How to Create Your Own Modern Day Rite-of-Passage (I’m personally going through a huge one)

Artwork by Bryce Widom

Okay friends. This post is inspired by Matt who listened to my interview on the new man podcast about rites of passage experiences (ROP). I get a lot of emails from men asking me this important question so let’s make this a dialogue.

It is important that I include part of my own journey, specifically the massive rite of passage I find myself in currently. Watch the video which covers a broad overview and some details about my own death/rebirth experience.

Next, tell us about what you have created in terms of a rite of passage for yourself? What has worked for you personally? What was missing?

Then read the basic steps below to begin creating your own ROP.

Here is Matt’s inquiry:

Heard you on the New Man show. What an awesome interview!

Turns out I actually have a rite of passage planned myself for this summer & if you wouldn’t mind guiding me with some of your expertise, I would sure appreciate it!

I’ll be hitch hiking across Canada on $0. My intention is to relate to myself as someone who can survive and even thrive in the world with nothing – and from there, create massive wealth for myself and the world.

Another part of this is I will be living off the kindness & generosity of the world & of others. I get a little weird around receiving & I want to explore what comes up for me around that.

(1) How can I integrate the wisdom passed down through generations on how to create a really powerful rite of passage?

(2) Is there anything i’m missing or things I’ve already incorporated I should make sure not to skip?

First, to understand why I believe men need a rite of passage or an initiation, read this post.

Any good rite of passage has 5 main components

1. The Call. Most men at some point in time feel a longing to go through something hard, to taste danger, death, and the unknown. If you have ever felt that longing, it is what Joseph Campbell describes as “the call to adventure” on the hero’s journey. For evolving men, this call is critical. Many of you have turned away from the call at certain points in your life. Many of you have turned toward the call and stepped into it fully.

If you never felt like there was a call for you personally, you were likely not paying attention.

2. Severance. This is where you must leave the comforts of your own home, community, tribe, and go off on your own. Even in modern day times, you can get away alone into the wilderness, meditate in a retreat cabin for months. However you don’t need to trot off into the wilderness alone like the movie Into the Wild. You can, in my case currently, engage in an urban rite of passage while staying within the framework of your life (family, job, etc). If this is the case, your “severance” will simply look differently.

3. Initiation. The initiation can take many months, many years or just a few hours. What are you being initiated into? There will always be a threshold you have to cross. What is it? What does it represent? Are you going from boy to man? Are you leaving the corporate world to discover who you really are? Whatever the case, you must cross a threshold of some kind in order for your initiation to move forward.

Within the initiation is the fourth component:

4. The ORDEAL. This is the crux of the ROP and where you must face some kind of mortality, death experience only to be reborn anew. This death can be an actual near death experience, or an ego-death, meaning a part of you dies or is let go of.

Be realistic. It is never what you think or want it to be. Even still, set an intention (see below). This is where I am right now in my life. In the middle of a birth canal of some kind.

As my bro Jeremy likes to say, “Everybody wants to be reborn, but not everyone is willing to die.” In other words, I want to the goodies, but I’m not willing to face my demons, my fears, or what might kill me. Any genuine ROP must have have an ordeal, a test, a challenge that really confronts the deepest, darkest aspects of yourself.

Sometimes in life, we don’t choose the ordeal, it chooses us. Such as the death of a loved one or a catastrophe that was out of our hands, or a major crisis of some kind. This then, if you choose to engage it fully, becomes the crucible to a deeper you.

Once on the other side of the ordeal, if you live to tell about it, is finding your way back bringing your gift.

5. The return. This is a critical component and one that many men blow. If you want to impact others by who you now are, you must come back, tell them, and more importantly show them who you are now. You are now different, altered in some way. Your community needs your gifts, your lessons, your new, fresh perspective. You have a gift to give in some way. It is your job to find out what you are bringing back, bring it back, and find out how you need to deliver it.

A few other key points to consider

Determine why you are wanting this. Why now? What is your intention setting out? What is the point? Are you really willing to surrender fully, partially? Get crystal clear on why are you setting out into the unknown.

Then, as my bro Dan Riggan once told me when we led four, back to back, 7-day men’s ROP wilderness trips together, set your intention and let it go. That’s right. Offer it up and be open to whatever experience you get. It will likely be very different than you wanted or expected.

For example, if Matt’s intention is “to relate to myself as someone who can survive and even thrive in the world with nothing – and from there, create massive wealth for myself and the world,” then he needs to consider what “death” needs to happen to step into this. What needs to die in me? What am I willing to let go of and burn forever? He might actually create a ritual within his journey to address this.

