Getting Lucky vs. Hooking Up – guest post
by Michael Russer, reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project Here’s why today’s “hook up” millennials may be our best hope yet for a shift towards true intimacy. - – - When I was the age of today’s millennial men I thought about one thing when it came to women—getting “lucky”. This was ...
Guest Post: A Blessing and a Challenge for the New Year
Republished with permission from Masculinity-Movies.com by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum (video greeting at the bottom) 2014 has been a year of enormous change and growth for me and most of the people I know and love. If you are someone who is in honest conversation with your life, I bet you’ve had the same experience. ...
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by Michael Russer, reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project
Here’s why today’s “hook up” millennials may be our best hope yet for a shift towards true intimacy.
- – -
When I was the age of today’s millennial men I thought about one thing when it came to women—getting “lucky”. This was something that didn’t happen all that often, hence why the term “getting lucky” was so apropos. In our current culture getting lucky has been replaced by “hooking up” where having sex is about the same as ordering a cheeseburger with animal-style fries at your local In-N-Out burger joint.
At first blush this may seem like culturally we are going backwards with respect to relationships. However, I contend that the millennials are well positioned to take the next evolutionary step towards truly conscious intimate relationships because of the prevalent hook-up culture. Just stay with me for a bit, you will see where I’m going with this.
Surprising attention from the Ritalin Generation
What I’m about to share is strictly anecdotal. However I’ve experienced it so many times I believe there is a fundamental shift happening. As a fully impotent prostate cancer survivor I speak and write about extraordinary intimacy to people of all ages, orientations and stages of relationship. What I have noticed (surprisingly so) is that the millennials in my audiences seem to be extremely interested in achieving truly connected intimacy which seems totally counter to the casual sexual behavior so ascribed to this generation.
Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing
Here’s what I think is going on. In a hook up encounter, sex is so accessible that it essentially becomes just a form of mutual masturbation for the primary purpose of releasing sexual tension. Within this context there is rarely, if any semblance of true connection between the parties. And without connection there is no intimacy. And it is that lack of intimacy that becomes the unfillable hole that so wants to be fulfilled. Therefore there is this huge disconnect between sex and intimacy (generally speaking) for the millennials.
At least in the days of “getting lucky”, when we actually did get lucky it was so special we often associated a deeper connection with the other person, whether the encounter warranted it or not. That is, getting lucky seemed to be a far more transcendent experience than just getting off. And it’s this lack of experiencing transcendence that I feel our millennials crave. And this kind of transcendence typically can only come from risking a deep, authentic and vulnerable connection with another human being, be it on the emotional, physical or even spiritual level.
Maslow’s hierarchy of intimacy
In Maslow’s model of the hierarchy of human needs, base-level needs (i.e. survival, food, clothing, shelter) come first. Then procreative needs show up as a strong second place (i.e. sex drive). As these lower level needs are met, people will (as the theory goes) seek to meet higher level needs, with self-actualization being the highest.
For much of the developed world, most of their lower level needs are met. This leaves a craving for higher level ones –including the feeling of transcendence (which is a form of self-actualization) that can occur during intimate encounters. So viewed through this lens, hooking up is certainly a way to address ancient procreative urges, but does nothing for achieving a deeper level of connection between partners.
The fact that many millennials seem to feel and acknowledge this emptiness is actually a good thing. This means they are *aware* of what is missing / possible –a critical first step to change and being open to exploring how to achieve the deeper intimacy they crave. Whereas I find many men in my “getting lucky” generation not as open to this same exploration –perhaps because that sense of emptiness is not as strong as it is with the millennials.
There is hope yet…
The passing of the baton from one generation to another is always interesting to observe. The older generation gives it over with a mixture of relief and concern. The new generation, always different, takes it with a mixture of confidence and trepidation.
I think we have much to hope for in our current generation of millennials. I personally find them to be very caring, intelligent, and most importantly –ready for much more in terms of deep, connecting intimacy than what their hook up culture suggests. And for that, I am grateful to and for them.
by Michael Russer, Reprinted with permission from the Good Men Project
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Republished with permission from Masculinity-Movies.com by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum
(video greeting at the bottom)
If you are someone who is in honest conversation with your life, I bet you’ve had the same experience. We are in many ways in over our heads, with lives full of activity. And while “activity” used to mean that we do a lot of different things in the outer time-space dimension, this rapidity has long since infiltrated our inner worlds as well.
The consequence is that we seem to be transforming, for better or worse, faster than ever before. People seem to be “popping” all over the place. Indeed, waking up from the trance of conventional life seems no longer reserved for hardcore meditators only.
We have become fed up with the “old world”, have we not? This tight-assed, hyper-rational, consumerist, destructive, depressed world seems to be gradually losing its grip on humanity, and while its consciousness should never be eliminated (it’s part of the spiral of evolution that we all must traverse), it looks set to lose its status as top dog.
This is good news!
The bad news is that on the way down, it seems quite willing to take the whole eco-system with it. You would think the problem is “out there”, but this process towards ecological collapse is fuelled by normal folks like you and I who are simply too busy, challenged or depressed to go looking for the answers to their problems in their inner worlds. So instead, they keep buying shit they don’t need, polluting both their inner lives and the planet in the process. We are probably the most addicted people the world has ever known.
This planet has everything we need to thrive. And if we were to take this opportunity to turn towards lives of sanity, our future looks bright indeed. But for that to happen, we must, in a sense, die.
Failing identity structures in a changing world
“The world is changed. I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air”. Thus opens the start of the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings epic. For those who have done deep inner work and opened the door to mysticism in their lives, Galadriel’s words ring true these days. The other day, I could feel it as an “electric charge” and an otherworldly, pregnant silence in the air. A friend described it as “the quiet before the storm”.
It seems that these shifts in the collective soul of humanity and the spiritual air we breathe are causing large numbers of people to come face to face with their false identity structures. I went through this process in 2014 and many of my friends either did go through it or are in it now. We became so allergic to ourselves (a concept poet David Whyte talks about beautifully) that we were forced to drop our attachments to our old world identity structures and fall into the alchemical crucible of underworld initiation.
And in this dropping of old world relics from our inner geographies, landscapes of connectedness and mysticism seem to open up. This isn’t woo-woo. Such phenomena are studied at esteemed learning institutions such as Harvard and MIT (check out the research of Robert Kegan or Susann Cook-Greuter for more information).
Not only are serious practitioners hitting their Nekyia journeys, en route to their fully incarnate Sovereignty, “normal people” are starting to wake up as well. I have made my own contribution to this process, particularly with my Inner Throne work, and many, I’m happy to say, have been waking up through material I’ve offered. (I’m obviously not talking about enlightenment here, but of becoming introduced to some bedrock truths about who we are and how we operate.)
What is going on?
It seems we are at a stage in human history where the forces of evolution have pressed the red “nitro” button and are speeding forth into some sort of crescendo. (remember those fun driving games from back in the 90s?)
