Remembering Your Rites of Passage

I just finished my own Rites of Passage.

It seems strange to write this, since I’ve already been working as the Illuman Administrator since last November. For months, I’ve gotten the bird’s-eye view of this organization, but it wasn’t until recently, at the (first-ever!) New Jersey MROP, that I got to experience first-hand the unique and transformative inner work that Illuman facilitates.  

I was, frankly, stunned at the impact it had on me. Though I’ve had powerful experiences at similar events in the past, I went into the MROP distracted by life concerns back home and lacking a specific focus. But on the second day, during one of the rituals, I was struck with a sudden clarity about the inner work I was there to do. Over the next few days, I was able to let go of old griefs and versions of my past self that no longer served me.

If you’ve completed your own rites of passage, perhaps you know what I’m talking about. Do you remember how it felt to express your pain, grief, and joy in embodied ways? Do you recall the raw, refreshing, and terrifying vulnerability you felt when meeting with your Council circle? Maybe it was the first time you had ever experienced that kind of safety around other men. Or perhaps your keenest memory is the opportunity to reconnect with the “more than human world”—sitting and listening intently, purposefully, to the trees, the animals, the wind, and the rain… and to the whisper of Spirit within our own souls. 

I wonder if your rites shifted something within you as they did for me. Did they unlock tender things that you had been keeping buried and hidden? Did they help you let go of a past or false self that no longer served you?  Did they inspire you to live differently when you got home? To spend more time outdoors? To stay connected with other initiated men? To seek reconciliation in broken or wounded relationships? To live more intentionally and reflectively? To practice self-compassion more often? To make time for silence? 

Of course, as our Weaver told us at the end of our week, the rites are just a beginning. We graduated from Kindergarten, but there’s still so much to learn. I’m taking time to let my lessons from the MROP settle in, and I’m finding ways to keep doing the work in an ongoing way. Just tonight, I will be meeting again virtually with my Council brothers from the MROP. And there’s a local Council group where I live that I hope to plug into as well. 

If you haven’t done a rite of passage yet, what’s getting in the way? (That’s an honest question. We all have many pressing demands in our life, and yet it can be important to clear space to focus on our inner lives as well.) We still have three more MROPs coming up this year in the United States—in Illinois, Northern California, and Texas (including a concurrent Umbrales rites for Spanish-speakers)—not to mention MROPs in Austria, Scotland, and Latvia. Or, if you’re between the ages of 19-29 (or know someone who is), check out the Young Men’s Rites of Passage coming up in Minnesota. You will come away changed for the better. And, as one man observed toward the end of my own rites, “the world needs more of this.” 

If you are already an initiated man, consider attending an Initiator Program that runs concurrently during the MROP. It’s an opportunity both to revisit and refresh yourself on what you discovered during your first rites, and then to go even deeper. I’m already excited to go back myself!

Whether initiated or not, you’re also welcome to plug in to a Council circle. We have dozens of local groups across the US and around the world, as well as opportunities to meet in virtual Council every week of the year. We’d love to see you there.

Whether your own rites were last month, last year, a decade ago, or still yet to come, I invite you to join us on the Journey of Illumination to which they point—a journey that challenges us to show up, pay attention, move past our routines, and embrace an intense, abundant, and truly authentic spiritual life. 

I’ll see you on the journey!


Mike Clawson is Illuman’s full-time Administrator. He is also the co-founder of the New Story Festival, producing transformational events for creativity, spirituality, and social change. He has a Ph.D. in Religion, has been an adjunct instructor of religion in Central Texas, and was a church pastor in the Chicago suburbs. Though originally from the northwoods of Michigan, he currently lives in Austin, Texas with his partner and two teenage daughters.