Gareth Wilkinson, 47, Property Developer, Leamington

How did you know about Abob?

I have been involved with coaching rugby to young men, and I’m pretty sure some of them are having a challenging time in one way or another, I also swim with a very active swimming club where I met abob man, Ben Philips. He told me about abob and it was something that I was open to being part of. I was ready to learn new skills and also to learn more about myself.


What did you mean by the latter?

I mean that I’m often in a leadership role and I know my style can be overbearing and that my listening skills could be improved. I wanted to become a better listener. I also felt I might have something to offer other men and they might have something to offer me.


What was your first experience of Abob?

Leamington men created a circle for us so that we could feel into the experience. There were a couple of the young men in it. We learnt about check ins and sharing. I found it immensely powerful. I’d never done anything like it before. It’s such a simple structure yet so effective. I’m often tied to my phone so I deeply appreciated the silence and the deep focus on what men were saying. It’s so rare in today’s world. And suddenly all of these words were pouring out of us new men.


How was your Quest rites of passage weekend?

Well, I wasn’t comfortable with quite a lot of it because it was new to me. This world was not my world but the experience was profound. I learnt so much over that weekend. It was a different kind of education. I was struck by how similar we all are in our humanity. Some of the men on the weekend are people that I would typically be unsure of, but the opportunity to get to know them a little, changed my perceptions and assumptions completely. I spoke with many men, who, before the weekend, I would have likely avoided. I think they might say the same about me, but by the end of it, I realised that I like every single one of the 40 men there. Once the layers come off and we had the chance to actually talk and listen, a great deal of common ground was to be found.


What did you take away from the weekend?

 I was shocked by the challenges and traumas that many of the men had had growing up. And in their lives. I felt humbled by that. I also became aware of the deep responsibility that comes with being a member of abob. I was also aware of how connected I felt to these men in way that normally I don’t feel. There was a profound sense of being there for each other.

Personally, I respectfully abstained from some of the personal work over the weekend because I didn’t feel the place to do it. I wasn’t there. I didn’t want to pretend to feel anger if I wasn’t accessing it. I felt that was an authentic thing to do.

Also the weekend made me realise even more how much love I have my family – my wife and two boys. And they all missed me when I went off for the weekend. That felt important too.


How do you see your future with Abob?

I feel very committed and connected to the work that abob do with young men. It is so vital. I hope to make connections in the business world for them and I’d like to start mentoring young men and do some of the trainings.