four men looking at sunset

06: Bill Kauth [Living In Community]

Bill Kauth was working as a psychotherapist and a business consultant in 1984, when he conceived the New Warrior Training Adventure, now part of the ManKindProject. As a social inventor of the past two decades, Bill also co-founded the Spiritual Warrior Inner King Training and in 1995 launched the Warrior [Monk] Training Retreat. Feeling called in 2006 to build safe, trusting, long-term, committed local communities of men and women, Bill - with his wife Zoe Alowan - founded the gift-community, with a focus on catalysing families of choice and gift-tribes.

In his book ‘We Need Each Other’ Bill said: ‘As social animals, we humans need each other. And to get really close we need to feel safe. Liminal space is when there is enough safety and trust that a field opens up around the group that we might call ‘oneness’. When I first started to focus on building authentic community, I remember one of my target goals was that I wanted to feel liminal space every week, when my community gathers. I knew the feeling well, because in the ManKindProject work, we set a container or safe place for men to open their hearts. This space we set and held is so safe, that nearly every time men are able to go so deep and trust each other so much, that transformation becomes possible.’

The Mankind Project

Graham
Bill, the work you have done over many years has been so important for men and it still remains powerful today. Now you have moved on to look at how to bring man and women together in communities. I want to talk about that later, but first let me ask you about your story. Can you outline for the listener the elements of your life that brought you to this point of the work that you do.

Bill
Sure, be happy to Graham. It has been an amazing odyssey—we are in our twenty-eighth year now. It started out just as a simple call and we now have somewhere between fifty and sixty thousand men around the world that have been through this intensive weekend training. After the training they go on to our follow up men's support group., There are probably ten or fifteen thousand men that sit, literally every week, in their group of between five and ten men. Every week!

Graham
Wow.

Bill
Ten thousand men. Sitting and learning to open their hearts and being honest, straight and clear with each other as well as being emotionally literate. So that’s what we do and those are some of the results.

It actually started for me in 1984. I was a feminist therapist who never had authentic relationships with his clients, because the women’s movement, at that time, was the powerful, social consciousness force. I knew that. I had the eyes to see that, so I became a feminist therapist.

I was at the bi-annual Wisconsin Feminist Therapists Association meeting. I was in the lobby and the magic that happened. I had the eyes to see pretty evolved humans—of the hundred and twenty five feminist therapists I’m pretty sure I was the only guy—I could see these beautifully inter-dependent conscious beings. I knew my brothers were hurting out there so something came over me and I thought, 'damn, somebody's gotta do something for the men!' and suddenly that finger pointing out turned and pointed at me and I thought, 'NO, NOT ME!' but it was me!

Graham
It was you, yes.

Bill
So I was obsessed from that point on and gathered together with a couple of friends with whom I had been doing some very emotional cathartic heart-opening work. I had seen their hearts. One was Ron Hering, a friend from Gestalt work who has a PhD and is really quite a genius and open in new culture processes. The other was Rich Tosi, who is a guy that worked for General Motors and had been in the marine corps for ten years. There was something about this guy, he had just the most open heart. So I invited both of them and neither of them quite had a clue as to what I was talking about but they could feel my passion so they said they’re in.

So we spent most of ’84 cobbling together this training. By the time we launched it in ’85 we knew almost immediately, we could see the profound changes in the men. We knew this thing was going to stick and fly, and so it has. It has just continued to grow, first the mid-west of the United States, then coast to coast and then it jumped to England. We have been in England now for ten, fifteen years.

Graham
That’s right, you have, haven’t you!

Bill
Then it went around Europe and into New Zealand, Australia and South-Africa, and so forth. It has been an amazing odyssey. The reason it grows is because we are providing something that men profoundly want. We men are really good, kind, compassionate creatures if we can only find a space, a container that is safe enough to open our hearts.

Graham
What took you to being a feminist therapist in the first place? That was perhaps slightly unusual for a man.

Bill
It was very unusual, but I could see that that movement of women was the cutting edge at that point. They had something to teach us that was really deep. So I stepped into it and I loved what I felt so I just identified with it.

Graham
That’s very impressive. Did you work particularly with men, or men and women? How did you bring the concept of feminism to the work that you did.

Bill
You know, it’s basically just having an authentic relationship with people. I worked with everybody. I did couples and individuals, and men and women.

