There is No Such Thing as a Broken Heart

Category: Men and Relationship 

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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A young female friend of mine who is helping me with one of my book projects came to me for some relationship advice. She told me she was scared to tell her boyfriend how she really felt about him – to open up and be authentic and vulnerable.

“What are you afraid of happening if you tell him how you really feel?” I asked her.

“Maybe he doesn’t feel the same way.”

“What would happen if he didn’t?”

“I’d be so hurt. Devastated.”

Who hasn’t been in this precarious position: afraid to share the depth of our feelings or desires with a special someone, for fear of rejection or of not being met with the same depth? The subtext is usually some variation on the theme of not wanting to have our hearts broken.

Brokenhearted: this is the cultural vernacular that sums up all the exhilarating drama and devastation of relationships ending. Sometimes, the fear of a broken heart prevents us from even beginning the relationships that might bring us the greatest joy we’ve ever known!

Consider this possibility. What if there were really no such thing as a “broken heart?” What if it were a myth – and what if the thing that actually does get broken in these situations is the ego?

The ego is just a construct that was created in an attempt to understand the workings of the human psyche. It is a relative newcomer into human awareness, having been defined early in the 20th century by a very bright fellow who was not exactly a paragon of emotional intelligence (Sigmund Freud).

Although it can certainly hurt to have one’s ego broken, that experience does not have to do any permanent harm. Seeing the end of a relationship as a matter of a broken ego, not a broken heart, helps us fear authenticity less and to be less likely to hesitate when entering new relationships.

So I asked my friend, “If your boyfriend didn’t return your feelings, what would be hurt and devastated – your ego…or your heart?”

“Huh?” she replied after a confused pause.

“What if the true essence of who you are, your heart, cannot be hurt or broken? What if it is your ego that experiences all the pain and suffering? Within this context, the worst that could happen is that he trashes your ego, but he cannot, in any way, hurt your heart.”

She considered this.“You mean if my ego gets trashed, I should just shut my heart down?”

Not a surprising question, considering our culture’s habit of shutting down to avoid intense emotions.

“Quite the opposite,” I answered. “Should he not reciprocate, imagine quietly observing the devastation of your ego from the perspective of your very big, beautiful and fully open heart. Think of it as an out-of-body experience, as though you were watching serenely as your body, which you suddenly realize is not who you really are, being mangled in a slow-motion car crash.”

“I never thought of it this way before,” she said.

“The essence of who you really are, your heart, is not part of the crash and can’t be hurt, yet it is fully alive and available. It merely observes the drama unfolding. Imagine seeing it that way if he doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. Does it change anything?”

“I guess I’m not so afraid anymore,” she answered.

The next day, my friend reported to me that this one simple distinction completely transformed how she saw her relationship. It freed her up to be fully authentic with her boyfriend. She became a big fan of my intimacy coaching work as a result of the immediate impact this simple shift of context provided for her.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to experience this empowering shift of perspective for myself. For a few days, I thought the relationship with the love of my life was ending. I  adore this woman, and my relationship with her has been instrumental in the launch of my career helping men, women and couples achieve extraordinary intimacy. My ego was terrified. My state of shock registered prominently in the white pallor of my face. I was dealing with issues of abandonment, loss, and even hopelessness.

Yet, despite all that, I was able to fully accept the possibility that the relationship was ending, from the perspective of the quiet, detached, heart-based observer. In so doing, I was genuinely able to feel and know that my heart would always love her without reservation, whether we stayed together or not. That my heart was ready, willing and able to let her go, if that was what was needed. At that level, I was at peace. My ego kept on having major anxiety attacks past the point of this realization, but they eventually quieted down, too, as it reluctantly surrendered to my heart.

In my experience, the heart loves unconditionally, is never needy, and can never be hurt or broken. The ego is always seeking reciprocation to fuel its sense of false identity; it is extremely vulnerable to anything that threatens its sense of self-importance. As relationships come and go, the heart is constant and unwavering. The ego is on an endless rollercoaster ride where thrill and terror are just two sides of the same coin.

At this point you might be thinking, “This is all bullshit!” Is any of this true? Is it true that the heart is the essence of who we are, and that the only thing in life that can be hurt (emotionally speaking) is the ego?

This different perspective is just a context or lens through which to see the world of significant relationships. This new context is no more or less true than the traditional perspective of brokenheartedness – also a context.

Now: ask yourself which context empowers you to love fully without reservation and handle any relationship upset? Which context frees you to explore new relationships fearlessly, and which one enslaves you to the less-than-lofty goal of avoiding pain?

If you want to gain this empowering context, all you have to do is choose it.

All human beings have the power to do that, just as my friend did. Be ready for your ego to put up a huge fight, though, because it will find this new perspective to be extremely threatening. It will try to convince you that this is all crap.

My hope is that your heart will win this argument.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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How to Avoid a Life That Sucks

Here’s a way to make sure that your life never sucks again…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Let’s face it, we all have a lot to complain about. Maybe it’s our partner who just doesn’t get or appreciate us, the crummy job, the crummy job lorded over by an asshole boss, inequality, inequity, politics, the weather, news, wars, not enough money, too many people, no one notices, no one cares, life in general, blah, blah, blah.

No matter what your station and circumstances in life it is not hard to find something to complain about. And if you let yourself fall into that trap life will most certainly suck. And, it is so unnecessary because you have absolute control over whether your life sucks or not.

Smiling Faces of Poverty

My partner was telling me about her extended trip to Thailand. She shared how in addition to being a beautiful country, the people are beautiful also –primarily because so many of them genuinely smile, seemingly all the time. This is fairly poor country run by a harsh government yet everywhere she went men, women and children were smiling. How many Americans do we see with the same beatific look as we walk down the streets of our richest cities and towns?

So what is really going on here? One could argue that the lives of the rural Thai are much simpler than ours and don’t experience the stresses of our technologically advanced society. While true, most people in the developed world don’t have the stress of meeting basic survival needs that many in Thailand do.

When you think about it, they have plenty to complain about, in fact much more than most of us. Yet, I suspect that the majority of them don’t bother with that pointless exercise. Apparently they don’t allow themselves to become victims of their circumstances.

Complaining: Choosing to Be a Victim

After being a champion complainer most of my life I realized that all it did was make me, and those around me, miserable. I even got to the point of complaining about my own complaining! Which is pretty pathetic when you think about it.

By complaining I was in effect choosing to be a victim of whatever circumstance that prompted the complaint. Then I finally realized one of the most important lessons: when life hands you something you don’t like either do something about it, or if that is not possible, accept it fully and move on. Complaining is simply not an option for me anymore because it never, ever, serves me. Metaphorically speaking, we are never victims unless we choose to be.

Gratitude: The Antidote to a Life that Sucks

Complaining is an easy habit to pick up (because so many around us do it) and a hard one to break. The reason it’s hard to break is there is always a big payoff: not being responsible for how we experience life. When we complain, we are essentially saying it is someone or something else’s doing that is making us unhappy –which effectively (at least in our own mind) takes us off the hook.

The best way to break a habit is to replace it with another, ideally, positive one. I have personally found that the habit of expressing gratitude for everything, even the challenges, in my life is a powerful way to eliminate compulsive complaining and the sucks-ness that comes with it.

Gratitude expands your outlook on life, complaining contracts it. Gratitude is stress relieving, complaining generates it. Gratitude will attract others to you, complaining will drive them away. A good way to undermine the relationship with your significant other is to complain about everything, especially small things. A wonderful way to bring them closer is express gratitude about everything, even those things that at first appear to be challenges or even tragedies. When you fully feel gratitude for everything you can’t help but smile more. Complaining is one of the surest ways to wipe the smile off your face and that of those around you.

If you find that some part or even all of your life sucks, chances are you are looking at it through the lens of complaining. Change your glasses to one that sees everything from a state of gratitude and watch how you and the world around you transforms.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150Michael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:           Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Men and the Fine Art of Surrender

Surrendering to “what is” can be one of the most courageous acts a human being can choose to do—here’s why…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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In most cultures, “surrender” is usually equated with giving up, yielding to the power or control of another, allowing one to be dominated, essentially demonstrating weakness. No wonder it has such a negative vibe, especially for men. It first appears to be the very opposite of heroics; efforts put forth by seemingly unstoppable individuals who eventually prevail no matter what the obstacles. We all love the hero and, at best, distance ourselves from the “loser”, the one who surrenders.

There is another side to surrender that can be far more empowering and transformative than even the greatest feats of heroics. Opening yourself up to this shift in how you look at and utilize surrender in your life can make the difference between living a life based on fear or one full of self-expression and unimagined possibilities.

