November 2022
In this Drumbeat...

Awakened at Soularize
Jim Burns,Co-Covener, IllumanDC

As with the Men’s Rites of Passage, words are often inadequate to explain deeply relational psycho-spiritual experiences. The same is true of Soularize: Awaken, Illuman’s annual men’s gathering which took place just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico earlier this month.

I experienced the weekend on parallel tracks. The opportunity to meet men in person, both new friends and those I’d seen from Zoom interactions, as well as to deepen existing relationships, was deeply joyful. At the same time, I was awakened to my grief as not only personal, but also collective, ancestral, and connected with my posterity, as well as the more-than-human world.

This was the result of working through a grief process, designed by Joanna Macy, called The Work That Reconnects. Illuman’s former President, Terry Symens-Bucher, facilitated the process with ritual and practices.

“We live in a pain-phobic world,” Terry said at the opening of the event. This point was punctuated for me this week when, in Charlottesville, Virginia, we learned a student from the University of Virginia shot three fellow students on a bus. As I was driving, a classical radio announcer introduced music he was about to play by saying he hoped “the music will help you cope with or distract from any pain you are experiencing.”

Applying the strategy of distraction when trauma occurs is a common reaction. Relying on it too often, however, can result in repression. Little learning, healing, or growth are likely. We try merely to survive grief, to get on or get through the pain.

We live in a world characterized by trauma. Terry explained that trauma is not what happened to us externally. Rather, it is what happened inside us. As a survival mechanism, the body and mind shut down. This is not all bad. It protects us from devastating breakdown. From a traumatic experience, we produce a story that can persist for decades. Pain that is not metabolized is metastasized. As Illuman men know well, “pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.”

Our trauma is not limited to our direct personal experiences. Ancestral grief is carried forward through generations and expressed in us in many unconscious ways. We also carry unresolved collective grief for the world, including the more-than-human world.

Franz Kafka wrote, “You can hold yourself back from the suffering of the world; this is something you are free to do…but perhaps precisely this holding back is the only suffering you might be able to avoid.” So how can we process our grief, deal more effectively with our trauma, and start to become whole?

The Work that Reconnects is represented as a spiral. This maps a journey through four successive stages that we traveled together during our time at Soularize. Each stage supports the others and we approached them in sequence.
Joanna Macy’s The Work That Reconnect Spiral from Active Hope

Coming from Gratitude — Gratitude quiets the mind and brings us back to source, stimulating our empathy and confidence. Expressing our love for life on Earth helps us to be more fully present and grounded for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world. We are counseled to adopt a posture of gratitude for all we have, including the trauma or incidents that created our pain. As Leonard Cohen reminds us, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Honor Our Pain for the World — When we honor our pain and dare to experience it, we learn the true meaning of compassion: to suffer with. We begin to know the immensity of our heart/mind. We recognize our pain is connected with the pain of the world. We must learn how to grieve, to let pain have its way with us. We don’t run from it. We can’t bypass pain, since “the body keeps the score.”

Seeing with New Eyes — At this point in the process, we are able to sense the larger life within us. This lets us see with new eyes. We appreciate our relatedness to all that is. We can feel our power to change. We experience our living connections with past and future generations, as well as with our brother/sister species.

Going Forth — We go forth to do what is ours to do, based on our situation and gifts. We don’t need to wait for a failsafe action plan. We know each step will bring new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned. We know, in this life, “all symphonies remain unfinished.”

Joanna Macy explains an important intention of this work: “learning to experience the miracle of self-awareness.” This provides a better ability to hear our inner voice, the voice of our inner authority. Terry explained “authority” as the power to author life in our own selves.

And from Fr. Richard Rohr, “It is the Holy Spirit ‘poured into our hearts’ (Romans 5:5) who confers upon people healthy and solid inner authority, and this authority is based on the experience of God’s love. Only people of such inner authority ever use outer authority correctly. All others either rebel against it or use it to avoid their own spiritual journey.”

Restoring our inner authority brings us closer to becoming whole.

To learn more about this process, I highly recommend Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown.