So, the New Warrior work started to grow. It was so exciting to see the transformation in these men over a weekend, but, as a therapist, I knew it would take them a year or maybe two years to get what they got in one weekend, so I moved all my energy there and left the psychotherapy world. I got into supporting this mens work in the world.

Graham
So you left that psychotherapy work behind?

Bill
Oh yeah!

Graham
How long did it take you, it obviously took you some time to put the weekend idea together.

Bill
It took us the latter half of 2008, meeting every week or so. Each of us had skill sets that we brought to the party.

Ron was really good at mythology and story telling and Tosi was—from his marine corps background—able to bring a kind of a fierceness to it that was so important. I did a lot of the organising and skill set stuff. So each of us had our own genius and the three of us together—this is amazing Graham—we collaborated from the beginning with no leader. Which is kind of a miracle in and of itself. We created it by making decisions through passion. If somebody really had passion for something then you’ve got to give it a try to see if it floated.

It was amazing for men to do this, we subsumed our individual egos into creating something greater. We knew how to fight with each other. We knew how to love each other deeply, because we had been doing a lot of heart-opening emotional cathartic processes for years. So the three of us just blended into something that was so much greater than any one of us could have done.

Graham
What does the New Warrior Weekend comprise of? What is the kind of work that men do over that weekend?

Bill
Oh, a real simple overview—it is fierce by the way, it is not another nice New Age training, which is one of the reasons it has lasted for so long. It’s better for the world. It is a real men’s initiation and at some level not everyone survives. It is a metaphor for some guys, they barely get to the door and they are too scared to go in.

But we invite men to face their fears in that way. We play some games to bond the group and get them connected and trusting. We do that in a way that is amazing. Then we create an opportunity for each man to go inside, into his heart, to find his trans-personal mission—trans-personal is a really important word, because a true initiation takes a person, a man, anybody, from their separate ego-self into a larger world.

In the old days, when there were still initiations for boys, they became support for the tribe, they became protectors of the tribe, and their little individual self got larger. So that’s what we do. We do part of that for each man and then we have a very potent process in which each man gets to explore a shadow in his life. Something that is significantly holding him back from truly manifesting the kind of man he wants to be. Throughout all that there is a lot of emotional literacy, you know, not just training but deep experience.

Mostly men learn from being in the energy field of the other men.

Graham
That must be amazing.

Bill
We do some really terrific ritual and ceremony too, that helps ground all that stuff and it really blesses men on their journey as a man. As Robert Bly used to say, Each man needs to be initiated into manhood and it is something that has been lost, deeply lost in our culture. And they need to be initiated by men. Women can’t do it.

So, that’s a task we have taken on and we are doing it quite brilliantly really.

Graham
That sense of initiation and ritual is very important. Do many men find that very strange or do they fall into it, as something that comes to them naturally. Something they have missed in their life.

Bill
That’s good, Graham. It is almost like it is archetypal.

Graham
Yes.

Bill
When they see it, they recognise it at some level. It is certainly not cognitive. It vibrates in their body and they welcome it. We all love ritual.

Graham
Yes, it is very important.

You say that some men don’t actually survive. Is that fear, or have they too much in their shadow?

Bill
Yes, both, yes it is fear. This is a very intense training and if a man isn’t scared going in he probably isn’t paying attention. So consequently we offer an opportunity to break through all those kinds of fears. We all carry a bunch of fears and this training is designed in such a way that every man will get to work with a half a dozen of them in one way or another.

Graham
If you started again would you do it differently?

Bill
That’s a darn good question. We actually had a huge look at the training and a bunch of our finest leaders—we have got a couple of hundred really highly trained leaders, it takes years to be a leader in this process—a bunch of the leaders got together and they went through the training again as initiates to look at if from that process. They came out saying the training is great.

The structure actually works, which, as a founder, it is a miracle to me because we are just a bunch of average guys from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of all places, that happen to channel this thing. But there is something archetypal about the training, and I know that you know what I am talking about in terms of archetypes.

Graham
Yes.

Bill
It is the the vibrational field that gets created over a hundred generations or thousand generations and so at some level we were able to get out of the way, ego-wise, enough to allow this ancient process to come through us.

Graham
It is very interesting that you got in touch with that. Is that something that you felt in your youth growing up? Or did this only come to you later in life?