Giving Up vs. Acceptance

There is a big distinction between giving up and acceptance of what is. Giving up implies a hopelessness, resignation and a sense of being powerless. Acceptance of “what is” is often the threshold to the doorway of possibilities you can’t even imagine. Acceptance of “what is” reflects a much more empowering form of surrender. When you accept/surrender to what is you are no longer fighting the reality of the “isness” which frees you up to explore, discover and experience other wonders.

A Fate Worse Than Death

Three years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Given that five other members of my immediate family have perished from various forms of cancer, this was not to be taken lightly. Despite the encouraging biopsy results that indicated a mild case, I chose to listen to my intuition rather than the doctors and insisted that they remove my prostate immediately. It’s a good thing they did because the post-surgery tissue studies shown that the cancer was extremely aggressive. So aggressive, in fact, that they had to do follow up intensive daily radiation for seven weeks.

As a result of all these treatments, I was rendered clinically impotent. For many men, this is considered a fate worse than death (I’ve actually had men tell me that). I fought this reality with everything I had –especially considering I had just ended a 26-year marriage where the last 11 years were celibate.

So when I finally met the love of my life a year later and it became clear we were going to be more than just hiking buddies, I was still determined to “make things work” like they used to.

Resistance

My partner is an incredibly beautiful and conscious woman who had never been with a man impacted by erectile dysfunction before. Her adventurous spirit made her open to exploring what might be possible in the intimacy department. Neither of us really knew what it meant to explore other ways of being intimate, but we were more than willing to find out.

We wanted to make our first intimate time together special. So I booked a night at a natural hot springs resort about 100 miles North of where we live in Santa Barbara, Ca. Upon arrival we were greeted with an incredible suite that had the biggest and highest four-poster bed I’ve ever seen, a fireplace and our own private natural hot-springs tub on the adjoining deck. Our jaws were hanging in awe as we fully took in what awaited us.

I still hadn’t given up the notion of having intercourse with this beautiful, sexy, wonderful woman. And to demonstrate my commitment to that end I brought the full complement of erectile “artillery”. This included the highest dose of Cialis you can buy and a dose of Muse, which is a very expensive intra urethral suppository that is much stronger than Cialis or Viagra. And just in case everything else fails, I also brought the vacuum pump which typically works no matter what.

Keep in mind that when we first laid down together on that incredible bed it had been over 12 years since experiencing sex with anyone. To say I was excited is the world’s greatest understatement. The only problem was, my excitement failed to show where it counted most. After 30 minutes of foreplay, it was clear that the Cialis wasn’t working. So we brought out the “big-guns”. She helped me with inserting the Muse capsule into my penis (not particularly conducive to sensual romance but usually very effective). After another 20 minutes or so of exquisitely delicious fondling and caressing –nothing, nada, zip.

By this time, little beads of sweat started forming on my bald pate. Still being the ever optimistic one I said to her:“Sweetie no problem, I brought the ‘fail-safe’ solution –the pump! It’s just physics after all and if there is one thing I do understand it’s physics!”; said with a bit of bravado more to mask my growing anxiety than provide hope or encouragement to my rapidly deteriorating chances of enjoying intercourse.

As I sat on the bed and start pumping for all I’m worth she laid there looking absolutely gorgeous with an amused look on her face that essentially said: “Do we really have to go through all this every time we make love?” After a minute or so of pumping I’m starting to see results! YES!!!! That is, until I inadvertently sucked in my left testicle at which point I doubled over in excruciating pain.

By this time sweat is pouring down my face, and my darkest fears seemed to come true as I thought: “It’s over before we even got started.” However, it was at that very moment something extraordinary happened. I finally accepted the “isness” of my situation and simply stopped fighting it.

Acceptance

I became very quiet, turned around and looked into her big, beautiful eyes and said: “I’m done. Let’s forget all of this and just lie together and see what happens.” What happened was we made love for at least four hours (while being completely flaccid and not using any toys or aids). Then the next morning we made love for another two hours or so until it was time to head back. What we experienced was so profound that it is now the subject of a new book, countless radio interviews, speeches and a TEDx talk.

Transformation

Here’s what I discovered through this whole process. Accepting “what is” is equivalent to surrendering to the possibility of transformation. Once I stopped fighting and resisting what simply was, I was open to worlds of experience and insights I had no idea even existed.

In the context of what I shared with you above it should be clear that my acceptance/surrender was anything but a sign of weakness. Without it I would have remained a very frustrated, angry man wondering how fate could have been so cruel. Through my surrender, I now have an intimate life that is beyond my wildest dreams.

There is a strong cultural imprint that men must do whatever it takes to achieve a certain end and anything short of that is a failure, defeat. I’m hoping that you now see this is not necessarily true. The best things in life are not those we “make happen”, but those that we allow to show up because we simply got out of the way.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_FORUM_LEADERMichael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:            Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Netflix and the Demise of True Romance

Category: Men and Relationship 

Sharing a Netflix movie doesn’t have to be the highlight of your romantic evenings together. Here’s a way to keep the fires of intimacy burning ever brighter as your relationship matures…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_FORUM_LEADERMichael J. Russer is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Podcast: Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Dads, Sons and “The Talk”

Dad’s giving their sons “The Talk” are often moments of extreme discomfort and hilarity – here is one such case…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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One of the more interesting, and often humorous, rites of passage as a Dad is having the “talk” with their sons about “The Birds and the Bees”. Thankfully, the one I had with my son was so different than what my dad agonizingly stumbled through. I can just imagine a book that compiled all the various stories of how this most common, yet dreaded, passing of feral wisdom from father to son transpires. Kind of like a “Chicken Soup for the ‘Do I really have to do this?’ Dad’s Soul.

To get started, I will share here how my dad thought everything was covered with our talk only to be surprised I actually learned a great deal more in sex-ed class.

We Never Talk About “Down There”

I was raised in a strict Catholic family, one of eight siblings which was four less than what my parents hoped for. The four that got away (or never arrived, however you want to look at it) were the lucky ones. Our family environment, especially under the influence of the church, was pretty insane.

For starters, we *never* talked about sex. Hell, I hadn’t even heard the word until my later grammar school years. We all knew that anything having to do with “down there” was bad, we just weren’t sure why. To say that we were sexually ignorant is putting it mildly. And my dad, well, apparently he had a strong libido (eight kids remember) that caused him a great deal of distress in that it’s a sin and all. He hated to even think about it.

I remember as a young adult in my 20’s asking my mom why dad was so uptight about sex. She said that “ignorance is bliss” and that they had sex “out of love!” so they could have us kids. The way she said it made it sound like it was the most painful, god-awful thing two people could do together –kind of like performing a mutual Brazilian wax job.

This was the sexually clueless context in which my siblings and I were raised. However, no matter how distasteful my dad looked upon his job to inform me about the ways of the world, he was never one to shirk his duty. Unfortunately…

“Let’s Go Hunting”

My dad loved hunting and fishing. It was his escape from the craziness of the family and the stress of running a business. Occasionally he would bring me along even though he knew it was not one of my favorite things to do. On one such trip, I must have been 13 or so, we were driving along this country road and somehow I just knew he was gearing up for “the talk”. I absolutely cringed at the thought and the deep embarrassment / dread he must have been feeling.

Sure enough, my dad starts talking – which in itself was unusual because he never talked much. In any case I was fully braced for what was to come next –or so I thought. He starts out by saying (and I swear this is true): “You know how guys kick other guys in the balls on the playground?” After a few seconds of numbed silence I return a long drawn out “Yea..h?” as much a question as it was an affirmation. He then goes on to say: “Well, there you go!” At this point my mind is going “WTF!?” (and I didn’t even know what the “F” stood for in “WTF”) yet also very relieved that this whole awkward mess was over and we could both just go back to staring straight ahead at the road in dead silence. The only problem was, I was just as clueless as ever and maybe even a bit more confused about sex.

So THAT’s How It’s Done

Several months after that joyful and highly enlightening ride into the country with my dad, I entered into a Catholic (naturally) high school. I broke a long family tradition by not going to the all-boys prep school my Dad and three other brothers attended. Instead I choose a brand new school that just opened, for no better reason than girls could attend as well.

One day during the first quarter of my freshman year I entered into what I thought was going to be just another religion class. However, once again I knew, not sure how, that this one was going to be about “that”! Oh God, how embarrassing. Especially when you have the share the experience with a roomful of other not-quite-as-clueless other schmucks and a couple of religious brothers who were about to teach us this stuff –how the hell did THEY learn about this? Wasn’t it against church law or something for them to even think, much less discuss this most forbidden of all topics?

