That would have been in July-August 1992, i think, in the latter days of my involvement with the emissary community..
Nicola and I were representing our community here in England at one of the Emissary gatherings at Sunrise Ranch in Colorado, and Norm Smookler was in a fervor of bringing more experientially-based emotional work into the communities. He'd already done the New Warrior weekend and was in touch with Cliff, and Norm arranged for a two-day men's Shadow Work session in Indian Hills in the mountains above Boulder.
We had these two days doing Shadow Work with most of the Emissary male coordinator types, and I came away from that completely bowled over. I did a piece of work, I absolutely loved it. It filled all the gaps that were missing for me at the time. I had been engrossed in a lot of personal development work, healing, spiritual aspirational work, intentional community, all of that for a long time. This went, 'Ahh.' It struck another chord in another place, and I thought, I'm going to do that.
I was very impressed with Cliff. He was working on his own with a bit of support from a couple of other guys. He was a full leader in the New Warrior network then, which of course has come to be called the ManKind Project. I came back from that saying to Nicola, Okay, we're going to bring this to Europe, this is going to happen here. This was in the early days, when Cliff was developing Shadow Work with Mel [Mary Ellen Blandford] and Dmitri Bilgere and Erva Baden.
I had meet both Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette; the emissaries has arranged for Gillette to come to a meeting at Sunrise Ranch.
I went to a men's session with Robert Moore that Norm had organised in Texas, outside Dallas I think. We did an experiential session: not individual process work, but small groupings, clusters, groups of three or four, talking about father and family and plowing the terrain. We had a pretty wild drumming evening, and Moore talked about the archetypes, I've still got some of it
recorded. So by the time I met Shadow Work I was already running men's events here in England. And Nicola and I were doing seminars called The Art of Living in our Emissary community. We subtitled that, "For those who want to change the world but can't get it together to do the washing up." I thought that was very accurate. The world was full of personal development, semi-spiritual airheads — still is — so this was very practical. It was good teaching, good experiential stuff, but it lacked the deeper kind of emotional circuitry, because it was more on the uphill side of things.
I had been involved in astrological work and Sufi community earlier than that. I was involved in the alternative energy world, in the dawning of what is now the massive sustainability world. I was at a place called the Centre for Alternative Technology in West Wales, the first place to have a three-bladed windmill in the whole of Europe. It was a real pioneering place. We were exposed to all kinds of weird and wonderful things there, and it had an encounter-group-type atmosphere to it. That wasn't the focus, the focus was teaching the outside world, and I began to realize the focus needed to be a balance between the two for change to occur.
So I wanted to develop other things more internally, and that took me to the Emissary community amongst other things, where we were very nutritionally conscious and did a lot of intentional community development.
As that community changed from top-down to circle in the late '80s and '90s, we spent a huge amount of time gaining experience with group dynamics of all different kinds, with interventions and handling things. we also used to do a lot of non-touch healing circles, and we understood that kind of circuitry very well, but it was all very uphill, pre-midlife crisis! and then the midlife crisis appeared for the emissaries, as shadows of behaviours that weren't so helpful. The cracks began to show. Then along comes shadow work, perfect timing.
Only five miles up the road. We moved a long way. [laughs.] We're still in touch with quite a few friends from those days, that's part of our wider network around here. and of course, further afield, Janine Romaner was one of those emissary friends.
Cliff and Mel got a lot of mileage out of traveling around to Emissary communities, including an arduous trip to Australia, which Cliff said he would never do again.
The four of them — Mel and Cliff and Dmitri and Erva — were getting down to it and developing all the processes. The first Shadow Work session in England and Europe was with Erva and Don Hines, another Emissary man who was one of the first people to get certified. That was the beginning. Don never did any more than that, I don't know whether we blew him out!
I think the first Shadow Work facilitator training was also in '93, at 100 Mile House in British Columbia, if I recall, with mostly Emissary folk. Janine was part of that one. I wanted to go, was very ready to go, but I couldn't go, practical reasons, so I had to wait for the second one. I came to the BFT [Basic Facilitator Training] at Sunrise Ranch in Colorado and the second AFT [Advanced Facilitator Training] in Wisconsin, both in '94. It was the early days!
You're right, i've been involved in groups most of my adult life. I haven't done the standard, going-into-business-and-ending-up-seeing-a-therapist route at all. But i have had a huge amount of one-to-one support and counseling over the years.
Nicola and I met in that Emissary community. It was a place of service, and I think our understanding of building community has helped us in all the training work we do now. We joke now when we're doing a facilitator training that we're rebuilding the community again. [Laughs.] And we put a lot of weight into building community and enjoy going the extra mile because there's such a wonderful payoff. That's not what Shadow Work is fundamentally about, yet it does build the strongest community spirit I've ever come across, because we're all seen hitting at rock bottom sometimes. We're both at our best and have seen each other's raw vulnerability. That was the bit that was always missing in other things I was involved in. It was always, do your best, care for others and there's nothing wrong with me. [Laughs.]
