The New Iron Johns – The New York Times

On a Monday night time in a sparsely adorned room in Midtown Manhattan, a gaggle of roughly 20 males together with an endocrinologist, a sportscaster, a policeman and an worker of the United Nations had been baring their souls.

“I’ve been digging deep with my girlfriend and we are having those talks about moving forward in our relationship, and I’m having nights where I can’t sleep,” stated Andrew Cummings, 44, an opera singer in New York who has carried out at Carnegie Hall.

“I’m angry that my health is deteriorating. I’m not ready to be an old man,” stated Jeff Nichols, 70, a former marketing consultant.

“I’m checking in with some anger. I didn’t get accepted to the Ashtanga Institute, and I smashed two candles, which I know isn’t very yogic,” stated one other man, who requested to stay nameless for concern repercussions.

After completing the New Warrior Training Adventure, many men join Integration Groups, or I-Groups, where they continue, on a weekly basis with the guidance of a trained peer facilitator, the “work,” as it is called in MKP, that was started during those 48 hours.

I-Groups are attended not just by woke, liberal elites on the coasts. Kansas City, Mo.; the greater Carolinas; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Memphis; and Louisville, Ky., all have sizable groups, according to the organization. Evryman has a half a dozen groups in Montana and over 20 in the Northern Rockies. In March, one of its retreats will take place in Logan, Ohio, the first in the Midwest.

The Evryman weekend is called the Open Source Retreat ($475 to $975, depending on accommodations) and brings together 50 men and eight leaders who have completed something called Men’s Emotional Leadership Training (MELT) “to set aside cultural norms and be transparent, honest, and vulnerable with each other,” to quote from the company’s literature. The goal is to “leave feeling like we shed 30 pounds of emotional baggage.”

Ebenezer Bond, 42, the founder of a marketing agency, said that until getting involved with Evryman he hadn’t had a cathartic drag-it-out cry since he was 16. The retreat he attended in late 2016 opened the floodgates.

“I was skeptical at first — I even deleted an initial email with the invitation to the weekend,” Mr. Bond said. “But it was the single most transformational experience I’ve had as an adult male. I was able to express emotions in front of other men, something I’d never done before.”

Simon Isaacs, who was invited by Mr. Bond to a later retreat, said he “panicked” when he learned, five minutes before he arrived at Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield, Mass., that there would be no consumption of alcohol and minimal cellphone use.

“I thought, ‘What am I supposed to do: express myself?’” he said. Now Mr. Isaacs, 38, a founder of the millennial parenting site Fatherly, attends a weekly Evryman group and calls it part of his “emotional retraining.”

The main facilitators of the prison groups are five men who credit MKP as the catalyst for their nonprofit. And in a 2010 peer-reviewed article about men’s health and social outcomes, researchers concluded that “MKP-related beliefs and social support significantly predicated positive outcomes.”

At Evryman, Mr. Krump said he and other organizers “intentionally didn’t include spirituality” in their approach. “The groups, which don’t have specific leadership, start with a rather agnostic meditation. Then participants share how they are feeling and try to identify where those sensations are appearing in the body.

Next is a more in-depth round in which the men are asked whether they have met “their stretch”: a commitment or goal for the next week based on what the person had worked on in the group. These can vary from making time to do restorative yoga every day, to connecting on a deeper level with family over the holidays — something Peter Nesbit, 34, a finance executive at a software company, said he was able to do over Thanksgiving weekend with his parents in South Dakota.

Then each man is given around 10 minutes to talk more at length about what’s going on with himself. Group members ask probing follow-up questions: “How do you feel? What do you need to let go of? What do you want? What do you need from the group?” The prodding often elicits frustration, anger and sadness. Screaming into a pillow is not uncommon.

“I’m just afraid to be with myself. I don’t want to feel fragile and afraid,” said Kevin Hermann, 27, an entrepreneur, at one Monday evening Evryman group at a Williamsburg loft.

There is something undeniably powerful about a group of people, let alone men, sitting and listening intently — cross-talk, interrupting and giving advice are highly discouraged — without distraction or interruption. And eye contact is a must.

This may sound like basic conversational etiquette, but “holding space,” as it’s called in the personal development world, is, at a minimum, cathartic in era of constant distraction and always looking for the next best thing. In some cases, it can feel quite profound.

Sex, sexuality and relationships are big topics. “We have millennials come to groups or training whose introduction to sex has been through porn, and no one talked to them about the link between sex, intimacy and love,” Mr. Krieger said.

Now in his 30s, Mr. Krieger, who also goes to therapy, says he feels lucky to have started the MKP when he was 24, before he was married or became a father. “I can now see when I’m shutting down, or I’m really getting defensive,” he said.

And in the #MeToo era, issues of reconciling past sexual behavior come up, said Ben Fleisher, 40, who runs a men’s group in Woodstock, N.Y.

“We had one situation where someone talked about how they reached out to a woman because he felt like he may have crossed the line, but the woman didn’t think it was sexual assault,” said Mr. Fleisher, 40, an alumnus of Sterling’s Men’s Weekend who works as an acupuncturist. “This topic in general is an area where we need to dig deeper. Many men are struggling to come to terms with #MeToo and how they feel complicit in abuses, even if they aren’t the perpetrators, by not taking a more active stand for a woman’s sovereignty.”

Lest this all comes off as self-indulgent, devotees of men’s groups say blunt-force honesty is something that keeps them coming back. “I’m very verbose and have a lot of opinions,” said Mr. Krieger, who has been training for almost seven years to be in a volunteer leadership position in the MKP. “I started getting feedback that it was totally killing the energy in the circle and wasn’t leaving room for other people. Since I’m the boss at work, no one is going to tell me that to my face.”

Some are unflinching in requesting feedback. Instead of having a blowout party on his 50th birthday, Mr. Fried told his I-Group that he wanted each person to tell him something he needed to work on. Mr. Fried, now 55, said the experience made him realize that “I come with a lot of victimhood because I got infected with H.I.V. But the group has called me on that and helped me recognize that I’m a powerful man.”

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