As the filmstrip played (remember those? This was 1966 after all) my jaw dropped, my brain froze and my eyes bulged in horror. OMG! THAT’s how it’s done!?!?!? In the space of just 30 minutes I went from not having a clue how things worked sexually speaking to having a reasonable idea as to how babies were made. Though, to be honest, the way it was presented still didn’t look like the fun everyone seemed to infer.

For the next few months I basked in my new found secret knowledge of sex. I felt at least part of the human race that actually knew about such things, even though still had not the opportunity to experience it directly for myself. However, I kept this new awareness away from my dad, just waiting for the right time and place to share these new insights (hey, he might even learn something from me – one never knows…)

“Let’s Play Tennis”

Tennis was one of the activities we both genuinely enjoyed doing together. I had a fairly decent serve (very fast, not terribly consistent keeping it in bounds) for which my dad would praise me – something I hungered for much of the time growing up. So as the Upstate NY Spring came into full swing my dad and I set out to play a few sets.

While waiting for the court to open up I decided to risk casually mentioning to my dad that I learned what intercourse was. Continuing to look straight ahead at the other players finishing up he says: “I thought we already covered that.” Oh boy. I had nothing in terms of a come back to that one. Keep in mind that my dad was a big man and was not afraid to impose his size and strength to get a point across or pound some respect into you. So, I did the smart survival thing and simply kept my mouth shut and nodded slightly as I also looked straight ahead hoping those other players would hurry the fuck up so we can end this yet another awkward moment.

Sex, Sex, Sex Everywhere, Let’s Just Not Talk About It

We live in a very hyper-sexed up American culture where it is displayed, implied or shown nearly everywhere and in every media. Yet, when it comes to actually discussing it candidly and authentically, there is still a great deal of reluctance and more than just a hint of shame even today.

Fortunately I think this situation is beginning to change, if ever so slowly. And the best way to break this cycle is to simply talk about it and not make it such a big deal.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_FORUM_LEADERMichael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:         MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Podcast: Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Chasing the Rainbow of Life Purpose

Here’s how to redefine your “purpose” in a way that makes it instantly accessible no matter what you do in life…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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The idea of “finding my purpose” has haunted me my whole life. I’ve always felt incessantly – even compulsively, compelled to determine “what am I here on this planet to do” and then once found, throw myself into my new purpose with wild abandon. I could almost taste the freedom, joy and sense of deep meaning in my life once I found my special purpose. Emphasis on the word “almost” in that last sentence.

You see, it took me nearly 60 years to figure out I was chasing a rainbow. No matter what I did, how hard I tried or how long I meditated I would simply never find my purpose the way I defined it – like what I am supposed to “do” in life. However, once I re-framed what “purpose” meant, it instantly found me and opened up a wondrous world of possibility. Hopefully, what follows will save you from the same struggle.

Searching for Meaning in Doing

Most men derive a deep sense of meaning in life from what they do. That has certainly been true for me. The path in life I have chosen to express that belief is through entrepreneurism. What better way to live my purpose than to “change the world” for the better, make a difference, and have the world ultimately be a better place for my efforts after I finally check out.

Well… it didn’t quite work out that way. It is clear to me now that the primary reason I was a bona fide serial entrepreneur is that I was always looking for that “one thing” to do in my career that would fulfill my existential sense of purpose. After starting a number of ventures and throwing myself into them with alacrity only to still feel unfulfilled, it was clear my approach to this whole matter of “purpose” was off.

Being vs. Doing

In September 2011, I made a fateful choice for the direction of my life. From that point on I vowed to never live “shut-down” (i.e. always trying to protect myself from being hurt or feeling anything for that matter) to being fully heart open. Which means I insisted that I would allow myself to be brutally vulnerable, absolutely authentic, fully present in the moment and feel everything, including those moments in life that don’t feel particularly good at all.

Within that perspective, it suddenly dawned on me that “Purpose” was a state of “Being” and nothing to do with “doing”.

My Life Purpose statement now reads as follows:

To live fully and completely heart open regardless of circumstances and never let fear stop me. To be the Human Being I initially came into this world as without any ego-based armor or protection.

As corny or quaint this might first sound, it works for me –powerfully. Now at this point you might be thinking: “Fine, but what I do in my life is still important,” –and I couldn’t agree more. However, armed with this new context of purpose I am able to address the issue of “doing” in a much more fulfilling way.

Purpose, Mission, Vision

I created a document for myself that lays out what’s truly important in my life and I how I show up in this world as a man. I gave it the clever title: “WHAT’S IMPORTANT” and it addresses just three things:

  • Life Purpose– i.e. why am I here? (on the planet)
  • Life Mission – i.e. who do I serve and how?
  • Life Vision – i.e. what do I want my life to look like?

Using this framework I can still live my purpose no matter what I end up doing, even flipping hamburgers. Life Mission reflects my preference as to how I spend my energy (doing) –ideally in alignment with my Purpose and best utilizing my gifts. Life Vision is also a preference as to how life shows up for me in terms of ideal circumstances. It’s important to note though that of the three, Life Purpose (as defined above) is the only thing I have full control over – the other two are subject to circumstances out of my control.

In case you are interested, here’s a link to my “WHAT’S IMPORTANT” document that includes an image of my Vision Board that hangs on my wall.

None of the Above is True

The point of this whole discussion is not to claim that I figured out what everyone’s Life Purpose is – only what myLife Purpose is. I harbor no delusions about knowing what works for you. However, in sharing what works for me, hopefully you found something useful for your journey to discovering what Life Purpose means for you. And this is a journey well worth taking.

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About the Author

Author_image_MEDIUMMichael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project (MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

Website:          MichaelRusserLive.com
iTunes:             Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
TEDx Talk:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK8f8w7ICng

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Three Ways to Kill the Rut of Routine and Revive Your Romance

At some point most relationships end up in the rut of routine, here is a sure-fire way to get out of it and stay out for good.

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Ever drive to work only to arrive and remember little if anything about the details of how you got there? That is one of the ways routine shows up in our lives. We put things on autopilot and let our subconscious do the “driving” as it were. This is also closely related to the destination of most routine activities –our comfort zone.

This is one of our ways of not having to be particularly conscious or present to every single thing we do. It can make some things more efficient, but almost by definition, it also means we are not fully present or available to new possibilities. And that therein lies the problem of allowing relationships to fall into routine. It has been my personal experience that relationship routine left unchecked can lead to the slow death of even the greatest of relationships.

Fortunately I believe there is a way out of this relationship rut and ways to keep out of it. What I’m about to share is simply my opinion based upon personal experience and observation of others. Feel free to take whatever value you may see here and ignore the rest.

Routine = Not Present

Let’s start with the premise that any time you do or participate in something routine it also means you are not fully (i.e. consciously) present. If we accept that idea then it is fairly easy to see how couples allow aspects of their relationship to become routine (which quite often includes the bedroom). And that outcome right there is the primary reason routine can kill relationships. It is my belief, supported by experience, that for any relationship to thrive it requires both parties being fully present for each other at least part of the time. And most importantly, during physical intimacy. Sex without presence is not true intimacy / connection. It may be great for getting off, but does nothing to deepen and strengthen the relationship.

Three Steps to Breaking the Routine

You know how your car has warning lights indicating something is wrong or about to go wrong? Well, relationships have them too, they are just more subtle. If you don’t remember the last time you both did something really different and fun, that my friend is a relationship warning light indicating you have started to slip into the rut of routine.
If you find you and your significant other have fallen into routines that are beginning to dull the spark you once had, here are three steps you can take to immediately break free from it:

  1. Acknowledge It – this means both parties being willing to authentically and vulnerably communicate what each sees as disconnecting / boring routines that have taken over the relationship. This particularly includes aspects of your physical intimacy. It is crucial to first get out in the open what each sees as routines that are stultifying the relationship.
  2. Be Willing to Get out of Your Comfort Zone – as mentioned earlier, the primary reason we fall into routine is that it feels comfortable and non-threatening. This means that if you truly want to break free of your routines each of you must be willing to go outside your comfort zone to allow possibilities to present themselves that neither of you even expected to exist. For example, my partner and I spent this past Halloween not only in San Francisco, the mecca for colorful display of people in costume, but in the very “anything goes” Castro district. Do you see what I’m mean about doing something “different”? We had a blast.
  3. Be Adventurous – consider things neither of you have done before but might be interesting to both. It is in the spirit of adventure and seeing what shows up that my partner and I keep routine at bay. And frankly, it is usually an incredible amount of fun and often insightful. We love discovering new things about people, the world and of course, each other. And the only sure way to do that is be open to that possibility. Here’s another example. Instead of driving the car to downtown San Francisco we took public transportation. What an amazing array of costumes we saw. The fun started right there and then, that set the tone for the rest of our evening.

