Men need other men. Especially as an expat in a transient environment like China, finding new friends let alone connecting with them on a deeper level sometimes is hard.
That’s where men’s support groups come in. Although not largely advertised or spoken about, these groups are vital in fostering positive masculinity and act as an open space, a place without judgement where men can build friendships and check in on one another.
Embodiman Shanghai is a meetup founded by Aussie native Kurt Tropiano in China’s most cosmopolitan city. From a young age, Tropiano’s mother taught him breath work and meditation to help him sleep and calm his thoughts. As he grew up, he remained interested in health and wellness and even joined these type of men’s support groups in Canada and the US.
“We live in an imbalanced society, where men and women alike, are disconnected from their true power. Society holds a tainted view on what it means to be a man. We are rarely permitted to be deeply vulnerable and furthermore, to share that vulnerability with others. I wanted to hold space for men to be able to discover their true masculine power, to be able to foster the tools to support them toward their highest self and for us to create a community, a brotherhood,” Tropiano tells us.
Earlier this year, Tropiano and his wife welcomed their baby girl into the world. It was his journey toward becoming a father that sparked his desire for a community that would support him in this new role. He figured if he was seeking, then others would surely be as well.
“Other guys are going through similar things, it’s all very common. I wanted to create a space where men can come together and be real. We don’t need to talk shit; we can be open with what’s going on in our lives, what we’re celebrating and to learn new things together.”
The first session was in September 2020 with eight members. The group has since organically grown to more than 30 members who meet monthly. As his offering to the community, the sessions are typically free, unless a special workshop is organized. He jokes with us, though, that the members drink cacao every session, and they will have to start chipping in for that eventually.
Tropiano also welcomes other members to lead sessions. To date, the group has explored topics such as holotropic breathwork, meditation, cold water immersion, underwater breath holds, Wim Hoff breathing, sharing circles, cacao ceremonies, topics with an Australian men’s sex expert, tai chi, animal flow and macework.
Image via @embodiman_shanghai
The group is open to every man who wants to find their best self and better the community. He acknowledges that the first session for newcomers may be uncomfortable at the start as it’s not your usual Friday night pub meetup.
Neil Lee, a member of the group, tells us, “It’s created a safe environment for me to be vulnerable with men. In society, guys are taught to be strong, to never let your guard down and to always have it together. When you tie in something physical like breath work, it refreshes you as a person physically and spiritually.”
Tropiano’s hope is that men will take home something positive from these sessions, share it with their community and continue to spread from there.
Down in Shenzhen, similar communities virtually exist on WeChat.
Ben Raja is part of a daily self-improvement WeChat group, which a friend added him to. The group is quite casual, comprised of around 60 members and is dedicated to positive mindset thinking. In the group, men and women share e-books and articles related to health and wellness.
Raja remarks that he enjoys his involvement in the group as it “tends to breed positive conversations.”
For more information about Embodiman, visit their Instagram or contact Kurt (WeChat ID: KTropiano) to join the WeChat group.