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Mens Work

February marks the second anniversary of my involvement with the Utah Men’s Circle; therefore, the impact of Men’s Work has been on my mind lately.


Back in February 2022, I was in the most challenging phase of my life. Being able to see the divine universal wisdom that unfolded during that period has been the product of time’s ability to broaden perspective and witness the lasting changes that unfolded.


Bears Ears
Bears Ears - Valley of the Gods

It was during that time that I took a solo trip to Bear’s Ears National Preserve in Southern Utah. I danced with my soul and the desert, journeyed into the cosmos on “walk-about” all while unbeknownst to me, my body was succumbing to pneumonia. I was being ripped apart in all the ways a human can: Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The intention of experiencing a “vision quest” on sacred indigenous American land was delivered in full.


As it were, life’s best and most potent medicine never comes in the form I expect, but it’s always exactly what I need, even if  doesn’t taste good in the moment. 


While near Mexican Hat, Utah, on the edges of Bears Ears, I was in the middle of reading the phenomenal book, Iron John which intimately describes men and their journey through the ages through the rhythms of myth and ritual. It wasn’t evident then that I was actively unlocking the door to the cage of my wild man while searching for my golden ball. In part, I would be my guide and teacher; the other critical part would be other men–Men who were imperfect and men on the same universal struggle. There was no sage or elder to guide me–or the men I was associating with–through the rites of passage. We only had the sage fragments within us and combined them together to become a conglomeration of wisdom.


The masculine inside of me was undoubtably alive, and completely dangerous. Later, I’d learn that I was a “Nice Guy,” I was living in victimhood, had a host of bad choices, and  some powerful masculine traits being used in misaligned ways. Think of a treasure trove for a tool box without the know-how to use any of the tools– a hammer to pound in screws, a screw driver used as a pry-bar, and a crescent wrench for the job a pair of vice-grips would be better suited for. I had learning to do, and things inside to heal. 


The Work


The U.S. Surgeon General calls Mental Health the number one health crisis of this generation. According to a Vital Statistics Report available via the national Center for Disease Control, nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide in 2022. Men account for nearly 80 percent of those deaths.


Only in hindsight do I fully appreciate how my actions and choices were drifting me toward that reality, so it’s from that same perspective that I realize how valuable it has been for me to have a safe place to melt myself down to my elements, forge myself in fire, pound and shape myself in life, and sharpen my blade.


Here’s what it required of me:

The Courage to be honest and vulnerable with myself and others.

The Passion to be consistent and perseverant.

The Curiosity to investigate my integrity and deepest desires.


Here’s what healthy men gave me:

Permission to be my messy self.

Unconditional love and willingness to hold the space.

Encouragement to see and embrace my gifts; and encouragement to move beyond my messy energy and harness it into a potent focal point. 


In talking with so many men within my family and the groups I’m a part of: we’ve looked at Men’s Work and  Healthy Masculinity from many different angles, here are some of my most important conclusions:


Men in a Circle
Utah Men's Circle

Men are not lost. Men are not broken. Men have amazing capacity. and all are like fire: Dangerous when unbridled, and essential when directed with intention and purpose. 

Most men are like watermelons. Physically and emotionally tough  on the exterior and squishy and fleshly on the interior; ready to share, be vulnerable, and experience genuine plutonic love when it feels safe to take the mask off.


Secret to Men:

We have been trained from youth to be self-sufficient, quiet about our needs, and deeply attracted to methods and behaviors of strength, austerity, and uncomplaining. It would seem like we just need to be left alone to do our thing. Yet so many men are breaking. Dying.


Men are expected to exist in constant survival mode, and have been training for the required endurance since we were bouncing off the walls in our diapers. 


Entering thriving mode is simple, yet not easy. Men don’t want the job to be easier. They don’t desire a lighter load. At the core, they want to feel the strain of their muscles, to feel powerful and capable, for their minds to be pushed to their capacity, and for their hearts to swell with emotion. Want to change a man’s life, and all those around him? Acknowledge him. That’s it. I swear.


