Frequently Asked Questions (22)
The Minnesota Men’s Conference was started by Robert Bly in 1984, following an interview and conversation between Bly and Keith Thompson in a magazine article titled, “What do Men Really Want?”. These first conferences, and subsequent ones following, have consistently addressed the various types of relationships men experience in the world. Access to the issues surrounding those relationships comes through the telling of old stories, through the gifts of poetry, by making music together and by opening our hearts to the grief men carry. Grief appears when men, who trust each other, gather for a few days and honor its presence.
When a container is made that men feel safe within, the opportunity to drop into the grief that they carry (or may be carrying), can show up, and often does. Starting each conference by building a safe container, on the foundation of trust, with other men, can feel like a mineral element, lacking in a man’s life for a long time. Each man is intrigal in creating that container of trust, not only for himself, but for the other’s to feel that same net of safety and trust.
The Minnesota Men’s Conference reaches out to men of all races, creeds, orientations, nationalities, backgrounds, life experiences, and ages. Over the years attendees have hailed from small towns and large cities, from rural areas, from institutions across the United States, and from countries such as far-flung as Canada, India, Ireland, England, Germany, Guatemala and Chile, to name a few.
Veterans have always attended the conferences and they have found great value in their conference experience. In fact, Veterans’ issues deepened the very first conference and provided the momentum that carried men into the soulful depths that have become familiar to participants. With many men returning to civilian life after the experiences in the on-going, decades-long conflicts, special emphasis has been placed on reaching out to the veteran communities
Young men are also a priority. Because they are the future, they foster the seeds for deep, soulful Men’s Work. When the youth begin to feel deeply seeded yearnings toward richer lives, individual purpose, meaning, and an establishment in community, they may not know where to turn for models and guidance. This conference offers unique opportunities to see how other men experience, grow, and expand as individuals.
After decades of war, Veterans and non-Veterans alike are in the throes of collective grief. By reaching out to Veterans deep healing may begin for both groups. At the conference we work to create a genuine homecoming for troops and veterans. We initiate rites of passage for all men, no matter what our histories, and we foster reconciliation between veteran and civilian men. All wounds, stories and experiences are welcome -and needed – and are honored.
Throughout the week, by drawing on lectures, story, audience discussion, teacher interaction, and the many opportunities for spontaneous, personal conversation, participants gain a greater understanding and different perspectives on various issues including; PTSD (especially regarding veteran’s issues), sexual abuse, domestic violence, and the obstacles for functioning as competent fathers, husbands, and members of their communities.
Over the years, the conference has been blessed with many fine teachers such as Etheridge Knight, James Hillman, Michael Meade, and Terry Dobson in the 1980’s. Aaron Kipnis, John Lee and Robert Moore joined us in the 1990’s. In 1993 with the addition of Malidoma Somé, Miguel Rivera, Haki Madhubuti and Martín Prechtel, the conference moved towards a richer diversity of thought and a deeper connection to our ancestors. Storycarriers, Martin Shaw and Daniel Deardorff, have intrigued our imaginations over several years. In the last few years we have begun to reach out to our various Veterans from all wars with the help and unique insight of teachers like Dr. Ed Tick, and Paul Henderson.
Communal and personal grief must be shared and witnessed. Men need their painful stories to be heard by the wider community. In traditional cultures, Trauma and PTSD does not seem to occur at the rates we see in our contemporary society. By allowing the man to tell his story, the wider community acknowledges his gift to the community.
At this time veterans (especially those of recent conflicts), young men recently released from incarceration, and working-class men are suspicious of grief activities such as narrative healing circles and rituals for men. Young fathers need ‘words of wisdom’ from men who have raised children. Older men need to hear and acknowledge the difficulties that younger men face in a society that is far different from even their recent past. In our society, the number of men with expertise in ‘men’s grief issues’ is insufficient for dealing with these problems, which are often misunderstood.
Our culture is dependent upon social media, electronic communities, and instant responses. These tools can actually enhance isolation, the most dangerous condition for a distressed male, his family and community. In the digital age it is difficult to convince men to set aside their gadgetry and physically sit together with other men in a soulful manner. Internal human processes need to be acknowledged, relaxed and healed when the soul is overwhelmed by information, violence, stress or isolation. Iraq War veterans and Afghanistan War veterans are isolating themselves from the rest of society. Suicides are increasing. Technology can help locate sites for assistance but it cannot reach the concretized grief inside an individual. Only human contact will do that. Young fathers are struggling to raise their children in ways no one has done before. Technology cannot soothe and reaffirm their stressing self-images. Only groups that include men of all age ranges can do that.
