October 11, 2019
2019 has been a challenging year for me with the death of my sister in early May, then the death of my mother in late September.
I was going to write about my experiences going through these milestone events but I’m still in process over my mother’s passing. At both transitions I was the sole member of my family present. The rest of my family would have liked to have been there but in the end, I was the only one.
It both instances I felt enormous grief, yet also gratitude and compassion. It was a blessing to have been there doing what I could to ease the transitions. Perhaps sometime in the future, I will speak more about how living consciously through their deaths has provided me with gifts I never thought possible. It has certainly brought home to me the inevitable truth we most all face: “How will I face and embrace my own death?”
For this newsletter however, I will focus on values and share part of a workshop Jody and I facilitated at the last gathering. The content of this workshop is what guides me in my daily life and helps me to maintain some manner of consistency in my desire to live with intention. It also provided me with comfort and direction while I was living into these experiences of death.
If you attended our workshop, I hope this won’t be redundant for you, my intention is to encourage you to continue with your work on values.
Let me begin with this statement:
“Somewhere between my ambition and my ideals. I lost my ethical compass.” -Jeb Stuart Magruder (Watergate co-conspirator)
In my past, there have been times when I recognized I was out of integrity with myself. There’s a shadow in each of us that feeds our ambition; and given free rein, it can overwhelm our best intentions. Sometimes this shadow may show up in the form of a small lie, an unspoken truth, a betrayal, or an easier softer way during a conflict, instead of meeting it head on. Whatever form it takes, it can compromise our best intentions.
At our last gathering, Jody Grose and I facilitated a workshop on accessing the mature King Archetype. In the workshop we talked about the importance of knowing your core values.
It’s surprising how many people don’t give values any thought, let alone, know what values are. Or, more importantly, what their core values are.
“Values are principals or standards of behavior: one’s judgement of what is important in life.” Oxford English Dictionary
Living our values means walking our talk. We’re clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs. If we don’t have clarity of values, we don’t have anywhere else to look or focus and we’ll bend to the wishes of others.
Core values provide us with clarity, a North Star that guides us in times of darkness. It’s how we establish a good internal support system.
When choosing your values, three questions to ask yourself are:
When I first did this exercise on my own, it was easy to choose fifteen, but it became increasingly more difficult when I had to start narrowing my choices. What I realized was that some of the values I had chosen were actually dependent on another value. What I finally settled on that rang true for me was Courage. Without courage, I could not live into any of the other values I felt were important.
Once you decide on your core values it’s crucial to make sure you have outside support that can help you to be accountable for aligning with them. Supporters should be those who love and care about you, who see your humanness, and will honestly tell you the truth. They know your heart and who you aspire to be. They will lovingly confront you when you may be close to slipping out of integrity.
Important questions for ongoing support:
Living your life with core values guiding you, is another way to grow yourself up. You’re not bending to the wishes of others or living someone else’s desires.
My sister knew two years prior to her death that she was terminal and there was no chance of survival. And she knew her core values were honesty and truth. And encouraged those around her to always speak honestly about how they were feeling. She made it easy to be with her and she chose to die on her own terms. Her transition was beautiful. She died modeling courage and grace. My mother didn’t have the same awareness and her death was much different. But because I held my core values close to me, I felt grounded and supported. I was able to guide my mother while she faced her death, offering love, care, compassion and validation about how she lived her life, when she couldn’t validate herself. If I didn’t have this internal support, I’m not sure I could have done it.
If you didn’t attend our workshop at the gathering and wish to explore more about values, please email me and I will forward the values list to you.
Likewise, if you did attend the workshop and wish to clarify any questions that may be lingering, you can email me as well.
Paul Gemme ( email@example.com) and the COMEGA OC
My wife, Maureen, and I recently returned home from a great motorcycle adventure touring through Pennsylvania Amish country and into the mountains of Virginia. Each summer since I retired we hit the road on the bike for at least a month. In 2017 we traveled coast to coast; stopping each night in a different town, crossing 22 states and staying at lots of hotels. 2018 destination was Montana, by way of Canada, then across the northern states and then Yellowstone.
This year we limited our adventure to ten days with multiple night stays in a couple of places, which made our adventure more spontaneous and relaxing. We took tons of barn pictures, (for my photo blog), played in the mountains, and took leisurely rides to check out local attractions.