I knew straight away, absolutely. It had my name written all over it.
It was a great exploration of intentional community. it had been a fantastic experience, we'd peaked, and it was time to move on.
Having met Shadow Work and started to do things, I was already steeped in Moore and Gillette's archetypes and was running small men's groups. I was doing archetype days where the centerwork meant developing four role players, one to represent each archetype, spatially and on a carpet in terms of proximity, shape, color, ornament, and messages. That was a profound experience for people in itself, and then they'd step back and look at themselves and make a symbolic change by adjusting the structure of the archetypes to bring greater balance.Once I'd met Shadow Work I immediately got into wanting to do my own thing, and I couldn't do Shadow Work yet because I was still training.
Cliff said, I know how enthusiastic you are, that's great. You want to learn, and I know you will, but you need to find someone to lead group sessions with you. And almost synchronistically a woman named Hilary Woolett appeared. She and I did the trainings together, including a three- day Leader Training with Cliff and just the two of us, bless him. [Laughs.] Mel was around some of the time, and it was very short track.
I think Cliff knew I had a huge amount of group experience, that wasn't really the issue. We didn't run a mock seminar as everybody does now. We covered the basic ground. It was Cliff teaching what he used to call the Full Court Press, do you remember that? I believe that's a basketball term, but it meant nothing to me. I had no idea what he was talking about. [Laughs.]
I found a fondness for both men; i liked them. I met Gillette in an Emissary gathering, really just to double-click on the book they had just put out [king, warrior, magician, lover: rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine] which was getting a lot of attention. he was more the academic; he seemed like a wise, nice fella.
I think Moore had more of an impact on me. I enjoyed him and his way of delivery. Some people could describe him as a bit arrogant, maybe, but that didn't bother me because he knows his stuff, and why not? He's at the head of something that's made a massive impact. But he clearly had more to say than Doug Gillette; he seemed to be the driving force of that combo. He was a benign, intelligent, capable, appreciative man in the focus of things. He didn't run it but he was the focus. He talked about what he knew, and he was proud of it. That was 21-22 years ago now. I've met him since, once, and his name keeps cropping up other than as co-author of the book.
Every session and training I've done since, both Shadow Work and ManKind Project, I always refer to his work because I think it's been so foundational. And I have no problem even if Cliff and others are taking the archetypes a lot further in many ways. There's no question that the book he and Doug Gillette wrote really opened the door and landed; there was something priceless about it. So I always make a point of mentioning him out of respect for that.
At some point Moore did the New Warrior Training himself, and he did acknowledge the Warriors were doing the right work. I remember saying, I'm going to do that sometime, but I decided to wait for it to come to England because I'd already committed to spending all this money to train in Shadow Work in the States. The first New Warrior Training in England was in December 1994, and I did go. That had a big impact on me as well, even though I was very arrogant and thought I knew far more about facilitating than the men doing it did! And it was still a great experience, and I have been involved ever since.
I have to put myself back 20 years, really. all i can say is, it impacted me a lot.
Over those formative first few years, I was able, like many, many others, to increasingly fully, wholly accept myself with my wide spectrum of wonderful behaviours, and less desirable behaviours, to downright stupid behaviours. Doing the work opened up a number of areas. I just know that I became more wholesome and more real and more acceptable to myself. I'd been steeped in, for the sake of a better word, New Age exploration, most of my adult life, beginning right from the time I was 15-16 in London with my friends. We were doing early group explorations, even when we were squatting in London. We used to go to some weird group situation once a week with someone who was experimenting on us with New Age ideas; we were the guinea pigs. [Laughs.] It was pretty strange, and some of it was very interesting.
I was really steeped in a lot of fanciful beliefs, and that had started to simplify. Over the first few years after meeting Shadow Work, probably until about 2000, I suppose, I went through a
process of letting go and shedding all of my preconceived beliefs about a lot of things. I began to accept that I'd taken all that as gospel truth, and actually I really didn't know and it really didn't matter. And I went back to a kind of what you could call an archetypally Warrior simplicity, that what I know is enough. I found that really freeing; my life freed up a lot, I think is the fair thing to say. That changed a lot.
Then I also hit a pretty serious depression in the mid- to late '90s. Looking back, I had always been a depressive, but that sort of uphill phase kept it all at bay, so that was part of the unpacking for me. Shadow Work helped me immensely with that, too. Cliff's attitude of high-level acceptance and being non-shaming and non-judgmental, that impacted me a lot, and that's what we teach now.