Poetry from Soularize: Awaken

Soularize Experience 
by John Hamlett

They came by car, bus, train, and plane, from near and far away.
They came seeking, hungry, hurting, and despairing,
some full of hope, some feeling hopeless.
They had great expectations, small expectations, and some had no expectations at all.
Some came trembling with fear; they could not even begin to hope
lest they be disappointed again and again.
Some walked boldly with purpose, others softly and quietly, not daring even to stir up a breeze.
With great courage they opened their eyes and ears and arms and hearts.
They pounded drums and howled at the moon.
They shook hands, gave hugs, shared big smiles and warm greetings to old friends and new faces.
Some were wide open, others shut down, some very eager, others very cautious.
They paused and listened, thought a while, and processed what they heard.
The veil became thin and the icy walls around their hearts melted
as the white-hot breath of the spirit blew into their minds and bodies.
We were blessed with poetry this year at Soularize. In addition to the poem above by John Hamlett, written following his experience at the event, each session during the weekend began with an offering by our poet-in-residence (and Ohio Illuman Convener) Brian Mueller. 

From our Opening Session…

Something Opens
It’s drafty in here.

Something opens
every time I say yes.
Something opens
when I hope for the hopeless.
Something opens
when I share my secrets.
Something opens
when death takes someone away.

Something opens
every time I take a breath
and lead with my heart,
not with my head.

Something opens
through becoming present,
then freely giving
what doesn't belong to me.

Something opens...
Something opens...
Something always opens.

Going Deeper: Illuman Cohorts

There is no such thing as inner work resulting in personal transformation without serious self-examination and self-awareness. In fact, to truly “know thyself” is to know God and the Mystery of our purpose on Earth. And this is an ongoing process. It doesn’t begin or end with a Rites of Passage, as powerful as those might be. Even for those who have done their Rites, it is important to continue on in the lifelong Journey of Illumination.

That’s why, five years ago, Illuman started a training program originally known as the Eldering Cohorts. At first restricted only to leaders in Illuman, groups of eight men studied and practiced the Wild Mind work of Bill Plotkin (founder of the Animas Valley Institute) over the course of one year. However, this past year, the Eldering Cohorts have gone through an evolution and are now available to all men interested in pursuing deep inner work—both those brand new to Illuman and those already well versed in the inner pathways of the spirit. In addition, we have also created a new cohort program for those who want to go even deeper.

The original Eldering Cohorts are now referred to as the Howling at the Moon Cohorts.  Facilitated via Zoom to accommodate men from all over the country, the content is still based on Wild Mind, but the depth of the program has increased and the personal work has expanded. Deep inner work invariably connects us to past emotional trauma that, without exception, all of us have experienced and endured. No matter how long ago, how subtle or forgotten, wounding of some type has prevented us from living as the person we were meant to be.  Understanding how untended past trauma has thwarted the authenticity of our lives and diverted us from the path of our true calling is a key aspect of the Howling Cohorts. The ultimate goal of this work is to recover the innate “wholeness” we were born with, meant to develop, and that was meant to guide us into deeply meaningful and purposeful lives.

In addition to the Howling Cohorts, Illuman is also offering an advanced cohort program, the Journey into the Deep Masculine. The Deep Masculine cohort will involve even more intense Zoom work along with three in-person wilderness intensives at some of the most beautiful national parks and wilderness venues in the country. Participants in this cohort will travel to untamed landscapes of desert and mountain, dive into the wild mysteries of their own wholeness and self-healing, and discover the thrill of nature as mirror. They will encounter the soul of the more-than-human world as they court the sacred realm of Divine Feminine and Deep Masculine. This cohort is a spiritual adventure fiercely plumbing the depths of our deepest longing, falling more deeply in love with the world, and, with any luck, discovering the dreaming Earth’s purpose for us.

More information and applications for both programs are on the Illuman website at and Both begin in January 2023.

“The Eldering Cohorts gave me a framework to grow deeper spiritually. It provided me with a roadmap through the work of Animas Valley Institute, a greater appreciation for the power of Nature, and a sage brother for life.” —Timmer Cashman, WA  

“Cohort provided a uniquely grounding experience amidst a society and world in liminal space. I was able to connect with brothers in a deep way and spiral down through ritual, readings, and practices. The magic and power of Council transformed me in a way that I felt I truly belonged to a brotherhood that I so desperately needed.” —Jim Michaels, NM

Virtual Event
December 2–4

Elders at the Gate is a three-day virtual experience, built from the ground up on the collective wisdom and work of the men of Illuman. Focused heavily on the power of story and Council, this event is an invitation into deeper brotherhood for all men, initiated and uninitiated. (Any man initiated through a 2022 MROP is invited to attend for free.) All involved will hold space for and work deeply around the question, "What is ours to do?" The elders are waiting to receive your story. Join us.