Most days we were back at a house we had rented by midafternoon, sitting on the porch watching young calves playing in the field directly across from the house. Each afternoon we also witnessed rain storms roll over the mountains a few miles in the distance. One afternoon we watched as a wall of rain slowly crept across the field in front of us eventually drumming out a beat on the tin roof over our heads and breaking the heat with a cooling breeze. It was relaxing and meditative.
The moment we left our driveway at the start of our adventure we felt relaxed and in the flow. We allotted ourselves enough time with our plan for plenty of stops; limiting the amount of miles we would ride before we stopped for the night.
Maureen’s excellent navigation skills always found uncongested back roads, nurturing food stops, and interesting parks and historical sites to visit. We felt supported by the Universe with serendipitous happenings and with people we came in contact with. It’s easy to meet people when you roll into a restaurant, hotel or National Park and they spot all the travel stickers from across the country on our little trailer. We even had a mechanical breakdown on the bike where we were dead on the road. What could have been a catastrophe, turned out to be a minor hiccup, and we were offered support by people we had never met before. Incredible!
Sounds relaxing, right?
It would be wonderful if I could maintain that sense of aliveness, support, nurturing, and love of life consistently, even when I’m not on a holiday, but unfortunately, stuff beyond my control still happens. Maureen and I were living in vacation mode while everything we left behind was still plodding on.
We rolled into our driveway to find a lawn looking like a hayfield, a garden that resembled a jungle from all the weeds and wildlife that took up residence in there. The resident groundhog and rabbits were eating through the garden like a buffet.
I have my OC responsibilities that need following up on, my adult children who need some help, and then, when I call my 99 year old mother who lives alone in Florida, I find her in total crisis. She lost her wallet (in her house), it’s been missing for two weeks with her credit card, medical ID, SS number (which she doesn’t remember), and she sounds horrible (raspy voice). She’s worried because she doesn’t know what to do, and therefore, hasn’t been eating or sleeping well. It’s starting to affect her heart condition which is exacerbating her anxiety. Then it hits me! Shit! I’ve got a lot of stuff to take care of.
Over the next couple of hours I triage what my priorities should be, plus the new responsibilities from the OC meeting I just attended, and I find that I’m getting aggravated and annoyed much easier. Every little extra chore feels like another rock I have to carry. I want to blame people for putting extra burdens on me or not meeting my expectations of them. My morning meditations start to get shorter and I skip one or two yoga classes because “there’s so much to do.”
When I go outside to tend to my garden I find myself getting pissed at the rabbits and the fat ass groundhog that lives under my shed and continues to decimate my garden. And I feel violated! I want to kill them!
Bing! Oh yeah, that feeling of being violated. I breathe into the feeling of being violated, and recall the specific times I felt violated, impotent, scared and betrayed as a child and how angry I became from those violations. Feeling violated is my biggest trigger. I breathe in deeply and remember I have the ability to be in my power even if I feel powerless. I’m not that wounded kid, I’m an adult, with tools, abilities, knowledge, wisdom and support.
I recall a Celtic quote: “You don’t give a man a sword who can’t dance.”
To be able to dance you need to remain flexible and light. If the man is rigid he’ll swing the sword right into his own personal hell. I had been too rigid and wanted to control and power my way through my issues. The way through was to release into my wounds, feel them, then breathe into my wellness with compassion and grace. So be it.
I deepened my morning meditations. I remain consistent with my yoga practice. I booked and enjoyed a 90 minute massage. I’m eating food that supports my health and lifestyle. And I breathe. Deeply.
I realized, when dealing with my mother’s issue, I found my getting annoyed at her resistance to receiving help. It became clear to me that that my mom’s resistance was the shame and self-loathing she felt after losing her wallet and her inability to care for herself like she used to. It was by meeting her with empathy and compassion that we were able to resolve her problem. She now has her wallet and will soon be on her way to live with my brother.
My garden is looking good, the critters, which I love, (nah, maybe just tolerate) and I seem to have come to an understanding, there’s plenty for all of us. My lawn is mowed, although it needs mowing again; and I’m finally writing this newsletter.
I even had enough time to finally go through my sister’s papers and sort out what to keep and what I can let go of. The gift I received from that was the deep appreciation and pride I have for who my sister was and how she lived her extraordinary life.
What steps do you take when you’re overwhelmed?
What do you need to put into your life to minimize stress?
How do you betray yourself when you’re flooded with responsibility?
Be well and remember. “We strive for perfection, and settle for progress.”
