Why Half a Heart is Simply Not Enough

Category: Men and Shadow 

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

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Until four years ago, I had a serious issue with literally one-half of the entire human species – specifically… men. I didn’t feel comfortable being around them and never felt like I really “fit in” or was accepted by them. In essence, when it came to other men I just shut down and encased myself in a protective armor that would never allow for true vulnerability. And without vulnerability and authenticity I had no chance of establishing deep, meaningful relationships with other men.

So why do I need relationships with other men when I have an incredible relationship with my female partner? Very simple: you can’t be fully connected and intimate with anyone if you are shutdown to half the population. If I hadn’t transformed my relationship with other men during a fateful September 2012 weekend, I doubt seriously if my partner and I would even still be together…

You’re Not a Real Man

That was the message I received from my father and brothers growing up. As the youngest of four brothers by at least eight years and the 2nd youngest in a family of eight I evidently was quite different from what my Dad and brothers expected. Ours was a very patriarchal family where my Dad ruled with an iron fist and a stern look that by itself could put you through a wall. His idea of being “manly” was head-butting, concussion-inducing sports activities where 2nd place is not an option, along with a healthy dose of hunting (ideally with a bow and arrow) and fishing.

The implicit message was only the strongest and most brutal survived and women, well… they were second-class citizens preferably appreciated as seen but not heard (much to the angst of my four sisters). I simply couldn’t relate nor measure up to their definition of what it meant to be a “man”. I was far too sensitive and considerably more cerebral in my interests for their tastes. Towards the end of his life my Dad even admitted that he had no clue who I was during my teen years. Thanks to this bitter early experience I made a point of distancing myself from every male I encountered beginning at a young age. This impacted me so profoundly that I had substantial anxiety over the thought of having a son for fear we may not be able to relate (I did, and we do quite well now). It also robbed me of any potential male mentorship, which to this day I deeply regret.

I have learned since then that the inability to form relationships with men based upon authenticity and vulnerability is common for many men. This appears to be especially true for the Baby-Boomer generation – the one that signaled a shift from staunch testosterone-driven reactive behavior to a more conscious and balanced approach to life. But we had very few role models to help guide us through this magnificent shift. As a result, many of this generation feel adrift when it comes to relating to other men.

The Weekend That Changed Everything

The 2012 was the year where I was saying “Yes!” to nearly everything. I committed to facing my fears and demons no matter where it took me. I was through with feeling shutdown and disconnected. That way of life was killing me slowly and robbed most of the joy from my life and I was determined to no longer allow my fears to dictate the quality of my experience, no matter the circumstances.

So in June 2012 I chatted with a very wise woman who saw that I had a big problem with men. She suggested that I participate in a strictly male weekend event that was scheduled for that upcoming September. She said it may help me reconcile my anger and fears that were blocking my ability to have meaningful relationships with other men. And without hesitating I said “Okay” even though I had no clue as to what it was or how it worked. Shortly afterwards I completely forgot I signed up for it until a few days before Friday afternoon drive to remote retreat center. That’s when I started thinking “Oh shit, what did I just sign up for?!” Indeed…

The event is called The New Warrior Training Adventure and is put on by the ManKind Project during weekends throughout the year all over the world. I arrived that late Friday afternoon wary, guarded and even a bit angry (more self-directed for allowing myself to be involved with so many men like this.) By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, my ability to form deep personal and authentic relationships with men was completely transformed. I now no longer have the fears associated with male relationships and celebrate the depth of my male friendships at the same emotional level as I do with my female friends. And that ability is still with me, stronger than ever, three years later.

Words cannot do justice to that weekend because it is primarily experiential and evokes insights and states of being that transcend the ability to adequately describe. So, I guess you will just have to take a leap of faith on that one.

Making Peace with My Masculinity

What I didn’t realize before that is so clear to me now is that it is impossible to fully accept yourself if you are disconnected from the rest of your gender. And, not fully accepting yourself will get in the way of any kind of relationship you want to have, be it male or female.

We are all born with both gender energies / essences. A fully actualized person will welcome, embrace and utilize both. Then and only then can you expect to achieve the fullest possible depth of intimacy and connection with another human being, regardless of whether they happen to be a friend or your Life Partner.

A heart that is open only 50% is one that is feeling the pain of disconnect. Fortunately, we all have the ability to make it 100%. And yes, it does take courage and the determination to face ones fears without blinking –knowing that once you do you will never look back.

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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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The Art and Power of Presence

Category: Men and Leadership 

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

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What I’m about to share with you is a proven and almost magically powerful way to instantly (no hype here) change the way people see you. And once you learn and consistently incorporate this insight, people can’t help but be magnetically attracted to you. Imagine what this will do for your relationships, career and self-confidence. And the first step to having this secret work for you begins with reading the next 1,152 words very, very carefully –without any distractions whatsoever…

No One is Paying Attention

This next part shouldn’t surprise you at all: no one really pays full attention anymore. We are all too busy dealing (barely) with our collective anxiety about the future, and striving to be incredibly distracted so we don’t have to think about whatever causes that anxiety – things most of us can’t even identify. And a large part of our culture conspires to keep us distracted in myriad ways via digital devices, entertainment, drugs, hooking up, parties etc. Worry about future things we can hardly name is the very definition of anxiety. Is it really any wonder why more people are prescribed mood-altering drugs than ever before?

Now, this is where it gets interesting. As long as you play that game (i.e. not paying attention because of worry, distraction etc.) you will never break free from this “prison” of frustration, limitations and frankly, even really being “seen” by others. And this fact provides a hint to the way out…

The Art of Being Fully Present

When someone is not paying attention or is distracted, they are not “present” because their mind is simply somewhere else. And here’s the thing, others sense this at some level (usually subconsciously) and therefore treat you the same. So here we are, in this vast sea of people going about our day working, eating, playing and relating (sort of) while no one is truly paying attention.

Have you ever met someone that made you feel like you were the most important person in the world when talking to them? If you were fortunate to run into someone like this I bet you felt very comfortable and quite attracted to their presence. I’m not talking about narcissistic manipulation or empty flattery. Instead, someone who has really mastered what it means to be fully present with anyone they happen to meet –which by the way, is the antithesis of narcissism. In fact, they don’t even have to say much at all, you simply feel the authenticity of their undivided and deep awareness of who you are as a human being. The good news is that anyone can have this level of connection with others, no matter who they are or their circumstances.

Now, what if you choose to pay attention to everything and everyone you encounter during your day? What does that even mean? It essentially means that instead of living in your head wrestling with the past or worrying about the future, you practice just being fully aware, of everything in the here and now. And this kind of awareness can be instantly attained by simply being “present”, as a keen observer of everything you encounter. Let me give you some examples:

  • Your significant other – next time you are in their presence, simply be the observer of what they say, do or even feel. No reaction, no thinking ahead of the best way to respond, no concern of what they may think of you. Try this and you will find they will start to “change”. Actually what is happening is that you provided a safe space for them to be authentic, effectively mirroring the same trait they see in you when you are fully present for them. And trust me on this, when they do that, your relationship will see whole new levels of connection and intimacy.
  • Your co-workers – most places of work, no matter how friendly, can still harbor Machiavellian intent within certain individuals or even entire departments. This is usually a result of fear-based zero-sum thinking: i.e. “If someone else advances, I lose.” This hardly makes for a fulfilling career experience. Next time you go to work, just be the observer when it comes to other people’s behavior and emotions no matter how threatening or repulsive. Be fully present for them even if they come off as conniving or backstabbing. This doesn’t mean you don’t take measures to protect yourself. There is a big difference between be proactive and reactive. The key is to stay out of your head and not react, just observe dispassionately. Do this and you may find your career to be much more fulfilling, but probably likely to advance more quickly.
  • Strangers – how truly present are you for the person who checks out your groceries, or the one who bags them? How about people standing in the same line as you. I swear, most people act as if other people they encounter were simply placeholders necessary to move their life along. Either a means to an end or just in the way. Next time you are at a checkout, practice being fully present and aware of the people in line and in particular, the person who is serving you. You may find they smile a bit brighter for you as they react to the “space” of genuine awareness you created for them. And you may find yourself smiling a bit more as well.Just last week I was in grocery store in the checkout line. As my turn came up I distinctly remember practicing to be fully present. What surprised me was the fellow next in line spontaneously struck up a friendly conversation. Despite the fact we didn’t know each other, we had a real (albeit, brief) connection. This never happens to me when I’m in my head because people sense at some level that I’m not really there.
  • Nature – next time you walk in nature do it as a fully present observer. My partner and I do this all the time and we are astounded at just how more beautiful this world is from the perspective of being fully aware without mental labeling or chatter. This helps us connect with nature and its beauty far more deeply than anything we have ever done before.

It’s Simple but Not Easy

It takes practice and discipline to be fully and dispassionately present for everyone and everything you encounter throughout the day. Fears will undoubtedly creep from time to time which may break your space of being fully present. If that happens, practice being aware of that and then move back into that space of non-reactive awareness once again. You see, even being aware of your lack of full awareness can help you here. The cool thing is that once you are “aware” of the power of being fully present and aware, you will always have access to it.

