This month our We Conspire series explores stories and wisdom on cultivating a sense of gratitude, even amid our own feelings of sorrow, pain, fear, and loneliness.
How do we shift from a mindset of self-pity or blame and into one of Infinite Love? Geno Gallegos, board member for Illuman New Mexico Board of Directors, shares how his first experience at Illuman’s Men’s Rites of Passage changed his life.
Like many people, I have attempted to control grief, fear, and shame in my life through denial, will power, and quick-wittedness. I was good at “thinking” about life, but not good at actually living life. I lived in my head, believing if I could critically analyze life and find someone to blame (myself or others) then maybe I could “fix” or control life.
However, my ruminating and resentment prevailed. l lived in a painful pinball machine of self-righteousness and self-pity. Only when the emotional pain became overwhelming was I willing to reach out for help. My situation is common to many men— many people actually. From this unhealthy, thinking-dominant, self-oriented consciousness, it is a real challenge to experience collective gratitude.
“l lived in a painful pinball machine of self-righteousness and self-pity. From this self-oriented consciousness, it is a real challenge to experience collective gratitude.”
— Geno Gallegos
As I celebrated an important 18-year milestone, a mentor suggested I risk self-care outside my comfort zone. This spirit of curious exploration led me to the work of Illuman, specifically, their Men’s Rites Of Passage, the MROP. Curiosity accompanied my guarded hope this might help me. My 2015 men’s rites experience was truly transformative. It left me with open-hearted gratitude.
As a result, I comprehended how spiritually “hungry” I was. Listening to men’s raw stories of struggle—and their emerging hope and radical healing—opened my mind, heart, body, and spirit. Their experiences, while different, felt like my own. I realized I wasn’t alone in feeling spiritually famished. This was an important start to becoming more connected with other men.
Lessons from the sacred rituals of the MROP nourished us physically. Each man brought his sometimes-tattered presence to the healing collective. We learned to allow transformative healing to emerge within our lives. This moved us past our belief that most men are beyond hope.
The healing space of the MROP went beyond information or believing lessons. It allowed us to see and experience the sacred within our hearts and lives. It revealed Infinite Love as our source, path, and destination. I learned it is wise and safe to surrender to Infinite Love.
“Listening to men’s raw stories of struggle—and their emerging hope and radical healing—opened my mind, heart, body, and spirit.”
— Geno Gallegos
People, men in particular, can’t get to collective gratitude without genuine empathy that makes compassion for others possible. This requires an open mind to see ourselves in others. We must learn to open our hearts to feel other’s pain as our pain. Inner work practices help heal our wounds and address the personality issues that keep us self-oriented. We need to develop a deep feeling of connectedness, grounded in a universal source of love, enabled by genuine spiritual experiences.
The effects of the social-political turbulence experienced by most people from 2020 through 2022 are a common reality for many men. Like the keystone experience of the MROP, the Illuman community of men provides an ongoing sacred container for deeper inner work that produces healing and growth. This releases us to honestly examine how our daily actions reflect the radical love found in such texts as The Beatitudes, The St. Francis Prayer, or the practice of Loving-kindness.
“Where there is Infinite Love there is Infinite Healing — because that’s what love does.”
— Geno Gallegos
The radical compassion we seek authentically ripens our hearts to be open and include everyone.
Infinite Love is the creator of Life, therefore Life is a divine ambush: tailored to each person in a unique way to teach the ultimate lesson, we are all children of a Loving God. Then it gets even better, for where there is Infinite Love there is Infinite Healing: because that’s what love does. Infinite Love heals every heart, every relationship, every experience. Where there is Infinite Healing there is Infinite Joy — all are foundations for Collective Gratitude.
Reflect With Us
What are your healing spaces? How can you invite others into those spaces to experience collective gratitude? Share your reflection with us.
Illuman is an international community of men who support men in our life-long journey to heal our wounds and trauma, deepen our spirituality, and grow as elders. This work produces healthy masculinity that prepares us to better serve our families, communities, and the world. Illuman was founded in 2012 by Fr. Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, NM.
Gene Gallegos currently serves on Illuman New Mexico Board of Directors, as the Convenor of Convenor’s for Illuman National, as a member of Illuman Council for Radical Belonging, and as Coordinator for the 2023 Men’s Rites of Passage / UMBRALES.
We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month.