In the spirit of brotherhood,
Paul Gemme and the COMEGA OC
As I pack for another motorcycle trip I can feel my excitement building. I love the adventure of being on the road and the anticipation of what’s around the corner. When you take a road trip in a car it’s similar to looking out the window at a movie screen, but on a motorcycle you are the movie. You feel and experience every subtle rise and drop in temperature as you pass from sunlit to shaded road. You smell the subtle fragrances of Honeysuckle and Pine of the forests; and even the overwhelming putrid smells of mid-west stock yards let you know you’re alive. Adventure.
Although I keep my machine in top shape, there’s still the potential element of surprise. I often have to be aware of rambunctious deer bounding across the road or the errant dead truck tire on a densely fog covered stretch of highway. But the sense of aliveness I feel on these roads trips is always worth the risk. As Paulo Coelho once said, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal.”
I used to get the same feeling of aliveness when I helped my friend Jody facilitate week long father/son canoe trips on the Penobscot and Allagash rivers in Maine. They were always filled with wonder, excitement, and wildlife. Curiosity about what was around the next bend, and the transformative magic the wilderness held for boys. Giving up cell phones (no use in the wild), to spending hours around the fire laughing and whittling spirit animals out of driftwood cedar. Magic.
For me, aliveness needs an element of fear, excitement and unpredictability. Even in times of discomfort I can find that aliveness. When I paddled the Pelly River in the Yukon Territories we were in grizzly country. Each evening when choosing a campsite we checked for bear scat, often having to search for another location when scat was too plentiful. Some nights I felt very uncomfortable crawling into my tent, trying to quell the pit in my stomach, knowing I was bedded down in an area that’s home to twenty-five percent of the world’s grizzly population. Uneasily Alive.
All of my adventures leave me with incredible memories, experiences and stories; but not enough to support the level of aliveness I want to feel in my daily experiences. I can, however, experience the same element of fear, excitement, unpredictability and discomfort when I allow myself to be consciously present and fully engaged with another person. Engagingly Present.
Living my sister’s approaching death with her this past year was one of my greatest learning moments. It forced me to feel alive despite my discomfort and pain. No withholding of feelings, truth, or fears; just pure openness and intimacy, which paved the path for being totally present to her the moment of her passing. Gratitude.
I also feel the aliveness in men’s groups when we’re deep in process and not just story telling. I feel my heart open, and my connection and love for the man sharing. Lovingly Alive.
During this last year I’ve tried to maintain more contact with my mother, who I don’t always see eye to eye with. She once yelled at me, calling me what she thought was an insult, “a damn liberal” during a disagreement. I chuckled a long time over that one. Anyway, I knew my mother was experiencing shame and guilt about my sister’s dying and her not being able to be physically available. And she was not very emotionally available either, but I still had a shit load of empathy towards her.
She’s ninety-nine years old and unable to travel, and because of her own difficult childhood she was never able to be emotionally present to herself or to others. She always reacted from her wounds.
I did want to support her though, and because of the work I’ve done it was easy to be present to her; even when she was avoiding her grief by trying to start an argument. I learned to accept and forgive her long ago and just by being present and fully engaged with her I felt an aliveness in our connection. Even to the point of her expressing her gratitude and appreciation of how I was living my sister’s death with her. Today I sent her pictures of my sister’s memorial service. I wanted to demystify for her what a Buddhist memorial ceremony looked like and hopefully, make her feel somewhat included. Compassion.
What makes you feel alive?
When during your everyday life do you have an opportunity to choose aliveness?
Which relationships in your life could you choose to be more alive in?
“You are not born a winner; you are not born a loser. You are born a chooser.”
Blessings, Paul Gemme firstname.lastname@example.org and the COMEGA OC
By Paul Gemme
I’m touched by the beauty of men today, but it wasn’t always like that.
I entered my journey into men’s work with a fear of men and a shit load of homophobia. My youth was spent trying to figure out how to fit in when I wasn’t good at sports, wasn’t one of the “in” kids. I was socially awkward.
My parents sent me to a Catholic boarding school because I wasn’t making it in public school and the corporal form of punishment, which was the school’s policy, appealed to them. They believed a hard slap across the face or a pants down around your knees and a paddle would straighten out any bad boy. It didn’t straighten me out though. In fact it fueled my rage and feelings of being violated, which can still be a trigger for me today.
