An Introduction to The Gathering of Men In North Carolina
Larry Sorkin 7/2015
For over twenty years, seventy or so wonderful men—therapists, lawyers, priests, tradesmen, all walks and ages of life—have been getting together at a scenic camp near Efland, North Carolina for an extraordinary experience of brotherhood, community and support. Many of the men have come each year from the beginning, many are new to the Gathering. The Gathering is sponsored by The Men’s Council which, under the earlier identities of The Raleigh Men’s Center and the Triangle Men’s Center, has been initiating these sorts of events since the mid-eighties.
The foundation of the weekend is an exploration of our interconnectedness, our sameness and differences. It’s amythopoetic gathering and by that we mean that our stories, personal and mythic, are at the heart of what we do, how we make meaning from our tales, recalling and rewriting them through personal history, ancient cultural myths, a unique theme for the weekend and poetry. Over the years, we continue to refine a schedule of multiple important sections.
The Gathering has a clear beginning and end and takes place within strong boundaries, a container if you will, call it an opening to a sacred space. It’s a bit like a willful suspension of disbelief—for this short period, we give ourselves over to a process and experience. While we could use any tradition to find the way for this to happen, we’ve borrowed from the rituals of the Native Americans which is rooted in thousands of years on this land and connection to nature. We begin by coming through the door of sage smoke, asking permission and honoring the directions and the mystery of the place to be favorable to our endeavor. When the weekend ends, we’ll close The Gathering in a similar manner, with honor and gratitude.
Large plenary sessions are filled with men’s stories, distilled to their essence for the time constraint, but every man’s voice will be heard by the whole. A myth or fairy tale is chosen for its connection to the theme. Time is also given to music, poems, and lively discussion. You may hear men respond to others with the word Aho, borrowed from the Lakota people, Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, you are all my relations, we are all connected. There is a passages time as well to bring the memory of those we’ve lost in the past year into our circle.
There are intimate small support groups which give each man ample opportunity to check in, deal with issues and passages coming forward in their lives and track the resonance of the weekend.
Men have choices of multiple workshops, some based on the theme of the weekend or subjects chosen for their import in men’s lives. All of the workshops are led by the experienced men of the group—no one is paid to bring their work here.
In recent years on Saturday night, within the story of the weekend, we entertain a choreographed evening of even deeper myth. We may act out or ritualize our personal relationships to the story told in the large group session—or some other means to enter a meaningful relationship to the parts of the weekend through the community, the small groups, and our own authentic search.
We welcome young men and youth thirteen or over into the Gathering. The weekend can be a life changing and affirming initiatory experience for the young, and they can bring refreshing insight to their elders in the community.
From the beginning, we’ll go over the basic rules of the weekend, confidentiality, ways to sit within groups to honor each other’s valuable time. We prefer if the men attending come at the beginning and stay to the end whenever possible. It can be jarring for the individual and the group to enter into this space after it’s been started or before it’s closed. The camp too has certain rules that we must abide by.
This is by no means all of what happens at the Gathering of Men, So much defies what words can describe. Much is left to what we each authentically bring to the weekend. For information on each year’s theme and plan, go to our website:themenscouncil.org. Join us.