This is one of my most important personal life disciplines. I can honestly say it has profoundly changed my life and that of those around me. And coming from someone who was about aware as a doorknob for the first 60 years of his life, I’d say your odds of having the same experience should you choose to have it, are pretty darn good.

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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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Welcome to the Men’s Group – Exclusive Screenings for MKP USA

Category: Men and Shadow, Reviews 

Special Screening Event for The Mankind Project USA

The Mankind Project is offering an exclusive “Film Screening Event” during the month of June to coincide with Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day.

We are partnering with the producers of a wonderful new feature film about the inner life of men, WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP.

MKP will coordinate access to a “sneak preview” of the film for I-Groups to create screening and discussion events around this provocative new film that tackles men’s issues with depth and humor.

The film is not yet released, so this is a very special opportunity to see it before the public does!

I-Groups can participate in this 18 day event by registering their screening and following the event protocols to invite new men, screen the film, and hold a discussion forum using the film as a vehicle for exploration and growth.

WHEN:

June 10 – June 30 – Screening window for MKP USA Groups

June 28, 2016 – MKP USA will host a LIVE Follow-Up Web Forum on with the Joseph Culp, the Director and Co-Writer, along with several special guests to talk about the movie.

To participate in one of these low cost screening events, please email outreach@mkp.org for more information.

SEE THE FILM TRAILER:

LIKE THE FILM’S FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/themensgroupfilm/

FOR MORE INFO ON THE FILM: http://www.themensgroupmovie.com

About Welcome to the Men’s Group:

WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP is a independent comedy-drama that takes us inside the dynamic of an all-male support group when they gather one morning for a ritual breakfast and their unique form of male bonding—One Sunday a month, these eight men refrain from beer and football to sit in a circle where they share their personal issues, in the noble hope of becoming a bit more evolved than their fathers.

On this day, things do not go as planned when one member appears suicidal, and long-standing conflict threatens to destroy the trust between the men. The film delves frankly into themes of male identity, competition, sexuality, shame, and grief.

WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP takes us on an emotional roller-coaster through the often bumpy inner terrain of the male psyche, as we hear the men open about their lives, sharing truth, telling lies, and revealing secrets they dare not discuss in their lives. The film is largely inspired by the phenomenon of the “Men’s Movement” of the past 30 years which was championed by writers like the poet Robert Bly and his bestselling book “Iron John” which explored the need for men to reconnect to their authenticity through storytelling, myth and ritualized gathering. The film shows the major shift in men’s consciousness and the changing attitudes towards traditional models of masculinity that are evolving every day. It is a challenging look at “male vulnerability”. It also uses humor and irreverence to celebrate the zaniness and absurdity of men – “Irreverence is the doorway to the sacred.” Ultimately the film shows a group of flawed men in a noble, painful and outrageously funny struggle to find their authenticity and a sense of community, and invites us, both men and women, to do the same.

Untitled

NOTE FROM DIRECTOR JOSEPH CULP:

– What is the premise of WELCOME TO THE MEN’S GROUP? 

Men seek spiritual connection and support. It is often quite natural for women to come together and share their feelings, but for most men this is still a new idea. Men should have a place beyond the local bar or card game to find out what is really going on with each other. Men must adapt to changing messages of being a man today, but where will they share their confusion and their questions honestly? The feminist movement changed a lot for women’s roles, and it is still evolving, and men are learning to change as well. How is it if a woman makes more money than a man? Men are taking care of children more and more. The tough persona of the man who does not talk about his feelings is disappearing. John Wayne is long dead. But men don’t want to be feminized either – they want to maintain a connection to what makes them truly male. There are men’s groups all over the world that are trying to discover that original male energy by coming together to share their stories and support each ther in a new way. Men are still caught between the “civilized” man vs. the “savage” man – between intellectual sensitivity and also the impulse for violence. There needs to be more honest conversation between men, more vulnerability, more trust. I hope this film will bring more permission to have this conversation. The film is about the need for connection and it shows both the dark and light sides of men. Ultimately, the film has a positive message about the potential for honesty and change.  – Joseph Culp (co-writer/director)

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A New Paradigm for Making Love

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 few days ago I had coffee with a good friend of mine who happens to be a licensed marriage / family counselor and a professional stand up comedienne (somehow, I can see how those two really go well together). We were discussing intimacy and she shared how she and her husband first “made love” on the dance floor at some local bar. She went on to described how their every move conveyed a deep sense of intimate giving to each other that could only be truly described as making love. This caused me to think about how so many couples have sex, but rarely really “make love”. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe the whole notion of what it means to make love is worth re-examining…

Making Love a Thousand Different Ways in a Thousand Different Places

My partner and I have the same experience my friend and her husband. Any time we walk or sit together and hold hands, we are making love. Most of the time when we kiss, we are making love. When we just lay together and listen to each other’s breathing and heart beats, we are making love. We’ve made love at the movies, while eating ice cream in public, while walking on the beach or enjoying a concert together. One time we made profound love just by sitting across from each other while staring into each other’s eyes and synchronizing our breathing. That particular instance was so powerful I almost started convulsing –and yet, we weren’t even touching.

And Then There is Just Sex

We live in such an overtly sexualized society where anyone with an Internet connection can watch two (or more) people fornicate in every way imaginable (and some, well… unimaginable). Having sex is what our culture typically refers to as “making love”. Deep down, how many of us really equate having sex as making love if it’s just the physical act, regardless of how pleasurable it may be? I suspect most of us feel there must be something more, something deeper, more intimate than the act itself to deserve the tender moniker “making love”.

It’s the Space Created, Not the Doing

This is something I think about a lot, given I am a clinically impotent male who has an intimate life I wouldn’t trade for all the money, Viagra or penile implants in the world. Prior to my impotency, sex and making love were synonymous –and most often, very unsatisfying. Losing my ability to have an erection was an invitation to my partner and I to explore other ways of being intimate, and not just physically. What we discovered is that the “space” we create for each other is even more important than what we “do” with each other.

By space I mean being fully present for and attuned to the other person. A space of focusing on giving rather than receiving. A space that replaces the need for performance with deep, connecting Presence. A space that allows the essence of who we are to merge into a sublime convergence of singular awareness. When that kind of space is made available, it enables us to “make love” anywhere, anytime, doing something with each other or nothing at all. And within that kind of space, our love making (whether physical or not) is the most exquisite either of us has ever previously experienced before.

Sex is Better When You Are Truly Making Love

Now this next part may sound a bit weird. Prior to physical intimacy, we make sure we have created space necessary to experience true love making. This means that when we do experience sex, it is *always* just one part of our love making; it never defines it. As a result of this approach, our physical intimacy is enhanced to the point it is almost beyond description and lasts for hours. And even after we are done with the physical part, we are still making love as we lay in each other’s arms afterwards savoring the experience we just shared. In some ways, it almost never stops. Now just think about that for a moment as opposed to the typical Hollywood or Net porn depiction of tearing each other’s clothes off just to achieve climatic release about 10 – 15 minutes later (if the whole process even lasts that long).

For us, making love (whether physical or not) is a selfless act of giving and receiving our attention, awareness and yes, even touch, in a context of being truly present for each other. This is not always an easy thing to do in a culture that conspires to keep us distracted and anything but connected on such a profound level. Yet we, and many couples we know, have found it to be so worth the effort. Practice makes perfect and I personally can’t think of a more important or fulfilling discipline for which to aspire.

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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 Having Your Soulmate Turn Into a Roommate

Category: Men and Relationship 

It’s insidious and before you know it the love of your life turns into someone just sharing a space –here’s how to avoid that from happening.

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

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In perusing Facebook this morning, I noticed this that a good friend of mine and his wife just celebrated their 33rdanniversary. I know them well and their relationship is solid, which makes them a rarity. Unfortunately, it has been my personal and observed experience that most marriages that “last” are really just a comfortably shared misery of settling that so often occurs when things don’t work out and neither party has the nerve to end or even acknowledge it. When I ended my own marriage of 26 years it was because I could no longer accept that we had gone from soulmates to roommates. A state of marital blisslessness that we shared for the last 11 years of that union.

Public Displays of Affection is the First Thing to Go

Unfortunately, it’s just not too often we see long-term couples holding hands or kissing these days. There was a time when my ex-wife and I kissed and held hands and I remember distinctly when we stopped. That was when I knew our relationship was in trouble.

And these problems only get worse when the kids leave the nest and the two of you are looking at each other with the unspoken thought of “Now what?” Ideally, you don’t wait until that point to address the lack of intimacy and connection –because if you do, chances are it’s already too late.

The Warning Signs

As a result of that experience and my observation of many other similar couples it became clear there are distinct warning signs that we could have noticed only if we had been paying attention. I share these with you now, especially if you are just starting out, so you hopefully can avoid this same fate.

