Ditch Approach Anxiety Once and For All

Category: Men and Relationship 

Here’s how you can turn approach anxiety into reach out success minus the cold sweats and furtive glances…

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

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How many times have you been to a bar with a very danceable live band playing only to find the ones dancing are the women? My partner and I love to go out dancing most weekends and we typically find that we are the only “couple” actually dancing. And, the situation is always the same. Lots of guys standing around trying to look and act cool as they steal glances of the women in the room. Meanwhile the women are sending so many signals that they want to dance that you’d have to be blind to miss them. Yet, there they are, just like in grammar school – boys on one side of the room, girls on the other with a very obvious vacant neutral zone in between.

Whether in a bar, coffee shop, park or just strolling downtown, this scenario is played out in every city and town on the planet, so clearly demonstrating the crippling power of “approach anxiety”. Approach anxiety is near the top of the list of fears dealing with relationships. Fortunately, there is a way to eliminate it forever and in fact use its very energy to help you authentically meet anyone you want, perhaps even “The One”…

Next!

The biggest source of this paralyzing anxiety is being so attached to the outcome of approaching someone you find interesting (if only initially from a distance). When we place so much importance on whether the other person will react favorably to our advances it only inhibits our willingness to take the simple action of starting a conversation that may (or may not) actually lead to something for the both of you.

Now imagine for a moment what your life would be like if you were totally committed to meeting new people but without being attached to the outcome. The very thought of it is extremely freeing isn’t it? So, how does one let go of attachment to the outcome? The key to that is just one simple four-letter word: “Next”.

Here’s the thing, you cannot control how anyone will react to you no matter how you show up. So it’s really not up to you (nor are you to blame) if someone you approach selects to not reciprocate your interest. If that happens, don’t take it personally (because it never is –by definition they don’t even know you) and just say “Next!” to yourself (silently please –otherwise you risk a slap in the face :))

On the surface this may sound like something right out of a pickup artist’s manual –but it isn’t. This is merely to prepare you for the real work of getting ready to meet the right person(s) for you…

It’s All on How You Show Up

People who are painfully shy or bull-in-the-china-shop aggressive are actually exhibiting two sides of the same coin – reactive, fear-based behavior rather than being appropriately authentic and proactive. Which one is predominantly manifested during an approach to meeting someone new (i.e. potential mate) is often culturally determined. For example, a few years ago I spent three months in Brazil and there the prevalent Machismo attitude held by most men there is actually a good example of the aggressive side.

Early in my college years I had a great deal of trouble relating to people. Sometimes I was very shy and inhibited, other times I overcompensated by being aggressive. Neither one was effective at helping me form new relationships that had any chance of lasting.

Then I took an assertiveness class. Thanks to that invaluable training and insight I realized that shyness and aggressive behavior were both fear-based responses to social anxiety. And, the key to overcoming this seemingly huge and very frustrating problem was to simply be myself. Showing up authentically and vulnerably (i.e. no pretenses, no protective emotional armor) and do so not being attached to how others thought about me. Consider for a moment taking the following position when daring to meet someone new. If the other person is not attracted to the real you, then they are simply not the right person to be with. Think of it as the Universe doing you a big favor by not letting you get involved with someone who is in all likelihood not good to be in your life.

You will probably never completely eliminate the butterflies that flit around in your stomach as you approach someone new. Ideally you don’t want them to go away, but instead have them fly in formation. This is a way of taking the charge associated with approach anxiety and using it in your favor. Energy is energy. It can be used to stop you in your tracks, or give an extra spring to your steps. In addition to inspiring huge amounts of confidence in yourself, it is also a quality in which people find almost universally attractive…

Allow for Serendipity

Keep in mind that your best relationships may not come from the direct approach. You may end up meeting someone in an unexpected way or place. While you may feel more in control by always being proactive, don’t discount serendipity. This means of course showing up authentically and vulnerably in all situations –not just those in which you hope to meet someone. This is exactly how I happened to meet my Life Partner. At a time and place where meeting someone special was actually far from my mind. Yet, it happened. Think of it this way. All the preparation you make for meeting someone new (i.e. not taking things personally, showing up authentically and vulnerably, etc.) will position you perfectly for meeting someone in the most unlikely of situations too.

Biggest Regret

Now I want you to think about the scariest thing of all –your last moments on this planet. Invariably, the biggest regret people have at the end of their life is typically not something they did and wish they hadn’t, it is the regret of NOT doing something they wish they had.