Where are we headed?
I’m reading about Carl Jung’s life now, and am intrigued and impressed by the level of guidance he opened to in his life. He was a truly remarkable man. In 1913, he had a premonition of bad tidings in the world, just like in Galadriel’s voiceover. And as we all know, World War I started the year after.
Dr. Jung was clearly a very intuitive, tuned in man and I doubt not for a second that his premonition was more than mere coincidence. So when one conscious man can put his finger on the world pulse and read it accurately, what are we to think when thousands of conscious people simultaneously feel the exact same thing? What are we to make of this persistent collective feeling that we are moving towards the point of “make it or break it”? Shall we adopt the ostrich strategy and pretend nothing’s going on?
Or shall we rise to the task and assume responsibility for a world which hovers periluously close to disaster?
The world is so beautiful. Yet, it can be a pretty scary place. For the ecological crisis isn’t our only one: Large parts of humanity are now fanning the flames of their wet armageddon fantasies. Millions of “right believers” are concurrently, from opposite sides of the globe, invoking the end of the world. “Chosen people” mythologies like those of right wing Christians and radical Muslims hold that the old world must end before the new world will be reborn. The consequence is that they will, more or less consciously, encourage any developments in the world that promote the coming of the end times. Essentially, the sooner the world goes to shit the better. In their mind, you see, there is such a thing as paradise, and it is not on earth as we know it! (that’s what happens when you exile the Lover archetype to the afterlife)
So understand that there are many people who think that the world should end as soon as possible and that anything you do in service of saving it is actually an obstacle to the fulfillment of their chosen people mythology. Of course, you can’t campaign politically with such ideas, but that still doesn’t prevent you from being run by them.
When you understand that millions of people – and a large percentage of Fox News-watching Americans andpoliticians – actually live within this paradigm, you may start getting very scared indeed.
And this is but the start of the challenges we are faced with!
Ah, humanity! We sure made a mess of it this time.
Becoming guardians of the balance
If you are one of the many who have had a glimpse of reality – who have seen the true face of madness that (still) governs humanity – you cannot anymore pretend to be okay with conventional living. And I believe 2015 is a year when you will need to accept the consequences of what you have seen more fully than ever before. This is a blessing and a curse. It will give rise to tremendous joy, even bliss. And it will fill you with despair.
This much is clear to me: When you take the red pill, you can’t undo it. You can’t plug back into illusion as if you hadn’t seen the truth. That’s for characters in movies only. As one who knows, you must either assume leadership in the process of birthing the “new world” or you must suffer deeply trying to pretend you can be happy in the old. The suffering you may experience in 2015 is simply your soul’s way of telling you that you’re out of alignment with reality. Trust it.
And know that there is a wave of awakening washing over the world. This is not some trite new-age concept; I see signs of it in my life every day, as I’m in the privileged position of counting some of the most powerful change agents in the world as friends.
What I want for you, dear reader, is that you let yourself be inspired by all of this. There has never before, in the whole history of humanity, been a time when the forces of the world have been more perfectly aligned for individuals like you to discover and give their Great Work. This is a gift to you. It also happens to be a moral imperative. Your life plays a crucial role in getting us all safely through this unfolding human drama. If you discover what you are here to do, and then do it, all of us will have a better chance of making it through.
And by plugging in to the global network of change agents who are actively taking on these challenges, you will discover friendships unlike any you ever before have experienced. In the real world, staying in the matrix simply isn’t as fun as unplugging from it.
Here’s the deal: If fulfillment and empowered masculinity is what you’re after, you don’t really have a choice; you must engage with the battle for the soul of humanity as soon as possible. Anything else will be out of integrity with your deepest calling and the depression and suffering you feel will remind you of it every day.
You can tell the degree to which you are on the right track from your level of addictive behavior. If you are severely addicted, yet thinking idealistic thoughts, you’re still a symptom of the disease and not the cure. Having nice ideas is not enough – you must engage with life. You must accept your destiny as a guardian of the balance of the world.
Our survival is at stake. Wake up.
May 2015 be your best year ever
There’s a lot of talk in the world of self-development of creating your perfect life. Yes, it’s important to have a good life. I want that for you, just like I want that for myself. But it’s a limited perspective. Thinking that the purpose of your existence is merely to create a good life for yourself will create a bad life for yourself. For a good life is found in giving. Learning to receive openly is more important than you may think, but learning to give sustainably is even more so. In fact, it seems that your level of happiness is in direct proportion to the level of service you are offering to others.
In some strange and ironic way, your life is not really about you. This is what I want you to wake up to in 2015. You live to be fully given away. You must die an empty vessel or what you die with is regrets.
I will give all of my energy to this global alchemy in the time to come. And I would be honored if you let me play a part in your awakening. The Reclaim your Inner Throne workshops and online training are powerful ways of unplugging from illusion and putting you on the path to Sovereignty (see calendar). And I offer powerful one-on-one coaching for those who want to take it deeper.
Whether you choose to work with me or not, I sincerely hope – from the very bottom of my heart – that this becomes an amazing year for you. Truly, there has never been a better time for amazing years. But the stakes are high, higher than they ever have been. You may find that you will have to give up a lot of things which you hold dear to manifest this joyful life of service.
As for me and Masculinity-Movies.com, I don’t know for sure what will happen. My energy will go to where it has the greatest impact. I love connecting with you here on this site, and if that keeps changing lives, I will keep doing it. What I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, however, is that you will find me hard at work spreading Inner Throne work in the world. And I would love to see you in a workshop or an online training soon!
A very happy new year to you, friends and followers of Masculinity-Movies.com. May you rise and rise again, with heart and with fierceness, and become who you truly are.
My best wishes for your best year ever,
Eivind Figenschau Skjellum,
Founder of Masculinity-Movies.com
and creator of the Inner Throne process
by Randy Marks
Nine years ago, I joined the Mankind Project (MKP.org) after completing the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). The Project changes the world by helping men heal and serve others, including their families, friends, and all humanity.
The Talisman I received at that NWTA is probably my most valued possession. It originally was just a red pouch on a leather cord. Over the years, I added a lot of beads and other objects. Some I got at other trainings and retreats. But most came at the end of the end of NWTAs that I staffed for other men.
Staffing 36 NWTAs has given me new friends and much more. I’ve had the privilege of helping and witnessing hundreds of men transform their lives by healing their wounds, embracing a mission of service, and connecting with other men. And I’ve grown as a man by working on goals at each staffing, such as to empowering other men to be brilliant, and having more faith in myself.
By working on the goals and being open to learning something entirely unexpected, I have transformed myself. I hardly recognize the annoying, anxious, controlling, and self-loathing man that I was nearly a decade ago, though I confess those qualities still sometimes emerge.