Since Matt also wants to explore receiving, more clarity is needed here. What qualifies as receiving? From who? Just because Matt might learn to receive from others on the hitchhiking journey, does that mean he’ll be more able to receive love from his family, lover, and friends? Learning how to receive love is a massive edge for me and most men.

Determine if you want others involved. How so? What is their role? I believe it is essential to have a few “mid-wives” that have gone down the path before you that will have some idea of what you are going through. Someone who can “hold you” through whatever darkness you might encounter.

A mentor is key here. It is also possible to get others on board so they can be doing their ROP concurrently. For example, maybe several men in your men’s group want to do a four day vision fast together. This is good for safety in the wilderness. If, on the other hand, you might want to go-it-alone. If you want to do a year-long journey and travel abroad alone, your set up and support system must be well calculated.

For Matt, who is holding him throughout the process? What kind of spiritual context, framework or undercurrent will assist him?

Determine the structure. Is it tight such as a month-long solo meditation retreat in a cabin? Or is the structure loose and open-ended like Matt’s? Is the wind going to take you or are you in the driver’s seat planning every step? Go after your growth edge. Do what is uncomfortable, new, and fresh for you. But stay away from stupid, irresponsible, impulsive acts.

Use the 5 steps above or look more into Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey for an outline to your ROP.

The more embodied your journey the better. Being in your body will help you clear blocks, move through karma, and release old emotions. If you are not experiencing pain and great joy, something is likely off. If you don’t feel anything during your experience from tremendous highs to dark lows, then re-evaluate. I know plenty of meditators that just sit there and space out and think they are getting somewhere.

Having a daily practice of some kind, be it meditation, journaling, walking quietly, and other contemplative, body-present-centered practices faciliate a deeper journey.

What about illicit substances? If used consciously and in a ritualistic, respectful way, plant medicine such as peyote or ayahuasca can be massively transformative for truth seekers and courageous men willing to face their demons and their darkness to uncover their light. Plant medicine is only to be done under the guidance of trained shamans and elders who deeply know the power and potential consequences of their use.

Document your ROP. Bring a flip video or journal and keep track on things. Write about it, and share it live or later on. This way, others can learn from your experience.

What about you? Tell us about your ROP. What was it like? If you have never gone through one, what kind of ROP might serve who you are at your stage in life? What in you needs to die right now? What new aspect of yourself is wanting to emerge?
 

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Comments

comments

14 Comments

  1. “I don't know who I am right now.” Congratulations! Whatever you are doing is clearly working. :)

    Reply
  2. It's scary as hell as I find it. I'm feeling your sense of loss and fear of the unknown. I'm in that imago state myself. Part of me wants to run like hell to what is familiar – a predictable state of low level discomfort (the old job) while another part of me grapples with how I will survive (literally) in the new world that is unfolding. I have been finding it challenging to ward off negative thought patterns……my reptillian brain constantly sreams warnings when it doesn't understand – RUN for your fucking life is common. Maintaining faith in the process is a constant challenge. Thanks for sharing, I get what it is or where you're at right now. Dan

    Reply
  3. Jayson –

    Kudos for letting it all hang out, and for letting us into your journey!

    Reply
  4. The peyote ceremony is something I do as a periodic rite of passage…it's definitely an ordeal. A physical one, certainly…but also an emotional/spiritual one. At the last one I did, the two guys on either side of me were so deep in their own journey that for a long time, a fetal position was all they could muster.

    There was no danger, as we were all carefully looked after with the love of our brothers…but that just goes to show you the nature of being pushed through that birth canal. At the end, I discovered that one of them had wet himself…all over the towel I'd been sitting on. I just smiled and found a new one, because, without knowing exactly where he went on his journey, that it must have been at least as deep and rewarding as my own.

    It really does, as you say Jayson, make you confront the deepest and darkest aspects of yourself. Literally, it's hard not to weep any time I tell about it…even right now as I type this out.

    The biggest challenge for me is taking the revelations from the experience and installing them permanently into myself, by remembering and using the lessons in daily life.

    As I heard the other day, it's like being carried to the top of the mountain and shown what it's like there. Then you're let back down to the ground…and it's your task to start climbing back up on your own.

    Reply
  5. Jayson – the courage you display is immense. I'm really appreciating the honesty you're putting out in the world and it's helping me get real with those around me too (despite the rubs that seem to keep happening).

    For the last month now, and after a pretty dark 7 months in my life, after my relationship broke down, I slowly began to wake up and see that there was more to life than just sitting in front of the X Box, vegging out and keeping my life “full” of obligations that I was taking up to keep myself busy. I was only distracting myself from what really needed to be paid attention to: ME!