Men have wanted that from our male role models when we were young, from our mentors growing up, and from our lovers and children in adulthood. Step into a men’s circe, and it’s the acknowledgement, “I see you, and I know you see me.” When men are seen, they thrive.


I promise, it will seem like simplest magic ever performed, it almost won’t feel special or significant. It’s the kind of magic that the sun and rain have. Subtle and Vital. His face might not light up, and his body language might not speak a different tongue in the moment, but watch: The seed will plant. The furnace will be lit. He’ll act with more joy, more passion, and he’ll move the world or die trying for the people who see him. Because he’ll know his blood, sweat, tears, and fears are valuable, and to him, that will make all the difference. With that difference in him, he’ll have permission to make the difference in the world. Acknowledgement will be like water that can penetrate every single crack and nourish his core, his soul.


The only requirement for this acknowledgement is that it comes from the heart. Don’t taint it in obligation, or manipulation. Express it in love. It works with ones you love, and strangers alike. I’ve watched it with co-workers, friends, and the man at Canes last week who was visibly agitated and anxious. I told him I liked his warm work overalls. Five minutes later, he told me that he liked my “Hey Dude” shoes and that he owned multiple for comfort and style. We unlocked each other.


There are so many people I have to acknowledge. There’s two fears with that. That I’ll forget vital men who have impacted me. That’s my humanness and I have to allow it to be there, even at the fear of leaving someone off my extensive list. In an age of gender renaissance, I’ll be seen as contributing to the problem  society has seen for centuries. I acknowledge first and foremost that we ALL have masculinity in us. Single moms have to embrace and strengthen their masculine to survive and thrive. I’ve had two amazing examples of that in my mother, and my wife, Kristy. While I seem like I might only be talking to men who grew up as boys under the expectations and errors of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, I’m talking to everyone that has masculinity in their polarity, in essence, I’m talking to anyone that this resonates with.


My Acknowledgement


I acknowledge every single man I’ve ever been in an a men’s circle, Algiz Guard circle, Drum Circle, or Sacred Sons event. I do not remember all of your names and faces. I know your presence was vital to the container and the work could not have been possible without you. It would be impossible to create a list without inevitably forgetting many. Here’s a few names that stand out as prominent peaks in the mountain range of of the gorgeous experience I’ve had in Men’s Work:


Men's Work Spaces


Men on a hike
Bell Canyon Hike - Adam & Sam

Sam Schofield: For the hikes, the meditations, the permission, the runs, the Ragnar, and that epic hug at Solstice. 


Shawn Blymiller: The way you live your life, serve your family, share your honest story, and gather men in nature. 


Adam Heaps: Soul Coffee Talks, Music Circles, Cold Plunges, and that funky something I can’t explain. 


Men in front of an Earth Ship
Utah Men's Circle Retreat 2023

Erik Kirkham: Your humor, power, and willingness to share your home, your gifts, and your abundance.  


Kelly Farmer: Your expertise, your wisdom, and your generosity.\


Brian Hansen: Thank you for the opportunity to wrestle and for showing me what fatherhood was all about.


Stephen Karafiath: Your consistency, your reflections, your endurance, and your willingness to be in the mud.


Beau Mills: Your craft, your magic, your bravery, and your talents.


Bradley Kessler: If we say we need to go climbing one more time…thanks for joining me in two of my favorite activities of life: climbing and talking about life. 


Kristopher Hawkins: Your humility, your quiet, your patience, your dancing feet, and consistency.


Brock Stephens: I acknowledge my first connection in men’s work, for allowing me to see you, and for you seeing me.


Adam Brower: My hardest lesson is also my greatest teacher. For the immense changes you have made and continue to make. For being messy and showing up anyway with death metal in one ear and a big fucking heart in the other.


Sacred Sons Event
Sacred Sons Gathering - Levi & Rick

Levi Ernest: I acknowledge the raw permission you give me to be myself, use my voice, feel my love, and show it to everyone I love. You’ve been on the ride with me in so many spaces it’s hard to keep track of. You might live at the Peace Ranch, but you ARE the Peace Ranch.


