Article reprinted with permission from the Ashland Daily Tidings in Ashland, Oregon (2003)

Until recent centuries, men were initiated into manhood by older men who stamped them with their life mission, a sense of service to the community, respect for women and the earth, an appreciation of their coming role as fathers and a grasp of the group's mythology and values.

In search of that "lost rite of passage to the sacred masculine," scores of men - including 210 from Ashland in past years - are heading off to the woods of Southwest Washington for a weekend initiation in the New Warrior Training Adventure.

"I would describe it as: You come Friday night and go down into some intense games that bond you with other men," said Bill Kauth of Ashland, one of three men who originated the training in Wisconsin 17 years ago. "On Saturday, you work on your life's mission and we create a situation for each man to go deep into his heart. We use ceremony and ritual. On Sunday, we prepare men to take what they've learned back into the world."

The games, processes and ceremonies are not spoken about after the training, except among the men themselves, when they attend eight-week "integration groups" to develop skills and understandings acquired on the retreat. The groups usually continue for years and perform helpful projects in the community.

Using the motto, "Changing the world one man at a time," New Warriors have trained some 23,000 men in 27 centers in the U.S., plus more in Europe, Canada, South Africa and Australia, said Dennis Mead-Shikaly, an Ashland personal coach, New Warrior facilitator and executive director of NWTA in the mid-1990s. [currently 38 centers, with over 42,000 men trained]

What brings them, he said, is a "hunger for initiation into the order of men" which, unfulfilled, arises in middle age and even in men in their sixties and seventies.

"We've lost that primal urge for initiation," Mead-Shikaly said. "We've lost the teachings of the sacred masculine and as a result, men across the planet are way out of balance and out of touch with themselves. What they learn in the initiation is how to be accountable, responsible, emotionally awake and able to relate to women in a good way."

"Males need to go from the psychology of a boy to the psychology of a man," said Carl Griesser of Ashland, executive director of the ManKind Project, the umbrella corporation for NWTA. "Our culture thinks that will just happen. It doesn't. In becoming a man, you need to become spiritually conscious and that's something older men have to teach younger men."

What is being spiritually conscious? "It means being aware," said Mead-Shikaly, "that we are part of a fabric and that what we do impacts other beings and species in that fabric. We are part of nature and not separate or better than nature."

Kauth added, "The abuse of Mother Nature can be laid at the feet of uninitiated men, who have no boundaries and no accountability."

At the training, men are bluntly asked who they serve, said Mead-Shikaly. "Men quiver with this question, because they've been trained to look at their work as something outside themselves. It's about: get what you can. The question pulls them out of denial about how they live everyday life and sets the stage for looking at their life's mission in terms of service."

New Warriors stress that they don't supply anyone with their mission and are therefore, not a cult, said Griesser. "We give birth to men who create their own mission." The result is increased "social capital" - the trust, mutual support and cooperative relationships that serve as the "glue of society," said Kauth.

The NWTA organization struggles with the stereotype of "naked men in the woods drumming and pounding on their chests," said Mead-Shikaly, but that stereotype is only used to "trivialize what threatens the culture's mindset," such as the New Warriors' philosophy that war is a projection of the "demons and dragons" that rage within uninitiated males.

"War is obsolete," said Kauth. "Men must now battle what's inside, not outside."

Male bonding may be another stereotype but, Kauth added, "It's a connection most men have never experienced before."

"Most men are terrified of other men," noted Griesser.

"We're bred to compete," said Mead-Shikaly. "It's instinctive. That's why we're isolated. We hide our weaknesses and that keeps us lonely, separate and afraid. From that place we get sick and do sick things, like trying to dominate women and the planet."

Under the facade of strength and domination, men maintain (and deny) an unhealthy relationship of fear, dependence and mother-fixation toward women, he said.

"Men coming out of the training tend to be strongly committed to healthier, more honest relationships with their partners. It can shake a woman up but most say they love the men we send home to them," Mead-Shikaly said.

New Warriors do a lot of work to understand and embrace "the shadow," a concept from Jungian psychology, meaning the shameful and uncomfortable parts of our minds that, because they are denied, will "rise up and destroy" our best-laid plans and relationships, said Kauth.

A huge amount of male sexuality lies in shame within the shadow, Mead-Shikaly noted, and the training helps bring about a "more healthy sense of the body" and an understanding that "sex doesn't work unless the heart works."

The New Warrior is a nonprofit organization operating without grants or government funding. It has many spinoff trainings, for couples, resolving parental issues, one for Vietnam vets, "Beyond the Machine" for twenty-somethings and, just starting in Southern Oregon, "Boys to Men," a crossing into manhood for boys about 14 years of age. Contact for the New Warrior, which costs $650 and is held about every two months, is Northwest Center Director Paul Moss in Ashland, at 201-1062.

Reprinted by permission.

Copyright 2003 Ashland Daily Tidings 541.482.3456. 1661 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, OR 97520. Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.

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Copyright 2003 Ashland Daily Tidings 541.482.3456. 1661 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, OR 97520. Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.

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