    Now a month down the road, I'm in the realm of not only a physical transformation (proper nutrition, proper exercise with Strength For Life), but also mentally/spiritually as well (joined a men's group, signed up to the New Man Life, and digesting personal development books and websites like yours as much as I can).
    IT'S LIKE A COMPLETE SEA CHANGE!

    Getting real, being honest and open about where I am with my inner circle of friends has been really hard though. I don't want to come across as being some superior know-it-all (because I don't know-it-all and I am f*cking up), but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to engage with them over simple things. Like talking about sports, or just wanting to sit in the pub drinking pints all afternoon. I'd like to feel more comfortable about expressing what I'm going through and talk to them about it.

    My men's group shows that talking about it is okay and I get buzzed off simply talking, laughing and sharing our issues of the week. So I guess my own rite of passage is proper communication at this stage.

    The inner circle of friends, who I know have got my back, we're hitting the trails in July for a week's long walk for charity, and it's going to be us. Together. 24 hours a day for those seven days. What a great opportunity to try tear down some walls, but right now I'm getting resistance and feeling very isolated right now because I'm not fitting the mould. Despite them all chiming in going “yeah, yeah, this is going to be some big rite of passage,” what I'm hearing from them is just empty words at this stage.

    I'm placing my faith in this working out in the end, but right now the path is not clear.

    Reply
  6. Damn man you really put some work into this. What a blessing! Many thanks:)

    The idea of many Rites Of Passage throughout my lifetime is really standing out for me. My first Right Of Passage was a backpacking trip around Australia for a year when I was 18/19. I have been in this mental dialogue like “well you already did your ROP, why are you still wigging out & getting antsy for more?”.

    I was under the impression that you only get one shot at this and then it's done. DUH, of course there will be continuous transition & transformation throughout my life. That's freed up some of my anxiety in this next trip though:)

    I want to address some of your questions…

    Q: Why do I want this?
    A: I am ready to fully engage with & unleash the part of me that has been pacing back and forth, frustrated like a caged animal. I have been living childishly, jumping from one flashy pursuit to the next, rarely accumulating much. It seems like no matter what i'm doing, there is always this question in the background asking “ok, what's next? There's gotta be something more interesting to focus on!”

    Q: What am I willing to let go of & burn forever
    A: This is a scary one:| I have so much identity & ego attachment to these mask I wear of up & coming internet marketer & of this wild, interesting, world traveler. If I give these up, i'm naked. All of the work I have been doing over the years is gone. Yikes.

    I am willing to let go of unconscious/emotional eating. To start, I commit to giving away the bag of coconut sugar that I bought today by 1am tonight.

    I am willing to let go of my masks: the self educated marketer & the fascinating traveler

    Also, I want to share that while I was reading this post, I had an experience bubble up for me of something I have had fear & shame around. I completed the issue with the person involved months ago but there is still a shred of it lingering & I have been frustrated with that. Turns out, the incomplete piece has been “oh my god, what would my parents think of me?”. So I got up and immediately went and told my mum about the whole thing & completed with her (felt really good & she was totally warm & accepting of the whole thing). Dad was sleeping & I will complete with him soon. Thanks for the inspiration to take myself on brother!

    -Matt

    Reply
    • Matt-do you live ion Australia and are you able to contact me please?
      John

      Reply
  7. Great post man, so inspiring. I totally connect to this (having followed a calling myself), especially Severance. Sam Keen's book, Fire in the Belly, speaks a lot about severing your connections to “the feminine” (women, family, comforts, that kind of thing) in your life. Also reminds me of Chris McCandless from Into The Wild. Best of luck, sounds awesome and I can't wait to plan out my own again soon. Thanks.

    Reply
  8. You have shared some real truths. For me in my journey, ROP started when I did not succumb to a difficult moment. I learned latter that most people tuck tail and ran. This led me into a introspective period. I was forced to be honest with myself. I had loving men around, mentoring and guiding me. I found that my projection of myself did not match the reality of who I was inside. It has taken me several years to bring balance. I like myself and I am able to share who I am with others in love and complete openness. This does not mean that I don't have my times. I do. What it means is that I am still on the journey, but I understand more about myself and I have come to grips with it.

    The main point I want to make is that being honest is where to start.

    I am setting up a ROP for my boys. I want them to understand what it means to be men and to be themselves.

