38 Years Worth of Notes

Michael Burns
MDI Contributor

EDITOR’S NOTE: Regular Legacy Magazine contributor Michael Burns digs into 38 years worth of notes on his experience within what he calls “men’s work,” ultimately residing on some answers to “why I am still around.”

“Official” men’s work for me began in April, 1986, age 38, after graduating from Sterling’s “Men, Sex, and Power” weekend in Manhattan. Below is a collection of journal entries, in italics, from over 38 years that reveal the importance, value, and rewards that the journey has brought to me and my network of loved ones, associates, comrades.

To all my relations.

The men’s work journey has been aided, abetted, and inspired by a number of men’s circles, beginning with Sterling Men’s Divisions from 1986-1995; East Bay Circle of Men (EBCON) 1996-present; Mentor Discover Inspire (MDI) 2006-present; and many men’s teams.

My association with, trainings from, and my contributions to these circles, teams, men, communities are reflected in these journal entrees …

Sometimes it seems that I/we have no place to turn, no time to come up for air, no one who will listen or understand me, and that isn’t true. I learned that I don’t need/want to use those reasons to justify choosing to procrastinate, be inert, and not do what is required. “Freedom is to want to do what I have to do.” 1991

What came up in the team’s discussion of relationships is the concept that our primary relationship, the one we have with ourselves, sets the tone and pattern for ALL other relationships.

I trust that as my marriage to me increases in peace, understanding, humility, patience, acceptance, thankfulness, and LOVE, then the world around me will reflect those qualities that I am living inside. 1991

I am declaring my commitment to treat women, men, children, myself, and the rest of life with honor, respect, trust, acceptance, LOVE. I now have the courage to be accountable for that responsibility, and to accept and own the consequences for when I act in ways that are contrary to that vow. I have no illusions that I will now consistently act and think in that way, but all skills need focused time and energy in order to become good at them. 

I drove to Manhattan the other night to attend a concert at Carnegie Hall. I called out to a man on the street and asked him how I could get to Carnegie Hall. He said, “Yo dude, you gotta practice man, practice.” 1992

Because I felt I was in a safe, nurturing container of men who cared about my success, and actively listened to my ideas, perspectives, and ramblings, I learned: to ask for help, to trust myself in leadership roles, to love men. 2008

It is from digging for the gold of myself that has brought me to be the man I always could be. BUT I NEEDED HELP AND I NEEDED TO ASK FOR IT AND I NEEDED TO LISTEN TO THE MEN AND I NEEDED TO USE WHAT I HEARD. 2011

I was highly active in all aspects of EBNOM from Nov. ’95 to Feb. ’09 when I moved to Santa Cruz. Those 14 years. of being supported by EBNOM men, supporting EBNOM men, learning, teaching, and TRUSTING EBNOM brought me a palpable amount of maturity and training for my path to elder wisdom. 2011

The men and culture of EBNOM provided me with a container and endless opportunities to live on the edge, stretch, leave my comfort zone, grow up, and let me “act as if” I was a leader. I took roles of leadership often enough for it to sink in and become a reality in my own mind and heart. Takes lots of repetition and positive feedback for old self-images to be balanced by positive, confident, courageous images of LEADER. Again, it took a long time to “get it” and own my abilities to lead. 2011

Over the years I’ve had experiences of being heard, received, accepted, respected and feelings of “by gosh, they even like me.” These experiences from overcoming the natural fear of speaking my truth in front of people, many people, began a shift in how I “showed up.” Being heard without rejection allowed me to continue to take the risk of expressing my thoughts, feelings, and actions. 2011

Pushed to the Edge of my Comfort Zone

What questions did we not ask that should be explored, having to do with your own issues of integrity, wholeness, compassion, love, growth, and purposeful work (if any)?  2009

“Everything that happens from this moment is intended for you to get what you came here to get. What are you going to be leaving for future generations? How will they remember you? What is your legacy?“  2016

LISTENING TO WOMEN, an experience for young men who are incarcerated in the Alameda County Juvenile Hall. Today, April 8, 2010, is the second, in what may be an ongoing tradition, an opportunity for young men to hear from women, what men need to know to better treat, relate to, communicate with, and respect women. 2010

An Article in a Local Newspaper

OH, MAN. THERE ARE HEROES IN OUR MIDSTDecember 2, 2010; Dating Over-50, SF Examiner, Page Larkin

They are totally the strong silent types. Chances are, you’ve never heard of them. If you are lucky, you live next to one of them. Some say they are a fusion of Jimmy Stewart, Jimmy Carter, Jim Carrey and James Taylor. Doctor, lawyer, painter, teacher, Everyman and Indian chief – their careers do not define them. They gather, talk, and support one another as well their community. Get this, they are men and they talk. Communicate. Express themselves and give of themselves, they quest for solutions and wisdom, appreciate and revere nature, strive to have fun, and embrace irreverence and ritual in their endeavors. Words like ‘honesty’ and ‘purpose’ and ‘making a difference’ are bandied about. They support, and work with, one another with gusto.

Thank You Page, 2024

I feel there is a subtle, unspoken movement going on around the world to remake our identities. We have been separated by race, religion, gender, and wealth, and this movement is toward a true “global village” where we all work together as neighbors. 2010

“Keep coming back, it works if you work it.” I keep coming back to the men committed to growth, and I work it by stepping up to lead, manage, participate, mentor, share, and care. It works! 2015

Why am I still around?

Bothering to show up, being authentic and generously giving away my gifts brought me to be the man I want to be. 2008

Be generous with myself, my thoughts, words, deeds. Some will benefit from receiving my cargo/gifts, and especially I will benefit. As I give these gifts away, the energy reverberates through my entire being, and I am awash with passion. 2008

I feel it in my bones, blood, heart, and soul that I have done what I’ve done, been who I’ve been, and learned what I’ve learned in order to steward/mentor those younger than me. I’d like to help them to find and follow their own unique pathway to being who they are and who they want to be. 2024

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