  1. Incompatibility – it is often said that opposites attract. That may be true, but eventually those differences may become a growing wedge between you. Before we said our “I do’s”, my ex-wife and I discussed what we each wanted out of life. She said she wanted (metaphorically speaking) a house with a picket fence, a dog and cat and at least a couple of kids. She just wanted everything to be “normal”, kind of like a Leave It to Beaver or technicolor Pleasantville experience. To which I responded that “normal” was the last thing in the world I ever wanted –I was here to make a difference and not just go through life being comfortable and content. She found my drive and ambition exciting, I found her groundedness reassuring. Eventually however, these differences were a big (but not the only) factor that caused us to drift apart.
  2. Sexual Differences – this was a big one for me. I’ve always had a strong and adventurous libido, my ex-wife, not so much, yet we both settled thinking (and hoping) things would work themselves out. I still remember the day that I told myself she and I would never be intimate again. That was the day the final nail in the coffin of our intimacy was hammered in –11 full years before I formally ended the relationship. If you don’t address each of your authentic (i.e. no bullshit or holding back) sexual expectations early on, then don’t be surprised when things stop working in the bedroom. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Another important thing to keep in mind here is that expression of sexuality and physical intimacy will change over time, especially for women. So even if you two are totally in synch now as a young couple, things will change –guaranteed. In this case it is incumbent upon the woman to let her man know how things have changed and the man’s job to listen and abide. Anything else is a recipe for frustration at best.
  3. Little Wounds That Never Heal – every relationship causes wounding, it’s just part of being human. How you both react to that can make the difference between ongoing marital fulfillment and growing, seething resentment. Here’s the thing, any time there is a hurt, regardless of cause or fault, it is vital you discuss it authentically and vulnerably. The common response is to just “stuff-it” and chock it up to someone’s bad day at work or time of month. It’s not the wounding that causes the lasting damage, it is the unwillingness to address it fully that makes it grow and fester. Little wounds, if left unchecked, turn into gaping sores that eventually will kill or sterilize the relationship.
  4. Focusing On the Kids or Work to Avoid Issues – I remember telling my ex-wife early in our marriage that once we have kids we should never forget who brought them into being. That we need to always remember our relationship must never take a back seat to anything else, not even the kids. Yet that is exactly what happened. As our little wounds and incompatibilities started to multiply, we each found refuge in our dedications. For her, it was the kids, for me it was my work. Ironically, both are socially sanctioned as virtuous qualities but we used them to avoid the very difficult and painful issues that had arisen. Another facet of this is that we each stopped caring how we even looked for the other as we focused our respective energies on those things that would help us forget the emptiness our marriage had become. This is a very common and insidious relationship killer because both parties can rationalize they are doing something important for the family. When in fact, it is tearing the family and partnership apart.
  5. Settling – there is a huge difference between acceptance and settling. Acceptance means you acknowledge the differences and quirks of your partner and never let them become the source of resentment. A good way to do this is see your partner’s uniqueness as an adventure to be explored and savored. Settling means, at some level, you resent (i.e. resist) some of these differences but choose to live with them because it would be too uncomfortable or scary to do otherwise. The trouble with settling is that it is that it tends to grow like a cancer until you’ve found that your entire relationship is just one big resentment-filled settlement (i.e. you are now officially just roommates).

Don’t Delude Yourselves

If you are reading this and just starting out on your life together, I get it. Everything seems perfect, you are both totally in love and nothing, I mean nothing could ever change that. Without trying to be too harsh about this, I say… bullshit. While a barren and soulless existence together as you grow older does not have to be fait accompli, to avoid it does require you both be proactive towards the success of your togetherness. Long-term successful relationships take hard work, constant vigilance and a willingness to work things out with authentic and vulnerable communication. It also takes being super-aware of the potential pitfalls I’ve identified above. While even that won’t assure success, it will guarantee the highest possibility for its attainment.

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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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The Power of Uncertainty

Category: Men and Mission 

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

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I dislike uncertainty as much as the next person, perhaps even more. My reaction to it can cause deep anxiety that negatively impacts my health, wealth and overall enjoyment of life. Yet, despite uncertainty’s bad rep, I have learned that: a) no matter what we tell ourselves or how we arrange our circumstances, we can never be free of it, and b) learning to embrace it can lead to incredible possibilities that I didn’t even know was on my radar. As long as we are living, breathing beings we will always live with uncertainty. Knowing how to manage and respond to it can make all the difference between a rich, fulfilling life and one that is always fraught with the anxiety of what “bad” things could happen.

Ignorance is bliss… sort of

Simply put, anxiety is fear of the future whether known (if that’s actually possible) or worse, unknown. It’s a cliché to say that we all live in uncertain times. When I hear someone say that my first reaction is to ask “Does that mean our ancestors somehow suffered less uncertainty?” Which is ludicrous when you think about it. Given not that not to long ago (in the grand scheme of things) you were lucky to make it to your 40th birthday. However, the fact that we have unprecedented instant access to all the news, scientific studies and pundit theories as to all the ways we won’t make it as a species, I can see how this generation may be feeling a tad bit more anxious. It’s the hyper-awareness of all the things that may do us in (or at least, severely cramp our lifestyle) that seems to be causing massive pharmaceutical industry profits in chemically treating our collective malaise. So, it seems that anxiety due to uncertainty is more a function of how many things we know about could go wrong rather than the going wrong itself. From this perspective ignorance is truly bliss, until you are taken out by something you ducked your head in the sand about.

Different circumstances, different kinds of uncertainty

In my previous career I made a lot of money. And, I remember often thinking “Why do people stress out so much about money?” Did having a lot of money eliminate my uncertainty, hardly. Uncertainty is like a water bed, you push it down in one corner and it will pop up someplace else. There is simply no escaping it. The desire to escape it however can be overwhelming and in some cases cause us to do really stupid and sometimes incredibly damaging things. Dictators attempt to eliminate uncertainty by oppression and removal of all threats by any means they deem necessary. Wall Street attempts to eliminate uncertainty by rigging the game in their favor as evidenced by the recent scandal of major banks manipulating the currency markets. An even more interesting twist is how ideologies, whether political or religious, seek to eliminate uncertainty by showing zero tolerance for any individual or group that does not agree with their point of view.

A fear ignored is far worse than one faced head on.

Perhaps one of the more rational approaches to dealing with uncertainty is insurance. While it doesn’t eliminate uncertainty, it can mitigate its impact. Yet all of this begs the question as to why is uncertainty so universally reviled by our species? I personally think it boils down to one simple thing: survival. When you don’t know what’s coming, or worse, you think you know what’s coming but feel powerless to stop it, there is this deep sense of impending doom that can ruin your day. And, we are hard wired to avoid that at all costs.

How to re-wire our response to uncertainty

Fortunately for all of us, we have a free will (at least I’m sort of certain about that). And that means we have the ability to consciously “re-wire” our response to uncertainty. The best way I’ve found to do this is to:

  1. Face the fear of uncertainty – uncertainty gets the best of us when we try to pretend it’s not there. A fear ignored is far worse than one faced head on. Acknowledging it fully is the first step.
  2. Get skilled in being present – uncertainty is all about the future and therefore cannot touch you if you are fully in the present moment. While it is not practical to live in the moment all the time, knowing how to put yourself there quickly when the ugly head of anxiety shows itself will go a long way to help you conquer the hold uncertainty has over you. In this Age of Distraction, learning to be in the moment is one of the most important skills you can acquire.
  3. See uncertainty as the threshold to possibility – I can honestly say that the best things in my life came about as a result of embracing uncertainty and jumping head first into the abyss of the unknown. How different would your life be if you viewed uncertainty as a powerful force for incredibly good things in your life, and not just a sign of danger?

Uncertainty is always going to be with us, no matter what our circumstances. Fortunately we all have a choice on how to respond to it. Popping pills or using distractions to hide from it is one way. The other is fully embracing it and seeing what kind of adventure it will take you on. Not really much of a choice, is it?

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MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150About the Author

Michael 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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Joe Bernstein – Drop the Armor

Category: Interviews, Men and Health 

by Boysen Hodgson

How is your health working? Do you have a layer of armor that you’ve put on to protect you from feeling and living the life you want to live?

Did it start out as protection and comfort and turn into a numbing cushion around your passion and vibrancy?

This is the work that Joe Bernstein has been doing for himself and coaching others on for the last several years. He was one of those men, like many of us, who took his health … in all its dimensions … for granted. Joe got a wakeup call in his life and took action to create something new. This is an interview I did with Joe to talk about his work and learn more.

You can check him out at: http://www.dropthearmor.com/

 

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The One Thing That Stops Most People from Achieving the Life They Want

Category: Men and Mission 

Feeling stuck is an inside job; here’s the one thing you can do to break free to achieve the life of your dreams.