Bill
No, I got to tell you this, you know. There is a lot of that kind of work going on where if you really pay attention you know it is your call early in your life. I was always called to groups.

I was in several fraternities and tried every conceivable way to build community. It was not until I got into the first Gestalt group and began doing that inner work, where we really had permission to open our hearts, that I felt like, OK, I’m home. From then on it is like my life has always been devoted to building groups and community.

Graham
Do you know where that came from? Did that come from your parents or is that something that was part of you?

Bill
It came directly from the Divine. I don’t have any idea where it came from. It is just part of who I am and it—as I look back—it has always been there.

Graham
Can I ask you, who was the big role model in your life? Was your father important in your life? Did you learn about being a man from him?

Bill
Yes I did. My grandfather was a farmer and he nurtured me and taught me about Native Americans. He loved Native Americans and so I got an introduction from him to something that was more ancient than our Western civilisation and has a depth that we lost. That was a significant factor. My dad was an intellectually curious entrepreneur. So I picked up those skills from him and I clearly see how that added to the picture.

Graham
That curiosity is fascinating, and together with getting together in groups is something that really has transformed men. You must have come across some extraordinary stories of men who have been transformed by the New Warrior Weekend or the work that the ManKindProject does?

Bill
Ahhh, hundreds of them, Graham. I have been to very many of what we call the Welcome Home, after the training, the community welcomes the men home from their adventure..

Graham
Yes?

Bill
We do that all over the world, after each training. I have been to hundreds of those and so I have heard hundreds of stories the transformation that goes on. I can’t tell you how many men have come up to me and just thanked me for saving their lives. It is dramatic. It is powerful, powerful stuff.

Graham
How does that feel in yourself? How does it feel to you as an individual man.

Bill
Ohhh, I get asked that all the time, and I am just a regular guy. It feels good. Sometimes it touches me to tears, but mostly it is just me doing what I do, putting one foot in front of the other.

Graham
Yes, it is very interesting that it is actually just the regular guys who can actually make the shifts and changes.

Bill
That is true.

Graham
It is very interesting, because I have never been in a men’s group…

Bill
Oh, my...

Graham
…so I am fascinated by the process of being in one. You have the groups, I think they are called I-groups, that continue meeting after the weekend and they are a key part of the ManKindProject, aren’t they?

Bill
Yes and I want to make sure that you feel personally invited by me to go find a New Warrior Training in England and step into it. I have referred so many men, high profile men, and although it seems like they are not going to get anything, they always get an incredible gift, all of them, I have watched it for so long.

After the training, after the actual immersion and transformation, what we discovered early on is that it is so powerful that the men needed time with each other, probably like six months, to integrate the potency of the learning, the emotional literacy and the conscious evolution skills. Learning to love each other with their hearts open is a grand, grand learning experience. So we created what we now call integration groups, which start for that group of men right after the training. They meet every single week. That is where the real, deep, big learning goes on, week after week being with these men. As you might imagine most men don’t really have another good friend after high school or college.

Graham
Yes.

Bill
They find that within six months of being in their integration group, guess who their best friends are, and those relationships stay for decades.

Graham
One of the problems, I think, that many men face, is actually making deep friendships with other men. It is good to hear that this work continues after the weekend and gets into the depth of their lives.

Bill
Yes, it makes the learning applicable to their lives. They learn how to share openly with each other and ask for support or guidance if that is needed. They are taking care of each other.

Men and Masculinity

Graham
Bill, we have been talking about your life and about the ManKindProject. I’d like to look now at men in general. So can I ask you, what is masculinity for you? What are the characteristics of being a man?

Bill
Wow… well that’s like asking for a list. Ahh…

Graham
It is really the essence of what you feel it is about.

Bill
I think it is about being able to focus and live into your mission very specifically. It is a little different from the feminine, which is a more general, diffuse reality. Men tend, honestly, to be very functionally linear and to be able to focus. That’s what we were talking about a little earlier. If they can focus on a mission that is trans-personal their lives open up in an amazing way. Women tend to really appreciate men that are truly guided by a big mission, by a sense of being truly useful in the world.

Graham
It is interesting because men are guided by that, and often that takes them away from women, but women do like to see men like that. There’s a bit of a contrast there.

