Have you ever attended a men’s group meeting? Do you even know what one is? A good friend of mine had long been active in men’s groups, and although he had mentioned his involvement before, I simply assumed a men’s group was a club or lodge, like the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Elks Lodge, Moose Lodge, Lions, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus or Rotary Club.
It wasn’t until I was 46 years old that I fully came to understand the concept of a men’s group when my friend Bob invited me to one of their meetings. I recall in the days leading up to the meeting having serious second thoughts about attending. Bob had invited two more of our friends but both had backed out, so I was to be the lone ranger. After much thought, I decided I didn’t want to let Bob down so I went ahead and attended the meeting. As it turned out, it was quite an enlightening experience.
I remember driving to Pasadena that Saturday morning where the meeting was being held. I was a bit apprehensive as I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Bob had briefed me but not in great detail. I knew the meeting had to do with men rediscovering their roots and sharing in a very personal and spiritual way. I’d also heard from someone at work that drumming somehow played a part in it, but I wasn’t really sure. Funny, but even as nervous as I was, I was kind of looking forward to finding out what it was all about.
The meeting was held in a small basement beneath a very quaint bookstore near the corner of Lake and California Ave. Bob was out front when I arrived. We talked for a few minutes then he asked me if I was ready for an experience of a lifetime. I said sure and we headed into the store.
We walked through the aisles of books to a small staircase at the rear of the store and started down. As we moved down the stairs, the first thing I noticed was the sweet smell of incense. It was powerful and filled my head with memories of my youth, my altar boy experiences whirled around in my mind, then slowly melted into a series of sixties flashbacks. I swear I could hear Donovan’s Sunshine Superman playing in my head.
Once downstairs we entered a large room with a low ceiling. The wood beams creaked and groaned whenever someone passed overhead adding a kind of surreal quality to what I was already experiencing. On one side of the room, there were perhaps a dozen or more drums of different types, in a variety of sizes and shapes. In the far corner, there was a large table set up as a make shift altar with a collection of artifacts from many different cultures. There were small statues and incense burners, a conquistadors helmet, a sword, stone tools and amulets. On one end there was a statue of a saint and a Buddha, some old keys and polished stones, several photographs and many other items. While in another setting I may have seen the assorted items as a collection of rubble, here, in this basement refuge, I saw treasures which added to the mystic, spiritual and magical feel of the experience. I felt as though I had entered into some ancient sacred cult hidden away in a deep, dark cave. My curiosity was fully aflame!
I walked around the room for several minutes meeting and greeting the others in attendance. There were 14 of us in all, each of us there searching for something meaningful that we could hold on to and take away with us into our everyday lives.The meeting was actually more of a workshop, with a series of directed activities. The speaker/director was an extremely passionate gentleman by the name of Zubaty (I can’t recall his first name) an author, who spoke with real conviction and had a lot of good things to say. I really enjoyed listening to him, but he was a bit of an anti-feminist. Bob directed an incredible story telling activity and yes, there was drumming and it was relevant. It was a very moving experience and quite an inspirational day, I’m glad I was there.
The following morning I awoke thinking about the men’s group, the sense of community and brotherhood I’d felt, remembering the personal stories, the shared victories and sorrows, the honesty and mutual respect, all of us together in a safe place supporting one another, growing together on our journey towards wholeness.
Then I remembered what Zubaty had said about spirituality and surrendering yourself to God, and as I lay there I suddenly felt as though God was calling me, beckoning me to go to his House. I immediately got up, dressed and went to 8:00 mass. Ironically, in the sermon, Father Peter spoke about surrendering yourself to the Lord. It’s strange how many times I’ve gotten this urge to go to church and once there, the sermon winds up being totally relevant to my situation. Coincidence? I think not.
Later that night after I turned out the lights I laid awake thinking about the men’s group again and the message I came away with. I really believe that my experience there was a good one. I know that what we did, opened my eyes to many, not new things, but things I had simply overlooked. I know that what I came away with changed my thinking and my way of life. I highly recommend it to all men looking for a deeper meaning, inner strength, and the comfort of knowing we are not alone….
“We don’t need more education. We need more spirituality – more of a sense of how to live happily with less.” Zubaty