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

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I was at a startup mixer the other evening and ran into someone I hadn’t seen in 20 years. After the requisite exchange of catch-up pleasantries, this very dynamic and intelligent woman shared how she wanted to be a professional speaker. She’s written books, given free presentations and crafted all sorts of very topical speeches, yet she was frustrated that no one had hired her yet. When I asked how many meeting planners she had contacted, her face took on this rather sheepish look as she responded with one word: “None.” It was at that moment that I realized here was yet another person who has fallen prey to what I call the “I don’t want to risk losing my dream!” syndrome. Which, ironically, kills more dreams than anything else…

Holding On to the Dream, Avoiding the Reality

I like to observe people of all kinds and wonder what motivates them and why. One of the most prevalent behaviors I’ve seen over the years is a tendency of people to hold on to their dreams by not pursuing them. As strange as this may sound it makes perfect sense at a certain level. You see, we all have rational minds, which simply means we are highly gifted at rationalizing anything. And the rationalization here is that if I pursue my dream and don’t make it, I have nothing. But if I just hold on to the dream then someday it just may happen. It’s kind of like waiting for Prince Charming. Well, like all fairy tales, this thinking is just that; a fairy tale.

I suspect that what my friend was really afraid of was getting on the phone and receiving a “No”, which will almost certainly happen. And to her that “no” would represent the end of her dream and she would then find herself floating in that awful void of “Now what? I’ve just lost my purpose in life!!” An existential angst if there ever was one. Until she is willing to risk the potential misery of uncertainty that comes with continually making those calls, she will stay stuck in the certainty of her misery of never reaching her dream.

But at least she knows what she wants. There are people who are afraid to dream about what they really want for fear they may never achieve it. Imagine going through life (as many do) fearful of even being clear about what you want from life, because if you were and didn’t achieve it, well… that would be a catastrophe! Let me tell you what is even more catastrophic, never having a chance at a fulfilling life because you were afraid of even defining what that was.

Life Is Not a Spectator Sport

You’ve got to be on the playing field if you expect to have any chance at winning. Okay, I really, really tried to avoid sports metaphors but this one just fits so well. Action and movement of any kind is better than just hoping. Will you make mistakes? Count on it, we all do –welcome to the human race. Will you learn from them? Hopefully, and the key to doing so successfully is to: a) not take anything too personally, and b) realize that even if you fail to achieve what you set out to do you may end up with something even greater that wasn’t on your radar. But doing nothing guarantees you end up with nothing except the self-induced suffering of knowing you could of at least tried.

I recently heard an NPR interview of Academy Award Nominee Mark Ruffalo. Like most successful actors he struggled for years prior to seeing real success and recognition for his talents. He shared how he had done over 800 casting call readings before being picked for a real part in a movie which ended up launching his career. He told how the first director that hired him asked where he had been all these years, as if his incredible talent just appeared out of nowhere. Mark replied by saying “Where have I been?! Where have you been? I’ve read for you many times before.”

The Time to Start is Now

Procrastination is just another rationalization that never serves you. Jump in now, even if you feel you are not ready, and you’re not, but do it anyway. Learn from what happens, then do it again. Repeat as necessary. Along the way you may find your original dream may not be what it was cracked up to be, but that’s okay. Because in the process of doing with balls-out commitment, you are already living full out. And you provide yourself the best possible chance of achieving what your heart desires.

You do this for yourself, something magnificent will eventually happen. It may or may not be what you first hoped it would be, but I guarantee it will be extraordinary.

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MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150About the Author

Michael 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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Five Essential Skills for a Life Well-Lived

Category: Men and Mission 

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

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As far as any of us know we only get one go-around in this thing called life. There are no do-overs once we pass on. Yet, even with this common knowledge most people struggle to make the most of the time they have here on this planet. A big part of the problem lies with the cultural myth that our external circumstances determine whether we have a well-lived life or not. If that were the case why do so many beautiful, rich, intelligent people end up miserable? Or worse, cause an untimely end to what so many others would regard as the penultimate dream?

At my tender age of 63 I’ve done a lot of living, doing, making incredible mistakes and also hitting levels of “success” that others envied. However, none of that ultimately mattered until I learned that a well-lived life is an inside job and has nothing to do with circumstances, abilities or luck. In looking back on my rather circuitous journey I realized that there were essential skills that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon along the way that allow me to enjoy my current well-lived and highly fulfilling life.

I share what I’ve learned below not because “I know”, but in the spirit that maybe you might find something useful, that really resonates with you. I hope that is the case…

  1. Be Fully Present – for me, this is the most important skill of all without which the others are much more difficult, or even impossible, to achieve. Being fully present means having the discipline to ignore everything else that vies for our attention to focus fully on the here and now. In our culture where distraction is the drug of choice, this can be difficult to master (I’m still am and always will be working on this). The best way to start is when you are with other people, especially your significant other. When with them just pretend to be an observer watching the entire interaction without judgement or thought –just observe. With a bit of practice you will find that being the “Observer” and being fully present are one and the same and eventually you won’t need to pretend.
  2. Be Open Hearted – this simply means being willing to remove all of the “armor” life put in place to “protect” us. Well, I’ve learned that the heart needs no protection (the ego however seems to need it desperately). And until we are willing to drop that chainmail surrounding it and be vulnerable we will never fully feel life in all its pain and glory. Pain is part of this life experience, that’s just the way it is. Suffering however is optional and happens when we fight the “what is” of our circumstances (a form of shut down) or put up walls around our heart.
  3. Embrace Uncertainty – certainty is an illusion. Yet we all strive for it thanks to our ancient survival instincts developed during a time where being uncertain meant you may be part of the food chain. I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t like the feeling of uncertainty –in fact, it can cause me a great deal of anxiety. However, I have also learned that when we accept and even embrace uncertainty it is often the doorway to breakthrough and positive circumstances that were not even on our radar.
  4. Treat Everything as an Adventure – though not a surfer, I tend to see life as a series of waves. There are awesome waves that will give you the ride of your life and gnarly ones that will pound you into the rocks, and of course everything in between. I’ve learned the hard way that ignoring them, or worse, fighting them simply doesn’t work. Instead I now strive to ride them as best as possible, knowing that whether they are thrilling or decimating, they will always eventually pass to allow yet another one come my way. So instead of seeing any circumstance as either “good” or “bad”, consider renaming it simply as an “adventure”. It’s a lot more fun and creates a life filled with possibilities you may never have imagined.
  5. Be Clear About What You Want – if you are not clear about what you want out of life don’t complain about what you get. I’ve discovered that the more focus and intention I put on what I want the more likely I will eventually have them realized. This certainly happened with finding my Life Partner, which I chock up to my Dream Woman Project I put together a year before we met (which by the way, she matches to a “T”). I also created a Lifestyle Vision Board that visually depicts how I want my lifestyle to be –much of which I have achieved already.

Is a life well-lived a “perfect” life? Personally, I don’t think there is such a thing. On the other hand I find a life well-lived to be the most fulfilling one I can imagine –and that is plenty good enough for me.

– – –

MichaelJRusser_TEDx_150x150About the Author

Michael 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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Thank You to All the Women in My Life

Category: Men and Relationship 

160314_Thank_Women_MOD

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

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Here’s how all the women in my life have helped shape me to become the man I am today…

March 8th was International Women’s Day and a reminder to me of the incalculable positive influence women have on our world. I can honestly say that the best of who I am as a man and how I show up today is primarily thanks to all the women in my life. They taught me joy, compassion, appreciation for beauty, quiet strength in the face of adversity and the value of nurturing others and allowing myself to be nurtured. They taught me how to reign in my ego while allowing my heart to shine through and live fully self-expressed both in playfulness and as a lover. Overall, I’ve learned from them how to be a much better human being and for that I will be forever grateful.

Mother, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Friend, Life Partner

I was raised in a highly patriarchal very strict German-Catholic family which my Dad ruled with an iron fist. I never really knew my Mom because by the time I was born as the second youngest of 10 children, she had pretty much checked out, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet I know from stories I’ve heard about her younger days that she was a high-energy, vivacious, creative and sophisticated woman. Though she didn’t exhibit such qualities when I was old enough to be aware of them, I somehow knew, even at a young age, that deep down she had them. It is because of her that I have always sought out strong women as life partners. Women who I love and admire as equals. For that and the limited amount of love and nurturing she was able to muster for me, I will always be thankful.

I have four fiercely independent, creative and wonderful sisters, the oldest of which has passed on. Despite being treated as second-class citizens to be seen and appreciated but not heard, they have all emerged as incredible human beings. Each of them has made an indelible impact on my life and through their struggles helped me appreciate the challenges all women still face in our society.

My oldest child and adult daughter changed my life for the better the moment she was born. When she was growing up she taught me the utter joy of what it meant to be a father to a most amazing little human being. As an adult she is my “buddy” and mutual confidant with whom I’m as comfortable with as any friend in my life, male or female. And to this day I continue to be in wonderment as I witness her continual blossoming into a highly conscious, thoughtful, confident and compassionate human being who can be just as playful now as she was as a kid.