When it comes to meeting the significant people (or person) in your life, there is absolutely no reason to die with this regret on your lips. You have absolute control over how you show up and whether or not you take things personally (i.e. are attached to the outcome). Fears can either be our greatest teacher, or most brutal prison guard –you, and only you, get to choose its role in your life. And that choice will directly determine the quality and possibilities of the relationships you have.

So next time you are in a position to meet someone new you find interesting, throw caution to the wind and approach him or her authentically and vulnerably and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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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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Sex, Lies and Menopause

Category: Men and Relationship 

When your partner uses menopause as the reason for diminished desire consider it your wake up call to something more serious…

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

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I recently visited a dear friend of mine in the mid-West. On all outward appearances he is happily married with two incredible teenage children and an attractive wife in her early 40’s. For fun I gave him some of my “secret” pheromone cologne to see how his wife would respond. After two doses he finally admitted that she didn’t even notice. He then went on to explain that his wife has been exhibiting much lower desire for sex lately because she said she’s going through menopause. However, I suspected that was something more going on here than what was meeting the eye.

(Author’s Note: the following is based upon observations made by myself and my partner who happens to be post-menopausal. I am not a therapist, and any implied generalizations are really just my opinions based upon my personal experience –your mileage may vary. And, as always, there are exceptions to everything.)

Why Menopause Is a Lame Excuse

When I shared this exchange with my Partner (who is post-menopausal), she matter-of-factly said “Oh, women just use that as an excuse –I used to say that to my former husband all the time if I didn’t want to have sex with him.” Apparently, as women age, saying to their partner: “Not tonight Honey, I’m going through menopause.” is the preferable post-child-bearing years “I have a headache.” excuse. Let’s face it, what guy in his right mind will argue with a partner that is going through the ravages of menopause? That is clearly a losing proposition.

My Partner went on to explain that menopause did indeed impact howshe wanted to have sex, not necessarily how much of it she wanted. Intercourse for most women during and after menopause can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful. There are several factors at play here. First of all, vaginal dryness typically associated with menopause can cause great discomfort during traditional intercourse. And, add on top of that a British university study which indicates that most women of any age are not all that into intercourse to begin with. This can be inferred from their research showing approximately 87% of all women (regardless of age) “moan” or vocalize during intercourse to: a) boost their man’s self-image as a lover, and b) speed things up (i.e. “Let’s get it over with already.”)

Also, based upon my own observations, a majority of women hesitate to authentically tell their partner what they really want in the bedroom. This is out of fear that the man will become hurt, angry and ultimately abandon them. Now you can see why menopause is the perfect inarguable excuse to avoid physical intimacy between long term couples. Yet, it simply doesn’t have to be that way at all.

Sexual Desire vs. Expression

In previous articles and numerous interviews I have shared how desire and expression (i.e. how that desire is manifested) are two completely different things, particularly as women age.

Physiologically speaking, intercourse is typically not the most pleasurable way most women can experience sex. Direct clitoral stimulation almost always trumps penetration. It has been my personal experience and that of others I’ve talked to that desire for physical intimacy in women does not have to diminish with age. However, *how* they want physical intimacy expressed in the bedroom very often does. Yet I’ve seen many men have a hard time understanding that what worked before (i.e. intercourse) is no longer that interesting for their maturing partner. And this disconnect can be the source of major frustration and even eventual marital celibacy or breakup. An all too common occurrence for long-term relationships.

Resignation is Not the Answer – Authenticity Is

When I offered to help my friend, he simply said: “Thanks, but that is just the way it is.” This is clearly a difficult subject for most couples because it is tied to so many primal fears associated with our standard Sexual Operating System. The danger here however is that resignation almost always turns into resentment. And resentment is one of the most powerful corrosives that can eat away at an otherwise beautiful relationship until there is nothing left to save.

The way out of this almost inevitable conundrum facing most long-term couples is by both parties insisting on authentic communication. The female partner needs to have the courage and fortitude to sincerely express what she wants from her mate with respect to physical intimacy, especially as it changes over time. And likewise, the male partner needs to authentically listen and do his best to comply. Now before too many guys reading this knee-jerk into a “Hey, what about my needs?!” response, know this: When you are able to genuinely please her (i.e. she’s not faking it), you will be one very happy camper. This is very much part of our hard-wiring as men.

So, next time you hear: “Not tonight Honey because I have _____________.”, treat it as an invitation to start an authentic conversation about what she really wants. Chances are she will love and cherish you all that much more because you risked doing so.