Most of my days at school were spent in survival mode. The fact that the school was ‘all boys’ definitely cheated me out of my dating years. Not to mention dealing with the constant threat of sexual abuse by the Brothers handed me a healthy dose of “Fuck You.” It was during this time that my drinking and drugging began in earnest to escape the lack of nurturing and sole connection I was craving.
My adult life didn’t fare much better regarding my relationships with men. Most of my male connections were acquaintances or work mates but nothing in the realm of intimate connections. Being an introvert, I spent much of my free time alone. I built a home on six acres of land, way off the beaten path, with a long driveway so you couldn’t see the house, and I had two Doberman Pinchers to keep people away.
I was a bit frozen in my feelings and well-guarded against anyone who didn’t approve of my lifestyle or thought I was a threat. Pretty good defenses right? Wrong! It wasn’t long before it all began to unravel and I eventually lost my house, family, business, and myself, when I finally went head first over the edge.
I got sober in 1985, after years of dysfunction, with a hunger for something different. It was my sponsor and mentor, Smokey, who eventually began to thaw me out. Smokey helped me to, reluctantly at first, accept platonic love from another man. He worked in the local hospital drug and alcohol program and took me on as his personal mission.
We would walk down the street together, his arm around my shoulder, and he’d tell me what he loved about me. Whenever he would introduce me to someone he would always bless me by saying how good I was at this or that. After a while I began to believe it, he had great King energy, yet he was still my only male friend.
Being newly divorced, I was living in a little two room efficiency apartment and I hanging around with several woman friends, nothing sexual. I would drive these female friends to AA meetings and we would hang out together. It felt good to have close friends, even if they were women.
They told me everything. They felt safe with me. I knew when they got laid, when they were on their periods, all the things I felt were intimate. One day after a meeting we were all together and another woman, outside of our group, wanted to talk to my friends, but she stopped because I was there. One of my friends said: “Hey, don’t worry about Paul, he’s one of the girls.” At the time we all laughed, but the painful truth was not lost on me. I had no male friends except Smokey, my sponsor! That evening I made a commitment to begin developing healthy male friendships.
It wasn’t long after, Smokey and I attended a men’s workshop with Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Mead in Boston. I knew I had struck gold! I loved it!
Before the early years of COMEGA, I was already active in pursuing personal growth and passionately following my creative energies. I was making a living working in the field of addiction recovery while in my spare time building drums, Native American flutes and facilitating men’s and community drum circles and workshops.
During earlier COMEGA weekends I used to facilitate a mask making workshop. During the workshop I would use plaster gauze strips to cover a man’s face to form a mask while other men would act as supports for the man having a mask made. Some men would drum softly, others played flutes, while still other men would gently massage the participant’s shoulders and gently whisper affirmations or poetry to him. It was always a very sensual experience.
Sometimes the workshop would include twenty or more men, taking turns in various roles and three to four men having their mask made at the same time. In one such workshop, I may have personally made as many six to eight masks on different men. I was astounded by the diversity in each man’s face and the electrified energy I was drawing from each man. As my fingers followed the contours of each face the more beauty I experienced and the more I could feel the love I had inside me for each man, my body vibrating from the connection and tactile energy of each face.
As beautiful as this workshop was, it also raised hell with my back. That evening at the talent show with my back sore from bending over for hours, my body and mind still juiced from the workshop, a friend set up his massage table in the back of the room and began working on me. I started to clap following an act in the show and was amazed when beams of light, twelve inches long, extended from each of my fingers. I remember waving my hands in the air playing with the light beams. It was a profound moment for me that deepened my desire to continue connecting with men at a heart level.
At this past gathering we had a man I dearly love step into the circle to say his goodbyes to us. He told us he only has months to live and so would not be back to the gathering. He’s a man I hold dear to me and who was instrumental in healing much of my homophobia. As a gay man, he taught me how to be flirted with, by another man, without feeling threatened or ashamed. He also made me confront myself on the stereotypes I held about gay men. We were always able to greet each other with an authentic kiss on the cheek because we loved each other without sexual connotations. I will deeply miss this beautiful man.
As men we feel deeply, we love deeply, we laugh deeply and we grieve deeply; and to heal our wounds we need connections with other men who are doing the same work, even if that connection frightens us. Comega and men’s groups are the best arena I’ve found to do this work.