So I treasure my Talisman as picture of my journey to being a loving and powerful man. It represents lessons learned, gifts given and received, transformation and empowerment, and, most of all, love.
by Dave Klaus
I have a very different relationship with shame than I did a few years ago. Indeed, as I have learned to forgive and love myself, it rarely comes up at all. But when it does, I choose to dig right in, glean any useful information from the feeling, and then let it go.
But I used to feel a lot of shame.
I truly believed that there was something terribly wrong with me; that I was a freak, a weirdo, sui generis: truly alone in the world. Whenever I made a mistake, rather than forgive myself, I just added another reason to feel bad.
The data isn’t really that useful, but here are some examples of things I used to feel shame about: having bad acne, telling lies, being lazy, having little ability to talk with girls/women, being privileged, being spoiled, being mean to people, and best of all, shame for being ashamed.
The voice of shame is powerful. Unlike guilt, which is feeling bad for doing some specific act, shame is feeling bad just for Being. Sociologist Brene Brown usefully defines shame as the fear of disconnection: a fear that if any other human were ever to truly know me and see into my soul, they would recoil in disgust and shun me forever.
The cruel irony of this belief is that it leads to a most insidious cure. When I act out of shame, my clumsy effort to protect myself from judgment and separation leads me to present a false front to the world; to isolate and hide myself.
The “cure” thus produces the very “disease” I was trying to avoid: Being Alone!
It went something like this when shame started talking: “You’re a fraud, a faker, you’re a piece of shit!! If anyone really knew you, you would be fucked! NO ONE would like you! No one would love you! So… Tell no one the truth. Pretend that everything is just GREAT!! Hold it IN!”
Ugh. It hurts to hear that voice again.
In hiding my true feelings, I created a solitary confinement of shame.
And in a tragically familiar cycle, my sadness would lead to shame, the shame would become toxic, and then I would inevitably fall into hopelessness and depression. This dark funk could last for weeks or even months, and was disabling at times.
Fortunately, as Dr. Brown teaches, there is an effective cure for shame, but it is not hiding: it is honesty and vulnerability. When I started to honestly share my feelings, fears, and concerns, I found that they shrank and dissipated surprisingly quickly. I began to see that when I am honest and forthcoming, when I make myself vulnerable, people actually come CLOSER rather than shying away. Oftentimes they even thank me.
The voices of shame are like vampires: they are sinister and powerful in the dark, but when exposed to light they burn away. In the process they are often exposed as hilarious and goofy jokers: Jerry Lewis pretending to be Bela Lugosi.
So the next time you hear that hectoring and merciless voice of shame, turn the tables on it: instead of hiding yourself in the dark, open up the shades and let in the sun.
Try sharing your truth with a good friend, with your support circle, or maybe even with your facebook friends.
It gets easier and easier with time and practice, and you will learn along the way that many others feel exactly like you, but were afraid to say so. By exposing your feelings to the sunlight you will allow yourself to be truly seen and appreciated, and you will show others that it is safe and helpful to share and be vulnerable;
You will heal the world even as you heal yourself by sharing this message: sunlight defeats shame.
by Dave K
Last night I took my family to see “A Christmas Carol.” It’s become a tradition for us, and is really one of the few holiday traditions we celebrate. I’ve seen this show many many times, but this one hit me especially hard.
For decades, I was a Scrooge when it came to Christmas. I could rant and rant about killing trees, and commercialism, and phony temporary brotherhood. I was a humbug through and through.
Mostly though I got sad and depressed.
Then one year my daughter, 10, announced “I don’t like Christmas either, because Daddy gets so sad.”
This devastated me.
Arrows in, Arrows Out.
I went to I-Group the next day and did some big work around the holiday and my mom and the way she handled it (and mis-handled it.)
In the process, I came to a new place of understanding and compassion for my mom (who had already passed).
I opened my heart to the spirit behind the holiday: the same spirit we celebrate and cultivate in the ManKind Project: service, empathy, generosity, optimism, and of course love.
Since that night, I have actually enjoyed Christmas. I learned how to show up for my family in December, how to let go of my cynicism and judgments and breathe deep of pine and mistletoe.
Last night, at the theatre, I realized that Scrooge had his own hero’s journey, his own New Warrior Training Adventure.
He explored his past, he woke up to the present, and he took responsibility for the future. And it shook him to his bones. He found gratitude; just for being alive, for breathing, for being human.
In the morning when he wakes in his own bed, he dances and sings and says “I am a baby again.”. And he races out to give away his heart and his money.
I had started crying earlier in the show (really as soon as Tiny Tim appeared) but now I was gushing.
I reached over to touch my son, and scratched his back and felt so much love for him and my daughter and wife.
I felt so much gratitude.
I FEEL so much gratitude.
So to you brave and loving guides, you wizards and angels of the past and present, you irrepressible Bob Crachits, I thank you. If not for you Men and this work, I’d still be a Scrooge, hiding in the dark, separate, eating the thin gruel of depression. Instead, I am free.
It’s a beautiful day, and it’s Christmas time, and I am alive. I am a baby, again.
dave / king bEE
by Mike Morrell
My heart burned within me like a molotov cocktail
Melting atrophied organs of sense and perception
Third eyes blinking open from awakenings rude
Iridescent night vision seeing sights long subdued.
Tricksters, gods and monsters find themselves drawn in
To boys kicking off the covers revealing themselves to be men
Things hidden share secrets by flickering flames
Word-making devices now turning a page.
Ruthless grace shows up – mercilessly – picking me off the ground
Charred nuclear shadow where unused conscience once lay
Shrugging off my hangover from that first awful drink
‘Good’ and ‘evil’ hallucinations – that overripe fruit.
“Get up, Man,” Kali taunts me, blue angel of death
Shrunk heads of men who died trying hanging mute ’round her breasts
Her lips curled in kindness, a shared moment between us
Daring me to do better, Mars rising from Venus
While Michael, archangel, the template of me
Stands silently, original, master of all that he sees
Bedouin warrior of Thrones, desert Jinn and bright devils,
Has work to do once my apocalypse settles.
Alchemy seeps down deep in my bones
Leaden dreams long abandoned now spin into gold
Boy’s nightmares arouse to find themselves man’s playmates
(Amid tonight’s deadline and next week’s penciled play-dates)
Eden – alas – left me no forwarding address
Shangri-La (from saved seeds) now blooms in its stead
Could this garden-city be New Jerusalem’s nest?
I’ve been saving ’till now; it’s time to invest.
The invitation is intuition
A ceremony of recognition – my body and blood’s rhythmic repetition
Mercury’s metal on my tongue and sweat on my brow
Life’s transubstantiation – here and now.
Remembrance is re-cognition
Re-membering this disposition
That gives rise – then and always – to original face
Holy Sun Absolute shining shelter and grace
Kindling the compost of what had begun
Seraphim and Destroyer erect such a pyre
Food for the moon from all left undone
“Why not be utterly changed into fire?”
