This is a multi-part series inspired by a recent three week adventure I had in Costa Rica. It will explore themes of connection, leadership, and roaming the earth with a big, juicy, open heart.
Under any other circumstances, it would have been quite a strange scenario.
I was putting a necklace around the neck of a man that I had only met for the first time in person about 48 hours earlier. A former prison guard with a muscular neck that the necklace barely fit around.
And it wasn’t just any necklace. It was a necklace with an important totem that I had been wearing for two years. The totem was a bear’s claw, and after having several claws of a live bear deep into both my legs, it was an important connection to that life changing event, as well as something I hoped would protect me from it happening again.
However, in the current circumstances, it did not feel strange at all. We were surrounded by the rainforest in the middle of Costa Rica on a transformational coaching retreat.
About a week earlier, I had completed a 120 km solo walk from San Jose to La Fortuna where the retreat was taking place. During that personal pilgrimage, I stayed with a local family, who very quickly felt like my own family in Costa Rica. And one of the men in that family had gifted me a necklace less than 12 hours after meeting me that had a stone pendant on it, and that he had been wearing. I was inspired by the gesture, and even more by the deep connection that had been created in such a short time.
The connection I felt to the man I was gifting my necklace to was created through his willingness to so vulnerably share his story. In a group of 25 coaches, he volunteered to get supported around some very personal challenges he was having in his marriage. As he shared his story, I found myself in tears for a lot of it, recognizing themes of desire for deeper connection, more intimacy, and to be understood not just as a husband and father, but also the complicated and messy man I can be. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine being as open about these things as he was being in front of a group of people, and I was moved by his leadership.
So during the next break, I gave him a hug, thanked him, and asked him if he’d be willing to accept a gift from me. Through the power of his vulnerability, he had shown me that I didn’t need this totem of protection as much as I thought, and perhaps it was time for it to symbolize a deep connection between men instead. He graciously accepted, and also accepted my offer to help him put it around his neck.
This is just one example of how I continue to experience men being willing to show up differently than we have been taught or shown. It doesn’t have to wait until we are in the rainforest. We can start now, with small steps in the relationships we are already in.
If you are a man in Japan, and being a part of a group of men who create relationships based on connection, trust, and vulnerability, check out Keyaki. We start on March 16.