Bill
Yes. Robert Bly used to say it really clearly, he said, If a man doesn’t have a mission, something that is grounded in his soul, the woman will give him a mission. Which is presumably to take care of her in some way.

Graham
Yes, absolutely.

Bill
We do that anyway.

Graham
A man really wants to get that before she gives it to him.

Bill
Exactly!

Graham
To what extend do you think it is inherent or learned? I mean, do you think that men, in their own personal sense of masculinity, feel that is something they are born with or something they learn?

Bill
You know, back in the old days, when I was a feminist therapist I said, we are all the same, except for the plumbing. The more I dipped into it, the more I found that we are profoundly different. I don’t know how that works. I suppose there are some genetic, archetypal characteristics that are passed on when the chromosomes shake out as masculine versus feminine. There is a significant difference. Mothers recognise that, if they have a boy and a girl. They recognise it very early, there is quite a difference.

Graham
I think that difference is important. It is not that, of course, one is better than the other. We are just different.

Bill
Exactly.

Graham
I think there is different wiring and there is also, to be fair to what a lot of feminists maintain, a difference in the cultural conditioning that we go through.

Bill
You know, there are some terrific teachers in this area, Alison Armstrong comes to mind. She has been talking so clearly about the differences between men and women. There is an outfit in England, called the Culture of Honouring, which do a brilliant job. Do you know those guys?

Graham
No I don’t.

Bill
Oh, man, they are terrific, Joseph and Elizabeth I believe, they are doing something really unique in the world.

Graham
What do they do?

Bill
They teach about the distinctions between men and women, and how to step into that in a good way. To be able to relate to each other in a real intimate way, because of knowing and embodying those differences in a healthy way.

Graham
Yes, because when you understand the differences you can relate and create amazing relationships through that spark of polarity that happens between a man and a woman.

Bill
Yes, that’s very good. Those differences are actually fairly dramatic and when they are honoured they serve to keep things flowing a little smoother between couples. I had an enormous fight with one of my best friends about three weeks ago and I have been handling it in a kind of guy-way, which is, you know, really fierce. My wife can just not understand it. She just cannot get it. My Zoe is brilliantly sensitive and caring but she just cannot get, she just felt like I was doing it all wrong. It took a while, with some really carefully meditated conversations, for her to really get that guys just operate very differently in the way they handle conflict.

Graham
Is this something that you teach men in the ManKind Project—this polarity, this difference between men and women—to help men understand how to be with a woman.

Bill
Yes, in some ways we teach that. We also teach a conflict resolution module we call clearings which is not unlike Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication.

Graham
I know that work.

Bill
So when a man needs to do a clearing with another man he is mad at, what happens is that he gets to look at his own shadow, his own unfinished business or his own issue from the past that has probably triggered the response inside him.

Graham
So you look at the issue of projecting your own shadow issues onto other men.

Bill
Precisely.

Graham
Is that something that men take to quite easily?

Bill
No. Most of us don’t know that model at all! But when men start opening their hearts, they start looking for a better way to do those things. So they are open to it and once they get it, they embrace it of course, because they see something magical happen in terms of conflict resolution that they had never seen before. They go, wow, this works! I am actually getting better at looking at my shadow, yes!

Graham
I like that.

What are the challenges that you think men face today that perhaps they didn’t a few years ago?

Bill
Oh, that’s an enormous question. One of the biggest challenges right now is through the contraction of our culture. The completion of the cycle of the capitalist industrial culture. It is leading to an awful lot of unemployment, and men really get attached to their work. So without work or an opportunity to give their gift, it is really hard for men. I see us also moving into a new culture which I have been calling the gift-culture. I find Charles Eisenstein to be the most profound spokesman of that new phenomenon. I think men suffer a lot from not being able to give their gifts in a good way.

Graham It was one of the interesting things that my guest last week, a guy called Simon Drury was talking about. He found that as men left the industrial culture, that culture of hard work and slowly moved into softer work, work that was more with the brain, work that didn’t involve hard physical graft, that they were able to change how they reacted and were able to be less hard as men, they could start to understand compassion and vulnerability more.

Although that culture is shifting, and causing problems for men, in a funny way, the solution for men might be in that shift.