The most important success that comes from regular, deep, and soulful grief work is a decrease in violence, whether that violence is self-inflicted or aimed at women, children or other men. Through grief work, men gain expanding fields of support and feel less isolation among other men. Men become better listeners and mentors, and individuals.
The conference will convene Tuesday evening with registrations, and a one-hour dinner. Following dinner, the conference will open with teacher introductions, poetry, music, and a short story. The next four days of the conference will consist of a 1-hour breakfast, a morning session, an afternoon break-out session, an evening session, and nightly optional gatherings and organized performances.
The conference will take place at a camp in Northeastern Minnesota. Attendees will be staying in rustic and sometimes modern cabins (depending on the selected camp) during the week, each with a unique character of their own. Some cabins have kitchens, a water supply, and electricity. Cabins provide a variety of bunk beds and single beds. Some of the cabins have bathrooms, while others are adjacent to a separate restroom and shower house. Some attendees may even prefer to bring their own tents and sleep outdoors closer to nature.
Participants are strongly encouraged to arrive at the beginning and stay to the end, as there is a community feel that is created and becomes a container for the length of the conference. Everyone benefits from supporting the integrity of this container.
We strive to maintain a chef-driven, organic, local, sustainable, nutrient-dense home-cooking style food that caters to special needs as well.
Yes. And they are sometimes more delicious than the delicious non-vegetarian options! Please inform coordinators at the time of your registration if you require vegetarian meals.
Yes. Please let us know ahead of time when registering, so that we can plan accordingly.
No. This is a drug and alcohol free event. The intent of the fall conference is to disconnect from our everyday lives for a while, connect to our own individual feelings in a safe community, consume the serenity of the deep wilderness surroundings, and spend time with other attendees.
Yes. Please let us know ahead of time when registering, so we can plan accordingly so you will be comfortable through the week.
Yes. We welcome all men to attend the Minnesota Men’s Conference and especially welcome you to make a request for assistance if your circumstances and conditions are keeping you from attending. Please simply complete our tuition assistance form found on the MMC website and tell a little about yourself and why you want to attend. All applications are reviewed by our staff and all applications will receive a prompt response.
If you wish, you may contact John Ernst directly with any questions – 920-209-1301.
I cannot attend the conference, but I would like to make a financial contribution for others to attend. Is there a way to donate?
Yes. Interested individuals, conference participants (past or present), or anyone else who wishes to contribute to the Richard Scott Scholarship Fund, may do so for men who unable to afford the conference fee. An online form is available to add your voluntary gift to this fund.
Young men, 14-17 years old, are welcome to attend the conference, with supervision. There is a multitude of outdoor activities to explore, as well as the opportunity for camaraderie with other young men who may be attending. Be advised that there are no lifeguards on duty, and that the camp is located in a deep wilderness area, with all the known and unknown natural hazards such a setting contains.
As women rightfully seek self-improvement, and self-fulfillment, men also struggle toward those goals, and they need other men to assist them. Men need to work shoulder-to-shoulder with other men to overcome the male difficulties of modern life, whether they are personal or collective. Men need to address their grief in a community of other men so that violence can be transformed rather than transmitted. The Lone Ranger model of the past does not work. The peer-to-peer model of digital, social media is not enough. Older men and younger men must collaborate and address their grief in a physical, face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder manner so they may deal with the chasms created by contemporary society.
The conference welcomes men of all races, nationalities, creeds and sexual orientation. The objective of the conference is, and has always been, to create a safe community of men, where men can be themselves, among other men who may be different than them.
A beautiful thing happened when the African-American Poet, Ethridge Knight, was teaching at conferences in the 80’s. He started a tradition that continues to this day. At the beginning of each conference, all men are asked to agree to participate in the conference with personal authenticity and feelings, yet to do so without physical violence. This agreement creates a container of community, where men may feel safe among other men. A man may be himself and allow other men to be themselves. This is at the core of the Minnesota Men’s Conference.
No. Many men, who have attended past conferences, had never written a poem or sung out loud within a group until their first conference. Likewise, many men discover that they are far more creative, in their own unique individual way, than they ever imagined.
Yes. Please feel comfortable and welcome to share any talents you may have, or to practice on your own, or with like-minded individuals you may meet during the week. Over the past 30 years many long standing relationships have formed in just this way.
Yes. In 2014 we are pleased to be offering CEU credits to Marriage & Family Therapist’s (15 CEU’s), Psychologist’s and Analysts (23.5 CEU’s), and Social Worker’s (16 CEU’s), licensed in the state of Minnesota.