Virtual Event
Thursday, December 15, 7:00-8:30 PM

llluman is pleased to present our December Watering Hole online event with Adam Bucko on Thursday, December 15, 7:00–8:30 PM Eastern, exploring Bucko's new work, Let Your Heartbreak Be Your Guide: Lessons in Engaged Contemplation.
Illuman founder Richard Rohr had this to say about his friend Adam and this new book:

Adam Bucko is a devoted Christian contemplative, Episcopal priest, activist, and friend to the poor. He collaborates with spiritual leaders across religious traditions and mentors young people, helping them discover a spiritual life for the twenty-first century and live in the service of compassion and justice…. I am deeply inspired by these words from Adam Bucko. He is a trustworthy guide to discovering the spiritual life for our century and living in service of compassion and justice.

Join us as Adam offers moving reflections, stories, and practices designed for anyone trying to live at the intersection of contemplation and justice.
A Men’s Writing Retreat Inspired by the Works of Mary Oliver

Dayton, Ohio
Friday, January 6–Sunday, January 8, 2023

At this in-person writing retreat, we will soak in the wisdom and beauty of the poetry of Mary Oliver. We will use the fire and water of her words to illuminate and wash over our own lives. We will try to capture our thoughts on paper. We will share our journey over the course of a full weekend retreat. This will be the sixth year that Ohio Illuman has sponsored a writing retreat. We are thrilled to invite men, both local and from around the world, to join us in this reflective writing journey as we gather in person to share our real-life experiences. The event cost is $275 for single-room lodging with a private bath and six meals.

An Online Cohort Experience
January–September 2023

Howling at the Moon is an Illuman cohort for men who feel called to embark on a journey of deep personal work consisting of self-awareness, inner self-healing, connection with our deep archetypal selves and various fragmented complexes, and ultimately the recovery of wholeness—all to manifest the most life-giving relationship with self, others, and the world.  Carl Jung called this process the “path to individuation”—essentially the lifelong journey of becoming “who you were born to be.” We will gather by Zoom and journey together with other like-minded men for a period of nine months. The journey will be highly experiential, supplemented with depth psychological background and theory. This work is appropriate both for men who have not yet gone through a Rites of Passage experience, as well as for initiated men who are relatively new to inner work.
A year-long apprenticeship of healing, wholeness, soul encounter, and the divine feminine

January–December 2023

What are masculinity and the deep masculine? How do I encounter my soul and the divine feminine? What is the dream of the Earth asking of me?  We will live into these questions and more in a year-long apprenticeship into what Robert Bly called “the deep masculine.” Heavily influenced by the work of Bill Plotkin, Richard Rohr, Robert Bly, and Marion Woodman, we will explore the nature-based map of the human psyche as found in Plotkin’s Wild Mind, with special attention to the True Self and the divine feminine, through which we come in contact with the deep masculine. This cohort experience includes three in-person intensives in the wilds of Joshua Tree National Park, the Colorado Rockies, and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, as well as bimonthly virtual Councils and one-on-one mentoring.

Online Course
First Saturday of each month, starting January 7, 2023

The Way of Council is a central part of what Illuman does to promote healthier masculinity and “inner work that makes a difference in the world.” If you’ve ever participated in this practice, you’ve hopefully experienced good Council Stokers—i.e., the leaders who facilitate the Council practice. For those interested in developing this skill for yourself, we will offer a six-session series on the Art of Being a Stoker beginning January 7, 2023. These 90-minute sessions will be offered on the first Saturday of each month at 9am Pacific/12pm Eastern.

Connect with other men wherever you are. Just click here to find a list of Virtual Council options and pick the one that works best for you. All are invited!
Illuman is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose vision is to see men transforming men and, through them, families and communities for generations to come. Our mission is to support men in their life-long journey of spiritual transformation. 
Your support in all forms, including prayer, service, and money, is met with gratitude and a commitment to honor your gifts by using them to support men on their spiritual journey.
Please also remember Illuman in your estate planning. Contact us at for more information.


We are men transforming men through a power greater than ourselves.
We seek a life changing spirituality.
We focus on inner work that makes a difference in the world.
We are fed by the wisdom traditions of forgiveness and radical inclusivity.
We recover traditional patterns of male initiation.
We affirm a masculine path to healing that reveals the true and false selves and honors the path of descent.
We do this through the power of nature, ritual, image, story and council.
We seek to form future generations of men who will restore these practices.
We are building a world that celebrates the beauty of all beings.