And here’s the cool part of all this. When you each authentically acknowledge routines that are preventing the relationship from getting richer, get out of your comfort zone and do it with a spirit of adventure and discovery, you both are being very, very present for each other. Now all this almost begs the question as to how you are able to stay in this kind of space where there is little room for routine…

Discipline Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Ironically, it takes quite a bit of discipline from both parties to keep yourselves out of a relationship rut. That’s because our minds are very tricky about turning anything new into yet another routine. There is a thin line separating cherished “traditions” from boring routines.
Here are some of the things my partner and I do to keep things fresh, exciting and giving that sneaky rut wide berth:

  • Take Short Trips – we do our best to travel, even relatively short distances, to places neither of us have been before or infrequently.
  • Try New Restaurants – at least once a month we try some new restaurant just because.
  • Check Out New and Different Activities around Town – my Sweetie is particularly good at this. She is constantly scanning the local paper for new and interesting things, events etc.
  • Play New Games – I recently taught my partner how to play Monopoly (she’s from Brazil and never heard of it before) and now she loves it!
  • Attend Interesting Lectures – we both have minds that are insatiably curious so we are always on the lookout for new and interesting things to learn.
  • Be Erotically Adventurous – it seems we are always exploring the boundaries of what is possible with respect to our emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy and have yet to find any limits.

Every week we look to do and explore something different. We may not always succeed, but the very act of being disciplined about it keeps things fresh for us.

While all of this may seem to be quite a bit of work (it sometimes is), we both find it to be far superior to the alternative: a dull, lifeless relationship that never gets better.

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How to Melt Anyone’s Heart in 10 Seconds Flat

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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How does one go from being totally shut-down most of their adult life to living fully heart open and connected? For me, it requires doing one simple daily exercise to keep me in my heart. And, as a side benefit, it also opens the hearts of others –all in 10 seconds or less. This is so simple you might be tempted to think it couldn’t possibly be that easy. Trust me on this one, if it works for me (a real hard case) it will for you too.

“Can’t You Be Human Just Once in Your Life!”

That was the refrain shouted at me by my wife as she was about to go into labor with our second child at the hospital. Instead of paying attention and comforting my wife, I was arguing with our four year old daughter about something not very important. Her rebuke wasn’t just labor pain rage. It was also a reflection of my typical lack of empathy which is not uncommon for people who are shut down and disconnected.

Her anger stung quite deeply because I knew there was more than an element of truth to it. Despite being successful in business and a high-energy extrovert, I always felt something was amiss in my life. I just couldn’t seem to deeply connect with anyone, including my own wife and kids.

I always felt something was amiss in my life. I just couldn’t seem to deeply connect with anyone, including my own wife and kids.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I could hold a conversation with the best of them and make people laugh –all while avoiding any semblance of vulnerability. Even after years of therapy I was no closer to figuring it out, which just made me feel more frustrated and shut down. That is, until I couldn’t take it anymore.

A Line in the Sand

One day I said “enough is enough” and I pulled the trigger on changing my life forever. With the help of someone who could see the real me (despite my attempts to hide it) the source of my disconnect became abundantly clear. It was simply my fierce unwillingness to show my heart, be completely vulnerable and feel everything, including things that are uncomfortable or even painful. Thanks to life and childhood wounds, I had placed a ton of armor around my heart to protect it from ever being hurt. All it really did was prevent me from feeling *anything* and connecting with anyone.

This insight was perhaps the biggest “Aha!” of my life. From that point on I drew a line in the sand and stepped over vowing to always remain heart open and vulnerable. The impact of that choice is difficult to overstate. My face softened, my eyes sparkled with joy and I literally felt giddy feeling truly alive for the first time. People have told me I now look 20 years younger. Imagine the transformation of Scrooge after his visit with the Spirit of Christmas Future. That was me. This probably explains why I would always burst out sobbing at that point in the book when I read it to my kids every Christmas. My heart ached for that possibility, which only required me to have the courage to allow it to happen.

From that point on I drew a line in the sand and stepped over vowing to always remain heart open and vulnerable.

However, old habits die hard and life continues to throw challenges our way making it easy to put those defenses back up. So I knew I needed a way to keep me in this state of being fully heart open otherwise I’d risk falling back to my old disconnected and shut-down ways.

The 10 Second Heart Opener

Glass HeartSo what I do now, almost on a daily basis, is carry these little glass hearts with me everywhere. They are nothing special, just cheap iridized glass from China. Yet the impact they have when I give them out to people would make you think they were made out of diamond.

I never know with whom I will share them. I let my intuition / heart guide me which of course means I need to be fairly present to even be aware of that guidance. I’ve given them to men, women and children of all ages and mostly to people I have never met before.

It typically starts out with me handing them a glass heart and saying “This is for you because you have such big, beautiful heart.” And yes, I even say that to the guys I give them to as well. Most people who receive them are deeply touched and appreciative. I remember one older lady in the grocery store checkout line weeping after I gave her one –somehow it soothed her troubled soul.

Another time I gave one to a guy who I approached in a parking lot because he was riding a Ducatti motorcycle (I’m into bikes big time). After talking about his bike for a while something just urged me to give him one of the hearts –he was deeply touched. The next day I ran into him again at a coffee shop. He said “Do you remember me?” At first I didn’t but then a smile of recognition came across my face as I said “You’re the Ducatti guy!” He said “That’s right. You know that heart you gave me yesterday? Well, I went to the beach afterwards and met someone and I gave it to her. I think there may be something there.” That was nearly two years ago and they are still together.

This simple act of connecting hearts by giving them away has another, even more important purpose than touching the lives of others. You see, I’ve discovered that I can’t give these away without my heart being open. And if I’m feeling shut down (which I do from time to time) the mere act of giving these little hearts away will immediately open mine.

Ten seconds is all it takes yet the impact it has on you and the ones you give it to can last a life time. I have not found a more simple or sure way than this for me to stay fully present, heart open and vulnerable. And if it works every time for someone who was as shut down as I was, imagine what it will do for you.

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Presence vs. Performance in the Pursuit of Extraordinary Intimacy

The obsession with male performance in the bedroom is a misguided intimacy killer and here’s what you can do about it.

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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Conventional wisdom tells us that great performance in the bedroom means you’re more of a man. The main thing to remember is that women want a guy who can go at it for hours with a blue-steel hard-on. Performance problems? Not to worry! Just get yourself a prescription for Viagra or Cialis. Not a mainstream-medicine kind of guy? Try one of those mysterious herbal concoctions available all over the Internet.

Far too many men have bought into these unfortunate myths. The truth is that great, fulfilling sex for both you and your partner has nothing to do with performance. In fact, the focus on performance is the very thing that will kill great sex.

Replace the idea of performance with the possibility of presence. Then, you’re beginning to open the door to a world of physical intimacy beyond yours or your partner’s wildest dreams.

Even if this notion seems foreign to you—and it probably does, if you’ve been immersed in a world overloaded with pharmaceutical  advertising and online porn that revolves around men who appear to be able to stay hard for hours—stay with me.

Men typically think of sexual performance in terms of:

  1. Equipment (how big, how hard)
  2. Stamina (how long we can keep hammering away)
  3. How much we can drive our partner crazy with #1 and #2

Some women, especially those under the age of 40, tend to agree with this view—not necessarily because they prefer to be ravished this way but because they think that this is what most satisfies their man! When women get to talking honestly about what they most enjoy in the bedroom, it rarely matches the acrobatic stunts found in the average porn episode. Don’t believe me? Talk to some women about this yourself. Ask them what they like most in the bedroom. I’m pretty sure you’ll hear some variation on the theme of greater presence. Women want men to be right there with them, playing and connecting intimately in the moment—not perseverating on some athletic ideal of performance.

The quality of presence is something you find in great leaders, listeners and otherwise ordinary human beings who are totally comfortable being in the present moment. It’s a state of being rather than doing. Where performance is goal-oriented doing, presence is a space of goalless connection that may or may not involve any doing at all.

When you are with someone who is fully present, you feel accepted for who you are. You feel the warmth of a deep connection, even if you’ve just met. In the bedroom, performance requires a strong heart and a hard dick. Presence requires an open heart and the willingness to create space for your mate to experience her total emotional and sexual self without fear of judgment or expectation.

