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A Wild Ride: Gay Men Recharging at Midlife

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"A calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed. It may also possess you completely. Whatever; eventually it will out. It makes its claim."

-- James Hillman, The Soul's Code

Ever noticed how people that are passionate about what they do for a living seem more energized, excited, satisfied and alive? It's almost as though there are two kinds of people in the world: those that have tapped into their gifts and talents and are leveraging them to make a difference, and the walking wounded. Perhaps this is what prompted Henry David Thoreau to lament, "Most people lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to their graves with the song still in their heart."

If your song is still trapped in your heart, there's hope. For the better part of a decade, two Southern California co-conspirators have helped gay men approaching, at or past midlife explore their life's trajectory with the objective of creating a much more meaningful and productive second half of life. Gay rights pioneer and Jungian analyst Dr. Donald Kilhefner and Roberto Blain, Director of Talent Services at the University of Southern California, teamed up a number of years ago to develop a retreat experience for Gay Men that would allow them to step back from their daily routine to engage in the kind of exploration that can and has shifted the life orbit of many gay men across the country.

Gay Men and Midlife Awakening: Rites of Passage into the Second Half of Life is the result of a combined six decades of experience working with gay men. Dr. Kilhefner has spent four of these working closely with gay men helping them to unlock their potential and make the necessary changes to arrive at a more meaningful, responsible, authentic life. Roberto Blain has worked for almost 20 years helping people navigate career paths with an emphasis on being true to oneself, not selling out and effectively navigating the scary, risky shoals of the midlife transition.

Alternating between presentation, interactive discussion, writing, poetry, dreams, mythology and ritual, the Midlife Awakening workshop is directed toward initiating a soul-directed, rather than ego-led journey that empowers participants to see life-changing new possibilities for their lives and their community. Dr. Kilhefner, a globally respected community leader who co-founded the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, co-founded the Radical Faeries with Harry Hay, and other community organizations, says: "For lots of gay men, midlife is accompanied by disappointment, disruption and fear. It is a time for revisioning and reorienting their lives, a necessary rite of passage marking the end of the extended adolescence of the first half of life--and the beginning of a new, more personally rewarding, purposeful life in the second half ."

I asked Roberto, who heads up a professional development function for USC, the largest private employer in Los Angeles, what really happens during the weekend workshop that helps gay men recharge and achieve this holy-grail convergence of passion and livelihood. "Prior to the workshop, we assign the men some very carefully selected readings that build a common baseline of understanding of the midlife awakening phenomenon. By the time they arrive on Friday evening, the alchemical process of transformation has already begun. During the weekend, the men engage in activities and exercises that enable them to explore their own life's journey with support from a cohort of conscious men that are experiencing similar existential challenges. Having a group of "kindred spirits" to reflect back helps tremendously; the men support one another, learn from each other and engage in powerful dialogues in a safe environment. Many past attendees have told us that the workshop was a pivotal point in their lives that served as a gentle push to encourage them on a much more vibrant, productive path. It's a true discovery process -- while rigorous and sometimes confronting, it's a rich, rewarding and fun experience for most!"

"Don, our MLA team and I are super-excited about the fact that Midlife Awakening will be held in the beautiful, near-legendary Wildwood Retreat Center in Guerneville, in the Russian River of Northern California." So step back for a minute and ask yourself this question: Where do I stand on the continuum that ranges from passionately engaged in life to dying a slow death due to lack of meaning and engagement? If you're closer to the dark side of this continuum, unplug, recharge and recreate your life at Wildwood in May.

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The workshop begins Friday evening, May 21 (7-9 p.m.) and goes through Sunday at 6:00 pm. $400 cost includes room and three meals per day provided by Wildwood. For more information, go to www.midlifeawakening.org. or, contact Ken Stofft at 510-409-3318 or redhawk1947@gmail.com

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