Bill
Very interesting perspective that as we stop working harder we become more feminine, which opens up a whole other part of ourselves. At some level what Robert Bly was saying back in the eighties was that we had gone too far. Men had gotten too feminised and they need to reclaim that fierce part of masculinity. That is where he suggested that an initiation has to be done by a man.

Graham
I love that concept of fierceness. There is a lot of talk nowadays that men need to develop softness, something which I think women get upset about. It is not just that they like to see men with focus, they like to see men in their fierceness—the word you use is very powerful—in their strength, in their certainty.

Bill
You know, Graham, it is both and. Some men are too soft and they need to find their fierceness and other men are too rough and they haven’t really figured out how to get into their hearts and open that softer side. One of things that happens in the New Warrior Training is that men learn from each other. They get bonded so they can trust each other. They mentor each other in learning which side was a little weak thus becoming more whole, full men.

Graham
That is very important. I noticed that in the values in the ManKind Project of the mature masculine that compassion is one of them. That is a very difficult one to develop, because, as Robert Bly said, you can easily go too far and become too feminised.

How important is compassion and vulnerability—which Brené Brown talks about—to development as men.

Bill
Oh boy, now you hit a beautiful one there. Jeremy Rifkin wrote this huge book called ‘The Compassionate Civilisation’ which suggests that we are evolving into that. I have learned recently that as men become more whole, more balanced, they rebalance the archetypes of the king, warrior, magician, lover—we use those as our archetypal metaphor for a truly balanced man. Once a man becomes balanced in all of those skills or world views, he automatically becomes more compassionate, it is a progressive process.

We just love Brené Brown! Her stuff on shame and the distinctions between men’s and women’s shame, is brilliant. It is one of the best pieces I have seen in twenty years. I am glad you mentioned that and know that.

Graham
Oh, it is brilliant. I remember in one of her Ted Talks she talked about this man who came up to her at a book signing she was at saying that he couldn’t go into his vulnerability because—and he pointed over to his family—his family expected him to stay tough and strong.

Bill
If he ever fell off his white horse they would just not like it at all. So he had to stay that way.

Graham
That is a real problem. How do you think a man should deal with that sort of situation?

Bill
I truly believe that women want a balanced man. Somebody who has the capacity to be in his heart, being open and crying when it is appropriate, and also being fierce and clear and being able to make decisions and protect his family as needed.

Graham
So it is a matter of growing, developing that balance. But it is not a balance of masculine and feminine inside us, because—I am not sure I agree that we should create that balance inside of us— becausedI think there should be a balance between masculine and feminine in the world. How do you see that situation?

Graham
I see that also as a both/and. Of course we should have a balance between the masculine and feminine externally with our partners and other people in the world. Inside it is not like a man is becoming more feminine. He is finding the the softer, more compassionate side of his masculinity.

Graham
OK, so he is looking for more feminine qualities.

Bill
You could call them that, or you can call them the softer side of his masculinity. It’s just semantic. It is becoming a more whole, complete human.

Graham
But it is a side to his masculinity. It is like it is a balancing and rounding of his approach to masculinity.

Bill
Yes! We see that all the time in our graduates. Once they have popped their cork open and they learn to express their grief for example, they grief very, very openly and freely. God knows we need more open grieving in our culture. There is so much to grieve for, and it needs to be done publicly. Personal grief is something that is an aberration of our western culture that is very new. All tribal peoples grieved openly and collectively. I am very much looking for that coming into the world.

Graham
That is wonderful.

Living in Community

Graham Bill, we have been talking about men and masculinity but I am interested that you have moved on to finding a way of creating communities where men and women can live and work and be together. Can you tell us some more about that?

Bill
My official title in the ManKind Project is 'Visionary At Large', which I have taken very seriously. I have begun doing as extensive a research as I could in terms of the state of the world, so I could bring—like a scout, a guide—bring a word back to my people. The more I studied the state of the world, the more dreary I saw everything. I kept coming back year after year to the brothers saying you know how bad I said it was last year, well, it’s worse!

It continues to get more severe. We are going through an incredible transformation right now. Everybody can feel the contraction, there is more and more fear. Anyway, at some point I stopped because there is also an upside, which is that we are as humans so brilliantly amazing and capable. We have done so much. There is less war and crime and more education in the world, significantly more in the last sixty years. I can hold both sides of that paradox.