By Tim O’Connor
As a server at a restaurant, my son Corey wears a tie. As a dutiful father, I’ve always provided him with the Dad-Assist Tie. That’s where I tie the tie as if I’m going to wear it, but slip it over my head and give it to him.
But the time comes when a 20-year-old son must buy his father a beer in a bar. No wait… the time comes in a young man’s life when he must learn to tie his own damn tie.
Recently he brought his untied tie to me said—in essence—”The time is now. Teach me this great skill of manhood.” Just a blink ago, I taught him to ride a bike. Now… this.
The lesson began with each of us with a long length hanging down the right side of our chests, the short side on the left. I had him stand beside me like we were synchronized swimmers. We didn’t synch.
Man, it’s hard to teach something I do in a mirror without thinking. ‘How the hell do I do this?’ (There’s a golf lesson in there somewhere.) Eventually, I managed to coordinate my hands and words: “Fold this around, and under, now over…”
He tried about 10 or 12 times, but after each promising start, the great moment when the short end is pulled to reveal the triangular miracle of a crisp knot gave birth instead to something that looked like a highway interchange made of blue stripes.
We tried it with him standing facing me. Nope. “Nothing worth doing is ever easy, son,” I intoned, obviously buying time. “Adversity builds character.”
“Right Hobbes,” the son mocked, rightfully.
Sensing he must seize the torch (well, the tie) and weave his own way, Corey tied, retied, tied and … until he turned his face skyward, punched the air and bellowed, “I freaking did it!” High-fives all around.
There was no great lesson for me—just reminders about being a father to my two boys. Be there, do my best to show them what to do, and then shut the hell up and let them do things for themselves.
The most important piece in all that? Be there. Really be there. If we can do that as fathers, my sense is that the ties between fathers and sons—and daughters—will grow tighter and stronger.
by Jeffrey Bates
…a small boat sat on the rocks on the beach
as he approached it felt just out of his reach
the oars they lay inside half disclosed
the old man in his chair dreamed a dream as he dozed.
The stream from the mountain descended to the shore
Where the boat had been dreaming of the man it knew before
He approached and he saw the world without care,
As he breathed in the sun, felt the crisp morning air.
The old man, he shifted a bit in his chair
He’d thought that he saw someone standing there
“Get in!” he sighed, as he passed on the edge,
“The boat is ready and the shore’s no hedge.”
He squirmed once more in his chair on the porch
The young man, he felt no flame, but a torch.
As he pushed the small boat from the rocks on the beach
What was once so far was now within reach.
February 9, 2014
by Boysen Hodgson
New Warrior brother Jeffrey Bates (Bedford, Indiana 1996), has written a mythical children’s story called The Little Bucket. With a poetic voice and unique illustrations The Little Bucket is a hero’s journey that will enliven and stimulate the imagination. The book teaches about empathy, boundaries, how to understand bullying, reaching out for help, and also about what it’s like to feel lonely and lost and not know what to do about it.
When I got the book from Jeff earlier this spring, I shared it with my foster daughters. They both enjoyed the story, and it opened a much bigger conversation about what it means to look inside when things are hard. In a culture without a lot of strong models for emotional intelligence or personal responsibility, this is a story that can open some doors. It challenges blame and shame patterns that can get embedded so quickly in a child’s psyche. I have referred back to the messages of The Little Bucket when working with my daughters to remind them that the what’s going on on the ‘outside’ is only a tiny part of the reality … the BIG stuff is on the inside.
The thematic illustrations are gentle and colorful. The poetry flows with each turn of the page as the story moves through loss and revelation of a mysterious answer to the problem.
A reviewer commented, “Jeff Bates’ use of rhyme and imagination creates a story to help readers of all ages to look within themselves and live life to its fullest.” (Roxanne L. Pace, Library Media Specialist, Brevard County, Florida)
Jeff Bates says, “One of the things we lack in our approach to helping build character in our children and feeling self-confidence is a model. The Little Bucket fills this gap and provides an opportunity for deeper discussion about the things that matter most: feelings. Once we can enable the discussion of feelings, we can make great strides in helping our kids concentrate better and become strong from within.”
He continues, “We are all overwhelmed by the entertaining digital world which really distracts kids from the real learning they need to be doing. I’m just not talking about ‘school learning’, but learning about what’s going on on the inside.”
Additionally, when kids experience social pressure to conform and to give in to others, and feel distracted or intimidated by it, they can lose track of themselves, have difficulty concentrating and then spend the rest of their lives trying to recover.
Bates states that he is interested in selling the book, not just for the books sake, but for what can happen when it’s heard. The Little Bucket can help kids discover themselves on the inside and, according to Psychotherapist Larry Pesavento of Cincinnati, Ohio, discover that “happiness is an inside job.”
If you have little ones, or big ones, and you struggle with starting a conversation around feelings such as sadness, fear, anger or even joy with them, this book can be a helpful kick-starter.
The Little Bucket is available at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com to order. Also visit The Little Bucket on Facebook and be sure to give him a “LIKE.” Jeff also has The Little Bucket presentation where he comes to your group/class/school to present the story, have a discusion and then sing The Ballad of The Little Bucket. You can visit the author’s page at http://jeffreybates.net for more information.
by Les Gaines
What is this shadow following me, damn?
Just a lie of what I truly am.
A mark from yesterday
when some guy said I wasn’t good enough to play.
That old stain has been like a stone
locking away my heart in a catacomb.
How can I live?
How can I breath?
With this mirage of limitation blinding my destiny.
I pay the price to feel worthy.
But still it’s clear that I’m not free.
No, just a proxy of what I should be,
offering a little taste of what I could be.
So what about a little authenticity,
If I drop my spear,
if I drop my shield
if stand before you with my shame revealed,
If I let my mind settle in this space,
and show the of years of fears etched on my face,
then can I stay?
Can I stay and love you through my shadows anyway.
That shadow has a bind on me,
nothing I can do sometimes but say I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for my mother.
I’m sorry for my father.
I’m sorry for that freak down the street.
And that’ they all called a geek.
I’m sorry for my big head.
I’m sorry for my fears.
I’m sorry that I bite back hard,
when I fell attacked, and I’m not clear.
But, if I say I’m sorry for being me,
can I stay and love you through my shadows anyway.
I know that …
kings have other mansion
and, boys other toys.
Lovers have other passions
and, warriors other ploys.
But a man has only one heart to feel.
And, if he’s lucky he’ll hold onto one friend that’s real.
So, I will stay, I’ll stay and love you through my shadows anyway.
by Les Gaines
As if asleep in a sea of denial, loathing my own shadow,
my faithful friend with me along so many miles.
I know the crippling fear of stepping beyond the front door;
that hope for a better life was best left ignored.
I know trauma.
I know the doubt that comes
when everybody wrong seems right,
and everything right seems wrong;
when every arm but mine looks strong.