Performance demands, presence allows.

The easiest way to achieve presence in the bedroom is to allow yourself to be truly vulnerable, which results in opening your heart. Vulnerability is something often treated as the opposite pole of the masculine. It’s not often seen as sexy in popular culture, and it’s rarely taught or encouraged in most men. But if great sex is your goal, and presence is your vehicle, vulnerability is the key to the ignition. Just relax. Put performance aside, take a few calming breaths, and just be with your partner. Release all your expectations of yourself and your partner. Let your next encounter be all about her, and be ready for some surprises.

Invite her to candidly let you know what works for her. Let her know that your sole focus is to give to her in the way she wants, and that she need not worry about climaxing. Her role: to fully receive and enjoy the loving you give her. When you sincerely create an intimate space like this, you free her up to fully express her sexuality in a way that she has probably never experienced before. And this tidal wave of emotional and physical connection/experience will carry you both away.

I had to learn this distinction the hard way. After prostate cancer surgery and radiation treatments, I was left fully impotent. I can’t get it up to save my life, even using those highly touted male enhancement remedies. This meant I could forget about any notion of experiencing sexual performance as it is typically understood. My acceptance of this condition allowed my partner and I to explore other ways of being intimate. And without question, one of the most important discoveries for us was the idea of being fully present for each other while making love. This alone transformed our experience from great (when things were working as they should) to extraordinary—so extraordinary that our intimate experiences continue to boggle our minds and those of everyone we share them with.

Forget the pills, male enhancements, locker-room bragging and all fears associated with performance. Being fully present for your lover will take some practice and patience, especially given that our culture does everything in its power to distract us into oblivion, which is the very antithesis of presence. If you hang in there, you will both be rewarded beyond your imagination.

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The One Secret to Feeling Totally Alive

The way to feel totally alive is actually quite simple (but not necessarily easy) and it boils down to making just one choice…

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I recently watched a “B” adventure / comedy that provided some unlikely hidden wisdom. While neither the acting nor story were all that great, something did catch my attention. The main character was essentially a loser limo driver with failed dreams of being an actor. A big part of his problem was how he went through his daily life so completely numb. Then, out of reactive frustration, he punches his own face, hard, and discovers to his exquisitely painful delight that he felt more alive than ever before by doing so. Just so you know, that is NOT the secret I reveal below…

Feeling Alive Doesn’t Require Pain or Pleasure

I’m certainly not advocating self-damaging behavior as the vehicle to experience life to its fullest. In fact, I believe that is just another way to avoid what it really takes to feel fully alive all the time.

…neither pain nor pleasure are the keys to aliveness; they are merely paving stones along that journey.

It’s sort of like sex. The experience is short but intense and it is that brief moment of intensity that we feel a whole new level of aliveness. Once it’s over however and we get our “fix” we are good for a while (i.e. going back to being numb) until the hunger for aliveness rears its demanding head once again. Adrenaline junkies are another group that seem to fit this model. The point is, neither pain nor pleasure are the keys to aliveness; they are merely paving stones along that journey.

 

My Secret for Feeling Fully Alive Most of the Time

For most of my adult life I did everything I could to keep myself numb –and I did it with such enthusiasm (yet another short-lived intense feeling). No matter what I tried or did nothing seemed to keep me in that state of feeling alive all the time. Now it is so clear why that was but back then it was a total mystery –that is until I simply couldn’t take it anymore.

In September of 2011 I made a fateful choice. I drew the proverbial line in the sand of my life and choose to step over from being very shut down (i.e. numb) and driven to being fully heart open, vulnerable, and most importantly, willing to feel everything. And this meant willing to feel all those things I worked so hard to avoid feeling my entire life.

And that my friend is my secret: simply being willing to feel *everything*, especially those things that don’t feel so good. What I’ve learned is that there is no one-way valve for feelings, no filter that keeps that “bad” stuff out and only let’s in the “good” stuff. There are no “bad” or “good” feelings –just varying levels of intensity and pleasantness / unpleasantness. In the words of Michael Brown, author of the “Presence Process”: Life is not about feeling better, it’s about getting better at feeling.

Life is not about feeling better, it’s about getting better at feeling.

The willingness to say “Yes!” to all of your feelings is saying “Yes!” to life itself. This includes saying yes to uncertainty, saying yes to experiencing painful as well as pleasurable experiences and saying yes to not allowing numbness as a coping behavior. What we resist, persists.

 

Life is a Lot Like Surfing…

While I live in California and love the ocean I’m not a surfer. However, I think I have a pretty good idea as to the Zen of it. Every wave is different, has its own personality and energy. Any surfer foolish enough to fight a wave will end up losing every time. And, the wave simply doesn’t care –it just is. Skilled surfers know how to harmonize with the power of the wave thus use it for a great ride.

I have found (at least from my perspective) life is a lot like surfing. We are constantly presented with a series of waves (i.e. experiences, feelings, challenges, etc.) If we choose to ignore these waves (i.e. be numb to them) we wonder what just hit us or why things just don’t seem to work out. If we choose to fight these waves –the wave will always win, we’ll end up wiping out and we can end up feeling victimized.

Some waves are awesome, some are scary as shit and may even inflict a great deal of pain no matter how skilled we are. The key thing to remember here is that these are waves, which means they come and go. If you are feeling awesome one moment, something will come along to change that experience. Likewise if you find yourself with challenges and pain, that too will pass.

The better we get at reading each of these “waves” the more likely we are able to harness their energy to have the ride of our life. But it takes a willingness to acknowledge and experience each one –there is no substitute for that.

 

The Solution is Simple

You want to feel fully alive all the time? Simple, just insist on feeling everything. This means not giving in to the temptation of numbing yourself through distraction or short term intense activities.

I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy. The fact is, it can be very challenging to insist on feeling everything fully all the time. Sometimes things can be so painful that we will do anything to make them go away, but in so doing our aliveness dies a little death in the process. What can help is putting yourself in the position of “Observer” so these feeling are not so personal –they simply are (just like the waves, which are never personal). By doing that you decouple pain from suffering. Pain is unavoidable, suffering is strictly optional and typically happens when we deny or resist what simply is.

 

It’s a Choice

After going through years of therapy looking for the “reasons” why I was so shut down (with the subtext of looking for someone or thing to blame) I stayed stuck. The *moment* I committed to being vulnerable and willing to really feel, no matter what it was –everything changed, instantly.

Being fully alive is not a destination, it’s a journey, an adventure. And all it takes is you saying an unwavering “Yes!” to it.

About Michael J. Russer

Michael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. Go to MichaelRusserLive.com to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project ( MKPUSA.org). He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/one-secret-feeling-totally-alive-mjr/#sthash.FuGbDHqE.dpuf

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The Way of Transformation

Excerpted from “The Way of Transformation: Daily Life as Spiritual Exercise” (London: Allen & Unwin, 1988)
by Karlfried Gras von Durkheim

The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive.

Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a “raft that leads to the far shore.”

Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of (spiritual) practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered – that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.

The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world. When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the demons which arise from the unconscious, a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces.

Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of annihilation can our contact with Divine Being, which is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more a man learns whole-heartedly to confront the world that threatens him with isolation, the more are the depths of the Ground of Being revealed and the possibilities of New Life and Becoming opened.

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HeArt – Art Patterson’s Story

by Art Patterson,

In 1973, I received a tragic phone-call. Tommy, my friend and former classmate, had passed away. Tommy was older than me and graduated from our school in the late 60s. Wheelchairs had not been invented yet and Tommy, who struggled with severe cerebral palsy, spent the entirety of his life in a cart. From what I remember, the cart was like a plain, four-legged wooden chair with two wheels on the back and a seatbelt. Any time Tommy wanted to move, his caregiver had to tilt the cart back and wheel him forward. There was a special window in the front room of his home in which he spent, nearly every hour of the day, looking through to see what the other kids where doing outside. He never left that cart and never went outside. Tommy died looking out of that window, looking in on life as an observer. As a disabled boy, I saw this and decided I wasn’t going to live that way.

Years later, in 1999, after discovering and becoming a part of a remarkable organization, I began my journey toward personal transformation. This organization, and ultimately the catalyst that changed my life was The Mankind Project. Up until that point, there was emptiness inside me. I knew I had potential, but I didn’t know how to bring it out. I felt as if I was on the outside of manhood looking in, an observer rather than a participant; strikingly similar to my old friend Tommy. Life in my mid-30s was experienced through the eyes of a victim. Like many disabled men, the people that cared for me misused my trust. Life had wronged me and I was angry. I was playing the part of the man everybody else wanted me to be while my inner truth slept dormant, buried in my soul. To feel accepted, to belong, to feel a part of life, I had to play “the game”: don’t feel emotion; exist in denial of who you really are. The religious institution in which I was raised didn’t accept me for who I knew myself to truly be. I learned about religion but knew nothing about spirituality. Because of this, I had no desire to make something out of my life or take risks because, if I did, I feared that I would again be shamed. Though society acknowledged me as a man, I had no concept of what constituted a real man.

