Time for Tribe
We are a tribe of 21 people mostly born in the 1940s–50s. We share specific values, hold
each other as a priority, and formally commit to one another. “Bicycle distance” is
our metaphor for living close enough to meet face-to-face with weekly consistency.
Here’s how to start your tribe.
find two of us greeting them with a feathered fan spreading
sweet smoke around them in a special, heartfelt welcome.
They are asked to enter in silence past a transparent silver
cloth, and are greeted with music.
We create a safe space for initiates to consciously practice
intimacy skills. In one process we like, we invite each
person to take the time to be with each other person, one
at a time, and, looking eye to eye, one says, “I am here to be
seen.” And the other responds from the heart, “I see you.”
The training is an experiential orientation where participants
begin to find their own place in the tribe. They learn
our values of living near each other and staying put, meeting
face-to-face every week, experiencing long-term commitment,
realizing the deep importance of gender safety in
our tribe, learning how to resolve conflict in a safe way, and
seeing how the membership sequence unfolds.
The “tribe training” brings everyone onto the same page
as to who we are, what we believe, and how we function. At
the end of the training they are “initiated” into the tribe as
provisional members for three months to a year. It’s a bonding
time of mutual observation, and when they are ready
each creates his or her initiation ceremony into full membership
and may then sponsor trusted friends as possible
A TRIBE STARTS WITH one person. It begins when the
“champion” talks with friends she or he has come to trust
over the years about intentional friendship.
After enough conversation, there comes a time to formalize
the acceptance of an invitation. In our case, Bill invited
Zoe and presented her with a written document to formalize
her intention. Upon completing and signing her “Testament
of Intent” she dramatically presented Bill with the same
opportunity. This created a movement from thought to
action and established a base for expansion. Now we could
reach out and present the shared vision, values, and essential
structure to one person or one couple at a time.
Some friends liked what we offered and accepted our
lead. A small core group of men and women formed.
Beginning with a commitment of three years we called this
our family of choice. Next, we invited four trusted friends
as “initiates” into a 15-hour training over five weeks, every
Tuesday, to learn to feel safe and build trust. Here we shared
in depth our values and structure, a practical conflict resolution
process, and a way for men, women, and those of gender
fluidity to be together in deep safety.
Everything we do is by invitation and with mutual
respect. Our ceremonies and rituals are fun and often surprise
people. Arriving the first day, they come up our steps to
Reflect Our Values:
1. To Place: we choose to stay put, to
not move on
2. To Each Other: seasoned friends
3. To Gender Safety: clear boundaries
4. To Personal Integrity: we’re
accountable and we tell the truth
5. To Long-Term Intention: we imagine
a lifetime together
6. To Celebrate Relationship with
Divine Presence: spirit
7. To Cultural Cocreation: action
22 spiritualityhealth.com march / april 2016
Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, offers a most
useful distinction as he identifies “bridging and bonding”
groups. Bridging groups focus outward and include different
types of people in order to be of service to them in some way.
Bonding groups are people of like mind, focused inward,
working together with the intention of personal growth and
evolution. Our tribe is a bonding group; therefore, we carefully
choose whom we invite. We find that once people have
a safe place to grow and thrive they naturally “bridge” out in
service to others.
As founders we designed our roles to move from leaders
to cocreative equals. Thus, once our group was of adequate
size and competence, the members felt ready and released
us as founders. In a wonderful, “derolling” ceremony, the
first dozen or so stepped up to be more fully responsible for
the cocreative tribe process, and we as founders no longer
had to hold so much responsibility.
Now as peers we are wrestling with how to make challenging
group decisions in a good way. We have been exploring a
NVC/Sociocacy Consent Decision-Making model. With each
new challenge we are enjoying the dynamic process of building
the plane as we fly it.
When one of our members was informed after a routine
physical that he needed immediate open-heart surgery, the
tribe sprang into action. His wife was away for the weekend,
so men stayed with him the night before surgery. In the
morning, others joined his wife at the hospital, and a large
portion of the tribe adjusted their schedules to hold a song
circle—singing until the surgery was complete. The surgery
took half the time expected. Once he was home, we regaled
him with more song and his recovery was remarkable. The
biggest challenge was to not make him laugh too much.
—BILL KAUTH AND ZOE ALOWAN
Bill Kauth cofounded The ManKind Project in 1984, is the author of A
Circle of Men, and has launched literally thousands of self-help groups.
Zoe Alowan is an artist, and together they have written We Need
Each Other and Toolbox for Tribe: How to Build Your Own Community.
Icons 15 & 16
The “tribe training” brings
everyone onto the same page as to
who we are, what we believe, and
how we function. At the end of the
training they are “initiated” into
the tribe as provisional members
for three months to a year.
march / april 2016 spiritualityhealth.com 23
Time for Tribe