I know the helplessness of trying to feel like something,
while my brain is screaming that I’m nothing.
I know trauma.
The intrusion of phantom hands, sounds, and scents
that cross the gap of time making danger feel so imminent.
Flashbacks they’re called,
by those who walk with memory intact.
I know just how long that panic can last.
But, I also know the power of Goodness and Life
that shields a soldier in the most vicious of fights.
I know the strength of hands, ready to survive.
I know how to thrive.
How to search the infinite resources of mind,
to unlock the chains of shame restoring innocence,
I thought left behind.
I know the power of the yearning for freedom
that made me stand from my crawl, and
throw away that doormat that read, “free-for-all.”
This is my Life!
And it’s time I change
the rules of that old abusive game
to restore each fragment of my Self to its rightful place.
I’ll say who I am,
Love, Life, and Freedom.
I am Choice. I am Real.
I am here … with the courage to heal.
GUEST POST by Peter Clothier
“Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion,” by Nick Duffell.
First, don’t assume from this book’s subtitle that is irrelevant to us here in America, or to our leadership. It is of vital relevance, no matter the specificity of his target. Nick Duffell’s title will have resonance for anyone who has lived through the past couple of decades in America and watched our own wounded leaders in action–or, more correctly, inaction. That said–and we’ll come back to this–his central argument is that the boarding-school educated governing elite in Britain are themselves unconsciously governed by the lasting wounds incurred by the experience of being sent away from the family at an early age, and placed in a militaristic environment in which they learn to protect themselves from a hostile outer world.
I can speak to this. I am what Duffell aptly refers to as a Boarding School Survivor. As a practicing psychotherapist, he has a long-standing practice designed to bring such people back from their emotional disorientation and isolation. I could have used his services, long ago, but had to discover my own path through this maze. I was sent away to school at the age of seven, and by the time I escaped to freedom at the age of eighteen, I had received a remarkable head-oriented education but remained what I often describe as an emotional cripple. I had learned the costly and dangerous art of evasion and emotional invulnerability. As a seven- or eight-year old, I could not afford to do anything but suppress the feelings that would open me up to attack from my fellow-boarders: fear, anger, sadness, grief, the terrible pain of being separated from parents who assured me that they loved me—even though it was hard to understand the paradox of being loved and yet exiled from the family, the locus of that love.
The result of my excellent education was that I never grew up. Rather, it took me another three decades before I realized there was something wrong with living like a turtle in a shell. Boarding School Survivors, as Duffell describes them, are stunted individuals so caught up in their heads that they remain disconnected from their hearts. I simplify his profoundly well-informed and subtle arguments, whose bottom line is that Britain’s ruling elite, boarding-school and Oxbridge-educated, are supremely unqualified to lead in our twenty-first century world because they get so intently focused on their distorted, rational vision of national and global issues that they remain impervious (invulnerable) to the bigger picture of human needs. They are unable to listen, to empathize with others than themselves and their own kind. They are guided by the certainty of their own sense of rectitude. To doubt, to question, to have a change of heart is to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is the last thing in the world they can allow themselves. (Duffell’s final chapter, on doubt, is particularly eloquent and on-target.)
I am admittedly unqualified to evaluate the more technical aspects of Duffell’s argument. To this reader, he seems impressively knowledgeable and up-to-date with the latest discoveries of neuroscience and academic psychology. He draws on a broad understanding of the philosophical development of rationalism and its critics, the countervailing social movements of repression and rebellion, and contextualizes his argument in that historical perspective. In our contemporary times, his exemplars are primarily the likes of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, England’s current Prime Minister David Cameron, and London Mayor Boris Johnson, whose attitudes and actions are profoundly—and in Duffell’s view—mistakenly reactionary. As he sees it, they bully and bluster their way past opposition into futile military actions and social programs that enrich the already privileged and wealthy and contribute to the continuing impoverishment of the needy. No wonder the England he describes is an angry country.
Late in the book, Duffell expands his vision of an entitled elite to include brief reference to American leaders—in particular, of course, George W. Bush, whose blind and reckless pursuit of a delusory obsession rushed us headlong into the war with Iraq. The disastrous results are with us today, in the form of a Middle East in unending turmoil. Looking at America today—a nation of people surely as angry as the British—I’d argue that what Duffell calls the Entitlement Illusion is by no means limited to British elitism. Our leaders must also be counted amongst the wounded. Our leadership is dominated by the squabbling of little boys who have never grown beyond the need to protect themselves and their own territory from those who do not agree with them. Our political problems are the same as those Duffell describes in his country: militarism, misguided and prejudicial rationalism, a lack of empathy for the poor and underprivileged, an assumption of rectitude that rejects other views without a hearing, an angry rejection of doubt or reappraisal of previously held views.
Entitlement, I’d argue, is not the exclusive property of the British elite. I myself believe it’s also, more broadly, a factor of historical male privilege, the patriarchal tradition. There is a persistent myth in our culture that sees men as rational beings, in control of events, capable, practical, while women are (still, in the eyes of too many of us men) perceived as irrational, guided by emotion rather than reason, and therefore less competent in leadership positions. Duffell argues passionately for a middle path, one that minimizes neither reason nor emotion, but balances the intelligence quotient with the emotional quotient, the head with the heart, reason with compassion and empathy. I agree with him, that unless we as a species can find that balance, we are in for dangerous times ahead. His book is a timely and important reminder of the need to “change our minds” in a fundamental way, and open ourselves to the powerful–and practical–wisdom of the heart. I sincerely hope that the book will find readers beyond the native country of which he writes. Its insights are profoundly needed everywhere, throughout the globe.
by Les Gaines
I sit in a circle with Men
who are ready to go within,
whose eyes blaze like diamonds in disguise
and whose bodies are poised with determination.
Unwilling to compromise,
and using clever minds as a honing device,
the brothers listen in.
For groans and moans of shadows and doubts
that utter, “I am less than.”
In this circle of men,
we find traces of hopes we’ve seen before,
hidden behind childhood doors
arousing pain we must explore.
And in that journey we find our life’s mission
to be who we are, without seeking permission.
To do what good men have always done,
be willing to be “the One.”
In this circle of men,
a warrior rises to the occasion,
to see the world he made
and claim his power to change it.
Here hands beat upon drums,
And, masculine roars form our songs,
calling the four directions, the sky and the earth
and upon ancestor’s shoulders we take up our work.
In this circle of men,
there is power to turn ore to steel,
to dissolve every illusions that prevents
living a life that is real.
In this circle of men,
there is truth in projections
and healing when a man encounters his own golden reflections.
by Two Crows Calling
First we took a hard look at our ego self
Speaking our feelings of what we wanted in love, work and a peaceful world
Discovering in our dyads and in our meditation that what
we yearned for was so often in breakdown,
“stalled”, not happening.
