In April of 2019, Cranbrook tattooist Paul Sutton flew to California for the first time in his life to attend a Sacred Sons event, called The Convergence. There were 150 men there, who all worked through physical, emotional, sexual, relationship-based trauma.
“After I left California I felt the best that I’ve ever felt in my entire life and I came home and I was like ‘I feel selfish for feeling this good, I need to spread this out.’”
He and his wife got married last year and as a wedding present she surprised him with paying for another trip to California to not only participate in another Convergence event, but take the facilitator training program.
He flew back to California for around two weeks, did two more huge Convergence events and the facilitator training program and he is now of the first class of 20 men to graduate said program, and he has brought back what he learned.
“I’ve struggled with depression, alcoholism … I was a drug addict for a while, and I have had severe anxiety,” he said. After our dad passed away I went down a little ways and hit rock bottom for a little bit and I didn’t want to stay there. I knew that there was a better life for me and so I started going to any kind of appointment I could get to.”
These appointments included counselling, psychologists, energy healers, reiki — anything he could do to feel better. Then he visited an energy healer who told him she was trying to convince her husband to go to the Sacred Sons event in California in 2019.
“I’m my own boss and I make my own schedule. She shared me the Sacred Sons Instagram page 12 days before the event,” Sutton said. “And I was scared, because I’d been that far from home on a plane by myself, even though I’m in my thirties.”
He checked it out, and spoke with the person in charge of organizing the event, who answered every question Sutton had. Sutton decided to go for it.
Another man picked him up at the airport upon arriving in California who then put him up in his house, drove him out to the desert, stayed with him for the three-day event.
Just last weekend, this same man drove all the way from California to attend one of Paul’s circles.
“He is now my friend for life,” Sutton said. “And when I started feeling this way and seeing all the movement it was making in men down there, I realized there’s a huge need for it for men everywhere and right here at home.”
Since completing his facilitator training, he and his brother have been hosting men’s circles — essentially scaled-down versions of a Convergence event. They’ve hosted four in Cranbrook so far, and are now hosting them every second Saturday night. The next is set for Feb. 8 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Yoga I Am That, Suite 201 14A 13th Ave. S., then another on Feb. 22. They’re also hosting one Feb. 28 in Creston at Gold N Treasures.
They’ve had close to 100 men come through their circles in the last eight weeks. Chris and Paul are heading out at the end of April to go back to San Diego so Chris can do his own facilitator training.
“He’s been my right-hand man for 30 years and he has been on this project, not a project, this is my passion, a movement,” Paul said. “What we’re trying to do is redefine what healthy masculinity looks like — and that doesn’t look like stuffing your shit down and burying it and not dealing with it, or putting a bottle in your mouth or putting something up your nose.”
Paul said they are looking to provide skills to deal with the hurdles life puts in your way with healthy strategies, things that aren’t necessarily taught in high school or conventional education systems.
“You don’t get taught what to do when your girlfriend breaks your heart, or when your truck breaks down and you lose your job and your dog runs away. When your life turns into a country song, most of the time, us guys just don’t know what to do with that stuff.”
“One of the big things we always tell the guys is it’s okay to not be okay,” Chris added. “For years and generations we’ve all been taught that as men you need to be strong and you need to be tough and you can’t be vulnerable and you can’t show weakness or feelings. And that stuff’s perfectly okay, there’s so much support out there for women and kids, but generally guys don’t have a spot where they can let it out and that’s just what we’re trying to provide.”
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, both brothers agree. Interestingly, beyond just the men who’ve attended their circles, there’s been a great deal of positive feedback from women — partners, mothers, family members. Some have even reached out to the Suttons and offered to pay for spaces so that there are paid-for spots for guys who can’t afford to make a donation.
“Though on our sheets it says there’s a suggested donation,” Paul points out, “there is always space available for anyone. We don’t ever want money to come in the way of healing, ever, because it might just be the work that you need tonight that gets you that sweet job tomorrow that gets you the biggest paycheque you’ve ever seen.”
Paul explained that their primary objective is healing, not money. The money they take in through donations goes to paying for the space they use for meetings and snacks, which are generously provided by their mom, who is about as proud of them as could be.
He said the community response as well has been tremendous and that word is spreading fast. In addition to the scheduled circle in Creston later this month, he’s been in talks with people in Fernie, Grand Prairie and Vancouver. He said his phone never stops ringing.
They’re talking about bringing some of the top guys from Sacred Sons in California to do a full weekend event here in Cranbrook. They’re even talking about building a permanent facility of their own to host retreats on land owned by Chris.
“It’s only getting bigger by the day,” he said. “I came from a great family, but I didn’t have those skills and those tools to be a grown-ass man and it’s not because my parents didn’t teach me, it was because I wasn’t a very well-behaved teenager and didn’t want to listen to them. So I went down some dark roads for a really long time.”
Describing himself as an open book, Paul didn’t hold back from sharing the details of his past that he’s had to work to overcome, and at times the emotion in the conversation was palpable. Now that he’s on the other side of it all, the insight, help and authenticity he’s able to provide to others is invaluable.
“I’m not a doctor. This isn’t therapy, it’s going to feel like it, but I’m not a doctor. I went to the school of hard knocks and I lived my life and learned from a lot of mistakes and now I’m grateful to still be alive and be on this path of providing those tools and skills for guys to literally live to the potential that they never even dreamed of.”
They knew right after the first meeting that something had clicked, but Paul describes experiencing some nervousness before that first circle, just in presenting himself so openly to a group of people.
“I’m third generation born and raised in Cranbrook, my son is fourth,” he said. “I wasn’t always known for good things. So I knew that when I came out and said I was sober, and this is what I was doing, it was going to move a lot of folks around here, because if I can change anyone can.”
Sutton said he believes anyone has the power to change, but it’s their choice to do so. He acknowledged that for lots of guys, the hardest part is going to be taking that initial step and coming to their first circle. He reiterated that there is no judgement, and that everyone who’s attended has said they feel incredible afterwards and can’t wait till the next one.
Each circle is different, and as the brothers perfect their system it will continue to change. They simply begin by thanking the men for coming, and then the work begins. To learn more about what the circles look like you can reach out to Paul at email@example.com and visit www.sacredsons.com