Have you ever arrived somewhere for the first time by yourself and feel immediately like you are in a group of friends? The Minnesota Men’s Conference is this type of place. When I say friends, I don’t mean people being overly friendly, trying to be nice. Here everyone is just being themselves and giving everyone else the freedom to do the same. Through-out the week it was such a relief that here are no concerned “mother-types” asking you what’s wrong if you don’t feel like talking or are feeling some sadness of a past event or just plain frozen – I felt the freedom to just feel whatever it was I was feeling. In fact if anyone wants to spend the day or even entire time there and not talk to one single person there is freedom to do that as well. Or if you want to share your experiences, there will be plenty of people to do that with as well. There are no obligations.
Generally for us guys to meet new friends and then be able to have heart to heart chats with them, it can take weeks or even years to get to that stage, but at the conference guys are open to listening and sharing their own experiences. If you’ve felt alone in your life at times, you get to see first hand that you are not alone – and see how we are all going through similar struggles and joys.
At some point during the talks, teaching stories, the poetry, the singing, the activities or just hanging out I found myself relating to others there as if they were all brothers. In this relating there is a type of rest I felt – that the part of me that was always constantly on guard against others, competing at work or for a parking spot, could rest here – and instead of worrying about what could be lost, I found a new strength inside me.
When I went back into the city of Montreal after the week, I felt both charged-up and more at ease – I felt a new respect and connection for everyone else out I came in contact with in the city – I found myself being much friendlier and respectful to others (even other drivers) and receiving much friendliness and respect in return – something deep in me was now treating every other guy like a brother. Anyone I met was just seen as someone who might attend a conference like this one day or maybe the friend of somehow who would go, and therefore capable of that same acknowledgment of each other as fellow travelers on this same journey. I looked on women with a new respect as well, as each one was seen to be as a possible wife of a friend I haven’t met yet or maybe their sister or mother or a new friend to myself. The world had become for me a much more comradely place.
I found a strength in acting out of a place of knowing that no matter how different or strange we look to each other, we are all in this common experience of life together and are more similar than different. I attended the Conference in 2006 and I will say its one of those life changing experiences that stick in your bones for years afterwards.
— Mike Pohorly