How I Finally Hit Bottom as a Man

It was 2002. My first wife had ended a marriage I had been certain would last a lifetime. Even though we both had unintentionally co-created its demise, I felt like a complete emotional train wreck. I had lost all connection with my mojo. My life mission had become so blurry that I felt legally blind emotionally — I could not see well enough to drive the road of life. In desperation, because nothing else I was trying seemed to be helping, I enrolled in a weekend intensive that would end up opening doors nothing else was doing for me at that time. This experience helped me step into more mature and complete masculinity than I had ever experienced. It helped me birth my mission for the next glorious chapter in my life. It helped my inner phoenix rise from the ashes I felt I had crumbled into.

That weekend was a New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA): an exquisitely structured and profoundly intense 48 hour experience produced by an international non-profit non-sectarian leadership and service organization called the ManKind Project (MKP).

I have remained involved with this marvelous organization ever since, because it has continued to help me grow happier, more mature and more effective as a man: in my personal life, in my work life, and as a man of service in the world. I cannot begin to find words for the gratitude I feel toward MKP.

What the ManKind Project is About

ManKind ProjectMKP’s mission is to mentor men into mature manhood through facing their shadow (the parts of us we hide, repress and deny), so they can passionately live their life in integrity with their mission and help to make the world a safer place.

MKP enables men of all faiths and walks of life to become more authentic and happy as people, and more mature and loving as men. MKP helps men learn how to live life with deep integrity, accountability and social responsibility. MKP helps men revitalize their sense of passion while deepening their capacity for personal responsibility. MKP helps men build more sustainable relationships and more effectively serve and lead at work and in their community.

MKP helps men do all of this more effectively than another other organization I know of. MKP has personally taught me more about how to step into mature masculinity than any other single influence in my life. That is a big admission for a psychologist to make.

MKP’s "New Warrior Training Adventures"

Becoming involved with MKP ordinarily begins with the outstandingly constructed experiential initiatory weekend I mentioned above: The New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). Even though this event is not psychotherapy, I can tell you as a psychologist that I have consistently seen men accomplish more during NWTA weekends than they likely would have achieved in 6 months of therapy. I have also seen those who were working with a coach or therapist at the time (or who wanted to start), emerge from this weekend experience more focused and clear about how to get the most out of that assistance than they would ever have done without it. The same goes for men involved in a twelve step program.

What happens at an NWTA? Let me start by saying what they’re NOT. They’re nothing like going fishing with the guys for the weekend. NWTAs are not about hazing or indoctrination; they neither shame men nor tell men who they are. Nor are NWTAs lectures in which "experts" pontificate about how men are "supposed" to be.

Quite the contrary. NWTAs are exquisitely orchestrated full-immersion experiences that are a healthy, safe, modern-day version of time-honored initiation rites into mature manhood that have existed across cultures for thousands of years. These rites of passage show men how to shine a laser-like light on the "gold" and the "lead" they carry within, and support them in making the best possible use of what they discover, as part of maturing into the men they were meant to be.

Men have never stopped needing these kinds of rituals even though they have all but vanished. For far too many generations such rituals have remained available to far too few men.

NWTAs are  built around the three key phases of the rite of passage into mature manhood that has for ages been referred to archetypally as "The Hero’s Journey." Those three phases are the descent, the ordeal and the return:

  1. The Descent into the Darkness the Man Has Avoided: The first sequence of powerful experiences at the beginning of NWTA weekends strips men of the masks they have become used to hiding behind. These experiences bring men into deep contact with the ways they are living their lives out of integrity with themselves, and with the commitments they make but don’t keep with others. These experiences put in place the foundational tools that a successful hero’s journey requires, preparing attendees for the ordeal that comes next.
  2. The Ordeal That Challenges the Man to Step into More Mature Masculinity: The second sequence of even more powerful exercises during NWTA weekends is designed to bring men face-to-face with a piece of their shadow. "Shadow" is Carl Jung’s term for the parts of us that we hide, repress and deny. The exceedingly high cost of hiding, repressing, denying or indulging our shadow is that this causes us to sabotage ourselves and harm others. During the "ordeal" phase of an NWTA weekend, each man is ushered through his own deeply personal encounter with the aspect of his shadow that is most ready to be transformed at that time. As men succeed at facing and starting to transform parts of their shadow that have been running their lives in unhelpful ways, they finally start trusting that directly facing unfaceable inner secrets is not only survivable but profoundly worthwhile. That experiential discovery marks the birth of mature masculinity. It is the heart of the gift that the "ordeal" portion of the hero’s journey gives a man.
  3. The Return From the Ordeal as a More Whole, Complete & Safe Man: The third sequence of exercises celebrates men’s return from their successful inner ordeals, nourishes their emergence into a new phase of more mature manhood, prepares them to return to their lives in more authentic, accountable, mission-driven, and loving ways, and encourages them to continue their emergence into mature manhood after the weekend ends.