Rick Rosno. You knocked me on my ass at Sacred Sons and have been my check-in buddy ever since. Time isn’t ever as frequent as I’d like, and space is always too far, but you’re a brother from another mother and I’ve appreciated seeing the dark and the light in your journey.


Men Gathering
Peach Ranch Men's Circle (80+ Attendees)

Peaks don’t exist without rock foundations underneath: There are countless men I’m excited to see every time we gather. There’s a bond forged whether we’ve been able to spend time outside a circle or not: Steve Riley, Justin, Peterson, Jake Meiners, Santa Dan, Michael Page, Boone Zorad, Kellen, Chase (both of you), Corey, Tres, Jared, Darren, Travis, Paul, Kade (both of you), Torin, Jacob (both of you), Bradley, Jaxson, Colton, and so many more I’ve lost count. I’m sure I’ll be editing this list as more of you come to my mind.  I see all of you being so damn brave letting your guard down and daring to be seen and see other men. I appreciate what it takes to show up in that space and for the special ingredients you bring to that space.


Beyond Men's Work:

There are also some men that have meant the world to me outside of dedicated Men’s Circle Spaces:


Salt Cave Marriage
Married in a Salt Cave by Adam

Jeff: Whatever you see in me, I see right back. The world needs your shoulders. We’ve seen galaxies together and you, my brother, are a highlight.


Adam: Single-handedly the sexiest dude I’ll never have sex with. I felt the love you have for Kristy and I. You see her and you see me and I see you. You tickle my heart in all the good ways brotherly love can.


Mike D: Your wit and warmth never falter. The rhythm you lay down on a drum is the rhythm you bring to the rest of the world with the way you live. (And Tik-Tok Shit.)


David: Youth and wisdom made manifest in human form. You are a magnet for community, play, and action.


Peter G. Your wisdom and clarity of thinking and speaking is something I aspire to. I am even more overtaken by your patience to undergo the uncomfortable and unjust to hold your integrity. I knew you were a friend the moment I met you and enjoy diving into deep philosophy and hot tubs with you.



Banff National Park
Visiting with Peter & Family in Canada


Mike S: Dude. What you do in life is big. The permission slip you write for everyone else to be all that they can be is deep and real. You wrote a song that transported me in time to my younger self and healed wounds in ways no body else could.


Festival goers
Mike & Doug at Solstice

Doug: If anyone has ever reminded me of what my deepest, highest, and best self looks like as a mirror, it’s you. Hands down.


Presto: Meow and all that involves.


Ryan: All I can say is, soul contract. I’ve learned more from you than almost any other man I’ve met and all of that would seem by accident. Somehow, I know it’s not. 


Seth: Words escape me. Not because there aren’t 1,000, but because I can’t find a single string of them that do you justice. Or maybe because I know the journey is just beginning.


Friends at a gathering
Friendsgiving Friends

There are two men that I met when the road got really tough. Both men have held my darkest secrets, and my wildness with love, compassion, and honesty. Both men are doing their damnedest to leave a positive imprint on their families and communities. 


Co-Creators


Joe Speredon: I don’t give a shit about your physical size. You’re big every single way I can imagine. You have taught me trust, vulnerability, and you represent so much in my life that I have been afraid of in men, only to find out that you’re a big, damn teddy bear and I had nothing to ever fear. You are doing important work and creating amazing spaces. I’ve seen you take some of the bravest steps, and undertake some of the hardest challenges, and you never stop. I would not be where I am in my life without your friendship, your council, your love, and your example. Oh yeah, you also remained the last bridge to my Kristy, my beautiful wife. I’m forever grateful your protection, your support, your wisdom, and the mirror you always help up for me.



Men in a backyard.
Joe & Taylor - UMC Leadership


Taylor Cooper: Bro. You tapped me into my Wild Man when I needed to find him and embrace him most. The drum circles, ecstatic dance, and that time in Antimony when I threw it all into the fire. You were there to pull that heart crystal back out. When life got really hard, I didn’t need to think my way out of it, I needed to move it out of me, with vibrations, with animalistic rage and grace. You showed me the way. Your medicine is our bodies can do when our hearts are free. Thank you for all the spaces you create and the magic you imbue each of those spaces with.