To cope with feelings of anger, shame, and guilt that had spawned from my experiences with other men, from an oppressive religious culture, and from my own limiting beliefs, I turned to alcohol and sex. This dangerous outlet quickly became an addictive pattern and the maelstrom that was my day-to-day experience embodied a desperate departure from my true self. When my true self tried to emerge, I turned and fled. Life took a dark turn: loneliness, depression, I wanted to end my life. God couldn’t love me for who I truly was. Or so I thought.

Thankfully, the 12-step program provided a way out of the despair. This program started my journey toward self-discovery, healing, and unconditional love for self and others. While working the 12 steps, I bonded with a group of men who were doing something different and powerful with their lives, something I had never witnessed before. They were showing up in life with authenticity, integrity, and purpose. These men belonged to an all-inclusive brotherhood called The Mankind Project: an accepting community that welcomes all men, able bodied or not, all sexual orientations, and all faiths. After receiving an invitation to, and later attending, a workshop run by these men, I admitted, for the first time, that shame was a dominating force in my life. I learned how to work with shame. I saw a beacon of hope that, through this brotherhood called the Mankind Project, I could embrace my true self and become a part of a loving and unconditionally accepting community. The first step in doing so, according to these remarkable men, was the Mankind Project’s flagship training weekend: The New Warrior Training Adventure.

Designed to challenge men to embrace their full potential, this powerful weekend radically transforms the way in which men show up in the world. It accomplishes this by introducing a man to what lies beneath the surface, beneath the armor, beneath the shield, underneath the fear, behind the shame, behind the wall he has built to protect himself; the wall that was built to protect the little boy within, the little boy who was wounded. On the weekend, men access these wounds and begin the process of healing. Similarly, on my weekend, I accessed my wounds, began the process of healing, and received a call from God to continue on this path.

I knew as soon as I took the first step with the Mankind Project that God was trying to show me something. God was trying to show me the way to my true self. The Mankind Project gave me the opportunity, the tools, and the support to answer God’s call, but I had to do the work. It took all the strength, courage, perseverance, tenacity, and will to walk this path. But I was never alone: every step of the way, I had encouraging, loving, and nurturing brothers guiding me. In the beginning, I had to borrow their will, which they lovingly shared. But eventually, after I did the work, I found the will within me to discover, embrace, and integrate the real man inside. I witnessed, first hand, what it meant to be a real man; to belong to an organization that made me feel safe, appreciated, nurtured, and inspired.

I learned to love the man I saw in the mirror. That man said to me, “You are not broken, you don’t need to change, and you are complete within yourself.” Through this work, and for the first time in my life, I spoke up for myself, I didn’t allow men to abuse me, and I started setting boundaries. This brotherhood created a space for me to really process my anger towards my disability. In working with my anger, I learned to embrace my disability as the gift that it is, rather than a curse I had believed it to be. I found my gold. I went from being a bystander who was petrified to participate in life and share my talents to a fearless, kind-hearted, charismatic, and enthusiastic man. I was no longer sitting in my chair looking in on life through the window. I was living it.

Art Patterson

Art Patterson

Who am I today? I’m a volunteer, a proud uncle, and a member of a wonderful band. I mentor and sponsor young men. Recently, I’ve been called to leadership within the Mankind Project; that’s why I’m writing this article. Through the challenges I have overcome in my life, I have been called to inspire challenged men to discover and share the golden gifts that are within every single one of us. My name is Warrior Dove with Fierce Open Heart and my challenge to you, reader, is this: Are you going to sit back and look in on life from the window? Are you going to let life pass you by? Or, are you going to step into your greatness and share your gift with the world?

If you are willing to accept this challenge, I invite you to reach out to The Challenged Warriors of The Mankind Project and begin your journey toward transforming your life.

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Twenty-Seven Shovels

Category: Fatherhood, Memoir 

by Randall Rogers, Reprinted with Permission

27 Shovels

27 Shovels

A few years ago, in 2009, I moved in with the man who raised me. It was the house I grew up in and our experience of a father/son relationship had often been strained and challenging. For me, moving in with him in the throes of my impending divorce and his deepening Cancer and Alzheimers, was both a blessing and a profound challenge.

Richard was a carpenter of brilliant and impeccable craftsmanship. He was able bodied and vigorous well into his 80’s, but, he was lousy at culling through old things and scraps of this and that. He was born in 1923 and having lived through the Great Depression, I can understand his reticence to waste anything that might have value later. Moreover, I was on hand for many of those rare occasions when the thing he had just thrown away, turned out to be precisely what he needed only a few days later. How does that happen, anyway?

When I had lived with him more than a year, and his health and memories began to fail with greater determination, he would speak of emptying the garage and not leaving such a horrific task for my sister and I. So emboldened, I would periodically venture out into the garage, the heart of his creativity and the hiding place of many a story.

One week, while he was visiting my sister, I was feeling ambitious and ventured into he attic spaces. It was then I began to puzzle over his collection of shovels. In all, including several detached shovel heads and splintered handles, I found Richard had collected more than 27 shovels and stored them away neatly and quietly in the garage.

Now, ours is a family of secrets. Fact is, it turns out Richard isn’t my biological father. I had discovered this myself in the course of our enforced and entangled time together. Its not knowable if he himself ever actually knew but, it was on my mind the day I counted all the shovels and I have been wondering since then whether a man with 27 shovels is preparing to un-earth something or to bury it?

Now, with some time, his passing and the perspective that life and curiosity will naturally provide, I have come to see this exquisite collection in another light. Turns out there are a lot of kinds of shovels a man needs in his life. Some are made for heavy lifting, some clearly are more attuned to pushing things aside. Some are designed to dig deep, many for a more controlled trim. I like a good strong shovel for digging in the earth, but also found some for shoveling coal and gravel. And, then there are those made for throwing manure, I have done more than my share of that.

I spent a good bit of my young life wondering about the man who was my father, turns out the man who raised me did a damn good job of seeing to it I had what I needed.

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

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Guest post: Why Don’t Men Seek Therapy? Masculinity

Guest post by Dr. Christopher Kilmartin – from Talking About Men’s Health – Part of an ongoing collaboration between the ManKind Project USA and the Men’s Health Network for Men’s Health Month.

Scene one: an 8 year old child comes home from school and says, “The other kids are picking on me.” The parent responds with, “I’m so sorry, honey. Does it make you feel sad?”

Scene two: another 8 year old child comes home from school and says, “The other kids are picking on me.” The parent responds with, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”

You might have guessed that the child in the first scene is a girl; the second a boy. Parents and other adults tend to socialize girls to take the inward journey – to spend time thinking about how they feel. Boys are socialized toward the world of action—to solve the problem.

In the extreme, both can be problematic. The tendency for women to “ruminate”—to dwell on feelings passively, is thought to be responsible for doubling their risk of depression compared with men. Men, however, have at least double the risk for substance abuse and four times the risk for suicide.

So mental health demands both healthy expression of feelings and an action-oriented understanding of the problem. Complicating things for men are the continual messages we get from the culture that doing anything–running, dancing, acting, talking, or looking–“like a girl” is to be avoided at all costs. Children are remarkably sophisticated pattern-seeking organisms, and so boys learn that talking about feelings is not for them.

And then there is the problem that nobody really helped boys understand masculinity; it was merely enacted for us and we rarely saw anyone being critical of the demands to never display vulnerable emotions. We felt the pressure but could not name it. And when one cannot name a pressure, it is very difficult to resist it.

If as a boy, if your father and/or other important men in your life seemed larger than life—always in control, never sad, worried, or unconfident—then you probably thought had the sense that “I will never be that.” It can be very healing for men to understand that these men had learned and internalized the performance of masculinity, and thus that they were no different from you—sometimes feeling low, unsure, afraid. You compared your inner experience with others’ appearances and inevitably came up short.

So if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or some other mental health problem, you have to fight your masculine socialization to deal with it. First, you have to understand a little bit about masculinity. Once you can name it, you are in a better position to resist it at the times when failing to do so conflicts with an important life goal or value and/or hurts another person. Most of us value having good feelings and being fully present for our loved ones, and so we have to do some things that we were taught are “feminine” but are really human as well as essential for managing our inner struggles.