    Thanks
    EricSr

    Reply
  9. I appreciate your focus on men and I understand your goal. I believe this is an excellent site. I do believe as a female that we also want to experience the rites of passage. I am currently playing around with an idea to create my own ritual of moving on so to speak. I am about ready to go through a divorce. I am already moving on in my psyche, but having a physcial experience is what would really help get on with it. I am a devotee of Joseph Campbell. I have written a couple of blogs that have been published on his jfc.org. I think I have been experiencing some mild forms of initiations my whole life(Maiden Initiation- jfc.org mythnow blog) My most serious form of initiation was playing tennis as a junior and I refused that call every step of the way- man!!! I am an athlete and so I my most spiritual moment was on the court for three hours I was in the zone. I think now I just want to do more of a vision quest type of thing- no death- but find that spirit guide and or erasing myself with bliss, rapture or something beyond my ego- more like fasting, running and staying away from any material world- just the Earth and me. The problem is doing this alone or without a mentor is not really realistic. I might have some folks who might understand this whole process but not many in my circle. Anyway no matter my situation, I believe you are doing what I want to do for women and maybe one day we will have a mythology including rituals that fit us all – guide us so we can evolve in a healthy manner. Good luck on your inititation – May the force be with You!!!

    Kori Fitch

    Reply
  10. I appreciate your focus on men and I understand your goal. I believe this is an excellent site. I do believe as a female that we also want to experience the rites of passage. I am currently playing around with an idea to create my own ritual of moving on so to speak. I am about ready to go through a divorce. I am already moving on in my psyche, but having a physcial experience is what would really help get on with it. I am a devotee of Joseph Campbell. I have written a couple of blogs that have been published on his jfc.org. I think I have been experiencing some mild forms of initiations my whole life(Maiden Initiation- jfc.org mythnow blog) My most serious form of initiation was playing tennis as a junior and I refused that call every step of the way- man!!! I am an athlete and so I my most spiritual moment was on the court for three hours I was in the zone. I think now I just want to do more of a vision quest type of thing- no death- but find that spirit guide and or erasing myself with bliss, rapture or something beyond my ego- more like fasting, running and staying away from any material world- just the Earth and me. The problem is doing this alone or without a mentor is not really realistic. I might have some folks who might understand this whole process but not many in my circle. Anyway no matter my situation, I believe you are doing what I want to do for women and maybe one day we will have a mythology including rituals that fit us all – guide us so we can evolve in a healthy manner. Good luck on your inititation – May the force be with You!!!

    Kori Fitch

    Reply
  11. Dear Jayson,

    I’m a firm believer that we as humans are always searching for freedom. I also believe that we as humans are continuously changing. As we grow and thrive as loving humans, we go over many humps and smash through walls that represent adversity, challenge, doubt, fear, criticism, and many other real and imaginary things that block us from seeing our true identity and realism.
    I think what you are talking about in the video and what you are actually spending your time doing is very remarkable. I am an open minded guy, and would love to hear what you have to say in regards to my following questions.
    1) What do you plan to find on your continuous journeys and rights of passage?
    2) If your culture doesn’t provide any type of right of initiation, why not put yourself into a culture that does?
    3) What is the truth of self you talk about?

    Reply
    • E-man.
      1. find? myself, deeper and deeper truths about the Self that is occuring inside and outside of me. The truth and nature of reality. The laws of the Universe. and on and on…
      2. good point, but I want to live in this culture for now. It’s tempting to think that some other culture will have the answer for me. My journey is a modern one where I can draw on wisdom from the past and other cultures. And, the wisdom is in my being somewhere and our collective wisdom as well.
      3. be more specific?

      Reply
  12. I’ve been chatting with a friend for a couple of months about needing a ROP, and wondering what that would look like. As I was looking over your guide to the required steps, as it were, and listening to your vlog, I realized that I have pushed myself through a couple already this year while not really considering them as such. I ran in the Warrior Dash with my husband and a good friend of ours. I am not naturally athletic and I grew up bullied by the kind of guys I associate with such events. To say the least, it was not something I was looking forward to. I finished. I am satisfied with my results. The week before that, as a gift to myself for my birthday, I performed a concert. I was a competitive singer in high school, but after that, I sang only karaoke and occasionally at church. I have had a life-long dream of doing an entire concert and decided I would do it as a fundraiser for the church I attend and serve. My goal was 100 people in the audience and $1000 raised. I fell short of the 90 folks by about 5 and raised $1365.

    Before both of these events, that I now recognize as ROPs, I was absolutely sick with worry. The concert more than the race, which surprised me, but both had me feeling impending “death.” I walked successfully through them both and am stronger for it.

    I’m currently working in order to transition from vocation to avocation. I am certain there will be other ROPs as I walk the path that will lead me to the deciding moment next spring. I am glad that at least one of those is going to be shared with some other men and based upon the outline here. Leading, walking alongside, and following some close brothers… this is the way.

    Reply

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