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Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche 

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Jane Hollister Wheelwright

Pioneer Ecopsychologist, Explorer of Wilderness Terrain, Inner and Outer


I Recently Attended a Conference with My 26 Year Old Son

I recently attended the Minnesota Mens Conference with my 26 year old son, Kyle. This is the second year we have attended together. I realized when I returned that I wanted to do something more to support this gathering so thought I might write a brief supportive review to my local psychology colleagues in Santa Barbara.


For those who are not familiar with this conference, it is the Minnesota gathering of the mytho-poetic mens movement, started by Robert Bly circa 1983.  This particular gathering is in its 26thyear. There used to be gatherings in Mendecino, Ojai, even Santa Barbara but not for years now


Robert Bly, the Johnny Apple Seed of this movement, is now quite peripheral.  He is there in spirit but only comes to attend for one short evening. The group now is headed by a diverse and talented group of male leaders, a few:  Malidoma Some, initiation scholar and ritual expert, Martin Shaw, drummer, mythologist, Scottish storyteller extrodinaire, Dan Deirdorph, drummer, singer, storyteller, mythologist, Tom Campbell, Aikido expert/philosopher, Miguel Rivera, drummer and sweat lodge host, Ed Tic, therapist specializing in Vet support, accomplished poets such as Louis Jenkins and others , just to name a few, the talent list goes on… 


Though I am aware that the mytho-poetic movement has gone in and out of popularity, I have never attended any of these events over the years where I have not left without a more identified and impassioned male soul within myself. There was a period of time where I was very peripheral to the movement. Then, when I returned two years ago, I realized how much I missed it, and, in very specific ways, how crucial aspects of myself had drifted away from me. A fire was rekindled now more from an elder life stance as compared my mid life experience.


This group comes at men from many levels. There is the poetry which moves men into their emotions, the mythology/storytelling which accesses the ancestral male community and brings forth the ancient unconscious struggles men confront, there is the early morning singing which tonally connects disparate men into brothers in harmonious song, there is the cleansing, blessing, and forgiveness imbued in the sweat lodge ritual, there is the grounding trance/meditation of the drumming, more recently, there has been a strong focus on the wounded veteran warriors home from war, and always, there is the evolving intimacy of so many men in the lodge being so honest about their pain and grief, male community.


 And, importantly, I want to emphasize how this conference is always respectful of women.  Archetypal mothers are ritualistically honored throughout the week through a beautiful process.  Containment and respect are highly emphasized before the return back home. The stories of how women support their male partners going are telling as men recite how they “waffle in doubt” as to go again and “spend the money” meaning “risk vulnerability” another year only to hear from the women they live with, “No, no, you always get so much from this event, please go!!” Better men make better relationships, and the women at home know this.


So, there you have a synopsis in pursuit of support  from our community here in Santa Barbara for the ongoing mytho-poetic movement.  There will be another week in Minnesota next September. My understanding is that there is energy being put forth to have one return to California this year. I hope so.  My son, who is in the film editing business, will be editing a video interviewing the teachers and men who have attended the conference. I will keep you all informed and please feel free to contact me for questions and more information.  This experience is good for our male clients, their partners, and families, the planet, so consider it! It is good for fathers and sons too, I can attest.  Thank you… 

C. Doyle Hollister MFT

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