I am Judgmental and Childish: A Summary of the Conference For Men, Part I

On April 4, 2014, I signed up for Mike Hrostoski’s very first Conference for Men.  I had just defended my Ph.D. a couple of weeks earlier, and I thought that this conference would be a great way to get back into personal development, as I had been focusing on finishing school for the past year.  It felt like school had to be out of the way before I could really show up and further develop myself as a person.  I read the sales page, and something inside of me just knew that I had to be there.  So I bought my ticket and reserved my plane tickets, and then went back into the grind of my everyday life trying to finish the dissertation while looking for jobs.  Originally, I was planning on coming a couple of days early to explore San Diego and socialize, but some deadlines with the dissertation were coming up fast, and I needed more time to tie up some loose ends.  I ended up arriving at the conference 2 hours late due to a last minute Saturday morning flight change.  I almost didn’t even go to the conference, but I made it, albeit late.  I came in the middle of the keynote speech.  I had read “Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida on the flight to San Diego, and from what I could tell, the speech was similar to the book.   I sat there for a while trying to situate myself, and then we went on to some eye contact exercise.  I had a hard time maintaining eye contact without laughing.  I do not remember the Saturday morning exercises very well at all, as I felt very distracted at the time.  I met up with some old friends during the break, as well as meeting my group coordinator, Christopher Sunyata.  I told him that I felt distracted and very judgmental toward the whole situation.  At the time I felt really silly being there and questioning my very presence there.  Chris told me to breathe deeply whenever I felt a sense of judgment.  We then did some more exercises about being present and breaking through barriers.  I was still being quite distracted, so they had me go face to face with Dave Booda.  That still did not work, so then I was told to have some sort of pushing match with Max Nachamkin.  At first, he was winning and totally dominating, but then I got angry and started yelling at the top of my lungs.  I yelled so loud and ferociously that I was foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, or like Snoopy in “What a Nightmare Charlie Brown!”  In fact, the whole first day of the conference felt like that to an extent.  At some point, there was a lunch buffet, although now what happened at that point felt fuzzy.  We then spent the first half of the afternoon talking about sexual topics, where we got in our group and authentically shared our experiences.  When it was my turn to share, I got many laughs.  After the sex part, we took a break and then did the “Death” exercise.  At that point, I had been running myself ragged the whole week with school and getting to the conference, that the whole exercise felt like a well-deserved rest.  We then simulated our own funerals, where we were buried alive.  It was a very uncomfortable feeling similar to sleep paralysis, but I was able to burst free, and that exercise left me with a sore throat.  We then all took a single file line in silence around the hotel parking lot, and I know that we blocked at least one truck trying to get in.  We had the first 20 minutes of dinner in silence.  It was nice being in silence, as it allowed some much needed clarity.  In the evening, we did the money exercises, where we ended up doing an exercise that left me with a sore throat as I asserted that something was mine, while my partner denied me. 

We then had the judgment forum, where we got to share our judgment, and how it reflected on ourselves.  My judgement was that this whole conference was too “Woo Woo” for me, and I couldn’t respect it.  It told me that I have a fundamental lack of respect for myself.  This was the biggest takeaway from the conference for me, as it revealed my blocks to success in life.

What followed was one of the most cathartic moments of the night, where we had to share our pain.  I stood with a lot of people.  What were strong triggers for me was when the Hrostoski brothers shared the pain of their mother’s death three years ago, which triggered the fact that my grandmother had a stroke a few months back.  It triggered me to share some pain about being bullied in high school.  What also struck a chord was that there were other men there who were Christian.  This struck a chord with me because for a while I was not a practicing Catholic around the time I started attending personal development conferences, but I had started regularly attending church in 2013.  I feel an inner conflict when it comes to this area of my life.  There were many things that people shared that struck a chord as well.  After this moment, the conference let out for the day.  I met up with my roommate, Kevin, and we walked back to the Hostel.  By the time that I checked in to the Hostel, I had been awake for over 24 hours, and I got about 4 hours of sleep the night before, and about the same the following night, which made for a more laid back second day of the conference.  More details are to follow in Part II.