Several weeks ago, I ventured up to the Berkshires on a cold Friday morning to participate in a three day intensive retreat organized by a powerful organization called EVRYMAN. I‘ve been involved in nearly a dozen trainings and retreats over the past two years. This one stretched me and brought me to my edge like no other has. I’m still processing what I experienced that weekend.
EVRYMAN is a B Corporation that aims to connect men more deeply to themselves and others. They achieve this through groups, retreats, online programs, leadership training, wilderness adventures and more. The company was co-founded by a group of remarkable men with experience in community building, leadership development, coaching, education and media. It’s built off Co-Founder Owen Marcus’ thirty plus years of work with men. There are now more than a hundred EVRYMAN groups that meet regularly throughout North America and beyond. The community has grown organically through word of mouth and PR.
EVRYMAN’s vision and mission is multifaceted. The organization aspires to destigmatize men’s vulnerability and emotionality across our culture. They plan to help virtually anyone — regardless of training — to start and run their own EVRYMAN group. They have an explicit goal to support and serve one million men over the next five years. Most importantly, they are helping men develop new ways of interacting that lead to greater success, meaning, and fulfillment.
There are three pillars embedded into the EVRYMAN experience: emotional, somatic and flow. Emotional points to how we experience the world through our emotions. Somatic points to how our body’s physiology responds before our emotions. Flow points to the state of being present in action. By developing and focusing on these pillars, we’re able to more effectively and efficiently tap into our inner resources and intelligence.
The retreat I attended was called Men’s Emotional Leadership Training (MELT), which is one of the advanced retreats offered by EVRYMAN. The purpose of this training was to dive deep into the ‘EVRYMAN Method’ and provide the participants with the tools required to facilitate our own groups. While I have hundreds of hours of coaching training, MELT was at an emotional depth and intensity I haven’t experienced.
Here’s a visual representation the EVRYMAN Method:
Over the course of the retreat, the facilitators deconstructed the thirteen stages of the ‘Evryman Method’ through instruction, breakout exercises and group discussions. This included deep emotional and somatic work on an individual and collective level. It was a multi-sensory experience which I believe helped the group fully grasp the method conceptually and experientially. It also enabled the guys to coalesce into a connected unit.
Throughout the weekend in our group work, we were encouraged to explore and name our emotions by ‘dropping’ into our bodies, feeling what was present and naming it. The instructors suggested that we use the five primary emotions as a jumping off point. These include anger, joy, shame, sadness and fear. I personally found this useful because it gave myself (and the group) a common language to use when expressing ourselves.
We were also encouraged to embody the acronym ROC which stands for Relax, Open and Connect. Relax allowed us to slow down and experience what was happening. Open allowed us to be vulnerable, take risks and feel what was true for ourselves. Finally, Connect allowed us to connect with the others and speak our feelings and truth. This helped create a safe space and environment where we were able to show up as our true selves, unify as a group and take significant risks individually and collectively.
These helped me realize that going into our bodies, feeling our emotions and expressing ourselves isn’t woo woo. It’s human. Each of us has tremendous intelligence and wisdom if we allow ourselves to become extremely present, go deep inside ourselves, listen and express. Often all it takes is safety, support and guidance to unlock this superpower that we all have.
I also realized though observation, introspection and discussion that our emotions lie on a wide spectrum. Anger, for example, includes irritation on one end and rage on the other. It’s not black and white. Witnessing the full range of the five emotions in myself and others was illuminating, empowering and even painful.
Towards the end of the retreat, it began to dawn on me that I’ve suppressed anger and sadness for many years. This is something I’ve known subconsciously but didn’t fully acknowledge. As a man in 2020, I realize I’m not alone. Men are conditioned by our society to bottle up our feelings. To be masculine is to be strong and stoic regardless of the situation. I think that perspective is wrong and is doing humanity a disservice.
Regardless of gender, race and nationality, every human needs to feel, express ourselves and be connected with others. That’s why safe communities and spaces like EVRYMAN are so important. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel and express our emotions in healthy outlets, we wind up harming ourselves, our families, our friends and our communities.
That’s why I’m looking forward to using the range of practical skills that I learned at MELT not only for men’s groups but also for my coaching clients. These skills include:
- Creating a safe space for others and myself.
- Empowering every group member to to uphold the group’s safety, intentions and agreements.
- Slowing myself and others down to be embodied and present.
- Being fully present and open with my somatic and emotional experience.
- Opening myself up to feel and experience one another in order to experience the full impact and meaning of any exchange.
- Taking others deeper into their experience and truth by trusting my own intuition and heart.
- Taking the risk of speaking the unspeakable for the good of the whole.
- Designing impactful experiences for any group I lead.
By the end of the weekend, I felt like I had gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. I had a splitting headache. Simply put, I was finished.
Despite that, the MELT experience was life changing. I forged meaningful relationships with a variety of men from all walks of life. I began to see what it means to be a man and what it means to be truly supported by other men. I also saw that it’s ok to experience a range of emotions and not be judged for it. For me, the retreat unlocked a whole new level of emotional connection, awareness, vulnerability and strength.
I have no doubt that EVRYMAN is going to have an enormous impact on the world. It already has. Men, families, relationships and communities need this today more than ever. I look forward to the day when there are thousands of EVRYMAN groups around the world along with millions of men who have created amazing lives with greater success, meaning, and fulfillment.
Finally, I’d like to extend my deepest gratitude to Owen Marcus, Dan Doty and Lucas Krump for helping me go deeper and find a new edge. I once heard someone say that a coach can only take a coachee as deeply as they have gone themselves. That’s why doing this work is so important no matter how challenging and painful it can be. Because of EVRYMAN, I’m now able to have a bigger impact with those I coach and serve regardless of race, gender and religion. Thank you.
To learn more about the organization, men’s groups or trainings, check out evryman.com.
Schlaf | Conscious & Compassionate Change
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