I have several heroes I look up to, both men and women. However, if you were to ask me who my biggest hero was within my family, I wouldn’t hesitate to respond with my Aunt Ruth who just recently passed away at the tender age of 95. I remember visiting her about five years ago just after she turned 90. She still drove, cut her own lawn and had a mind as sharp as any 30-year-old. Yet what I admired about her the most was her positive “can do!” spirit in everything she did. And she was not afraid to do or say what needed to be done or said. She was a force of nature amply expressed both in physical form and her spirit. She was so formidable that I would actually feel a bit sorry for any muggers that were foolish enough to attempt to roll her in a dark ally. Even after her passing she continues to inspire me.

I consider myself to be a very wealthy man with so many strong, resilient female friends that have helped me through some of my toughest times. Friends who stuck with me when everyone else bailed during my life transformation that happened almost five years ago. Friends that were always ready with a shoulder, encouraging word and a smile on their face no matter how down or distraught I was at times. Friends who don’t hesitate to tell me like it is even if it is hard, sometimes very hard, to hear the truth. Friends who continue to remind me of the good I can bring to this world.

I am extremely fortunate to have had two incredible Mate with whom I have shared my life. My ex-wife of 26 years could not have been a better mother to our children for which I will always be appreciative and grateful. As with having enough faith in me to see through two major career changes that took nerves of steel and miles of confidence given our young, growing family at the time. She is also the first to help me open my heart.

My current Life Partner is truly a gift from the Universe. If you have read any of my other work, you may be familiar with the story of how we met under the most unusual and trying of circumstances. She is my Life Mate, Life Partner, confidant, inspiration, Muse, fellow adventurer, Warrior Princess and most beautiful sensual Lover ever. She and I continue to evolve and grow in every way because of the space we create for each other. Because of her, we experience levels of extraordinary emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that continues to boggle my mind. Intimacy that only gets better, deeper and richer with time. While others may have cracked my heart open just a notch, she has helped me fling it wide open for the world to see. Even after being together for nearly four years, I feel I barely know her. Her sense of Presence is so strong that I continue to have new glimpses of the nearly infinite expanse that is her beneath the surface of common labels most couples assign to each other. She, more than anyone else I have ever met, is a constant reminder that *anything* is possible. Despite the fact that I currently have two cancers and live with more perceived uncertainty than I’ve ever felt before, I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone else on the planet. Thank you with all my Heart and Soul for agreeing to be on this journey with me Sweetie…

Take a Moment

I hope this has inspired you to acknowledge and thank the women in your life that have helped shape you into the best of who you are. And to acknowledge the absolutely crucial part women play in our society, culture and humanity. Every bit the equal to men. It’s interesting to note that some of the most desperate, strife-torn, brutal and underdeveloped regions of the world maintain cultures that systemically oppress women. To me that says our world needs both men and women –on equal footing in all areas. We are all human beings that happen to be assigned one gender or the other. To assume that one is more important than the other is not only uninformed, it is increasingly dangerous to the very survival of our species.

We need strong, resilient, compassionate and independent women more now than ever. Let’s make this most recent anniversary of International Women’s day serve as that reminder.

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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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Spice Up Your Relationship with a Blind Date

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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My partner and I wanted to do something different and adventurous for Valentine’s Day. So she had this idea about us going on a “blind date”. Where we would meet at a restaurant and bar as if being set up by our mutual friend “Bill”. The idea was to stay totally in character (i.e. as if we had just met) throughout the entire meeting and dinner. And what came out of this exercise was not only surprising, it certainly spiced up the rest of our evening during the “debrief” phase.

Getting Lost at the Bar

We decided that we would “meet” in the bar lounge area of the restaurant, one that overlooked the entire city of Santa Barbara where we live (very romantic I must say.) I actually saw her arrive and go into the lounge area, and what I thought was the ladies room. So I picked a nice spot on one of the couches near the fire place as I waited for her to come out. And I waited, and waited. Then I started thinking: “What the hell happened? Where did she go?”

So I got up and walked around until I found her actually sitting at the bar, looking very sexy as she sipped her glass of Chardonnay. As I walked up to her I was thinking how typical this must be in other blind date situations –the awkward initial trying to spot each other before formal introductions.

“Excuse me, are you Jacky?”

Once it became clear that I was her blind date, we shook hands and retired back to the couch as we waited for our table. Now we were firmly in the “let’s get to know a little more about each other” phase. You know how it goes, a certain measured charm, a sly look here, a subtle grin there. I didn’t want to come off as being too anxious or make it blatantly obvious that I thought she was absolutely gorgeous and whip smart. Likewise, while being relatively animated and engaging, she didn’t immediately let on that she thought I was quite charming with a good sense of humor.

My God, we really got into our roles as we started “learning” more about each other through questions and observation. Without question, as most couples experience in this kind of initial pairing, we both put on subtle airs and just a bit of pretense. Which is so weird to experience given that our real relationship has neither. So in some ways it was like an out-of-body experience (at least for me) as I observed our interaction. I actually found myself wondering if she felt I was passing muster as someone “interesting”.

Being a Real Klutz in a Pretend Situation

After about thirty minutes of pleasantries on the coach our table was ready. As we stood up I almost knocked her drink into her dress. I felt so embarrassed, actually much more so than if we weren’t in character. Apparently, there was a part of me that totally believed we were meeting for the first time and worried what a lousy first impression I must have made with my clumsiness.

Dinner was incredible. The food, ambiance and spectacular views. We both drank it all in as we continued to relax a bit and reveal just a bit more of our vulnerable true selves as we took our time eating. Even our conversation became a bit more playful as we let our guards down just a bit. Clearly, this “blind date” seemed to be going in the right direction for both of us.

After we finished dinner we walked hand-in-hand (she really let her guard down I must say) around the beautiful property surrounding the restaurant. Eventually however, our “date” had to come to an end and we went our separate ways (we each drove there) after saying how much we enjoyed the evening.

The Debrief

Of course the “going our separate ways” thing didn’t last very long as she drove over to my place where we debriefed and shared our experience with each other. Here are some of the things we discovered from our little experiment:

  • Staying in character was surprisingly easy. We both really got into it without a hint of a snicker or knowing wink that would have broken the spell. It was if we were in a play-–very cool to experience.
  • We received a fresh perspective of each other. Since we didn’t meet this way in reality and our courtship started out as strictly friends first, we had never experienced that “aha” moment that comes with a fixed “date” situation. We were both able to observe the other on how genuine and engaging (or not) we would have been if we met within this kind of context.
  • My partner confessed that she spent extra time picking out the right dress and spending a couple of hours at the beauty salon. She pointed out that she actually enjoyed a great deal preparing for our ‘meeting’ and broke the routine of thinking ‘why bother, it’s just him’. It did actually push her to do something she doesn’t do regularly and enjoyed the experience of looking beautiful for the ‘blind date’.

Interestingly, it also gave each of us a whole new appreciation and respect for the other. Think about this for a moment. This experiment could have actually gone sideways. What if one of us really didn’t like the way the other was coming off (something I actually considered.) It could have tainted our real relationship. Instead, we seemed to have developed an even deep bond, respect and attraction for each other.

My partner and I have a relationship based upon mutual authenticity, respect, trust and a great sense of adventure. And as with any adventure there is risk, but with this risk is the reward of a far richer relationship that is anything but stale. So next time you feel you and your significant other may have fallen into a boring routine, spice it up a bit and go on a “blind date”. In addition to opening your eyes, it will open your heart as well.

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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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Slow Way, Way Down for Extraordinary Intimacy

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

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As I write this I’m sitting in an airport on my way to give a TEDx talk titled: Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shutdown World. One of the central themes of my talk is how, as a fully impotent prostate cancer survivor, I have slowed way, way down for my female partner and what doors to truly extraordinary intimacy that opened as a result. Incidentally, if I hadn’t been struck impotent I don’t think I would have ever discovered the power of this one simple approach to intimacy. One that has changed forever my view and experience of what is possible between two people.

Men and women are, well,…different

Aside from the obvious, I’ve observed significant differences between the way men and women express and desire intimacy (in general). From a purely evolutionary standpoint, males are “wired” to spread their seed as far and often as possible. This is part of the reason why most of us are “ready” so quickly and have a sense of urgency to get down to business when we get hard. It is also, I believe, the reason why many male brains scream “harder, faster!” when we sense our partner is near climax.
Thanks to my impotence I no longer have that sense of urgency and being fully present for my partner has helped me quiet that voice in my head that tells me to be more intense as things heat up. Both of these allow me to slow way, way down for her and please her in the way *she* wants. This of course ends up being its own considerable reward.

What women seem to want, intimately speaking, often changes with their age. During early child-bearing years, fast and furious (i.e. ripping each other clothes off) can be very exciting and frequent. As women mature their need and response to that kind of physical intimacy will often shift towards a gentler and slower approach, requiring more time to warm up and focus on emotional connection / intimacy. This also means that many women look to other ways of expressing physical intimacy besides intercourse as they experience pre- and post-menopause. This last fact can be particularly difficult for men to accept or acknowledge given how we are so exquisitely designed for that particular act.