For myself, I find it very easy to love another man in his incompleteness if he’s willing to own his wounds and his desires to heal them. It’s men who don’t own their wounds, and leak on others unconsciously, that becomes a challenge for me. It reminds me of how I once lived.
As I reflect over my years attending Comega, I can think of hundreds of men who have imprinted on me what I love about men and the difficult work we’ve chosen to step into to heal ourselves, our relationships, our communities, and our families. We are true Warriors of men’s work!
I love all of you and your willingness to continue to show up!
I love your imperfections, and your messiness, your willingness to own your shit, and I love your willingness to make amends when warranted.
I love your fears and I love your courage to push pass them.
I love when you’re vulnerable, in pain, and you need to be held.
I love your deep-seated grief and I love your tears.
I love your belly laughs and I love your good spirited pranks.
I love your benevolence and I love your compassion.
I love that when I look at you I see myself reflected back.
March 28, 2019
By Paul Gemme
I was touched by the responses I received following the last newsletter on Vulnerability and I was deeply touched by one response in particular. The man had disclosed his difficulty having friends and the one friend he was closest too he found it difficult being totally truthful with. He recognized this shadow piece of himself and vowed to do better but the energy I felt from him was shame. I felt myself being drawn to him for his courage and willingness to share a piece of shadow and trusting me enough to disclose it. This is how we own it and heal it.
Several days prior to his reaching out I had been musing about what’s important to me when building trusted friendships. These traits may not be the same for you but they are important for me, not only for what I value in men but the way I want to develop myself.
In some ways I’m very old school. My dad always tried to instill in me that my word is my bond. Unfortunately, I didn’t always live up to that before I got sober; addicts are usually way out of integrity. I’d like to believe I live up to it today.
In the late 1990’s, my wife Maureen and I bought forty acres of land with a cabin in the Berkshires with just a hand shake and no money down, no interest, and no banks involved. We saw a piece of land with an old hand written For Sale sign nailed to a tree. We ventured into the woods and it wasn’t long before we fell in love with the property and the potential it held. After contacting the owner he agreed to meet us there and together we walked the property.
At the time Maureen and I didn’t have the finances to purchase the land but we felt such a connection to it we knew it was ours already. We also felt a connection to the owner because of his openness and honest disclosures. He told us he had bought the property with his fiancé and the original plan was to build and live there together. What was heartbreaking was she left him and it was painful to hold on to the piece because every time he paid taxes it just reminded him of his loss. We shared with him that we had no money but presented him with a plan to pay for the property. In the short afternoon we spent together we managed to forge a bond of trust by being honest with each other. We agreed to pay off the land in five years if he agreed to no interest and no down payment. (We honored his trust by paying it off in four.) We shook hands on the deal and when his attorney learned of the agreement he was livid and tried to convince the owner to get a down payment plus interest. His response to the attorney: “It’s a done deal, we shook on it. Just write it up.”
This is what I call integrity. For me there are other forms of integrity as equally important for building trust, especially when doing men’s work.
For example, I find connection with men who are willing to share their vulnerability, especially in a group setting. If I’m with a man who is witnessing other men being vulnerable but is unwilling to go there himself, then that smacks of voyeurism and shadow magician for me, and I have difficulty completely trusting that man. Shadow Magicians gather info to gain power for themselves without disclosing their own vulnerability, and disclosure is where true, mature power lies.
I also can feel safe when a man honors confidentiality. If they don’t, that’s more shadow Magician. When my wife asks, “How was your men’s group?” My answer is always “fine,” or “challenging,” nothing more, unless it’s about what I’m in process with. I never share about the men in the group.
It’s important for me to have men in my life who see my goodness and love me in spite of my shadow, and are willing to confront my blind spots in a loving supportive way. It’s OK if a man gets angry with me if that’s what comes up, but I need men who are committed to staying in relationship, working through it, and not disappearing. In turn, I need men in my life that can hear me, and can validate my feelings, even if they don’t agree with me if I confront them.
I’ve seen too many men cop a resentment and experience too much fear of conflict to confront a man in a healthy way. It’s easier for them to disappear rather than step into the fear and work towards resolution and create a trusting relationship. Sometimes you just need a third party to help you navigate the conflict, so you don’t betray yourself by going into avoidance.
It’s also easier for me to trust men who don’t talk shit about other men. It’s OK to have a reaction about a man’s behavior, but separate the behavior from the person. It’s important to understand that we’re all trying to find our way home and we’re going to make mistakes and we may be at different stages of our growth. We are all inherently good at our core. Men who talk shit about other men leave me wondering what piece of their shadow they’re projecting and I’m left feeling curious about what his understanding of men’s work is, and of his commitment to healing with men.