Next, ask for help. The old joke was that we can’t even ask for directions when we are lost (Thank God for GPS!) but we can ask, and we have to. You can’t wait for a time when picking up the phone and calling a therapist will be comfortable; that is very unlikely. You have do it despite being uncomfortable. Then, when you get into treatment, you will have to talk about your feelings and your inner life. It will feel awkward, but do it because it’s important.

Self-disclosure, feeling awareness, and introspection are skills, and skills improve with practice. Remember the first time you tried to swing a golf club, play a chord on the guitar or piano, build something out of wood, change a tire, or dribble a basketball? You felt awkward then, too, but if you stuck with it, over time it became second nature. These psychological skills are no different; young girls learned them as a matter of course, but the culture conspired against our learning the same things. And when do we invest time and effort in learning a skill? When we value the outcome.

Take solace in the fact that if you struggle with mental health or problems in living, you are not alone. Many men do, even those who have cultivated the appearance that they are always sure of themselves. Forgive yourself for not being what other men appear to be, but are actually not, and understand that acting like an unfeeling machine is highly overrated.

Dr. Christopher Kilmartin is a professor of Psychology at Mary Washington University and the author or co-author of several books, including “The Masculine Self” (5th ed., with Andrew P. Smiler) and “Overcoming Masculine Depression: The Pain Behind the Mask” (with John R. Lynch).

The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, Division 51 of the APA, advances knowledge in the psychology of men through research, education, training, public policy, and improved clinical practice.

Division 51 believes aspects of traditional gender roles are restrictive in nature and often lead to negative consequences and unhealthy interactions for many individuals and society. SPSMM endeavors to point out constrictive conceptions of masculinity that have inhibited men’s development, reduced men’s capacity to form meaningful relationships, and contributed to the oppression of others. SPSMM supports the empowerment of all persons and believes this empowerment leads to the highest level of functioning in individual men and women.

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Guest Post: Depression and the Strength of Asking for Help

Category: Men and Health 

Guest post by Sam Drexler – from Talking About Men’s Health – Part of an ongoing collaboration between the ManKind Project USA and the Men’s Health Network for Men’s Health Month.

Men suffering from depression often struggle to ask for help. Asking for help is widely perceived as a weakness among men, which prevents them from getting the care they need. While vulnerability may hurt a man’s self image, receiving effective treatment could dramatically improve his well-being. “More than 6 million men in the United States have at least one episode of major depression each year,” according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We need to encourage men to be more proactive about asking for help.

Asking for help is intimidating, especially for something like depression. The first step in the recovery process is admitting to yourself that you have a problem, which can be very difficult. Once you recognize you are suffering from depression, you can seek support from trusted friends and family. Asking for help should be seen as a sign of strength and self-awareness, but unfortunately it is often thought of as a sign of weakness.

When men don’t ask for help and suppress their feelings the consequences can be devastating. Depression not only affects the individual, but also impacts their relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Here are some ways to deal with depression.

Medical Treatment

During a visit with a doctor or therapist, they will ask you questions about your mood and any major behavior changes to assess your symptoms and come up with a treatment plan that works for you. Finding a professional that you connect with and trust is essential to the healing process. A psychotherapist can help you cope with troubling thoughts and feelings and work with you to develop healthier behavior patterns. A doctor may recommend antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. It is important to note that antidepressants often take weeks to have an effect.

Lifestyle Changes

Regular exercise can significantly boost your mood not only for the short term, but also for long-term depression. According to several studies reviewed by Michael Otto, a psychology professor at Boston University, and his colleagues, “exercise could be a powerful intervention for clinical depression.” A healthy diet can also improve symptoms of depression. Eating nutrient dense foods while cutting back on saturated fats, caffeine, and alcohol can positively affect your mood and improve brain functioning.

Restful sleep is proven to be good for both your mind and body. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep each night for adults and suggests maintaining a consistent bedtime routine. There are no quick fixes for depression, so be patient and have faith that this difficult time will pass. Trust your support team and remember asking for help is a great strength.

Support Resources

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Men’s Health Network

Sourced from

American Psychological Association

National Sleep Foundation

Mental Health America

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Guest Post: Support During Trauma: You Are Not Alone

Category: Men and Health 

Guest post by Natnael Aklile – from Talking About Men’s Health – Part of an ongoing collaboration between the ManKind Project USA and the Men’s Health Network for Men’s Health Month.

As a recent survivor of an Artery Vein Malfunction, brain injuries are a topic I hold extremely dear to me. In September of 2013, a collection of tangled blood vessels in my brain tore, physically affecting the right side of my body. The bleed was significant; as there was about as much blood spilled in my skull as about the average size of an adult’s fist. As a result, the right side of my body was and still is weaker in strength and response time but as I continue my therapy sessions, I continue to improve. I spent two months in the National Rehabilitation Hospital doing intense physical, occupational and speech therapy. To this day I continue with physical therapy but I no longer need occupational and speech therapy.

It is a complicated issue to tackle, since it is not genetic or a preventable situation. It just happens. However, the key place that needs work on this subject would be dealing in the mental stress that comes with the recovery period. It has been a lengthy and sluggish recovery, but I’ve managed to stay positive due to my support team that I have been blessed with. My friends and family were extremely supportive and continue to be to this day. Nevertheless, not everyone is as blessed as I am to have such a great support team, as I witnessed plenty of individuals needing emotional support in the hospitals. Although most had the weekly emotional therapist that was provided by the hospital, that was not nearly enough. Some of these individuals needed extensive therapy and had little to no support from family and friends. In my opinion, this country does not focus enough on the psychological effects that lead to depression until it is too late. There should be more efforts in protecting the mental state of the patients and their family, as it is usually a very difficult time for them as well.

Family and friends are critical in dealing with a recovery from a traumatic injury. According to a therapist I was appointed to in the hospital during my stay, a lot of individuals need extensive therapy just to keep from becoming depressed. I was and continue to be very grateful of the support team I was lucky enough to include on my journey, as that was one of the main reasons I was able to keep my sanity in such a discouraging period in my life. Personally,  I learned time and again, you can only control your response to life’s ordeals so if you can, relax because things tend to work out in the end anyways.

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What Stops Leaders from Empowering Others?

empowerment

Empowerment


guest post by Alain Hunkins – Pioneer Leadership

The research firm Universum recently queried over 2,000 business leaders and professionals, asking:

What’s the most important quality that you expect future leaders to possess?

The #1 response (41%):

They empower their employees.

Empowerment.

It became a business buzzword twenty years ago, and has been in and out of vogue ever since.

At it’s core, it’s about enabling others to do things on their own.

Most leaders I work with strive to be empowering.

But there’s a big difference between striving and succeeding.

What stops leaders from empowering others? What makes it so hard?

I got a first-hand taste of this empowerment challenge working with a team that I spend a lot of time with:  my family.

My 11 year old son Alexander is in the fourth grade.  His school recently held a “walk or bike to school” day, to promote physical activity.

Alexander asked me if he could bike to school on his own.  (The school’s about a mile from our house.)

Some qualities about Alexander you should know:

  • He’s incredibly responsible.  Always has been.
  • He’s very safety conscious.
  • He has a great sense of direction.
  • He’s ridden the route to and from school many times with me.
  • He stops at busy intersections, gets off and walks his bike after checking no cars are coming.

So can I ride to school, Dad?

I paused.

I know all these qualities of my son.  I love these qualities.  Yet, even so, I noticed that my first impulse was to say “No”.

Thoughts flew through my head:

  • What if a car doesn’t see him?
  • What if he gets a flat tire?
  • What if he can’t get his bike lock unlocked?
  • What if the bike gets stolen?
  • What if a policeman stops him and hassles him for being a biking “free-range” kid?  (This has made the national news lately.)

That first instinct was to shut things down.

But I waited to respond.  In the pause, I questioned myself:

Where are these thoughts coming from?

I was doing what psychologists call catastrophizing: creating worst-case scenarios in my mind.

My fear was talking: I was afraid to let go of control.

Generally, I’d like to think of myself as an empowering leader. But in that moment of fear, empowerment was the last thing on my mind.

I wasn’t interested in serving anyone else.  I had no interest in helping Alexander fulfill his potential.  I was only interested in my own selfish need to preserve the safety of the status quo.

And if that wasn’t enough, my ego felt under attack.

That ego-voice was shouting at me:

Hey, Alain!  If Alexander can now ride alone to school, then you are irrelevant.  Useless.