No wonder guys get confused

A recent British University study showed that about 87% of all women vocalize (i.e. “moan”) during intercourse primarily to boost their man’s self-esteem and speed things up, as in “Let’s get this over with.” vs. “Oh, I LOVE it when you pound me like a jackhammer!” Unfortunately, most women are reticent to share with their lover how and what they *really* like with respect to physical intimacy. This is mostly out of fear of abandonment and/or hurting their partner’s feelings. This creates disconnect and considerable misconception as to the reality of the kinds of intimacy they prefer.

Ways of warming her up and slowing yourself down

What I’m about to share is what my partner and I do almost every time and results in lovemaking sessions that last 2 – 4 hours or more. Every woman will have her own preferences of course, I’m just sharing what works for us:

  • Nurturing Shower – we start by taking turns scrubbing each other down with a luffa, primarily as a way to start getting relaxed and very present for our intimate session. And for what it’s worth, I *always* focus on her first.
  • Stress Relieving Massage – we give each other full-body deep-tissue massages using a high-quality grape seed oil (which is awesome for the skin). My partner never hesitates to tell me which part of her body requires the most attention and I massage her accordingly and of course she reciprocates after I’m done.
  • Intimate Touching – this can start with just a light caress of my fingertips along skin and very gentle kissing on the lips as well as other parts of her body.

At this point she is typically very ready for more overt sexual stimulation, which for us is primarily oral given that my impotence precludes my ability to penetrate. More importantly however, she finds that when I stimulate her orally *very slowly* and in tune (i.e. being fully present) with her body it allows her to reach and stay at her full potential of intimate experience over extended periods of time (my tongue never gets tired J). It is important to note here that even if I wasn’t impotent, knowing what I know now, I would still approach our intimacy in the exact same way and hold off on any penetrative activity (and my own climax) until she was completely satisfied.

I have to say that I have never approached lovemaking like this before. Her prolonged response to this is so powerful that it has become my greatest reward. My own orgasms have *never* been so intense or long lasting as they are now (thanks, ironically to my impotence). However, my experience of them pales in comparison to the fulfillment I receive by giving to her in the way she wants.

Slowing down doesn’t lessen any of the fun or expression of physical intimacy, it just serves to prolong and intensify it for both parties. And once you go down this path, it is likely you and your partner will discover worlds of intimacy you may never even imagined possible.

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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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Becoming a New Warrior Helped Me Find Music Again – by Jim Donovan

Sun-King-Warriors-Liveby Jim Donovan

On my way home from Bedford, Indiana, I knew life would never be the same. I had just completed my NWTA Weekend and was making the eight hour drive from southern Indiana to Pittsburgh feeling elated, exhausted and WIDE OPEN. I had just undergone a profound inner transformation that had yet to settle in. It was on this drive that music unexpectedly reappeared after a decade-long absence.

I had spent the previous five years floundering and grieving my old career as a member of a band that had some success called Rusted Root. We had a song called “Send Me On My Way” that you may have heard on the soundtrack to the movie Ice Age or on the most recent Enterprise car commercials. In 2005, I had decided to put creating music aside and leave the group to raise my three young kids with my wife Tracey and have a “normal” family life (whatever that is…).

The problem was that though my family life was rich, and though I had a great new job as a professor, I felt lost. Just the thought of writing songs felt painful and unappealing. In Rusted Root, I felt a sense of purpose and relished my identity as a touring musician. Without the band in my life, that illusory sense of self evaporated and left a hole. I had no idea who I was, nor how to find out. In my incompleteness, I isolated myself and ran to things like overeating and overworking trying to fill the gap that often manifested as depression. Nothing did anything but make me feel sick and ashamed.

Between 2005 and 2010, three of my friends, Harry Pepper, Bryan Fazio and PJ Roduta encouraged me to join them for a NWTA weekend. Each time they mentioned it I would say, “Oh yea, that sounds cool, maybe someday.” In the back of mind, I knew I had no intention of going because I really didn’t feel I needed it. “Those programs are just for men who can’t get their shit together… and mine is definitely together.” I would say to myself. In truth, I was far from “together” and though I couldn’t admit it at the time, and though I made my external life look like everything was ok, I felt broken inside.

Additionally, I was terrified being with a group of men I did not know. Like many men, I had plenty of negative experiences with low integrity men throughout my life. The last thing I felt like doing was to deliberately put myself in that situation.

But Harry, Bryan and PJ kept asking without being coercive or pushy. They just invited me to join them on a weekend every so often. Instinctively, I knew that these guys would not put me in a situation where I was at risk of harm and after five years of patient invitations, I finally said yes. While I will not divulge the details of my personal experience during the weekend, I can say that I still carry the powerful memories of it within me daily. I can still clearly remember faces of the men, most of whom I did not know, helping me through challenges that weekend with tremendous compassion and wide open hearts. There I created lifelong bonds and many good people who I still spend time with. I did not anticipate the impact nor how lasting this experience would be. Much to my surprise, the NWTA weekend continues to mark the most significant leap in personal growth I have had so far in this lifetime.

But how did the weekend help me find music again?

On my way home, I cried often. It appeared as though an old wall inside me had crumbled and through it came waves of old emotion leaving my body through the tears. As each wave moved through and out, I began to feel comfortably empty in my belly but full in my heart. As it often happens on long drives, I started thinking about my family, especially my little boy Oliver. I wondered if he would ever experience his own weekend and if I would be there to support him? Then a thought occurred to me to create a kind of “map” for him. One that he wouldn’t be able to understand until he was a man. I knew this map had to have meaning layered within it that would only be triggered after going through a “dark night of the soul”.

The moment I had this thought, words began to appear in my mind… “One little king, he kicked up his puzzle and the pieces blew into the wind”. Then the next line came; “He had one big dream, to pick up the pieces and see his picture again.” During the following two hours, the entire “map” appeared in the form of the first song I had written since the late 90’s called “Can’t Stop Falling” which you can hear at the link below.

This song became the seed for a new album and band called the Sun King Warriors. This project is one I had always dreamed of doing and didn’t because I didn’t feel good enough. On my weekend, I encountered some of the reasons for that outdated thought and learned to replace it with self talk that serves me better. I use the affirmation: “As a man among men, I am good enough.”

I still fantasize about the day Oliver hears this song decades from now and “gets” the message from his old dad. In my mind, I see him driving down the road pondering a struggle he is having. To get his mind off of his trouble, he turns on some music and Dad’s words are there for him.

“One day, he was grown. With his feet on the ground he stared right into the sun. And his hands are strong. He digs through the mud to reveal the treasure below.”

Through I can’t be sure that will ever happen, it still makes me smile imagining it.

I remain eternally grateful to Mankind Project, then men who support it and all of my brothers for helping me find music again. You helped me bring a lifelong dream of releasing my own music to the world and connecting it with service to the greater good. One way the band and I do that is by telling everyone about MKP.

You can read more about our mission and hear the music at the links below.

And if you want to know what the New Warrior Training Adventure can make a man feel … listen to March of the Sun King Warriors below.

Blessings.

Listen: http://www.SunKingWarriors.com

Facebook: Sun King Warriors

Jim Donovan

Jim Donovan M.Ed. is a multi-platinum musician and educator whose mission is to empower, inspire and connect people through music. He leads the rootsy rhythmic rock group Sun King Warriors, is the author of “Drum Circle Leadership : How to Create Your Own Transformational Drum Circles” and is an Assistant Professor of Music at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa. He regularly trains professionals who work with people with autism and those who work in addiction recovery to use interactive music making to relieve anxiety, strengthen social bonds and empower creative expression. From 1990-2005, Donovan was a founding member of the 90’s band Rusted Root.

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Don’t Quit – a Message from Dad

taplerboyby Gregory Tapler

My son is at an age where he likes to (and actually can) play organized sports. We decided to move him towards basketball for a number of reasons and he seems to be enjoying it very much. He’s an only child and when he’s at home playing, he commentates his own games. He changes teams, players and keeps score. It’s really enjoyable as a father to listen to his creativity and spirit.

When he plays, he has this competitive spirit about him – not with the other players, so much; more with himself. He often puts himself into a situation when the clock is counting down and he ends up taking (and making) the final shot to win the game. Every boy’s dream, I guess (or at least it’s his).

Recently his team played a game – complete with a scoreboard and buzzer. I, as a helping-out kind of dad, at times end up playing with the kids (it helps to have an adult on each team at this age). This particular day I was assigned to my son’s team. Cool.

We started playing – running up and down the court. Running with the ball. Dribbling on occasion. Falling down. All the good things a young basketball team does. I think the score was 4 – 2. We were down. My son ended up with the ball. As the time began to run out, the kids on the sidelines started counting down – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6…

The look on my son’s face was priceless. He found himself in the very situation he’s been imagining at home. He was very well aware of the score and knew he needed to make it to tie the game. He approached the basket and prepared for the shot. What he didn’t anticipate was the defender who wanted nothing to do with him scoring. He pressed him. He reached for the ball. He knocked him around. I watched as my son grew frustrated, scared and worried. I watched as his anxiety grew while he heard the other boys and girls count – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….baaahhhhh. No score. Time’s up. Game over.