I need men in my life who do what they say they’re going to do, who honor their commitments and more importantly have enough self-worth to honor their “no.” Many of us had our ‘NO’ squashed as kids and it’s important to reclaim our choice.
Some questions to reflect on:
What qualities do you seek that allows you to feel a man is trustworthy?
Do you hold yourself accountable to live up to those qualities?
Do you initiate or engage in gossip, without being direct with the person being spoken about?
How do you react when you are held accountable?
When in conflict with a man, do you use fight or flight, rather than working to be complete?
How strong is your word?
How vulnerable are you vs how much do you withhold or deny?
In the spirit of brotherhood.
Paul Gemme ( email@example.com) and the COMEGA OC
While baking bread this morning I was struck by the process being oddly familiar to my journey into men’s work. Mixing all the dry ingredients reminded me of all the years I spent as a dry man. Intellect, thinking, and living in my head were the guiding forces that directed my life, and that left me feeling isolated and disconnected on a heart level. It was not until deep discontentment, addiction, and loss, forced me kicking and screaming to find another way. It took a “Dark Night of the Soul” experience to find a different way to live.
As I added the water and yeast combination and blended it with the dry ingredients it formed a rich moist batter, all I needed to complete my creation was to put it to the fire. Men’s growth is similar to baking bread, without the moisture and fire in our belly we’re just dry ingredients.
After letting the bread rise, I placed the loaf in the oven, then sat back to reflect on all my gratitude for the men in my life who put me to the fire and who I call upon to witness my darkness and incompleteness, men who nurture me and share wisdom and strength with their authenticity, moisture and humanness.
The “Dryness” men experience is a common theme among men who have not allowed themselves to be nurtured or held literally or figuratively in the energy of what Robert Bly would call, the “Male Mother.” Dryness is about living your life in your head and being disconnected from your body; the inability to access your feelings and living life numb. The moisture can only be achieved through deep emotional work. It’s not in the realm of the intellect, you can’t achieve it by reading about it or studying it. You drop into it through experiential work with other men. This is the realm of the Magician energy, and the Lover. The Warrior is about action; the Magician is the discernment brought to the Warrior and King.
Recently I had an experience where I developed some physical pain and shortness of breath. The pain became so severe I went to my doctor to run some tests. While sharing it in my men’s groups, a man with a highly developed Magician said to me, “Sounds like you’re resisting some fear in your life.”
As I sat and internally processed his statement I felt my own Magician energy acknowledging the truth of his wisdom. My sister, who I dearly love, is dying of terminal cancer. She requested that I build her casket because she values and trusts me, knowing I’ll honor her request for a green burial. Although I’ve been processing her pending death with the men in my life, I was also able to discern that I was indeed still withholding a deep level of fear and resisting truly dropping into the dark well of emotional grief. Only after doing a significant piece of grief work was I able to release the pain in my body and regain my breathing.
Magician energy is about intuition and feelings as well as the knowing that comes from experience. That knowing is often gained through mentorship and initiation from elders who have worked the path before us.
The Magician also has a shadow side, and if we’re not careful the shadow can disrupt our lives and the lives of those around us. It happens through manipulation or by playing dumb.
You hear me talk about the importance of men connecting with other men doing similar work, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t stress the importance of accessing the guidance of elders or mentors. These are the men who have come before us in this work. It’s these men who provide the boundaries and initiation that keep us on the path to manifesting right relationships with other men. I have known men new to this work join other novice men in forming men’s circles or groups. Without the wisdom or guidance of experienced mentors or elders, these groups often fall apart when the men are confronted with conflict. Elders have the experience of navigating these waters and can guide you through the process of men’s work. It’s noble to seek out elders, they’re usually just a phone call away.
It’s the boy energy that doesn’t reach out, and too many times these men disappear from the Hero’s Quest without completion or closure. The mature energy knows if you desire longevity on your path in seeking the Grail, you don’t do this alone. Without guidance, support, and Magicians in your life you’ll lack the clarity, resolve, and wisdom necessary to complete the parts of yourself that still need healing.
We’ll talk more about the Magician and the energy of the other Archetypes at our Spring COMEGA gathering.
And don’t forget about the Pre-Gathering Workshop starting Thursday April 25.