We saw our own self sabotage, living in illusion, deceit,
blaming others, caught in subtle consumer and family
dramas. Our list of counterfeit, cocoon traits hit home
as endlessly discouraging. For us, “looking good”so often
won out over just being Goodness.
Sitting, we connected deeply with our own “messiness”
We had placed our cart before the Wind horse of our Life.
We were not living from Buddha’s last words
“Be a Lamp unto Yourself”
What good fortune the dharma overcame our doubt, fear and
timidity. We were rescued by energies far more powerful
and vast than the dominant culture’s repetitive story lines.
Our practice sharpened our will and expanded our hearts.
Our teachers inspired us –breathing truth and love into us.
One day, you finally said a full and deep “YES”
You whispered into your own heart. “OK. I’m tired of being
sick and tired of all my half- hearted measures.”
You told your mind and heart. “I am ready to take it all on”.
I am ready to take the pain and heartache of society into my
own tender, vast and spacious Heart.
And you stepped forward to the front of history’s grand stage
You realized the poet Rilke was right after all:
“Whatever the question, Love is the Answer.”
Starvation spreads in Africa and the Middle East while grain rots
in our Midwestern grain storage reserves. More love needed. The 37,000
infant and child deaths every day from polluted water. More of my love needed.
The seemingly endless deaths of mothers and young children in Syria.
More love needed. Clean water for the children? More love from me.
Breaking the horror of human trafficking and slavery?
More love from me.
We leaned into the Wind. Into the Storm. Into the Darkness
of our present Age. We rejoiced in the advancement of Goodness.
We found the dharma was our Shield,our Sword. Our Light.
We felt in our bones “This is my moment.This is our moment.”
And so with each breath, we opened wide our hearts to the pain
and suffering of this world.
Over time our field of action expanded more and more. Sacred warriors
of basic goodness appeared at our side. We became a Oneness.
Together my sisters and brothers
We go forth across this vast world
fertile seeds in the Wind
Making Enlightened Society Possible.
by Edmond Manning
By what right does a white man tell the story of a black man? Describe that man’s struggles, the lifelong challenges he faces, the hardships of living in a white-centric culture?
I have asked myself this question many times.
In September, the third book in my ‘Lost and Found Kings’ series, The Butterfly King was published. The premise is the same in each book: a gay, Midwestern car mechanic invites another man to spend the weekend together. He promises “…if you submit in every single way, I will help you remember your kingship. I will help you remember the man you were always meant to be.”
It’s a bastardization of the NWTA weekend. Well, kinda. There are absolutely no affiliations or mentions of MKP in the novel. There is not a fictional organization cleverly renamed “LKP.” Nope. No crossover activities. None. The car mechanic narrator relies on Joseph Campbell and the masculine archetypes to create experiences that help each man discover his unique giftedness. Combined with fairy tale storytelling, emotional manipulation, and a healthy scoop of man-on-man sex, these books have attracted attention for their innovative look at the masculine psyche and the possibility that all men are kings.
I’ve delighted in writing about different types of men. My tall tales celebrate the power of men, the beauty of men, which includes their woes: the lifelong consequences on a man whose father died young (the first book, King Perry), an angry man who feels betrayed by love and how shitty his life turned out (the second book, King Mai), and the most recent book, my third, deals with a black man in New York city who sacrificed his own future to care for his family.
The Butterfly King.
But by what right does a white man tell a black man’s story?
I find myself in a curious and difficult position. I want to write about interesting people and fascinating lives. It’s what writers do, I guess. But how dare a pasty-white, middle-class man attempt to get inside the head of a man of color? I can’t possibly know the circumstances of prejudice he experienced growing up and throughout adulthood. It’s very possible my attempts to portray empathy come across as condescending, ill-informed, and patronizing. I worry about this. It keeps me awake at night.
A curious parallel exists in my fiction genre.
Right now, most of the books written about the men-loving-men are written by heterosexual women. I’m not kidding. They compose the lion’s share of the market of both writers and readers. Some have adopted a man’s name for better acceptance or to hide their identities, afraid of the backlash. Most are open and proud of their writing prowess. In fact, gay men now find it difficult to publish their stories—honest-to-gayness-men-loving-men stories—because women so dominate this field and their preferences have become industry traditions. Gay men must conform to these industry standards to get published or be marginalized.
The debate comes up three times a year or more in the blogosphere. By what right do women step in and tell gay men’s stories? By what right? They don’t experience gay bashing, homophobic slurs, and hell, they don’t even have the right junk.
And yet, they write. They dare.
The reasons fascinate me. They feel called. Because the stories are about love. Because it’s more interesting than writing about their known world, male-female relationships. Some of these women have gay kids, gay friends, gay garage mechanics and they want to make the world safer, more accepting. Whatever their reasons, they dare.
I love this. They dare.
Don’t we also dare?
As men in MKP, don’t we dare to love men different from ourselves? Don’t we step outside our comfortable skins to love men of different ages, of different colors? Don’t Republicans sometimes cradle Democrats as they weep over lost marriages? Have you not seen some granola, hippie leader love a young corporate go-getter, doing whatever it takes to honoring that man’s kingship? I know you have.
I’ve seen it, too.
We do not interfere in each other’s lives because it’s our right to do so. We do it because we dare to love each other as men, as brothers.
I researched this book thoroughly. I read about shifting ethnic migrations to and from New York City from the 1950s through the 2000s. I read books about race. I read articles about white authors attempting to write black characters. I read blogs about blind-spots in dominant culture and how it shows up in insidious, exclusionary ways. I’m glad I did this research, but none of it gives me the right to write.
But I dare.
I write about men of color because I have loved men of color. I have wept in their arms and they in mine. We told our sad stories and felt each other’s masculine healing. On staff weekends, we have wiped away each other’s sweat and tears, and went back to the carpet if not refreshed, certainly more sturdy. More ready to bear the next sorrowful tale.
We celebrate each other by telling these stories, stories which are not always ours to tell.
I remember a night long ago when my I-group decided my work that night was to share my coming out story. I shrugged. Although I had been complaining of the lifelong estrangements it has caused, I felt it wasn’t really relevant. Happened over two decades ago. As I told the experience telling my parents I was gay, two of the straight men in my group cried. Another man said, “Listen to me repeat this to you.”
When I heard my own story coming from his mouth, I cried myself because the story —surprise, surprise— was sad. Although he repeated a few details wrong, he heard and honored the spirit of the tale. Apparently I had to hear it from someone else to recognize the sadness.
When I think about this latest novel, I’m sure I fucked up in a few places because, like most of us, I sometimes fuck up when I’m attempting a big project. That is one story about me. Here is another story I learned by working with MKP: I am also glorious, ridiculously bold and I radiate effervescent, sparkling love from my fingertips when I type fiction. I have the power to reveal how gorgeous, how beautiful men can be.
I celebrate us.
