I returned from the Loving Men retreat this evening. It started Friday evening and never have a few days felt so full and rewarding! I feel nourished and loved and have had more hugs and loving touch in a few days than in the last few months! There were 80 men together engaging in workshops, meeting for morning yoga and meditation and exploring how to let go of the defences which stop us from reaching out for touch and love. I feel blessed to have had this opportunity to be on such an amazing weekend and to have entered the New year with so much joy and sense of community. Over the few days we were together I saw how what we can be as gay and bi men is a loving community of men, caring for one another, softening, exploring, playing – and being fabulous! There were so many skills and talents shared over the weekend – workshops on dance, creating vision boards for the year ahead, an evening of drag for those who wanted to get dressed up. There were massage classes, voice improvisation sessions, an introduction to shamanic healing and so much more.
One seminar I found particularly useful was on exploring staying with the ‘maybe’ in making a choice in order to be clearer with if the decision is going to be a no or yes. The session was introduced with poem by America poet William Stafford:
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
How can we give clear signals, yes, no or maybe if we are as yet decided? The maybe is a place of exploration. Rather feeling I have to rush to a clear yes or no, I may want to leave the space open for exploration. Rather than feel compelled to please another by saying yes or just saying no in order to escape the discomfort of having to negotiate an outcome when I feel uncertain if I can express the maybe it opens up the possibility for discussion, for exploring what would make a difference. Doing this workshop made me aware of how often in the past I have run past the maybe into a yes or no and have later regretted not talking over my concerns or wishes before agreeing to a course of action or turning it down.
The maybe can create a place of open discussion. One is saying that one is open to the possibility, but there are issues there that need to be addressed and depending on how this discussion goes the decision might be a yes or no. If in contrast one has a clear sense that it is a no but wants to avoid seeming to reject the other person it may seem easier to give a maybe. At such times it might be kinder to give a clear no rather than seem to leave the possibility open and the waiting and hoping for a yes that will never come.
As part of the session we thought of a question we had about an area in our life where we were wanting some clarity. With two other men we then explored the yes, no and maybe position. As the one asking th question I remained as the maybe, in a space of not having made a decision either way. One man then represented ‘yes’, the other ‘no’. I then moved them around the room, placing them nearer or further away from me, going up to one and then another, and simply staying with how it felt to be with the yes or the no. At first I thought I wished I had signed up to another seminar as I couldn’t see how this was going to work! Human chess! But it had an amazingly powerful effect. As I looked at the person representing no I saw and felt everything connected with that decision and way of living my life. As I looked at the person representing yes I saw and felt the consequences of applying that decision to my life. As a result I came to a decision based on the sensations in my body as much as thought. The decision was to go with the yes. If you don’t have a couple of men available to move around your room you can also use two objects, deciding which represent yes and which no!