At some point, I kind was wondering what am I called to do. I gave myself some time to get quiet and what kept calling out was a sense of community. So, I made a commitment to study and build community, how hard could that be? I can’t believe how hard it is.

Graham
Really? Well, communities are not very powerful nowadays. We all tend to, in the modern world, live here, work there and not really connect with the people around us.

Bill
Exactly! The system is designed so that will happen. The money system, the debt-based money system, is designed so that people compete with each other and there is a kind of an ethic of ‘I can do it myself. We are the loneliest people in the history of the planet, here in America, I know that, we are also the wealthiest. It is such a peculiar paradox and the more I study it, the more I get the reasons for it. Charles Eisenstein’s book Sacred Economics lays out in detail precisely why it is that way.

In the course of my wanting to create community, I decided that IUwanted to do it with men and women together, which again is an enormous challenge and I keep doing my inner work, like all of us brothers do. At some point about, oh, eight or ten year ago, I figured out that I needed to get down on my knees to the Goddess and learn how to adore the Goddess, to be able to step through my fear of attachment and to really risk my heart. At about that time Zoë came into my life. We met at Burning Man in ’05 and since then it has been an amazing personal odyssey for me to surrender and be in service to the Goddess She and I then, in our bond, started reaching out to others, to create community.

We discovered that, if you are going to do that, there are a few things you need to know, like who’s going to do it, who are you going to invite, what are the qualities of the people you are going to invite, how long are you going to invite them for. Also are there any values, and if there are values, who gets to decide them, are you going to have some kind of a structure, and if so, who gets to decide that. There are probably fifty questions like that.

I started answering them. I started writing and writing and writing and writing and writing. The next thing you know, we had this book. Called ‘We Need Each Other’.

Graham
Yes I have a copy of that.

One of then things you address is how you decide who is and who isn’t going to be in the community, wwhich must be one of the most difficult issues to deal with?

Bill
It is. If you take some of the other premises that we paid a lot of dues to learn these things, one of the secrets that we teach is that community is you and me, and that’s it. It is a whole bunch of individual relationships.

Graham
The individual relationships don’t get lost in the big community culture?

Bill
No, they really don’t, they are always there, the individual relationships. If those are really respected then people can be together in the collective, because they all know each other and they trust each other. That’s the point. Lately we have developed a Tribe Training, which brings people in and slowly walks them through the values that we share, the structure, how to resolve conflict and how to safely open our hearts to each other.

Graham
Do some people find that difficult to go through? Do they expect to just become part of the community, without that?

Bill
Good question! We have a lot of people that, as we go around teaching this, say I just want to find the perfect community. We are saying no, you probably are going to need to be a little more pro-active than that. If you are not the champion, if you are not the one that takes on the task of pulling your tribe together—let me talk about this for a little bit—your community together, find somebody that has that skill set and work together to bring together your community.

I want to tell you this, I just accidentally said that on purpose, we have found that the word ‘community’ is so big, it is like the word ‘love’. Everything is a community, we have the global community and the United States community and the Organ community and the Ashland community and the Dance community and the Church community. So the word is dysfunctional, it is too big. So we are using the word ‘tribe’.

Graham
A tribe has a more visual quality to it.

Bill Hasn’t it? We think of tribe as being never more than a hundred fifty people. Probably more like eighty to a hundred, deeply bonded and committed to the tribe, so that it is big enough that we can actually begin considering making a living together. We don’t know what that means, because we are not usin g it in the old definition.

Graham
But does this involve people living together or just being close?

Bill
No, excellent question, that is what is really different, the intention of communities. There are thousands of them and they are really good but they are very, very, very difficult to bring together, there is around a two percent success rate. We are talking about people who have their own homes, or apartments, getting together and bonding, really trusting, as they already know each other. There has been a lot of sorting out, and so forth, so that they know each other well enough to be able to make a commitment to each other, a long term commitment, not just a few weeks. We ask for a year or three years minimum. Then we work stuff out, and learn to really deeply love and trust each other. Sometimes from that an intentional living together community might happen, between people that are already bonded.

Graham
I am fascinated, you moving from working with men—and I can understand a group of men getting into that sort of fierce essence as you talked about—but, working with men and women together, there is such contrast in the ways of doing things. Does that cause a lot of difficulties?

