In February of 2015, I was asked by a friend if I wanted to come to his men’s group he had been telling me about. I knew these men got together and talked about their lives, helped each other and it was connected to this weekend he had gone on endlessly about previously. It was all connected to this MKP thing he first discovered on a trip to San Diego. I was curious enough to agree to go with him on that next Tuesday evening, figuring if it wasn’t for me it would be a one-time thing.
I wasn’t sure really what to expect going into that first meeting, we walked up to the MoST in downtown Syracuse where the meetings are held and there was a group of men waiting for us, as I would learn is the way of the Salt City Men’s Group. They hugged and welcomed me as if I were an old friend. There was no apprehension or hesitation from any of them, that combined with when we went inside and they told me where inside the building we would meet made me wonder what I had gotten myself into. The MoST is a children’s science museum and they were meeting in the “ball pit” of the playhouse. I quickly realized though regardless of the carefree setting for the meeting this very diverse group of seven (what I know now are initiated) men took this very seriously.
They explained to me that the group the “Salt City Men’s iGroup” is an “Open Group” and that meant that any man is welcome at any meeting. Each step of the meeting was explained to me and any questions I had were answered. I did try and participate that first meet though somewhat apprehensively.
Over the next two months, Tuesday nights with this very diverse group of men became an important part of my life. Not only did I earn their trust and despite my own issues with it, I learned to earnestly trust and deeply care about each and every one of them. During this time they also individually spoke in general but glowing terms about the affect this weekend thing had on them. By April 2015, without ever saving “you have to do this” they convinced me it was something I not only wanted but needed to do. They did not accomplish that by trying to talk me into it going. It was their example, they weren’t perfect men but they wanted to be better and the weekend had been a part of that process for them. They made me want what they had.
I have heard other men talking about coming to the weekend surrounded by fear. I can only attribute that to knowing little or nothing of the process because coming to Camp Whitman, I felt none of that, I trusted that the men of my group would not let me put myself in a situation that would anyway harm me. I would be lying if I said that I did not understand it briefly when confronted by the Challenger Sensei. He wasn’t happy I made him repeat because the voice in my head was shouting, “WHAT THE F**K HAVE YOU GOTTEN YOUR YOURSELF INTO?!” I somehow managed to get through that door. Then I quickly calmed as I was reminded that there were three of my brothers from my group there to support me after seeing one of them acting as an escort. The trust in those men allowed me to relax and open up to an experience that started me on a journey I will be forever grateful for.