These are the principles that evolved over years of men meeting in the Sandpoint Men’s Group. We provide these to every man as he considers joining our group. They are meant to lay a clear foundation of how we work and the agreement each man makes with the group. We invite men who are interested in joining our group to contact us. The process for joining the group, once you have made contact with a group member, is to be interviewed by two current members, come to a meeting to check it out and if that feels like a good match for you and for us we will invite you to four more meetings. If after the fifth meeting it still feels like a good fit for all involved a new man is then invited to be part of the group. At this point we ask for a year commitment while understanding life changes.
Below are the principles that guide us:
A Man’s Aspiring Qualities:
- I take full responsibility for my life and what I create. My thoughts, feelings, wants, and behavior are mine. I am not a victim nor do I cause anyone else to be.
- I am a leader of my life.
- I am living my life for my purpose; my actions, body, and life reflect it.
- I honor what I speak, be it a promise or a feeling.
- If I need help, I ask for it.
- I allow my emotions to be present as I act.
- To co-create a sanctuary for men to open their hearts to each other.
- To honor vulnerability and support each other fully expressing all of our feelings.
- To journey and grow together in the discovery and practice of a new way of being a man.
- To invite the deep masculine forces of healing and transformation to flow through the group.
- To model what best friends can do for and with each other both inside and outside of our group. To celebrate and honor each other’s brilliance, wins, and contributions. To dream in and live an amazing, powerful, and unreasonable life. To laugh, to play, and use humor to co-create a joyful brotherhood. To commit to do things we have never done before we know how to do them.
Guidelines for Participation
- Speak directly and openly: Don’t ask for permission to speak, intervene, move around, take care of yourself, or contribute in any fashion. However, it is easier if only one person speaks at a time.
- Speak directly to a man: Rather than say, “Sam looks sad,” speak to Sam and ask him if he is sad.
- You can pass: Participation in all activities of the group is up to each man. If for any reason you don’t want to participate, you can pass.
- Taking space: Any man can ask the group to slow down or a specific man to pause or “hold on” in order to take himself or another man deeper.
- Feelings rule: Always feel and express what you feel. Focus on specific feelings, such as Anger, Sadness, Fear, Joy, Shame/Guilt. Justifying, minimizing, and maximizing only weaken your experience and your power.
- Use “I” statements: Speak about your experience, not another man’s. Rather than using “you” or “we,” use “I.”
- Be here-and-now: Emphasize the present. Describe your present experience as much as possible. Avoid telling stories.
- Start with feelings: Start your questions or statements with what you are currently feeling. The more you are connected to your feelings, the more powerful your interaction and support will be.
- Avoid asking “Why”questions: It is often best to avoid asking “why?” “Why” frequently leads to “Because…” or “I don’t know,” which are both ‘heady’ and lead a man away from his feelings and right back into his head. Why questions may shame him – encourage the man to share his feelings and wants. For example, “Sam why did you shout?” could be, “Sam when you shouted I felt scared.” Instead, consider taking a man deeper by asking him a “What” question, such as: “What need was trying to be met when you shouted?”
- Take yourself and other men to feelings rather than understanding: Rather than trying to figure it out, instruct, or ask intellectual questions, ask questions that have the man go deeper into his feelings. “What are you feeling?” or “Where do you feel that in your body?” is often all that is necessary. These reminders encourage and guide a man to become more aware of his body and emotional feelings, which naturally facilitates the man to find his own wisdom, loving, and healing.
- Describe rather than judge: When you judge you are reacting. Rather than labeling his behavior, try to describe it. Go deeper into what a man’s action caused in you. “You’re out of control” could be “Tom your loud voice frightens me.”
- Go deep: We can encourage each other to reveal what is secret or hidden and to bring it into the light by asking, “What is your behavior saying that you are not saying?”
- Make mistakes: Allow yourself to make mistakes, express beyond your old limit and to lose it. Your mistakes are welcome. You can always go back and own the mistake by taking responsibility for any affect you had.
As a member of this SMG, I agree to the following:
- I agree to come prepared and ready to both give to and receive support from my brothers by being well rested and nourished.
- I take care of myself as if my life depends on it. Because it does!
- I agree to do regular work outside of group, including stretches. A stretch is usually one or more specific measurable actions towards physical, relationship, spiritual, financial, or mental health. Powerful stretches include doing something new or different that would be outside of my comfort zone.
- I agree to listen respectfully and include all my brothers in conversations. (i.e., not dominating). I will not be violent.
- I agree that once I am accepted into the group, I will attend group for a minimum of one year, barring any unforeseen circumstances. I understand membership in the group is public knowledge.
- I agree to attend all weekly meetings and be on time OR call and speak to one man who is attending group at least 30 minutes before group starts when possible OR leave a message if no man can be reached by phone unless I negotiate an exception with the group OR I document any planned absence(s) in the group calendar OR I am Ill or I or my family has an emergency.
- I will call at least two members of the group and keep calling members until I speak to at least one man unless no one answers their phone and then I will leave a message regarding my situation. I am also willing to be asked, “Are you safe or OK?” and/or “What need are you making more important than attending group tonight?” [It’s not that you have to attend. It’s that we care and want to know if you need our support. Plus, unknown absents create confusion in the group.]
- I agree to keep everything (except business items) discussed or revealed in the group completely confidential. I understand that anything said between members of our group outside a meeting can be shared in the group.
- I agree not to ask anyone in the group to keep secrets from any other member of the group. If I engage in a private conversation about a member of the group who is not present for the conversation, I agree to reveal and share what has been said with the person as soon as possible.
- If I decide to leave the group, or even drop out for any duration of time, I will process myself out with the group. I will come to a meeting to state my needs.
- I understand that if I am physically able to attend group and choose not to for five or more consecutive meetings, I will forfeit my place in the circle. To join the group once more I must reapply for membership in SMG, following the established protocols for any new man.
- I agree to contribute towards our costs for snacks and expenses of $10/month at least 3 months in advance unless it is a financial hardship to do so.
- I will honor myself, my friends, and our space with my full presence. I will not use any mood altering recreational substance including drugs or alcohol on the day we meet for group. I will tell the group if I have been using any prescription drug or substance that affects my presence in the group. I will notify two men that I will not be attending the group if I have been high or have been drinking on a meeting day.
- I agree our time together is not counseling or psychotherapy and if I am engaged in counseling or psychotherapy, I will disclose this to the group. I will get approval from my counselor or therapist to attend the group.
- I agree to honor group commitments and decisions made by the group when I am not present. When I am absent from group I will check the minutes kept by the scribe to review any agreement made in my absence. I agree to either confirm my participation or raise any concern or objection to any agreement made as soon as I learn about the new agreement during a business round. The group agrees to have a scribe document our agreements and revise this document as needed.