By Steve Junkin, Eastern Canada
The story begins two years after regional and international men’s division leadership had formed “The Line,” a separation between the Men’s Divisions and the Sterling Institute of Relationship, the producer of the Sterling Men’s Weekend (SMW). As a result, Men’s Divisions International was formed with Howard LaGarde as our first president. We had become our own men so to speak. The Sterling Weekend had always been our only entry point into division life, but that was about to change.
Peter Thompson was the first Toronto board member on MDI’s new board. I became the second Toronto board member and Peter, my mentor, told me men had “Project X” in the works, and that it was to be our own weekend for men.
It was at my first face to face board meeting, with men such as Parrish, LaGarde, Fowlkes, Guida, Dean, Dee, Stubbs, Hellman and more that I probably forget or added by mistake, where the stake was placed into the ground: We need to develop a weekend of our own and we’re saying it out loud. The question was floated: “Who will head up a team of men to create this weekend?” I had been primed enough beforehand and assured that there was plenty of material and a lot of men who would support the endeavor so I said, “I’ll lead that team.” It was unanimously accepted within minutes. I don’t believe this was the first time where the new guy steps up at his first meeting not having a fucking clue what he’s in for and gets the job. There was a palpable air of trepidation and relief in the room.
When I muse over why I stepped up, I see what led me to my decision. I would be supported by the best men I knew to succeed, and I wanted a weekend for men that would last for future generations. My son was in the forefront of that last thought. I had never had any assurance from the Institute through my own experience or others that the SMW would be passed on to anyone to lead. I wanted the men’s experience I had to continue.
I realized that we had all done a lot of work in our divisions and teams since we did our weekend. I personally had seven years experience of division life then with the division and regional leadership jobs that go with it. I wanted the circles I helped to build to continue on, doing the sort of work that we had always been doing. What had we been doing all those years every week outside the SMW? What were the lessons and wisdom we had gained? How could that experience be translated into a weekend experience?
After I stepped up there was an official split with the Institute, in Toronto, after men produced the next SMW. They drew a hard line of their own and I lost Thompson and O’Neill and many others, my mentors and fellow warriors, who were forced to decide for one side or the other. Tomlinson and a majority of men got the vision of the future of MDI and believed we could have a weekend that lasted for our sons and theirs.
The main driver in taking a stand for the Legacy Discovery was David Hellman from New York. I believe he was my superior but I don’t remember his title. He and I discussed setting up an international creation team. We put the word out to all the regional coordinators saying we wanted experienced men to come forward and help us discover what this weekend could be. The willingness of men to come forward and champion this event has been a boon from the beginning and still is to this day.
I worked with a creative team to drive the creation of content from CPR’s. It was a team from all over North America. David Wainwright from San Diego, Truette Stubbs from Atlanta, Matt Lyons from the Bay Area, Rushforth, Gilmour, Spierer and even a representative of an offline division. We had to create something other than ripping off the Initiation we knew. We “team called” for many weeks muddling through the mire of “what this is and what this isn’t.” We requested of all the men and all the regions to submit their ideas, but got very little response. At some point, we had to simply start writing and I was directed to shut the team down.
Logical and linear, Hellman brought in purpose exercises, communication activities. I brought in the emotional stuff, ritual and various exercises from division – the shaman, the sacred circle, the anger and grief (pieced from Elizabeth Levang’s “When men grieve”) and the forgiveness work. The “Push” anger exercise came from a team meeting in 1997 when a man on my team needed help with his rage. Fowlkes brought “Planning for Success.” Some exercises had been old men’s division staples that had never been written down. “My Father Myself” came from “A Circle of Men” by Bill Kauth. Howard Spierer brought the archetypes from “King, Magician, Warrior, Lover” (by Moore and Gillette) into the aloneness exercise that opened up the whole archetype experience we share today. If I forget others in this I am sorry and I’m sure there were many along the way. Poy!
Once we had all the content, we fed it to Scott Bye of Los Angeles who put it all so efficiently into a manual, documenting our arc of a hero’s initiation – a departure, an ordeal, and a homecoming. The first manual was a joy to behold, as he had included ancient pictures and texts and poetry to illustrate and contextualize the journey. He filled in the spaces with beauty and cohesiveness. I have to pause for tears here because he became my close friend then, and we trained many legacy discoveries together. It was my privilege to wheel him around in the time we had together. It’s in the being not the doing my friend.
After participating in another type of weekend for men – the Mankind Project’s “New Warrior Weekend” – I saw how many men (rather than one man) could lead an intensive, and this stuck in my head. We could have a leadership team, with Gels (Group exercise leaders) and Sgels (small group exercise leaders). A weekend for men by men with no one or two men owning it all. This could stand the test of time.
Our first Legacy Discovery came in March 2002 at Camp Will-A-Way at Fort Yargo, a state park in Winder, Georgia. The first regional coordinator to put the second important Legacy Discovery stake in the ground was Don Hudson. He stood up with his men and enrolled and built a training team for an event that no one had ever seen or done before. Remarkable!
There was much pushback against the Legacy Discovery in the early years. Many men were hurt and lost along the way, however, the heart and soul of the event and the multitude of men who have given so much to it for these last 13 years has helped it to grow, thrive and evolve. Owned and operated by the love from the men of MDI.
Being part of this event has been a tremendous gift in my life, and I continue to give to it today. I am a part of a legacy of creation that serves my purpose and serves future generations. One of those being my son who attended a few years back.
Talk about legacy…