process and to let group members check-in from time to time as to how the openings and closings are going.

Check-in and ritual beginnings mark a change; we create a boundary against world, with its quick pace and incessant errands. We slow down and enter our hearts and our bodies in a new way. We find out what our souls want to say to us.

Title Using the Talking Stick

Type Ritual

Description

This exercise also creates a ritualized, focused atmosphere in which men can tell their story. Men long to be deeply heard and witnessed, in ways that their parents might not have been able to do for them.

Steps

0. Prior to meeting, the group decides that it wants to use a talking stick, and makes one. One man or the group can create the stick. (See below)

1. The leader for the night starts the group in the usual way. He describes the purpose of the talking stick (as he holds it aloft) and the simple rules. Only the person with the talking stick shares; others pay attention. The leader decides if the men have unlimited time with the stick or five ten or fifteen minutes. (After the first few times, this step may no longer be necessary.)

2. Then the leader puts the stick in the center of the circle. When a man feels ready to speak, he picks up the stick and begins.

3. When he is done, he puts the stick back in the center of the room and the group falls silent till the next man picks up the stick and shares whatever he wants with the group.

4. After everyone has shared, or time has elapsed, the leader closes the group in the usual way.

Comments

Men's groups have been adapting this stick ritual from Native Americans for at least a decade. It changes the atmosphere within which men are speaking. The stick helps us to let go of our ever-present mind-chatter and focus our attention on the speaker. This deep attentiveness often touches the heart of the speaker.

The group can choose to embue the stick with blessings, prayers, and intentions while they are creating it or beginning to use it. For example, the first time it is used in the circle, each man can say something like, "Let this stick always remind me to tell the truth...to take a risk, etc."This creative process (decorating the stick with different paints, artifacts, feathers, etc.) can be a process which takes a whole group meeting. This artistic experience can bond the group. While the members make the stick, men can say what various adornments mean to them, and what their intentions are when they use the stick.

Materials

Sticks, feathers, colored yarns, bones, paints, shells, etc.

Title Important Group Discussion Topics: Group Creation

Type Discussion

Description

These exercises help men to talk about group agreements and understandings. Agreement about these topics creates a set of benchmarks that group members can refer back to as the group continues. The discussion of such core topics creates group safety and cohesion.

Steps

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

2. He begins a group discussion by asking one of the following questions.

A. Group Creation: What kind of group do I want to be in? (Refer to Chapter 6 for possible answers.)

B. Commitment: What is my commitment to the group: time, attention, etc.? Will I make group participation a priority?

C. Leadership: What kind of leadership do I want in the group? Am I willing to be a leader? Will I be willing to deal with my issues about leadership in an honest, non-blaming way?

3. Men go around the circle and answer whichever question the group leader has recommended.

4. Open dialogue can follow after the whole group has commented on a question.

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

Comments

Please refer to Chapter 3 for more information about Questions B and C; these last two topics come from the list of issues that cause the group to have communication problems.

In Chapter Nine: Stages of the Group, Plateaus and Problems, I bring up these same questions again, because the group is always working with them, either consciously or unconsciously. The discussions on this page should take two to three weeks, if each question is asked and investigated deeply. The group should take its time. Care taken here will help solve a lot of questions and problems that can come up later in the group.

Title Important Group Discussion Topics: Personal Dynamics

Type Discussion

Description

These exercises help men to talk about personal dynamics which will emerge as the group meets. The power of groups is that they magnify old communication and personality patterns, in an environemnt where we can observe them and change them. The open discussion of such core topics creates group safety and cohesion.

Steps

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

2. He starts a group discussion by asking one of the following questions.

A. Greatest Fear: What is my greatest fear in this group? What might go wrong that would hurt me?

B. Creating and Avoiding Intimacy: What method would I use to stay isolated from the group? (Humor, sarcasm, criticism of others, spacing out, not coming.)

C. Family Patterns: What family patterns do I feel are evoked by my participation in the group?

D. Dominance: Who dominates the airtime in the group? What is he talking about during this time? How do the group members feel at these times? Interested, passive, angry, bored?

E. Truthtelling: Are men committed to truthtelling instead of blaming? Are they willing to practice being self-responsible?

3. Men go around the circle and answer whichever question the group leader has recommended.

4. Open dialogue can follow after the whole group has commented on a question.

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

Comments

Please refer to Chapter 3 for more information about topics B-E; these topics come from the list of issues that cause the group to have communication problems. This particular exercise requires men to talk about the inner experience of the group, and it asks the members to be vulnerable and non-blaming.

In Chapter Nine: Stages of the Group, Plateaus and Problems, I bring up these same questions again, because the group is always working with them, either consciously or unconsciously. These discussions should take several weeks, if each question is asked and investigated deeply. The group should take its time. Care taken here will help solve a lot of questions and problems that can come up later in the group.

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.

Click here to continue to next exercise.

Click here to continue

Click here to return to Men's Groups page.

Click here to continue


Help us help men
$20  
Every $20 helps!

Articles | Men's Stories | Poetry | What's here? | Home Page | Search MenWeb | E-mail MenWeb

Press the "Back" button on your browser to return