Men as young as 18 and as old as 80 have attended NWTAs. No man is too old to benefit from going through a well-designed initiation into mature manhood. Such an initiation transforms a man into a new kind of warrior. A warrior who knows how to direct his warrior energy toward courageously dealing with the dark parts of himself so he can live whatever life he discovers he was authentically designed to live. A warrior who ultimately discovers how to help other men do this too.

I hope this description makes it clear that NWTAs are not for the faint-of-heart. Nor are they for men who aren’t yet ready to take responsibility for their choices and the impact those choices have on themselves and those around them. Rather, NWTAs are profoundly intense experiences designed to birth a new kind of masculine "warrior:" a man who uses his warrior energy to face and resolve the inner sabotage patterns that stand between him and living a life of authenticity, integrity, accountability, love and service. NWTAs are for men who are genuinely ready and willing to confront their inner "enemies" through the deep safety of a powerful event led by men who have done and continue to do this work themselves. These events are about men serving men as a give-back for the gifts the have received.

Men have known for thousands of years that nothing short of a deeply intense, spiritually respectful, and well-constructed rite of passage will be powerful enough to break through the blocks men carry that stand between them and mature masculinity. The NWTA’s version of the Hero’s Journey initiation process into mature manhood faclilitates precisely this. No other 48 hour experience I know of offers men a more powerful, safe or respectful way to take this journey.

NWTA weekends are held throughout the world. You’ll find a complete schedule of locations and dates on the MKP International website:

Ongoing Support After Attending a New Warrior Training Adventure

After completing his NWTA, each man determines for himself what kind and amount of continuing involvement with MKP is in integrity for him to pursue. For some men the NWTA weekend is all they want. Others remain involved with MKP for the rest of their lives. And of course many more men’s involvement falls somewhere in between.

NWTA initiatory weekends are followed by a training program (usually weekly for 8-10 weeks) in the protocols used in ongoing Integration Groups (iGroups), in which men expand upon the new foundation they create during the initatory weekend. Once an initiated man completes this follow-up training he joins an ongoing iGroup of this choice in his community. I personally continue to attend an iGroup I have been a member of since 2003.

Men who continue in iGroup are encouraged to start volunteering to staff NWTAs. They also have the option to attend follow-up training programs to further deepen their leadership and facilitation skills, and to become increasingly proficient at doing the shadow work that enables them to effectively move beyond the automatic unconscious patterns that have held them back from living a life of integrity, self-responsibility, joy, lovingness and social responsibility.

Is Now the Time for You, or a Man You Know, to Attend a NWTA?

As I mentioned, I have been a member of MKP since my NWTA in the Fall of 2002. I have seen numerous relatives, friends, and colleagues become part of MKP since then. I have been a board member for the San Diego MKP community. I have staffed a number of NWTA weekends, and have attended a number of leadership training programs. And I continue to attend my weekly iGroup meetings to this day whenever I am not working out of town. To say that I am grateful for the profound ways in which my involvement in MKP has helped me move into much more mature ways of being a man, and continues to do so, would be a vast understatement.

If you’ve ever heard or read that MKP is quackery or a cult, I can tell you as a psychologist that nothing could be further from the truth. If you’ve ever heard or read claims that MKP doesn’t help men become more self-responsible, safe, loving, a better leader or of greater service in the world, I can tell you as a man that those who say this are most likely misinformed or frightened. Quite the contrary: the world needs the ManKind Project, now more than ever. I can’t imagine a man who wouldn’t benefit tremendously from becoming involved with this marvelous one-of-a-kind organization… providing that he becomes involved at a time in his life when is ready to start taking responsibility for his life, become a truly mature man, and move into fuller awareness of and integrity with his life mission.

Let me say that again: New Warrior Training Adventures are not for everyone. They are for men who are READY to look deeply at, and take responsibility for, their lives. However, any time is a great time to become acquainted with MKP and their NWTAs. Including now. When it comes to actually attending an NWTA, timing is everything if you want it to be as worthwhile an experience for you as it’s designed to be.

How can you know when the timing is right? Take these three simple steps.

  1. Learn More About MKP: Take a look at the MKP website to gain an understanding of the extraordinary opportunity that awaits you. Click HERE to watch a video about MKP.
  2. Talk With Someone in MKP: Contact the MKP enrollment team, an MKP member you know, or me, for free assistance in determining whether you’re truly ready to benefit from so intense an exploration of the sacred mature masculine within you. Because MKP is a nonprofit nondenominational organization, and all men in MKP know that timing is everything, you can be confident that you will not be manipulated into enrolling in an NWTA. You will only be assisted in determining whether this experience might be for you, and if so whether now is your best time to benefit. (If you’re in therapy, working with a coach, or in a recovery program, talk with your coach, therapist or sponsor as well. )
  3. Decide If/When to Attend: When you decide that the time IS right for you (in the end, your gut will tell you!), make a top priority of attending the next NWTA you can possibly attend.

For More Information or to Register for an Upcoming NWTA…

The MKP International website is From there you can access all of the MKP communities around the world.