There are also four men who have been important mentors and Wayfinders on my journey into this space before I even knew how profoundly they would impact me:


My Mentors:


Steve Jones: Full Circle Yoga was the birthplace of my spirituality, and the dope experience you provided there, along with a valuable friendship was invaluable to my life. Your efforts and safe haven lead me to joining my first Men's Circle and my eventual mentor.


Carl Rabke: The first experience in Men's Work was the workshop you provided. It changed my narrative and allowed me to start putting down the mask. It also allowed me to see healthy masculinity in a stranger and invited me to meet my life coaching mentor.


Jeff Olsen: Your wisdom and humility in the walks and ways of Shamanism still and always will reverberate through my life.


KC Hildreth: The inspiration and wisdom your course provided me came at one of those beautiful synchronistic junctions of my life. Your mentorship into knowledge and ways of being filled me like a gallon jug and allowed me to runneth over. Your continued friendship afterward is the ultimate cherry-on-top.


My Four Directions:

There are four men who have been with me from the beginning and have seen me in

all my messy iterations. They stand like the four directions. Solid and faithful.


JARED NATALI


Halloween Stage
Dressing up Like Jared for Halloween

Jared Natali: In a work place full of women, I needed a guy, any guy. You weren’t just any guy. You’ve felt like family since I’ve known you. You’ve told me before that I’m the smartest person you know. Listen, there’s book smart, and street smart. I have benefitted from your street smarts in so many ways: My house, my cars, and the way you just know how to interact with people to make a situation go smoothly. 


PATRICK POWERS


Men on a hike
Patrick and I enjoying the 3 sisters at Brighton.

Patrick Powers: The only guy I know that would take a bullet for me and not flinch. You’ve been that way since the day that I met you. You don’t know this, but that Fitbit challenge changed my life years ago. The funny fucking memories that live rent free in my mind tickle me every time I think of them. I’m beyond honored that you are so intimately woven into so many aspects of my life.


JACOB SHIRLEY


men rock climbing
Jake & I climbing in The Swell

Jacob Shirley: The adventures you breathed into my life changed me forever. There’s no way I would have done half the exciting things I’ve been able to do in my life without having started a conversation with a guy in a bouldering gym that turned out to be someone I went to high school with. You pushed when I needed to get out of my comfort zone, and did it with a smile on your face and the grace only a guy like you could have. I’ve never seen someone do so many scary things and not outwardly show a bit of fear. When I broke up with Kristy at the end of 2021, it broke my heart. That heartbreak overshadowed a lot of other things, namely, the fact that such a dear friend moved away. More than 2 years later, that void hasn’t been filled. It’s taught me more about death than I ever imagined.


MICHAEL JASKOT


Summit hike
Michael and I finishing Mt. Timpanogos summit

Michael Jaskot: My oldest friendship is also the one that most resembles my family. I don’t get to interact with my family as often as I’d like, but when I do, it’s like time never stopped. You’re the big brother I never had. I have looked up to you since we were 20-year-olds in the Marines and I was wide-eyed and ignorant to San Diego and where my life would go. You are the king of all things endurance, and I guess that’s what I appreciate most about our friendship. The endurance of it all. Sure there’s some regret in not always taking full advantage of the time when you lived in Utah, but two of the handful of activities I cherish most in my life have come from your example: Rock Climbing and Spirituality. I don’t know if you remember teaching me about Buddhism and meditation, but you were the door through which I entered both. You’ve been instrumental in the biggest transitions of my life, whether it was military, leaving the Mormon Church, or loving myself more deeply. With each of those has come an adventure and some non-judgmental advice that comes as simple and profound as a passage from the Tao Te Ching. You were the first person I ever experienced healthy masculinity and the first time I ever experienced plutonic love for another guy outside my family. Thank you for helping initiate me into human-ing on the adult scale and for being a constant friend and example of what a good, solid brother is, and what it can do for a person’s life.


Two friends
Michael and I babies out of the Marines

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