And so, I dare.
by Stephen Simmer – MKP USA Mission Circle Coordinator
I don’t read emails, I scan them. The idea of slowing down and staying fully present with a thought is very difficult, very foreign to me. If you’re like me, you might notice a persistent voice, right now, telling you to hurry through this email, to grab the point that Simmer is making, deposit into the meaning-bank for possible future use, and move onto the next email waiting in the inbox. If you’re like me, right now you’re saying to yourself, “I got it” and hurdling over phrases and sentences to get to the next paragraph to see if there’s more you need to grab. If you’re like me, you don’t read, you plunder for necessary meaning as if you’re looting a store for a couple of things of value.
I’m also aware that I’m that way with many parts of my life I supposedly care about. I listen with a half an ear to my kids, I listen to my wife impatiently, hoping she will get to the point so I can move on, I hurry down the road with my dogs to get the walk out of the way as fast as I can so I can get onto some other tasks that I can also hurry through.
When I think of working more on mission, there is a voice in me that says emphatically, “I don’t have time to do any more.” The conveyer belt is too fast already. I need to work, sack the trash, lug the air conditioners back to the garage, order the stone for the patio, pick up the prescription. Mission? Maybe I can schedule some world-transformation Tuesday between my son’s soccer game and grilling the burgers. If I can’t sandwich it in there, I’ll get to it next lifetime, or the one after that. My mission gradually becomes my o-mission, what I leave out.
This is all wrong. I was taught on my training many years ago that a mission statement had a vision and an action. An action: I saw it as another task on my endless to-do list. But what if mission is not a job? What if it’s really a presence? What if it’s a challenge to do less, with magnificence? What if it means slowing down, committing to be fully present in this ordinary, splendid moment? What if mission means that I commit myself to be a human be-ing rather than a human do-ing? What if busy-ness is a symptom of evasion of what really matters?
Athletes talk of special times when the game slows down, and maybe mission is really about a commitment to slowing life down so that moments become momentous. These are the moments of Flow that Mihaly Csikszentmihaly identified. This precious moment with my son outside school when he quietly takes my hand as we walk. This encounter with the CVS clerk. This walk with my dog in the rain, both of us dying, him probably a few steps ahead of me, leading the way. I’m ditching my to-do list and starting a to-be list. And what is startling to me is that there is only one thing on the list: to answer the door and welcome the visitor who has been waiting.
My Poem 310: Meeting Wisdom
The shaman knows those noises…
They sometimes disturb the hunt…they
are sometimes the result of the hunt…
You see, the shaman has kept
to his roots, not like the shamans
reed flute, having been cut from
its root, its soundings are the
lamentations of the broken hearted
which the shaman knows but he
Also knows of the healed heart…
knows the Icy grags and shadowed
vales…becoming knowing of the songs…
Of the void between notes, between
the lyrics, between the breath taken
in and the breath expelled… There
he finds the knowing of Wisdom…
There, he meets Her…Mother Sophia
Addenda i54: Oscar Wilde said,
“Ah! Don’t say you agree with me. When
people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong.”
Do our poems have
to please everyone?
Do we have
a responsibility to be provocative?
We Have That Responsibility!
Of course! We have that responsibility!
Wilde said that! Wilde lived that!
Our ‘modern’ circumstances demand that …
How could we not … but to invite another Hitler …
Gaia, Mother Earth is demanding that!
Creating storm after massive storm
beyond our experience …
I am demanding that! … of
my Brothers & my Sisters!
The call has been made! It is international!
grass rooted, calling but walked upon …
springing back up into the calling air …
but CALLING again … every society … every Heart
The Mother and mothers everywhere are calling …
Fathers drop war from your consciousness.
It has no future … It begets no future …
But … ITSELF!
And an Earthen hell is the result …
Over and over … again and again …
MEN! What more proof need be portrayed than that goriest
Glorious 20th Century …???
MEN…WHO ARE WE THAT WE CAN”T SEE
IN ALL THIS LIGHT???!!!
Wali Qutbuddin Loren Ruh Smith
August 6, 2014
GUEST POST: by Peter Clothier
Originally published at the Buddha Diaries
(for Luka, a bit later in his life)
I woke this morning thinking about Barack Obama, and how perfectly he fits the model of manhood proposed by Rudyard Kipling in his unjustly maligned and frequently parodied poem “If.” In case you don’t remember it, here’s how it starts out:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…
Doesn’t that sound like Obama?
First, though, Boyhood, which provoked these thoughts. We finally got to see this beautiful and profoundly moving film last night. I loved the twelve-year journey of these skillful and committed actors, playing out the emotional development of fictional characters engaged in a fictional narrative as they themselves physically aged. I loved the “truth” of the story itself, of a family struggling with the realities of life—the failed and failing marriages, the financial woes, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, sibling love and feuding, school and the relationships with classmates, the pain of the teenage years, and so on. All along, start to finish, the story had the convincing “feel” of life as most of us experience it.
And the film is true to its title. It is about boyhood. Even at the end, the young boy, Mason, whose life we have been following from elementary school to college has not yet emerged fully into manhood. The last shot shows him, literally high in the beautiful natural surroundings of the mountains, and high on the mushroom fed him by his brand new college roommate. With a lovely young woman at his side—they sit still shyly side by side and not in some false, premature embrace—he gazes out in ecstasy into the landscape as though into a future filled with allure. But it is abundantly clear that he is still a boy. Boyhood still glows in his face; he’s all promise, no completion.
Which should not surprise us. He had no models of real manhood as he was growing up. Mason’s biological father is a charming rogue in his early years, unable to accept the responsibilities of marriage, job, and family. The subsequent relationships his mother forms are with men whose manhood is as questionable as his father’s: a smooth academic whose insecurities lead him to drunken tyranny; a former military man whose immaturity is revealed in his insensitivity and inflexibility. With one notable exception—a photography teacher who attempts to move our Mason beyond his obstinate, lethargic adolescence—the strong, mature figures who surround the growing boy are women. The men are simply grown-up little boys.
Which leads me to reflect, beyond the parameters of the movie, upon this question: what are the qualities of manhood? We find what I think of as a real man all too infrequently in our contemporary world. We are surrounded everywhere by ungrown men: the drunks, the abusers, the workaholics; priests and teachers who take advantage of their positions of trust and exploit the vulnerabilities of children; lovers who take what they need and reject responsibility; politicians who lack the spine to govern and capitulate too easily to those who would manipulate them; gun-toting idiots who insist so stridently on their “rights” and are quick to spurn the rights of others; sports heroes pumped up with illicit drugs and phony testosterone; spoiled cultural idols, many of them scarcely more than teenagers.
Too often, the models of manhood we are offered are characterized by a false notion of strength. To return to the President and his current predicament, surrounded as he is by well-meaning progressives to the left and fanatics blinded by their own rectitude on the right, all nipping at his heels and demanding displays of strength. They fail to understand that the qualities of true strength are not intellectual inflexibility and rash, foolhardy action (the former President and his enablers come inevitably to mind) but the maturity to step back and take the longer view, the wisdom to listen and, when necessary, to change. Even to bend. That too is strength. They have not learned the ancient lesson of the oak tree and the reed.
