What started out as an advertisement in the Islander New is today a thriving men’s group that meets bimonthly at the community center on Wednesday nights from 7:30 to 9:30 to present a time for guys to get together and feel heard and understood in conversation with each other.
Arthur Ackerman founded the group but he doesn’t direct or guide the gatherings.
“I’ve always been interested in spiritual growth and how easily women can connect. They don’t have to know each other long and they are already sharing. Men have that same need but don’t do it,” said Arthur.
The men have become good friends over the years, they will sometimes get together for lunch or to help each other out. Around the holidays they get together with their respective families for a potluck. The group is open to all and has evolved into an informal supportive network.
“It took several years before we developed that trust to talk. Men can get stuck sometimes in the way they look at a situation. By reframing it with a different point of view it can help. We talk about men’s issues like health, aging, how we get along with women, how we don’t, but we steer away from politics and from giving opinions or advice.”
Arthur is retired and he and wife Dian Newman are avid bikers who enjoy traveling the world and embracing the moment. Every summer he attends a spiritual retreat in Marin County, California where he has worked with men like author Jack Kornfield and meditation teacher Phillip Moffit.
“The world is our teacher,” said Arthur.
“You can go to Winn Dixie and stand in line and you will have the whole experience of relationships opening and closing…we have an opportunity to practice in every part of our day.”
Arthur teaches three courses at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Miami: “The Joy of Living,” “It’s Okay to Be Me,” and “Real Talk with Arthur.”
He said in the men’s group setting, some of the greatest communication challenges arise when topics come up related to father or son issues.
“When it comes to being a dad sometimes men find that they can hear their own father coming out of their mouth and sometimes it is something they like and sometimes they don’t. We might kick that around occasionally but men are reluctant to talk about their childhood if is painful and for some of them it is.”
Arthur readily admits to having had some early struggles with his own son and credits his own journey searching for personal growth as significant to helping enjoy the close relationship they have today.
“My son is 50 and my relationship with him has really flourished and developed. We each feel free to express ourselves and be heard. As men we are often reporters about what is going on but we don’t tie it in with the emotions.”
But don’t call the men’s group an emotional support meeting of any kind.
“We are a fun loving bunch of guys looking to maintain connection and be open with each other and I believe they look forward to the meetings. We always get a lot of laughs.”
When pressed for more details on what exactly they do talk about, Arthur said gratitude is a frequent subject as well as how they want to be remembered.
“They would say they want to be remembered as having given it their best shot, they were a good mate and a good friend and they made the world a little better than when they came into it…they made a good mark to pass on to their children.”