See the details at www.comega.org
THE TIME TO REGISTER IS NOW! It would help tremendously if men would pre-register. It helps us with planning with Camp Hazen, forming team eights, and gathering team 8 leaders.
Remember: Hold the vision of 115 men for the Spring Gathering.
I also have a request. If any of you men have pictures from past gatherings and you would like to share them. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . We would like more pictures for our website.
Thank you men,
Paul Gemme and the OC
Wishing my COMEGA brothers a Happy New Year.
For me, doing men’s work means living my life with as much intention and consciousness as possible, learning from my past, while committing to confront uncomfortable truths about myself.
This is the time of year I set aside to reflect on what worked for me and what didn’t during the past year.
I usually I like to pose questions to myself as a way of stimulating the process. I write these questions down as part of a ritual for the work I’m about to delve into. I ask each question to myself individually and enter into my meditation, sometimes with a candle burning, to fully explore the implications of the question. Over the next week or two I continue to let the question unfold within me. When I’m comfortable that I’ve received what I needed it’s time to present it to my mentor or brothers for feedback, support, and inquiries.
This year I have three questions to myself that feel important. The first is:
“What have I accomplished this past year that I’m proud of and may have had to push an edge to get too?”
I start with this question for a couple of reasons. If I have accomplishments, it helps me feel that I’m not remaining stagnant and that I may be making a difference in the world. This also helps me to feel good about myself and my life choices while challenging me to question the value of my accomplishments and who they serve.
Question two is:
“What mistakes did I make this past year, how did they affect me and others, and what can I learn from them?”
It takes a shitload of wisdom not to make mistakes, but it takes a lot of mistakes to gain wisdom. I have to embrace my mistakes with compassion, when my inner “victimizer” voice wants to “kill” or shame me.
There’s nothing more destructive to my well-being than letting the “Victimizer” take control. This is where the compassion has to come in.
Mistakes are just lessons to be learned on my journey to gaining wisdom and self-empowerment; so avoiding exploration of them is not an option. Learning from my mistakes is the most powerful tool I have, so it’s never a question of, “if I make a mistake but when I make a mistake”, and how will I embrace it?
Question three is:
“What hurts, shame, or small stories do I still carry that I need to let go of?”
This, for me, is probably the most significant of the three questions. If I don’t deal with this then I’m destined to continually relive my past unconsciously. This is a question that drops me deep within my shadow and forces me to re-experience places I want to avoid. It takes courage, commitment and support to live into the wounds and there’s the hidden danger of disassociation if I’m not fully committed to entering the process and breathing through it.
For those of you who are in twelve steps groups there is a statement in the literature that reads, “If I am experiencing any difficulty, what so ever, in my life, the problem is within me!”
This statement takes away any excuse I may have to play victim and places the responsibility back on me. I may have come by my wounds honestly, but it’s my responsibility to heal them so I don’t bleed on those who had nothing to do with my wounds.
As we enter into this New Year I encourage my brothers to take a well-deserved opportunity to spend time with yourself. I find a daily morning practice of meditation, yoga, and spiritual readings helps me to live with intention.
For those of you with a sustainable morning practice, keep on keeping on! For those of you without a practice I would suggest that even 15 minutes of some form of daily practice that is meaningful to you, would help you to live with more intention.
In the Spirit of Brotherhood,
Paul Gemme and the COMEGA OC
Reminder!! Let’s hold the vision for 115 men at the COMEGA Spring gathering and 50 men for the Pre-gathering workshop. You can add the vision to your daily morning practice. ☺
Winter is upon us. (Not a Game of Thrones reference)
I know for myself, it’s a time for self-reflection and inventory taking. I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions because, for me, they always lacked staying power. I find life style changes to be a more permanent form of lasting change and COMEGA has been a catalyst for me with lasting change.
This is also the time of year when I find myself in “Bear energy”; if I’m not living consciously, my tendency will be to hibernate and not do a whole lot, so I have to be on my guard to make sure I’m not isolating and I’m still in connection with my supports. I find the best way to do that is to make sure I have meaningful connections and commitments with activities that support my personal growth; i.e. men’s groups (2), monthly race dialog group, my daily yoga practice (both home and at the studio), my 12 step fellowship meetings, the work I do with the COMEGA OC, and all the family and grandchildren commitments.
So my questions to you is, “How are you taking care of yourself until our next gathering”?