He immediately started crying. He walked down the court to where I was and, through his frustration, hit me. He was that upset.

I instantly remembered being a boy, finding myself in similar situations and having the adults in my life say things like ‘don’t cry’, ‘stop being a baby’, ‘just suck it up’, ‘you don’t have anything to cry about’. I’ve been down some roads, learning some things along the way. I knew that was not the way to approach this situation. It was time to try something different.

I knelt down to him and told him to look at me. I told him I understand how he would be frustrated. I reminded him not to hit and told him I watched him try really hard and sometimes we just don’t make that shot. He was done. He wanted out. He wanted to walk away and who knows really? He probably just wanted to get out of there and forget about what happened.

We had another game to play. I told him I wanted him to play – if for any reason, to not give up and not walk away. He said no. I said yes. We went back and forth for a bit and through some miracle (or maybe because he was just doing what his dad said), he stayed on the court.

The next game began. He reminded me how he wanted to leave and I reminded him how he was going to play. I passed him the ball. He started dribbling down the court, tears and all. He passed it to one of his teammates and they shortly turned it over. He made one last plea to leave the court. I said no – you’re playing this game.

angryNow I’m not sure if it was a combination of him being mad at me or still being frustrated at that defender or simply his inner voice telling him ‘you got this’. Whatever it was, he grabbed the ball, started dribbling down the court, found a lane and with a look of pure determination took that lane, stopped in front of the basket, took the shot and made two points. His smile said it all.

From then he seemed to forget the disappointment of his missed opportunity and again started to enjoy the game.

I do know being a boy at his age is difficult. It’s hard for him to understand the emotions he’s experiencing. All I could do as a parent is watch, listen and suggest. I’m not going to take credit for anything that happened to him through this experience except maybe telling him to not quit and not walk away.

His experience, his emotions, his take-away is his alone. I’m not clear on what he processed and what, if anything, he actually learned. I do know, however, being his father and being witness to what I’ll call his growth in emotional maturity, was priceless.

In this world of tough competition, good sportsmanship and teaming, I was reminded the toughest battles are the ones we fight with ourselves. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to support my son through one of his.

Greg Tapler

Greg is the author of “Dad 101“, an on-going meditation on developing a conscious and compassionate approach to parenting. His experience as a father and dedicated husband, long-time member of the ManKind Project, and extraordinary passion for helping others informs his moving stories and profound personal insights into the most important of all duties – raising our children. If you acknowledge the significance of mindful parenting and care to expand your experience, give him a moment of your time; it’ll be worth it.

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To Be A Man – an interview with Robert Augustus Masters

by Boysen Hodgson

bk04103-to-be-a-man-published-cover_1Bill Kauth, the co-creator of the New Warrior Training Adventure and co-founder of the ManKind Project sent me Robert Augustus Master’s book “To Be a Man” early in 2015, signed with an inscription:

“For Boysen: If, after 30 years, I was to write a book, this would be it! Enjoy – Love Bill”

Reading the book, it’s clear why Bill would speak so highly of it. Men’s work has evolved and deepened over the last 40 years – and Robert Masters clearly has a handle on the rich history and the continuing evolution of what’s possible for men.

In the fall of 2015, the ManKind Project USA produced the Conscious Men Summit with Arjuna Ardagh and John Gray, and I had the huge good luck to host one of the sessions, “He Knows How to Love Deeply,” with John, Arjuna, Gay Hendricks, and Robert Masters. And I was impressed by Masters’ presence and wisdom on the call. So when Sounds True Media invited MKP USA to connect with Robert again, I didn’t hesitate.

I had the opportunity to speak with Masters on Skype about his work. In this conversation, we talk about deep process, about discovering shadow, anger and aggression, about helping men connect to their bodies to unlock their bigger potential. We talk about homophobia, pornography, and dying. We covered a lot in 30 minutes. Watch the video below – and get your copy of the book. Your purchase from Sounds True will help a fantastic content producer, and support the ManKind Project USA.

Who is this book for?

If you’ve been saying …

I’ve got it all—a great job, relationship, and lifestyle—so why do I feel so dissatisfied and disconnected?

Why am I not happier in my intimate relationships?

How do I become more powerful—without becoming that jerk everyone dislikes?

Robert Augustus Masters has clearly tackled some of these questions. What he’s found is that the common solution to these dilemmas is challenging yet clear: we must face our unresolved wounds, shame, and whatever else is holding us back, bringing “our head, heart, and guts into full-blooded alignment.”

With To Be a Man, this acclaimed psychotherapist and relationship expert offers a groundbreaking and deeply insightful guide to masculine power and fulfillment. To Be a Man clarifies what’s needed to enter a manhood as strongly empowered as it’s vulnerable, as emotionally literate as it’s unapologetically alive—a manhood at home with truly intimate relationship.

In this book, you’ll find:
• How your past may be dominating your present
• Shame in its healthy and unhealthy forms, and how to make wise use of it
• How vulnerability can be a source of strength
• Emotional literacy—an essential skill for relational well-being
• Releasing sex from the obligation to make you feel better
• How to disempower your inner critic
• Bringing your shadow (whatever you’ve disowned in yourself) out of the dark
• Embodying your natural heroism and persisting regardless of fear
• What women need from men
• Understanding and outgrowing pornography
• Entering the heartland of true masculine power

If you’ve read your share of popular advice on relationships and being a man—but realize on a gut level that it’s going to take some serious inner work—here’s a great guide to that most rewarding of challenges: doing what’s needed to fully embody your authentic manhood.

Get a broader taste from Robert’s Podcasts at Sounds True:
True Masculine Power
Emotional Intimacy, Part 1
Emotional Intimacy, Part 2

Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson is the Communications and Marketing Director for the ManKind Project USA, a nonprofit mentoring and training organization that offers powerful opportunities for men’s personal growth at any stage of life. Boysen is the author of “The New Macho,” a credo for the mature masculine that has now been shared over 50,000 times in social media and published in numerous blogs, magazines and books. His mission is to transform culture by designing change and building bridges. He is an adoptive father and a dedicated husband. Boysen completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in April 2004 and has been working with men ever since.

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“Wifely Duty” and Why So Many Married Women Eventually Prefer No Sex

Category: Men and Relationship 

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

– – –

Guys, I have bad news for you. You know the joke “If you want to have sex, don’t get married!”? Well, it’s largely true. And it gets worse. According to an analysis of U.S. Census data, 36% of women living with a same-sex romantic partner in their 40s had been married to a man at some point; among women in their 50s living with another woman, over 50% had left straight married life behind; this percentage jumps to 75% for those age 60 or older. My take? As women age their needs for intimacy shift so dramatically that some actually switch teams just to find it.

Now the good news is (yes, there is actually good news here) that you and your partner don’t have to suffer this fate. In fact, it is very possible to have your intimate life become better as you mature and grow older together. And the purpose of this post is to share how that can be and to avoid the eventuality of an essentially sexless relationship.

I Can Take it or Leave It

“To be honest, I can take or leave sex, and mostly I’d rather leave it.” That’s a quote from the CBS News Correspondent Lee Woodruff in her Ladies Home Journal article “Let’s Talk About Sex (and Why I’d Rather Just Go to Sleep)”. In a video interview with CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook she also shares how her husband of 25 years Bob Woodruff (also a media journalist), like most men, is ready for action nearly all the time. And sometimes she gives in to perform her “wifely duty”. I hope my partner and I never start seeing intimacy as a chore or duty (and yes, men can feel that way too.)

There’s an old expression about couples who get married: The woman hopes her man will change over time and the man hopes his wife never changes and they both end up disappointed. This was certainly the case with my first marriage and based upon conversations I’ve had with others, this is a very common theme.

It’s All in How We Are Wired

The way men and women are in the bedroom is greatly impacted by both biological and cultural “wiring” or imprinting as it were –primarily for procreation purposes. In terms of making babies, our wiring is perfect. However, it seems to me that most of us have evolved beyond the imperative to use sex as an exclusively procreative process to an attempt to connect deeply with another human being. It is the conflict between seeking deep connection and the hard-wired imperative for procreation that causes many of the problems that occur for committed couples, especially as they mature together over time. In my discussions with many couples I’ve made some observations as to why this is.

How Women’s Preferences for Intimacy Changes Over Time

In the early years of a relationship, that most efficient of procreative acts, intercourse, is very exciting and pleasurable to both the man and woman. Most women during their child-bearing years are deeply impacted by the “urge” for traditional coupling (i.e. intercourse) whether or not they want to have children. And in fact, during this phase may actually prefer intercourse over most other forms of physical intimacy. As women mature beyond this period however, their intimate preferences begin to change. Emotional and non-sexual forms of physical intimacy become far more important. Intercourse becomes less attractive to them (or even painful) and many begin to prefer other forms of physical intimacy and often require a much longer time to “warm up” before being ready to climax. The “quickie” appeals less to them. Many at this stage are also at some level concerned that their man will find them less attractive and have fears of being replaced by a “newer model”.

