Is there a way to find power, peace passion and grace amid the chaos, suffering and powerful negative forces in the world? As a man do you ever allow yourself to just let go and release all the efforts and feelings you’ve been holding inside? Women, do you long for a way to help the men in your lives let go like that and be able to open more fully to receive your love? If you teach, coach or counsel men are you challenged to get them to reveal what’s really going on inside? See if the quotes, ideas and experiences provided here offer ways for you to find release, live in more comfort and feel compassion and understanding clear into your souls…
“It has always seemed strange to me…The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants (indicators) of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
— John Steinbeck (Cannery Row)
Great philosopher and soul singer James Brown asserted, “This is a man’s world.” But statistics and recent US Supreme Court rulings sing a different tune, something more like “This is a corporate world!” And all the detestable traits Steinbeck lists are indeed concomitants of success in our system. Working hard and getting ahead is only true in history books. Increasingly it’s only money and power that beget money and power.
Such is life for men (and women). In this world we are defined by what’s outside us, yet hauntingly informed by an inner knowing that materialism is an inhumane lie. No matter how rich or powerful or impressive we might be, in the end we sense we must forsake external power and embrace the power within. It’s especially important in these times to be guiding people to this understanding, nurturing them and ourselves past the dragons we fear and coaching them toward peak performance and love. That is how I see our work.
Ask almost any man how he is and he’ll finesse with a quick, “FINE.” Which according to the music group Aerosmith stands for F@#*ked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. No matter how stupid and untrue, our beer and football culture has convinced men that “big boys don’t cry” and some macho unfeeling model of men’s behavior is what’s appropriate. Men (and women) are human and all humans experience the full range of emotions until convinced by the world around them to repress (vs. responsibly express) certain ones. The repressed emotions get shoved down into the body, blocking full self-expression, requiring lots of energy to suppress and eventually leaking or bursting out inappropriately as projections, depression or violence.
#1. Men (and women) need safe places to say how they really feel, be who they really are…
The world is a completely different place since my 2004 weekend initiation with the ManKind Project. A group of 35 “boys in men’s bodies” show up on a Friday evening, and supported by a staff of about 50 initiated men, are processed into owning their sacred masculine adult energy and by Sunday afternoon sent back to their worlds radically changed for the better. During that weekend I had the feeling I was, for the first time in my life, hearing men tell each other the truth. I felt seen and supported in ways I’d never experienced, closer to strangers I’d met only hours before than to people I’d known for years. I left there broken open, more emotionally intelligent, compassionate, feeling less alone in the world.
I began seeing the protective persona almost everyone uses to hide their real feelings, who they really are. I still see so much pain and tension, fear and anger right below the surface of people even as they insist they’re “FINE.” I began asking “really?” After several such questions, people would often let go and fall into tears as they finally release the constant tension and protection they carry. It explained so much I had been sensing. By seeing how obvious the persona was in others I realized mine probably was fooling only me and began to drop it.
Whether in exemplary groups like the ManKind Project, Nation of Men or elsewhere, men are nurtured just by being able to express their “secrets” in a safe place and recognize they are not the only ones going through similar challenges. It’s why I call our coaching work nurturing. Men and women given a safe place to express their truth can bring it out of the places it’s been hiding in their bodies and start using awareness and compassion to shift what they’ve repressed for so long into a healthy, energized relationship.
#2. Men (and women) are nurtured by being held accountable
I have to stay alert when I’m with someone I love because their most casual request or wish flips some switch in me that if not monitored and consciously turned off will have me doing U-turns in heavy traffic to get back to that place he said ‘has the best burgers in the world’ or daydreaming about exactly how I’ll get her to Italy and tour Florence this week on date night. Men want to succeed, please, provide, do it right and be held to high standards.
Like many in my generation, I spent some time with magical thinking where I believed just having the right intentions or vision board pictures of something on the wall would get it done. Initially, being held accountable for actually taking actions to change my life was a shock to my system. It produced resistance and excuses but thankfully it soon proved satisfying to do what I said I’d do when I said I’d do it. I’m grateful to those who “fiercely” loved me by not letting me off the hook when I fought against living into the highest standards of accountability and integrity.
I build trust and respect with clients by consciously choosing to never forget agreements we make and “fiercely” loving by holding them and myself accountable when we forget.
#3. Men (and women) need to be nurtured into being passionate again
In their effort to survive, institutions systematically crush individuality. The cubicles, the meetings, the hierarchies, the regimentation, the petty rules, all make perfect sense to the institution. By the time a person’s passed through school, church, team, military, social club, job and family they’re lucky to have a shred of individuality or any tiny bit of personal passion left. Regardless of what they say, in the Corporatocracy “thinking outside the box” is a lie because the box is survival and profit is the means to survival. All thoughts MUST be in that box.
Trapped in the materialist, consumerist, planned obsolescence, fractional reserve banking system modern world people are increasingly in debt and forced to live to work, longer and harder, for less and less. Fear and anxiety are the result. We sell our souls for money and our freedom for a false sense of security.
Tough circumstances in which to nurture passion but doing it is really just an awareness practice learned in years of teaching yoga and meditation. The ego separation and insecurity produced by all that individuality crushing going on in institutions, creates an infinite array of cravings. Our souls, bodies, minds, relationships are all turned into commodities and separated from that inner knowing and inner power we talked about at the beginning. We crave connection to ourselves to others, to nature, to food, to authentic emotions, to the very experience of living; and the system uses those cravings to sell us stuff we don’t need on the premise the product or service will connect us. Of course it doesn’t so we buy a bigger, faster, prettier load of bullshit next time. That’s a crude but accurate description of what’s happened to the American dream.
What’s the answer? Do we have any control against the powers that be? External reality is, was and always will be out of our control. Seeking our solutions “out there” can only provide frustratingly temporary answers. Changing the state of “in here” to be in harmony with “out there” is the answer. Gratefully savoring everything, being in wet, warm love with everything that’s happening, even the horrific, turns out to be soul quenching, body blessing, heart warming and passion producing. Love thy enemy. Love is all you need. We see things not as they are but as we are. I could go on and on. The wisdom is literally all around us but we don’t see it because we’re looking for it in the wrong place.
Want to live in a world of love? Then love everything. Peace? Be at peace with everything? Trust? Safety? Connection?
If you don’t believe me see if Jack Gilbert’s, A Brief for the Defense, convinces you:
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island; the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
In helping clients into their potential there’s frequently been a childhood situation that convinced the person the power in their lives resides outside themselves; in a parent, older sibling or another authority figure. From that perspective situations in the world are given the power in their lives; spouses, jobs, the government, them. We nurture awareness about the childhood misunderstanding and empower clients to see how they have given away their power. We coach them on how to reclaim it and take responsibility for their lives and they come to live amid the chaos and confusion of the outer world from a place of inner power, peace, passion and grace.
We are all on our hero’s journey. Let’s make the passage with power, peace, passion and grace! It’s our only choice. It’s who we really are.