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December 5, 2005

Open Hearted Men


I've just returned from a workshop in Santa Rosa with Barry Vissell. The workshop was about men living from the heart. Twenty two men spent an intimate weekend together, healing their father wounds.

We camped out in the large home of one of the participants. The house had vaulted ceilings, a log stove, views across the Santa Rosa hills and thirty acres covered with over twenty different spieces of oak.

I felt very nervous when I arrived. I had been to workshops led by Barry and Joyce before, but had never been to a men's retreat. I didn't know what to expect.

The workshop was absolutely incredible. As with all the Vissell workshops, within hours of starting, it seemed as if I had known the other participants all my life. The stage was set for me to move into a level of intimacy and vulnerability with other men which I have never experienced before.

Most of the music was provided by the singing of Charlie Nimovitz and John Johnson with his guitar. Throughout the weekend various others provided musical accompaniment to our experience, using anything from aftrican drums to a harmonium.

A central character for the weekend was Charlie Nimovitz. In fact, it was all about Charlie. He's an incredibly sweet man who has parkinson's disease. The disease has progressed very far and he has very little control of his body. And yet he is so calm and centered, so accepting, appreciative and loving. His beautiful singing moved us all to tears. Even though his body was writhing out of control, the sweet purity of his voice and the depth of his wisdom was healing for us all. His illness was an outward expression of how we all felt: out of control of our lives, fearing that even though we are learning so much from our challenges, they might ultimately kill us. This man is a true knight, and he taught us how to deal with our own dragons.

We sang beautiful twenty-two part harmonies together; each one of us spontaneouly finding our voices and how they complement our brother's. We chanted, we drummed, we meditated, we shouted, we laughed uncontrollably, we drove out demons, we hugged, we loved and we fathered each other. We talked about what we wanted and what we feared. We learned that it's safe to trust other men. We learned that other men can love us. In experiencing love from other men, we could really learn to accept and love ourselves.

Each of us became more complete as a man. We were allowed to be little boys and we were allowed to find our strength, so our loving power could be released. We can know what we want and we can love fully. We can open our hearts to the women in our lives. We can get fathering from men and stop trying to get it from women.

It was such a relief for me to be able finally to relax physically around other men. I found at one point while sitting on the floor that my foot was under another man's leg and I was leaning against another man's shoulder. It felt totally natural and relaxed.

I found it amazing that I could be open and vulnerable in front of other men and that they would love me more because of it. I realized that I am so lovable when I am being my true self.

For a long time before the workshop, Charlie had been sleeping only one or two hours a night. On the second night of the workshop, he slept for eight hours. When he awoke, for the first time in years, he had no symptoms. That lasted for about an hour. When the symptoms came back, the medication lasted for twice a long as normal.

We are a band of true warriors. We are warriors for peace and our weapons are the most powerful known to man: our hearts. We are bringing peace to the world and we are starting with ourselves.

Related links:

Barry & Joyce Vissell
Charlie Nimovitz

"Beautiful, thank you for describing this weekend retreat. I loved it." — Rosie

"You are a magnificent man and you deserve to be met with love by your partner and the rest of the world, so just keep doing what you are doing. You were and are so beautiful in your honesty and being this weekend. I celebrate you!" — Michael

"I have just read this all the way through. It is beautifully insightful. Keep on writing Old Bean!" — Matthew

"Great insights, Duncan."

"I've been doing something similar, something I've never done before, since returning from the retreat:"

"I am taking internal images of all of you to bed and off to sleep with me each night and awakening to you in the morning (well, admittedly only 2 days thus far.)"

"I see each of your faces singly and remember a bit of our interactions, even putting supportive words into your mouths (taking a bit of liberty there, eh?) and then filling myself with the warmth I experienced in the core of that warm humming hive on Sunday morning."

"As it radiates out from my body, I remember the intentions each of you stated as you came front and center on Sunday, and I feel sure that I am reaching/supporting you all."

"Remember how I bemoaned the fact that I couldn't find a meaning in my life, a reason to go on, and that I felt that this was exacerbated being a single/childless man? Somehow, my images of you guys gives me a real world focus to open my heart to. It is beginning to seem possible that the very opening of my heart and extending myself may be my raison d'etre."

"While part of me feels that this is all a bit new-agey, even precious, I also realize that my cynicism was one of my most reliable shields against the world. I felt it (my cynicism) kept me from looking/sounding the fool, when in fact, it seems to have kept me apart from my most precious resource and strength: my open loving heart."

"I really appreciate the fact that you are intentionally keeping the ball rolling on this experience, not allowing it to just fade away as yet another peak experience."

"You're doing great work, Duncan, and are very valuable in all of our lives — in my life."

— Jeff

"Ahh, Duncan you are a beautiful man, an amazing father. As you take steps to heal and make a world more peaceful and safe for Callum. A pioneer exploring, risking, and changing for yourself and the precious of the precious: your little one." — Trish


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