One day a disciple of the Buddha approached him and said, “Lord, I think that half of the Holy Life is spiritual friendship…” the Buddha replied: “That’s not so; say not so, Ananda. It is not half of the Holy Life, it is the whole of the Holy Life”. Community, connection with others who support, inspire and at times challenge us is so vital to our well being. One thing I have noticed after 12 years of holding this space for gay/bi/trans men to meet is how wounded a lot of us are around being in a group and feeling at ease with other men.
I’ve been told how hard it is to come into the group and to socialise in the tea break, and that often learning how to connect with others away from the support of drink or intoxicants has been one of the most powerful lessons people have taken away from the group. It has been one of my deep delights to hear that people have formed friendship groups within the group and to hear how these networks often continue even after people no longer attend regularly.
The Wounds Of Our School Years
Thinking about it I remember my experience of being in male groups at school. The other boys were always this mix of threat and forbidden pleasure. I felt so alone at school. In groups of boys I feared being found out, and that the secret I did not even allow myself to openly know or say would be pulled from the dark corner I had stuffed it into and everyone would know: “Nick is gay”.
And yet I also loved seeing the boys around me, and the communal showers after sport were a time of especial joyful agony – the delight of seeing what I secretly knew I desired, and yet the fear of being seen to be looking or, even worse, my body betraying me and getting a hard on! What straight boy ever had to worry that he might reveal his sexuality in that way! And so I learnt to find being with men a bitter sweet experience, associating it with heightened levels of anxiety and the fear of ridicule and rejection. There was a pavlovian conditioning that associated being in a group of men with minority stress and the consequent fear of being rejected, judged or attacked.
It’s no wonder then that on walking into a gay bar as an adult and once again being in a group of men my anxiety levels would go berserk! And I think it’s for this reason so many of us find it so hard to feel at ease in a group of gay men, if we still carry this old wound of feeling intimidated and overwhelmed by men in groups.
Monday night offers one way to meet this old fear and allow it to dissolve as we learn a new way to be with other men. And I know from responses to group surveys in the past the number 1 reason many people say they come to the group is to socialise and meet other men who are going to be on the same wavelength.
If You Feel Alone…You Are Not The Only One!
Loneliness is especially powerful among gay men, and any spaces that offer a chance to make new friends and support our mental health and feel a sense of ease and joy are so valuable. Making new friends and meeting people who can both celebrate us and also challenge or support us in our process is so valuable. Human connection is what nurtures us. I hope this is what Monday night can offer you, a place to meet new friends, make life long connections with other men who support, nurture and encourage you in your own life journey – I know I have made friends through the group who have enriched my life and bring me a lot of joy to know.
To meet gay men in a relaxed and friendly environment you can check out the Monday Meditation group here As a special offer just for February your first session is free, so come and try it out!