“Are you in connection with COMEGA brothers”? If yes, “Who initiates the contact”?
“And what else can you do, proactively, to keep the spirit of COMEGA alive within you”?
This is also the time corporations and organizations are reviewing their past year of accomplishments, setting policy changes, setting new goals, and questioning what worked and what didn’t, and COMEGA is no different. The OC is constantly looking at areas where we, as men, can grow personally, and grow the organization at the same time. It often means supportively confronting each other so we don’t get trapped in “Bear Energy” and fall into hibernation. Trying to do COMEGA work around the holidays can be challenging so it requires a lot of Warrior and King Energy as well as support from our brothers.
After the holidays, the OC will be asking for support from our community brothers. We’ll send out requests for assistance with specific tasks we could use help with. It will be an opportunity to take ownership for our gathering while providing some breathing space for the OC, as we continue to plan for our upcoming, three day weekend in the spring. Any support you can give with these tasks will be graciously appreciated.
And if you’re finding yourself isolating and feeling a lack of connection over the next several weeks, one very important thing you can do to support yourself right now, is to pre-register for the spring gathering, and connect with two new men. Talk to them about how much the gathering has meant to you and encourage them to register and attend. Not only will it support the organization, but it will help to keep the spirit of COMEGA alive in you throughout the winter.
And if you’re interested, below are some of the accomplishments the OC has implemented. We will continue working to make COMEGA a cutting edge men’s gathering.
Paul Gemme and the COMEGA OC
If you would like to respond to the newsletters, go to the COMEGA website and click the contact link. www.comega.org
COMEGA Achievements – From December 2015
The following is a list of achievements, changes, and upgrades that we have made since December of 2015. It is not likely a complete list, nor fully detailed. However, it is hoped that it will highlight what men’s dedication through passion, vision, and diligence through service has accomplished.
1) Re-write the culture norms and have copy available for distribution at every COMEGA gathering.
2) Create a new website, addressing the need to upgrade from the existing one from an archaic platform.
3) Change the fee structure from a sliding scale to a financial aid structure with inclusion of a bursary sub-committee and oversite by a chairman who is an OC member.
a. Create a guiding procedural document.
4) Create a Circle of 8, (Team 8) sub-committee & offer training for men for paired leadership at gatherings
a. Solicit men for leadership role.
b. Brief and debrief leaders at gatherings.
c. Implement 2 facilitators for each team of eight.
5) Address problems with data base. (Ongoing).
a. Inclusion of data such as first COMEGA attendance and number of gatherings attended.
6) Institute process of personal check-ins O.C. meetings.
7) Support consciousness about cis gendered gatherings & support acceptance of change to accept trans- men at gatherings.
8) Invite leadership from other men’s gatherings OC’s to our gathering inclusive of fee waiver to support cross cultural sharing and inclusion.
9) Create special “sessions” at weekends to address various important happenings:
a) Honoring of co-founder Norbert Gauthier’s passing.
b) The burying of Norbert’s ashes and AA medallion.
c) The celebration of our 50th gathering.
d) The honoring and eulogizing of Mark Hillyer, (Baldy) as he approached his passing.
10) Soliciting of solid workshop offerings from men in the community prior to the weekends.
11) Move the endings on Sunday from 11:30 back to 3:00 p.m.
12) Increase the food quality.
13) Support of a liaison with the Ritual Committee.
14) Ritualize honoring of men leaving the OC and new men coming onto the OC at gatherings.
15) Create and execute standard vetting questions for potential new OC members.
a. Create a vetting team and process of vetting men.
b. Use similar vetting process with men for bursary committee.
16) Create written guidelines for weekend MC’s.
17) Start the write - up of various job descriptions and procedures. (Ongoing).
a. Creation of an electronic location to store these. (Ongoing).
18) Start visioning of a New England wide men’s gathering.
19) Solicit MC’s for the talent show prior to the weekend gathering.
20) Create a welcome committee and post men at locations to welcome men as they arrive.
21) Create a new ritual opening reading based in the archetypes.
22) Begin to invite in eldership by offering mentoring of key roles such as: Team 8 leadership, MC roles, and with OC members, including the invitation of men to choose a mentor at the weekend.
23) Start a community wide dialogue that takes place on Sunday afternoons.
24) Move the spring gathering to a more advantageous time, from March to April.
25) Start to address issues of race & racism thru a weekend theme & gathering follow up topic workshops.