Meanwhile, most men prefer to have the penetrative sex they always enjoyed, no matter how old he and his partner become. And this is where the breakdown starts happening. Women too often are afraid to share with their mate what *really* works and doesn’t work for them out of fear they may hurt their partner’s feelings or he may become so angry he will leave her. So her guy remains absolutely clueless, disappointed and frustrated as to why his Honey just doesn’t seem interested any more (are you listening Bob?)

You can see where this is going; a very sad direction that is taken by too many mature relationships. Once the divide reaches a certain size, both partners are typically unsatisfied with their intimate life. Yet ironically, they both crave deep, abiding intimacy (i.e. connection) more than ever but have no idea how to rekindle it. Here are the likely outcomes in this situation:

  1. They both just settle because they are comfortable with each other, often leading to a sexless relationship. Effectively going from soul mates to roommates.
  2. They split.
  3. The woman either resigns herself to a single, sexless existence or she is brave enough to risk seeking the quality of intimacy her heart craves either in another man or woman. The man might look for another partner (often younger) with whom he can enjoy sex just like he always did.

The Way Back to the Best Intimacy/Sex Ever

These potential not-so-great outcomes are not fait accompli. It is very possible for long-term couples to have the very best, most exciting and fulfilling physical intimacy of their relationship in their later years together. But it requires a change of behavior and attitudes from both. For this to happen, it is incumbent upon women to authentically and vulnerably communicate with their partner what they really want in terms of intimacy, especially as it changes over time. For men, it is crucial to listen and follow what their mate is telling them. And also to realize that as women age they take much longer to “warm up” to physical intimacy than they use to during the “rip our clothes off” stage of the relationship.

For example, I spend a good hour of our lovemaking warming up my (post-menopausal) partner by first showering with her (scrubbing her whole body down with a luffa –something she absolutely loves) and giving her a head-to-toe deep, non-sexual massage. Once she is warmed up this way and I create of space where both of us can be fully present, she is ready –and boy, is she ready! At this stage of her life she really doesn’t care for pounding intercourse (which is a good thing because I’m fully impotent) and much prefers gentle oral sex (but NOT before the warm up). By my slowing down as a man to match her emotional and sexual needs and response profile and being fully present without goals or agenda as I give to her, she responds by climaxing explosively many times.

This makes me wonder how different things would be for Lee and Bob Woodruff (and countless middle-age couples like them) if they approached their intimate needs in this way. I suspect that she would be reporting on an entirely different experience –excitedly sharing how their current intimate life is far better than it ever was. All because of her willingness to communicate authentically and his willingness to adapt to her changing needs and desires.

We guys have the power to unlock the truly unlimited sexual potential of our women at any age and reap the mind-blowing benefits of that. It just requires that we listen and transform our procreative urge from pounding sex, to incredibly fulfilling emotional and physical intimacy in the manner our partner prefers. And when this happens, “wifely duty” will forever be banished from her vernacular.

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 Eliminate Performance Anxiety Forever

Category: Men and Relationship 

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

– – –

The idea of “performance” is part of the very fabric of our culture. It is a goal oriented, comparison based paradigm that affects our behavior on the playing field, at work, as a parent and most intimately, as a lover. It is in the bedroom however that the very notion of performance can wreak havoc on relationships and experience of intimacy. In fact, the very thought of not being able to perform “as expected” can cause both men and women to shut down sexually and turn what could have been extraordinary into a stress-filled, angst-ridden nightmare.

Fortunately, there is any easy way to eliminate performance anxiety once and for all and in so doing take your experience of physical intimacy to levels you may have never dreamt possible. At first blush this may seem like a contradiction. Performance is all about doing one’s best to make things happen. What I share below is how to create a space to allow things to happen. Two very different approaches with two very different outcomes.

Society’s Notion of Performance

The idea of sexual performance affects both men and women but in different ways. For men, sexual performance is essentially tied to the size of one’s “package” and how well he uses it. It’s as if it were some sort of sacred sword that is wielded deftly about with the greatest of nuanced and highly practiced skill. This notion is supported by the countless Viagra / Cialis commercials, porn and traditional slam-down (i.e. locker room) bravado. Lack of performance within this context can manifest as pre-mature ejaculation, inability to ejaculate or inability to have or maintain an erection. Of course this perspective leaves all the millions of men struggling with erectile dysfunction / impotence and surgically removed prostates out in the lurch.

And what is so ironic about this is that women who are really in touch with their own sexuality don’t see this kind of performance as being important at all. They are much more interested in how attuned their man is to what works for them, how present their man will be for them rather than focused on some sort of goal. This becomes even more important as a woman matures beyond child-bearing age when, for many, intercourse is often one of the less desirable means of expressing physical intimacy.

Women experience performance anxiety too and it is typically expressed in the desire to show that their man pleases them intensely. This is corroborated by research from a British university that indicates over 87% of all women vocalize (i.e. moan) to boost their man’s self-esteem and speed things along –whether or not what they actually feel corresponds to their reaction. Just think about that for a moment. Men are stressed out about pleasing their woman in the way our culture says he should and women are stressed out about appearing to enjoy it! That’s a whole lot of stress going on in the bedroom, the one place it should never be.

Replace Performance to Eliminate Anxiety Forever

One of the first things I teach men, women and couples (of all orientations) is to replace the notion of “performance” with Presence. Presence is the state of being fully present (i.e. in the “Now” or moment) without agenda, goals or expectations. Presence is possible in both giving and receiving during physical intimacy.

Being fully present while giving means to “listen” to your partner both explicitly (i.e. what they tell you they like) and intuitively (i.e. to their body, breathing, arousal level, etc.) as to what works best for them. This is an act of pure giving with no thought of return other than for the pleasure of giving completely to them in the way they want. Now this of course implies that both partners are willing to be fully vulnerable and authentic about what they want and how they want it. Often easier said than done given the fears that give rise to performance anxiety in the first place.

Being present while receiving means to surrender fully to your partner’s giving (assuming they are doing what you requested) without distraction or having your mind be somewhere else. For example, occasionally I notice that my partner is having difficulty achieving climax. When this happens I’ll look up at her and ask “Sweetie, are you enjoying this?” and her reply is typically “Oh my God yes!! But I don’t think I’ll be able to climax this time.” To which I respond: “Don’t even try. Just lay back and fully enjoy what you can because I’m loving doing this for you and I’m not getting tired.”

By reassuring her that the only thing important to me is her complete enjoyment whether or not she climaxes removes the pressure to climax for me and allows her to settle in and fully embrace the experience. This of course is another way of saying I create a safe space for her to enjoy our intimate moments together without agenda or goals. What is so interesting about this is, without exception, when I reassure her this way she will explosively climax just seconds later. All I did was remove her need to climax for me (i.e. perform for me).

Presence is the Ultimate Performance

By eliminating “performance” from your bedroom vernacular you tap into the most powerful way of enjoying sexual intimacy with your partner. If men give to their partner first (in a state of full presence and in the way their partner likes) then the issue of performance goes away no matter circumstances. In the case of pre-mature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction these issues become moot if you both approach physical intimacy with a sense of adventure and discovery. In that context those “issues” simply won’t matter, and I say this as a fully impotent prostate cancer survivor whose sex life has never been better.

By insisting on presence over performance in the bedroom my partner and I experience such extraordinary levels of deep-connecting physical intimacy that it exceeds anything we have ever experienced before or even thought humanly possible.

Performance is about expectations of outcome, presence is about goalless giving and receiving in the present moment. The first is an act of separation the latter is space of deepest connection and by extension, the greatest fulfillment.

By simply never allowing the word “performance” to darken your bedroom’s doorway and replace it with “presence” you will never have to worry about sexual performance ever again. And that my friend is a promise.

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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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Out of Our Heads – a film about Men’s Work

by Boysen Hodgson

It is not easy or comfortable to overcome cultural stereotypes of masculinity. “Out of Our Heads” is a film about ‘Men’s Work’ similar to that offered by the ManKind Project. Men’s work is about reclaiming the disowned emotion, connection, spirit, and vulnerability that we, as a culture, have made taboo. Generations of rigid enforcement of male roles … the ‘guy code’ … often leaves men unequipped and unable to tackle the deepest issues in their lives. Our experience in the ManKind Project is that it is only through this deep soul work that men begin to manifest the full potential of who they can be in the world: as partners and husbands, as fathers, friends, and citizens.

The film was made in collaboration with the Men’s Wisdom Council, a men’s retreat that has been happening in New England since 1993. The film was produced by Leo Horrigan, a long-time participant of the Men’s Wisdom Council, and Allen Moore. Allen Moore is an accomplished filmmaker and cinematographer who has worked on numerous Ken Burns documentaries, including The Civil War.

Watch the trailer:

I had the opportunity to speak with Leo Horrigan and Sparrow Hart (one of the co-founders of the Men’s Wisdom Council) about the film and the larger context of men’s emotional work and culture.

See the interview:

Right now – the creators of this film are completing a KickStarter campaign to support the promotion and release of the film. Please help.

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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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