A felt sense of meaning

As the drum beats and the story begins to unfold, you’re suddenly transported to a time and place apart from any other. The insistent pulse of the drum takes you to a locale that seems African, or perhaps Latin American — but the story rises out of yet another land, maybe less recognizable, but deeply and mythologically connected to the soul.

This is the magic of Michael Meade, storyteller, drummer, mythologist, student of ancient ritual, and men’s-movement leader. Known worldwide for his ability to capture the imagination of his audience members — be they Jungian scholars, Nobel laureates or streetwise gang members — the genius of Meade’s approach comes from the way listeners find their own story in his, be it a challenge, a fear, lost love, or a call to action. At a moment deep within his tale, Meade always stops and invites listeners to share the parts of their lives and experiences that relate to the images he projects. The connections are haunting, profound and deeply felt.

“A sense of meaning and purpose is essential at each stage of a man’s life,” Meade explains. “Without a ‘felt sense’ of meaning, quests are put aside, questions go unasked, passions disappear, and isolation increases. When we come together around ancient stories and ritual, we recognize the necessity of creative and spiritual practices that allow a man to become that which he cannot help but be.”

But Michael Meade is not just a teller of tales. As founder and director of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, he commits much of his time and energy to working with at-risk youth and community-building projects throughout the country — and in many others, too.

Meade is also working with an eclectic mix of other groups, including writers and performance artists who explore race, gender, violence and other crucial social issues. He’s currently involved with the original theater production Eulogy for a Warrior, to be staged on the Duke University campus May 14. Meade’s role has been to consult with the playwright, director and cast on the archetypal elements of war. After the performance, he’ll lead audience members through an open discussion of their experiences with the play.

Well-known for his work as a teacher and ritual elder within the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement, Meade is the author of Men and the Water of Life; co-editor of Crossroads, A Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage; and co-editor (with James Hillman and Robert Bly) of The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, one of the best-selling poetry collections in America.

Meade explains that his work with men is about “dealing with the roots of their gifts in life, identifying the elements of their own genius, and grounding them in their own sense of purpose and meaning.”

Men in western North Carolina will have the opportunity this month to share in a mythological encounter with Meade as he leads “Thresholds of Change,” a weekend retreat in the majestic Falling Creek Camp, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Thresholds of Change” will focus on elements that shape and form the human soul, through periods of transition.

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