I wasn’t ready to give up my own need to be needed.

I was blind to the opportunity that biking to school was offering.  Not only would Alexander  developing more responsibility, I’d be less locked into my role as parent-chauffeur.

So, Dad, whaddya think, can I ride to school by myself?

All of these thoughts–the catastrophizing, justifying, questioning–had happened in about three seconds of clock time.

Thankfully, I’d stayed in that pause of reflection without responding.

I came to my senses.  I remembered my primary charge: to steward my son’s growth into greater autonomy.

Sure, Alexander, you can ride to school.

I’ll admit it:  The micro-manager in me almost blurted out:

But make sure to wear your helmet!  

But I caught myself in time.

(n.b. No surprise ending here. Everything turned out just fine that day. Alexander now wants to ride to school most mornings.)

Where have you seen leaders (you or others) unwilling to let go of control? What do you think kept them from empowering others?  What were the consequences? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Alain Hunkins leads personal and professional development trainings for individuals, teams and organizations. Over the last two decades, Alain has facilitated for over a thousand groups, ranging from at-risk youth to Fortune 500 executives. He moves between the educational, artistic, not-for-profit, government and corporate worlds. Alain sharpened his facilitation skills as an Educational Consultant in New York City, developing programs on many subjects, including Conflict Resolution, Networking, Customer Service, Communication, and Leadership.

Alain earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee Professional Theater Training Program. He is a certified Leadership Challenge & MBTI facilitator, as well as a certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, whose mission is to help men lead missions of service in their families, communities, and workplaces. Alain completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.

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Flying

by Niklaus Towne

My anger consumes my life and I hate myself for it. As a child, I was hospitalized for my rage. I have tried therapy, group work, meditation, acupuncture, diet changes, exercise regimens, medications, marijuana — but self-control stays out of my reach. Whenever I become stressed, I throw a tantrum. I lash out, scream, and become dangerous. My wife and I want to have a child, but she confesses that she is hesitant to raise a child with a partner so full of rage.

By good fortune, I find myself at a weekend workshop for men on the Pine Ridge Reservation, not far from my home. I do not fully understand the program when I arrive with three of my students. I assume I will sit off to the side and watch them work through their troubles. But I am thrown in – surrounded by over one hundred men from around the world. We begin to go into “inner space” in hopes to become the men we are meant to be. The work is intense. It culminates in “Buffalo Work”, wherein the men push you into your own guts and your own heart.

I tremble with anxiety as I step into the circle. The Lakota elders bless the space and I feel the power in the room. The men begin asking questions and I reply only, “Shame, hating myself” before a physical transformation begins to happen. Blood rushes to my head and neck and my ears ring loudly. I cannot keep eye contact with the men and I shake violently. I pour water over myself and plead, “There is something in me, something bad, please get it out!”

Suddenly, I am in the air, held by my chest and my t-shirt. The man holding me pulls the anger from my body – running outside to throw it away. I crumple to the floor and the elders smudge me with sage, hitting it into my body with an eagle wing. Another man scoops me into his lap and holds me while I cry. Through my sobs, I say “I’m sorry”. The men forgive me and ask me to forgive myself. I do, and instantly I feel light and hopeful. As I start to recover, the men pick me up and walk me out into the sun, holding me high in the air. I am flying – held by the men who showed me such kindness. The warm sun is on my face. I am loved and accepted.

I am forgiven. The rage is gone. The men ask me, “What is your medicine?”

“Love.”

Niklaus

Niklaus Towne lives with his wife, two labradoodles, dachshund, cat, and chickens in the middle of the prairie of South Dakota. When he is not busy teaching preschool, he can be found swimming at the nearest lake or planting trees. He completed his New Warrior Training Adventure in May 2015.

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ManKind Project Durango Helping Teens in High School

by Tim Birchard

The project was recently featured on "Inside Durango" TV.

The project was recently featured on “Inside Durango” TV.

The MKP Durango Area Community in southwest Colorado recently collaborated with Durango School District 9R and other local organizations to host the 2nd Annual ‘Keys To High School Success’ conference for 8th grade boys transitioning to high school.The conference, a character development opportunity for more than 200 boys (up from 90 boys served last year), featured workshops focused on nurturing Responsibility, Perseverance, and Respect. Interactive workshops included hands-on experiences with aikido, drumming, low-ropes courses, and other events designed to help the boys identify and articulate issues related to connecting with the Mature Masculine.

Directly in keeping with MKP’s stated purpose of supporting men in leading meaningful lives of integrity, accountability, responsibility, and emotional intelligence, the Keys To High School Success conference was designed and continues to evolve to directly address what eighth-grade boys need most, as prescribed by Ph.D. psychologists Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon in their seminal study, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (Random House Publishing Group, 2009):

  1. Give boys permission to have an internal life, approval for the full range of human emotions, and help in developing an emotional vocabulary so that they may better understand themselves and communicate more effectively with others.
  2. Recognize and accept the high activity level of boys and give them safe boy places to express it.
  3. Talk to boys in their language—in a way that honors their pride and their masculinity. Be direct with them; use them as consultants and problem solvers.
  4. Teach boys that emotional courage is courage, and that courage and empathy are the sources of real strength in life.
  5. Use discipline to build character and conscience, not enemies.
  6. Model a manhood of emotional attachment.
  7. Teach boys that there are many ways to be a man.

MKP has signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with School District 9R, and is in official sponsorship supporting Conference needs. For this year’s conference, ManKind Project men were involved at all levels, from providing workshops to writing grants to coordinating conference logistics. School District 9R and MKP Durango Area Community plan to continue to grow and enhance that partnership, with MKP Durango Area Community taking over the conference at some point in the near future.

The Colorado School Public Relations Association (COSPRA), an organization dedicated to helping public school district members build stronger ties with their local communities through the practice of public relations, recently recognized the ‘Keys To High School Success’ conference as an award-winning community effort in the state of Colorado.

What we found particularly impressive about the ‘Keys to Success’ is its ambition to positively change the personal behaviors of young male students to help them succeed. ‘Keys to Success’ is a Medallion Award Winner.”  — Dan Dougherty, Director of Communications, Mesa County Valley Schools

The planning committee is working to carefully document all aspects of the curriculum in order to build a program that can be easily replicated by school districts and communities across the U.S. The program is aligned with and satisfies state education standards for 8th grade health education in three different tracks: Healthy Relationships, Advocacy, and Positive Self Image.

In an effort to increase and maximize opportunities for 8th grade boys to come into contact with examples of the Mature Masculine, one of the next steps in the evolution of the conference is to bring I-Group circles for the boys into local middle schools. By offering weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly opportunities throughout the school year for connection with experienced MKP men who are doing their work, the Keys To High School Success conference will transform from a stand-alone, annual event into the culmination of a year-long process through which boys becoming young men learn to do their work.

For more information about the Keys To High School Success conference, contact Tim Birchard (timbirchard@gmail.com) or Michael Cahn (mfcahn@gmail.com).

 

Tim B

Tim Birchard, a.k.a. Coyote Trickster, initiated January, 2013 in Elbert, CO, and has staffed three NWTAs. He currently serves as co-coordinator of the Keys To High School Success conference with fellow Warrior Brother Michael Cahn, and also serves on the MKP Durango Area Community Stewardship Council. In addition to working as an academic advisor to science, technology, engineering, and math students at Fort Lewis College in Durango, he is also an author, a recording musician, and a record collector. For more information, visit www.timbirchard.com.

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The Dimming Embers – a poem

Category: Poetry 

The Dimming Embers

Into the dimming embers Men blow.
Fire lights exploding, in the glow!

Timbers falling on dusted earth.
Crying.
Dying.

Then from the sky, tears of Life falling.

Soaking.
Drinking…
Quenching the thirst of landed seeds.

Sprouting.
Branching.
Leafing into new days of timbers rising!

And so it shall be.
After dimming embers glow.
From fire dusted bark, we grow.

~philippe berthiaume 3/2/2014

Philippe

Philippe Berthiaume is a creative soul receiving his first Blue Ribbon Award for a crayon drawing of Columbus’ Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. He was six years old. It was his defining moment as an Artist. 16 years later he graduated with College degrees in Photography, Ceramic Arts, and Theology. Today, he paints pictures with words on paper, not with paint on canvas__ and his first novel is almost complete. During the warm months, his green thumbs are happy digging, planting, and meditating in his vegetable, perennial, and Japanese gardens. They are equally happy cooking in the ManKind Project kitchens of New England as a Man of Service. Philippe completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2009.

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