2015/06/08

Study Notes: ManKind Project, A New Earth, Problem-solving Tools

The purpose of this post is to maintain the valuable habit from student-era of writing down -- and sharing -- study notes. Doing so helps to deepen the impression of the lessons, take stock of the progress, create a repository of retrievable knowledge, and spread the nuggets of learning.

ManKind Project

Two weekends ago, I participated in a 48-hour hero's journey/initiation ceremony/men's group called New Warrior Training Adventure, offered by the ManKind Project.

This was the first time I participated in any men's group, or self-help group, or coming-of-age ceremony, or initiation rituals -- whatever it's called. It was deeply touching and transformative. I witnessed the transformation of two dozen fellow men right in front of my eyes, as they articulate their missions in life, face their darkest shadow, and embrace a new sense of brotherhood with all men. The difference before and after was night-and-day. An important part of them have started to come alive.

The weekend was led by men who have gone through the training/initiation themselves, with utmost passion, generosity, and integrity. I was very moved, and deeply hopeful. May the integrity of this community continues to remain pure, and its invaluable work continues to help more men step into their true self.

Personally, it was the first time that I asked -- and was asked -- the question: what does it mean to be a man, what is masculinity in our time, this world?

Growing up in China -- and then straight into a leftist liberal arts college in the US with gender-neutral bathrooms and militant feminist presence -- I have never had a chance to really understand myself "as a man," or delve into the "male" aspect of human experience. Having learned about the oppression of patriarchy and gender politics, I have always felt somewhat apologetic for being a straight man, thus shied away from looking at that part of me. I have always been afraid of saying the politically-incorrect thing and offend my feminist peers. This is no fault of feminism, but only the result of the absence of an equivalent "constructive program for creating good men."

The effect of my unconscious avoidance (of the fact that I am indeed a man) amounts to nothing less than a perpetual boyhood and cultural/social castration. I did not feel fully alive or comfortable as a man, because I didn't know what it meant, or what responsibilities it carried. There was no milestone that marked my entrance into manhood, no welcome into the universal brotherhood, and no transmission of the noble responsibility of being a man, as part of being a human.

The weekend training started a new pathway of exploration, dismantling, and character (re)building. It's just a start, but a much-needed one. It gave me the language, framework, and toolkit to earn my manhood, face my shadows, and embrace my mission.

"Being a man" has not -- and probably will not -- be the main self-identification I carry. There are other "tags" that would at times be more relevant for my life's work and community association. But "being a man" was sorely missing from my consciousness and self-inquiry. I am only beginning to see its impact, and can only imagine that hundreds of millions of men would benefit from a similar process of awakening to the fact that they are indeed men, and that being man carries holy responsibilities.

The weekend training was also a first in the history of the ManKind Project in NorCal. It was held in an urban area, for young men, men of color, inner-city men, and/or men of extreme financial needs. I felt blessed and honored to have experienced the weekend with men from such diverse backgrounds (decades in incarceration, decades in the military, traumatic childhoods, broken families, etc), to let my heart be cracked open by their pain, and to see their gold shine through exteriors that were thick with calluses, full of wounds, and heavy in armor.

Deeply grateful for the community carrying on such work, calling forth new generation of warriors in service of the divine masculine and feminine.

A New Earth

Recently finished reading the book by Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose.

It was an enlightening experience -- I found myself applying the teachings of the book in small moments in life, returning to my awareness and the moment. It's like playing "knock, knock" with my mind.

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"It's Me. It's You. It's the Awareness."

I am amazed by Tolle's ability to say what the Buddha said in modern, accessible language. It is effortless, wholesome, and rings true.

The concept of "frequency-holder" helped me to understand that even when we are not engaged in overt, observable action, we can still bring awareness into our moments, help to hold the frequency of a new, universal consciousness.

The concept of "pain-body" was a brilliant metaphor for the accumulated historical/social/personal trauma and memory that lives in us. The pain-body is like parasite, needing to feed on the emotional turmoils and on the pains in its own likeness. Being able to see my emotions as "pain-body" helps to maintain a precious distance between my self-identification and the sankharas.

The path of integration and practice is long, but every bit -- every moment -- helps.

Minto Pyramid Principle, Human-centered Design

To get more tools under my belt, I recently studied the consulting classic, "Minto Pyramid Principle," and the fashionable "Human-centered Design" from IDEO.org.

The Pyramid Principle offers a tried-and-true formula for problem-solving, with useful (and consultant's favorite) concepts such as MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive), inductive vs. deductive methods, grouping and ordering of ideas, lines of inferences, etc. Nothing you won't learn from college courses on logic or philosophy of math. And being a business book, it is much more watered-down and dull compared to the stimulating field of logic, reason, and paradoxes in a more intellectual context.

Human-centered design (HCD), or design thinking, is Silicon Valley/Stanford's way of saying it. Thanks to the business/start-up world for perfecting this set of tools, and now making available to the public.

Both of these tools are for systematic, structured problem-solving. I have found them to be very useful, and at the same time, old wine in new bottle. However, being "old wine in new bottle" does not detract from the tools' value. Sometimes, reconfiguration and re-purposing are all what's needed to make an old idea fly with new usefulness. As is the case for either tools, practice is key; trial and error unavoidable -- and celebrated, as HCD reminds us :)

3 comments:

Kozo Hattori said...

Powerful stuff, Zilong. I see a connection between being a man and being a frequency holder Actually, I also see a connection between being a man and healing a collective conscious "pain-body." Would love to discuss more with you. So grateful for your share. {{{Hugs}}} Kozo

Birju Pandya said...

i'm struck by these 3 threads in 1 post :) thank you for sharing!

Guri Mehta said...


Great to hear these reflections from a male perspective. :-) And the knock, knock joke made me chuckle. Love it! Thanks!