The first question that might come mind when reading the title of this blog is, why become a Bar Mitzvah at 69? Why initiate myself into a life I am already living? That doesn’t make sense. I actually became a Bar Mitzvah when I was 13. The traditional age when a Jewish boy or girl is initiated into adulthood. In the eyes of the community it is a rite of passage. There is a service held in a temple on both Friday night and Saturday morning. You read several blessings, a portion of the torah specific to the date of this event and end at the of the service you give a speech of appreciation and acknowledgement. The service takes about an hour. Bam. Your done. You are now considered an adult. But as we all know, not really.
It took me 56 years after becoming a Bar Mitzvah to come to a point in my life to feel that I did finally become a man in the eyes of the community I live in. And actually it was the last 4 years where my life conspired to create the circumstances where I was compelled to truly get my shit together. For me, it more about what I would call my Hero’s Journey. I am the hero of that journey. It is a journey of uncovering my true authentic self. A journey of self-discovery. Self-understanding. Self-love and self-acceptance.
Joseph Campbell wrote a lot about the hero’s journey. He felt that the hero’s journey crossed all cultures, and all times humans walked this planet. He is a great writer. Wikipedia define the Hero’s journey as follows: In comparative mythology, the hero’s journey, is an archetype the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed. The Iliad and the Odyssey is probably the best known of all these stories.
People have been sitting around fires for thousands of years. Telling stories about their lives and most importantly creating a container where people of a tribe could be seen by the community and ultimately initiated into adulthood. There was a shared wisdom and group intelligence passed on by the elders. There was usually some rite of passage where children could become adults in the eyes of the tribe. That right usually involved a feat of personal bravery and some form of minor disfigurement, usually tattooing or scaring.
What is important to me, is the right of passage and a sharing of the accumulated wisdom of the tribe, our tribe who ever that might include. It’s not very healthy living in isolation. Humans are herd animals. We thrive in the company of others. How do we do that today? How do we initiate our children and ourselves into a life of accountability, integrity, and personal sobriety? How do we create the circumstances of our own hero’s journey. How do we model that for our children? Where is the fire we can sit around and create a living history of our tribe. A person can’t initiate themselves and our culture doesn’t support many initiation rituals
My initiation ritual took place in Fingal, Ontario. I participated in a 3-day initiation called the New Warrior Spirit Adventure (NWTA). The NTWA is sponsored by ManKind Project (MKP). MKP’s motto is, “saving the planet, one man at a time”. The NWTA is open to any and all men. It is a very intense 3 days. While there, there is no place to hide. You are compelled to show up vulnerably and authentically no matter how uncomfortable or messy things get for you. Over the 3 days you are taken through a rite of passage. Thirty men from all walks of life having a share experience. You are invited to examine, untether and unravel the beliefs that limit the person you want to be. You are confronted about how you are currently showing up for yourself and the people in your life. You are questioned about your personal accountability and Integrity and asked if you are keeping the promises you made in your life. You are being invited to be the hero in your own journey.
The three-day NWTA was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Not much sleep. Limited food. A cold shower. At the end of the 3 days, I had a profound and deeply rooted sense of myself. I have never been so supported, accepted, and unconditionally loved by a group of men. I danced naked around a fire with over 60 men. It was truly ecstatic. The personal work does not stop at the end of the three days. That is only the being. But like Odysseus returning home after a long and hard 10-year journey, I returned home after 3 days a different man and realize there will always be more work to do. For me, the NWTA was truly my Bar Mitzvah. The day I became a man.
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