Bill
No, we have not found any difficulty in that. We, Zoë and I, we were in a seminar in Northern California for several years and one of the upper end trainings was called Clearing The Air Between Men And Women. You had to have done your mother work and father work very specifically because to get in this seminar you had to promise to not have sex with anybody in that container, for ever. Not like six months or a year, but forever.

Graham
Forever, wow.

Bill
It created so much safety, that we were able to do things with the other gender that we would never, never, never do. We learned that it is possible to be profoundly safe with the other gender. We had a community, but we would have to travel two hundred miles to get there, we wanted it locally. That is what we have been building, a community that is profoundly safe for men and women to truly be open and free and playful with each other, without worrying about those old adolescent rolesthat we used to play, those roles that we learned so long ago.

Graham
It is a very profound condition that people are serious about it. I can understand that it can open out the community, but it is very tough because we all have our desires and our emotions and sometimes things happen. Do you have to struggle with that issue? Is that the situation in your community?

Bill
Well, we built some pretty fierce boundaries, so that we protect against that sort of thing happening. Before anybody even comes in, they have to promise to be transparent about that kind of thing, which allows the safety that wouldn’t exist without that. That is part of the training and part of the agreements that we make coming into the tribe. All that stuff is in our book.

Graham
I noticed you said earlier that you met your wife Zoë at Burning Man.

Bill
Yes.

Graham
The principles of Burning Man are quite similar in terms it being about giving and receiving and about it not being commercial. Did some of the ideas come out of that? I don’t know if you go there every year or is it something you do a lot of?

Bill
No, I have been three or four times. But it is very cool that you know that. It is one of the most amazing experiments on the world, in which fifty or sixty thousand people come together for an entire week, with no commerce, zero buying and selling of anything. It is all a pure gift economy, not even barter, pure gift. It is an amazing experiment and that was one of the reasons I went was to see how that worked, and it is quite amazing.

I was alluding to what Charles Eisenstein is bringing forward with his teaching work, about how to perhaps step into a real gift economy. His new book, that is just out, is called ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’. I just ordered forty copies. It is the most exquisitely beautiful book. It is just delicious.

Graham
I haven’t heard him speak yet. In fact he was on the station, just about a week ago...

Bill
Excellent!

Graham
...being interviewed by the guy who runs the station.

Bill
Good.

Graham
I haven’t heard him speak but I have read some of his work, I admire what he does.

Bill
Oh, good.

Graham I am fascinated by this idea of gifting and I think for men this could be—for men on their own, just in term of developing their own lives—a concept of giving rather than receiving. A concept of what you can do rather than what you deserve in the world is probably very important.

Bill
It is, and it is quite a balance too. Many of us have been trained to give. We give and give without knowing how to receive. When we do our seminars Zoe and I run a process in which we invite everyone to take a look at how they are the gift. How they are the gift, as a way of receiving, the blessing that they may not have been giving.

Graham
So how they are as a person, rather than necessarily what gifts they have, just in the way they are.

Bill
Yes, oth/and.

Graham
That is fabulous. Thank you Bill for sharing your experience and your thoughts and wisdom with us. I know that the men listening will have learned a great deal from it and I am sure many, like me - I’d be really interested in doing the weekend training.

Bill
Good.

Graham
I have thought about it and have never actually got there. I certainly don’t think I am above it, at all.

Bill
Oh, thank you. That’s good.

One Last Question

Graham
Before we finish then, can I ask you just one final question?

What is the one thing a man can do today that will make the difference in his life? So, when the show has ended and he sits down, what is the one thing he can do that will bring him forward?

Bill
You know, gratitude is the thing that comes up. If we can actually see virtually everything—I mean everything, even if it looks dark—with a sense of gratitude, there is an inner shift and we begin to perceive the gift that is all around us. So practice gratitude I suggest.

Graham
Thank you Bill. Thank you for being with us. And if people want to know more about you and your work, and what you do, where can they contact you online.

Bill
That would be WeNeedEachOther. Thank you so much for this interview, Graham. There have been great questions, you know, and fun.

Graham Thank you. It has been wonderful. I have really enjoyed it. I have wanted to talk to you for some time and I know a number of men in the ManKind Project and there have been a number of people I have interviewed who have suggested I talk to you.

Bill Oh, wonderful

Graham I have really enjoyed it. Thank you for coming on.

Bill Thank you and blessings, Graham.