Friday, September 10, 2004

Attend to the warrior within

Men?s group explores gender specific issues

Jim Mulenos, left, and Cam Cooper have formed a new Men?s Group.

Duck blinds, locker rooms, construction sites, fishing boats. All these places bring to mind places where men gather and sometimes talk. But according to Wood River Valley residents Cam Cooper and Jim Mulenos those sites come with preconceived ideas about what and how men converse.

Mulenos and Cooper are participants in the Sun Valley Men?s Group that meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday evenings in the Fireside Room of St. Thomas Church in Ketchum.

On Monday, Sept. 13, they are issuing an invitation to all men to attend. ?They?ll get information and get a sense of what the group is like,? Mulenos said.

The group?s purpose, according to Cooper and Mulenos, is to ?raise consciousness and serve our community, explore issues of men and power, personal growth, to learn how to relate to women, to build a new circle of friends, and to have a good time in a unique social experience.?

The group, which has no religious overtones or affiliations, came into being after Mulenos and several others attended a Mankind Project training weekend.

Mulenos said this group is not affiliated officially with Mankind Project but uses some of that organization?s training and tools.

Mankind Project is a nonprofit educational and training organization for men in the U.S. as well as several other countries around the world.

According to their Web site, in the training ?a man learns how to be fully accountable for his actions and their consequences; how to begin integrating the dark and soulful qualities of his masculine nature; how to stand up and take full responsibility for his life. He learns to find courage in the face of his deepest fears, and to understand the he has the opportunity to live a life of integrity and congruence.?

A member of the local group, Jerry Hutchins had gone through the Mankind Project training in Kentucky before he moved here to work for the school district three years ago.

He said that it?s ?okay to be in the Sun Valley group if you haven?t done it, but going through the weekend training solidifies what it?s all about.

?One of the things you start learning when those red flags go up when you?re working with someone is that it?s not necessarily about the other person.? The red flag may instead be a message about what?s inside of you as well.

?People do have heavy issues,? Hutchins said. ?It?s interesting to see the growth with the people who?ve been there just for a short time. Learning these skills are very helpful to men particularly.?

Hutchins added that the Sun Valley Men?s Group might do a weekend training session in the Mankind mode someday.

Right now the group has approximately 11 members, and everyone has stories, Cooper said. ?It?s as effective just to listen to what other men are saying. There is trust and safety in the group. Our two main goals are for men to meet in a safe place and to become warriors in the emotional sense,? Cooper said.

The warrior issue comes up often. Cooper and Mulenos explain that the word should be thought of in an archetypal way.

?It?s very simple, solid and old,? Cooper said.

A peaceful warrior, in fact, is the man who protects his family and home, who helps and gives service, who acts out of compassion and not fear.

Generations have not known how to teach boys to be true warriors, Cooper and Mulenos said. One of the reasons the mid to younger boomer generation has had troubles growing up and dealing with responsibility is that they never went to war, never formed a band of brothers.

?But we still have to be warriors,? Cooper said.

?When we?re not taught how to be peaceful warriors, men use the impulse to dominate instead,? Cooper explained. ?The old warrior in me is not going way.?

?It?s one man at a time,? Mulenos added. ?There is a fear for men, that they can not express themselves emotionally, that we?d look weak. Being emotional doesn?t make us weaker, it makes us stronger. We become peaceful warriors.?

Both men insist the group is not simply a navel gazing self-help gathering. ?We?re not taking the place of a counselor, marriage or mate. It?s not a substitute just another possibility,? Mulenos stressed. What they want to accomplish is action as well.

?As we become better men and become whole we also get outside ourselves. We want to be stewards for our children and be of service in the community.?

Hailey based, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Robert Payne concurs that groups such as the Sun Valley Men?s Group can help men realize that they?re not alone in their struggle.

?Males have a tendency to isolate relationships, which are usually built around activities and competitions and less to do with relating to each other. What I know about Jim?s group is that it has the emotional component and understanding. Men struggle with the same things. We?re socialized to compete and not to relate, but it?s not beyond our capacity by any means.?

Finally, it?s about integrity, Cooper said. And this attitude transmits out of the group into all aspects of life, to the way the men deal with their wives, children, business partners and others.

For more information call Jim Mulenos at 720-5433.

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