The qualities of manhood, in my view, are these: integrity, a sense of mission, a devotion to service. We know how to teach these qualities. We do it with our military men in boot camp (women, too, these days, of course, but I’m concerned here with men.) While I’m not a fan of militarism in any form, I’ll concede that in most cases even this crass form of initiation can produce admirable men—men who have not only strength and skills, but a sense of purpose greater than themselves. Our armed forces are worthy of the respect that they receive. What turns boys to men is this kind of ritualized initiation—a process that’s significantly lacking in the development of the youngster who’s portrayed in “Boyhood,” as it is to the majority of us today. Of myself, if I’m to be honest, I must acknowledge that I reached some measure of manhood only in my fifties. For genuine initiation in our culture we have substituted such tepid rituals as Christian confirmations and bar mitvahs.
They don’t do the trick. In traditional cultures, the transition was a far more dangerous journey, involving genuine threat to life and limb as boys were sent out into wilderness or jungle to temper the vulnerability and fearfulness of boyhood into the steel they would need to function as a man. We in the modern Western world have no wild animals to deal with, unless we count those within. We forget that these are powerful enough to rule our lives if we don’t learn to acknowledge and confront them. The early myth of initiation for us is the ordeal of the knight apprentice, who rides out into the forest to test his mettle against the dark knight—or the dragon—and returns prepared to serve his queen.
What is integrity? In simple terms, it is the fortitude to say fearlessly exactly what I mean, and do exactly what I say. Which implies, of course, a clear vision about who I am and what I am given to do. If I’m in doubt or confusion, I lack resolve. I dither. The answer lies not in denying doubt and confusion—they are a part of being human. No one escapes them. In denying them I risk precipitous and futile action, when what I need first is to consult the inner wisdom that I’ve wrestled with myself to find, and rediscover the clarity before I act. A man of integrity is a man who “has his act together,” in the sense that his actions are in full congruence with his words. He has “integrated” the four mainstays of his being: mind and body, feeling and spirit, and they are properly in balance. Action that is not backed by all four of these in unison–action that lacks thought, or heart, or energy, or purpose–is as ineffectual as the failure to act at all.
Inseparable from a man’s integrity, then, is the understanding that he has left behind the innocence of boyhood, along with the freedom that accompanied it. He lives in a world of accountability to others and acknowledges his duty (yes, sorry, a quaint, old-fashioned concept!) to serve others than himself. Sadly, it’s true that most of us fail to live up to this ideal. We look around us, searching vainly for the most part for our Mahatma Gandhis, our Nelson Mandelas, our Martin Luther Kings—men who were certainly not lacking in the failings that made them human, but who managed to be magnificently greater than their weaknesses, and of spectacular, historical service to their fellow human beings.
We cannot all be men like these, but we can be men. Without the challenge of traditional initiation rites, we are required to find, or invent, our own journey from boyhood into manhood. It is no easy task to face the darkness and the inner demons that, without our awareness, can control our destinies. All of us need some form of support as we make that journey: a church, perhaps, a spiritual guide, a trained therapist… And the journey, for most of us, is never ending. Who can sit back on his laurels and say with certainty: I have reached the fullness of my manhood? Even in, at best, my last quarter here among the living, I still struggle with my own.
So we leave our young protagonist, in “Boyhood,” with the journey into manhood still ahead of him. He may already have been initiated into sex and drugs, into the drudgery of work and now, finally, the college dormitory, but none of these has opened the door to the real, deep, inner work he will have to do if he is to become the man he needs to be if he is to fulfill his life’s destiny. And that is yet to come…
By Gonzalo Salinas
According to Charles Duhigg author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, approximately 40% of what we do every day, we do unconsciously. We have formed a habit that we tend to repeat every day, and it’s making our choices for us.
So, think about all the things you do every day. Some of them probably don’t serve your highest purpose but still, you repeat them religiously … even knowing specific behaviors are putting you away of the reality you want to live. Duhigg explains that every time you repeat those habits your brain reinforces them … so it craves, later on, this repetition. Even if is not beneficial, you get a neuro-chemical reward in your brain that not only will create some sort of addiction but also reinforces the identity you have created for yourself.
I have tried many times to change bad habits and create new ones. With a sincere heart I must confess that I have failed more times than I have succeeded. But I noticed something happened every time I was succeeding; the positive new habits were daily rituals.
Yes. I do have rituals. Ritual - “a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.” I repeat certain rituals every day, and believe me dear reader of the MKP Journal, to repeat an action every day, is not an easy task, especially when I am trying to create a new self.
Let me share some daily rituals hoping that this will inspire action to enhance lives.
I do my rituals first thing in the morning: I wake up and I go for a run. The running part is simple. I already told myself that as soon as I hear the alarm I must jump out of the bed. At the beginning it was hard, now is automatic. My recommendation is to avoid dealing with ANY logistics - so your sportswear must be ready next to the bed from the previous night.
A second ritual is: I carry in my wallet one handwritten page. One side of the page is divided in two: on the left side I have a few statements: my flaws or weaknesses to become aware of what I want to change, and on the right side my good qualities and virtues to remind myself the tools I have for my own growth. Deliberately this second list is bigger than the first one. On the other side of the paper I’ve written a brief composition about who I want to be. I’ve included goals and projects and a description of how I see myself in the next three years.
I read this paper three times a day. As soon as I wake up, at lunch time, and before I go to sleep. It takes me two minutes each reading. When I read it I focus on staying present: just reading.
Third: In the morning I also do a brief visualization … right before I come back from running I stop and I visualize: It takes me three to five minutes. I visualize the same three goals I have written on the paper I carry on my wallet.
Finally, is my gratitude time. On a notebook I got specifically for gratitude, right before I go to sleep, I write three things that I’m grateful for that day. It doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as “the kid I saw having some ice cream at Lincoln road in South Beach.” If I feel like writing it, I write it. Then I say a brief prayer, and I go to sleep.
These four rituals have changed my life dramatically in the last two years. Have I been 100% consistent with them?… absolutely not. I used to give to myself a guilt trip, this usually led me to abandon my regular practice for a while. If for some reason I miss my rituals now, instead of the self punishment, I just carry on.
That’s it. Just a couple of thing before I finish: You may notice that my rituals are very simple; they are simple because when I create a complex plan, I find I’m planning to fail. Start small and keep going; it is a great exercise of self love.
And lastly, be creative with your rituals! Some people create a vision boards with images, others do mantras or incantations, others meditate or do breathing exercises. The rituals become habits because of repetition, and the daily practice causes transformation.
I’ve got more from my 2 years of rituals than from my entire previous life without them. Use them and then you tell me!