You can attend an NWTA weekend anywhere in the world it is held. Afterward, if there is an MKP community near where you live, you can then go through a local post-NWTA Integration Group (iGroup) entry preparation program, which will familiarize you with the powerful processes used in ongoing iGroups. These iGroup preparation programs usually meet once a week for 8-10 weeks. You can then select an iGroup to join, through which you will continue the journey you began during your NWTA for however long it serves your needs to do so. (There is of course a fee to attend an NWTA. However, Integration Group entry preparation programs are usually free or close to it, and ongoing iGroups are free too, unless a donation needs to be collected for meeting space rental or refreshments.)

As an example, the San Diego and Los Angeles MKP communities provide NWTAs numerous times each year. These are immediately followed by an Integration Group entry preparation progam. As part of this program you will be assisted in finding iGroups in your area. You can directly access the San Diego community’s NWTA weekend workshop schedule via and the LA community’s NWTA weekend workshop schedule via I myself am a member of the San Diego MKP community. I have also staffed for the Los Angeles community. I plan to also staff elsewhere in the future.

If you decide to attend an NWTA, and would like me to consider being part of the volunteer staff for your weekend, do let me know, because this is part of the service work I do. If I can arrange to attend, it will be my joy to do so. (Because MKP is a service organization dedicated to functioning in integrity with its mission, staff are not only not paid; they actually pay a modest fee to cover their food, lodging and administrative costs. This is part of giving back — of "paying it forward" that is so central to MKP’s values.)

The next NWTA at which I am currently scheduled to be on staff is with the San Diego MKP Community on August 9-11, 2012. But you can attend any NWTA anywhere in the world by visiting MKP’s global website: Or, to attend any upcoming San Diego community NWTA, please do any of the following:

  • Go to the San Diego MKP website ( to learn more and/or register. When you register, you’ll be asked if a man in MKP referred you. Please enter his name (and/or mine — David Gruder). No one, including MKP members, receives money or other remuneration from you enrolling. All MKP members get from this — and it’s a lot, believe me — is an invitation to pay to staff the NWTA you will be attending (unless you don’t want that!), and the joy of knowing that we had a part in helping to make a difference in another man’s life.
  • Get a first-hand feel for the work of MKP by attending a free Open Circle of Men. To access details about when the next one will be held, click HERE. To find out about other Open Circles in the San Diego MKP community, send a correspondence through the San Diego MKP website contact page (
  • Contact the MKPSD (ManKind Project San Diego) Enrollment Team directly by e-mail at or by phone at 858-472-2993.
  • Contact me directly ( if you prefer to talk with me instead of an enrollment team member about whether attending an NWTA might be a valuable experience for you in general, and whether now might be the right time for you to attend. (There is of course no charge for talking with me about this because MKP is a volunteer community service organization, meaning that I charge no money and make no money from my involvement with MKP.)

MKP is committed to changing the world for the better, one man at a time. And they’re doing it. Extremely well. The reason I remain involved with and supportive of MKP to this day is because I am convinced that the more men who are exposed to this remarkable resource at the right time for them, the better our world will become. I honor MKP for its vitally valuable ways of helping men become more capable of co-creating true safety in the world.

If you’re a man I hope you’ll consider becoming involved with MKP. If you’re a woman I hope you’ll encourage the men you know to learn more about MKP.

If I can help, please let me know! (For more about my involvement with MKP, go to the About page on this website — — and scroll down until you see the MKP logo.)

The ManKind Project is a global nonprofit [501(c)(3)] charitable organization that conducts challenging and highly rewarding trainings for men at every stage of life, supports a global network of peer-facilitated men’s groups, and empowers men to missions of service in the world. MKP helps men through any transition, men at all levels of success, men facing almost any challenge. Their flagship training, described by many as the most powerful men’s training available, is the New Warrior Training Adventure. The ManKind Project (MKP) is not affiliated with any religious practice or political party. They strive to be increasingly inclusive and culturally aware.

© 2005, 2009 Integrity Revolution, LLC, Willingness Works® & Dr. David Gruder

To ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW with Dr. Gruder on the topic of mature masculinity, integrity, self-responsibility or accountability, click here.

Disclaimer: All content and products available through this website are offered solely for informational purposes. The sole purpose of this educational material is to share what Dr. Gruder has learned from his own personal experiences and from what the thousands of people he has served over the past three decades have taught him. Dr. Gruder encourages you to make your own decisions about your development, health care, and resource selections, based upon your own research as an informed consumer, and in partnership with a qualified helping professional whenever appropriate. Choosing to use this material means that you agree to be self-responsible with it: you alone are responsible for how you understand and utilize this material, and for the results you do or don’t get through utilizing it. This material is in no way intended as a substitute for appropriate professional assistance for physical, psychological, spiritual, relationship, career, leadership, or other challenges. Utilizing this material does not create a client-therapist relationship of any kind between you and David Gruder, PhD. Should you be utilizing helping professionals of any kind, you are strongly encouraged to seek their input about how to best customize this material to meet your unique individual circumstances and needs. Thank you for your integrity about this.

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