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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 Support Our LGBTQ+ Brothers & Sisters

by Rick Broniec

My Brothers & Sisters,

As a straight man, and MKP-USA’s Multicultural/Intercultural Rep, I am writing this as an ally to my GBTQ Brothers and to my straight Brothers. [Between a minor surgery (I’m just fine, thanks!) and other responsibilities, I have not been able to respond until now.]

First, to my GBTQ Brothers:

David, Robert, Walt, Dennis N., Frank, Jeff, Greg- and so many others- I love you.  I am so sorry this happened to your community.  My heart hurts for you.  I want to hear what you are feeling- in all its rawness. All of you is welcome here. If you’d prefer to hear from me off line or by phone, please, please let me know. I am at a loss to know exactly what you might need right now, so please tell me…or tell me to STF up!

To my Straight Bothers:

Like many of you, I struggle with HOW to be an effective Ally.  Like many,  I have this great desire to support my deeply hurting brothers, and I want to do it in a good way.  Since I can’t really know what its like to be Gay or Bi or Trans or even questioning, I am at risk to respond in a way that is harmful, if I’m not careful- especially when I am triggered and hurting myself!  (Which I am!)

I cannot know what it feels like to have my tribe attacked in such a senseless and vicious manner.

I cannot know what it means to have one of my safe places so deeply violated.

I cannot know what it means to feel the weight of oppression thrown in my face yet again.

I cannot know what it feels like to repeatedly hear in the news cycle that the attack occurred in a Gay bar. (Have you EVER heard the news report a murder in a “straight bar”??)

And there’s so much more I can’t even begin to imagine.

What I’ve learned (the hard way!) that is NOT helpful:

  1. Telling any GBTQ man that “you know how he feels because…”
  2. ‘Reminding’ them how much progress has been made previously in Gay rights.
  3. Telling them not to feel something…. or to feel something else.
  4. Dissembling or hijacking the conversation by making this incident about:
  5. Radical Islamic Terrorists.
  6. Gun Laws.
  7. Self-hating closeted gay men acting out.
  8. Soft targets
  9. Any political or religious point.
  10. Or anything else we want to say that takes the spotlight away from the fact that these 49 people were mostly young GLBTQ men and women who were massacred.
  11. Projecting MY hurt and MY pain on my GBTQ Brothers….that’s MY work!
  12. Defending our words or actions when we cause an “Ouch”.  (The “Ouch Process” teaches that I can simply say, “I hear my impacts. Tell me more, if you’d like.  I am sorry my words/actions landed on you that way.  It was not my intention to hurt or dismiss you or your pain.”  That’s all!)

If these are your thoughts, great!- take em to your I-Group to process. They are valid, just not helpful to our grieving GBTQ Brothers right now, I’m told.  Or I’ll hear them- call me.

So, what CAN I do that might be helpful?  I am no expert and have screwed it up plenty of times, but I have read a lot and asked my GBTQ Brothers often how I can support them.  Universally, I have been asked to simply listen to them and accept whatever comes forth.  So, I called many of my GBTQ brothers directly this week to ask how they were doing.  I let them know what actions I was taking in support (Like attending vigils, joining the HRC, etc.).  And I listened- just listened.

If you’re interested in the Ally Wisdom of some researchers in the field, here a list of behaviors that are ‘functional helping’. (These are from “Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook“, by Adam, Griffin and Bell.)  (Note: They work well for interacting with any target group, of course.)  Feel free to add any behaviors you know work.

Effective Ally Behaviors

  1. Listen openly and respectfully to people different from you.
  1. Actively pursue a process of self-education to learn about the history and culture of target groups.  Read, attend meetings, watch movies and talk to individuals representing target groups.
  1. Acknowledge and take responsibility for his/her own socialization, prejudices and privileges without shame or blame, as we all learned these behaviors from our culture.
  1. Respectfully ask members of a target group what support would look like for them as an individual.  This lessens the chances of a ‘dysfunctional rescue’ from happening.
  1. Seek out and enlist others to be allies; be the first to make a move!
  1. Be willing to examine and relinquish privileges.  This requires support and time.
  1. Learn about and take pride in your own identities.  Work on celebrating your own differences and the qualities you have gained as a result of having that difference.
  1. Establish friendships with people who represent Target groups you do not identify with.  Reach out respectfully and make contact!
  1. Know resources about and for Target groups and utilize them to educate yourself and others.  Form coalitions and support circles.
  1. Take a public stand against discrimination and prejudice.  Start small and work into more risky actions as you grow more confident.
  1. Interrupt prejudice and take action against oppression even when people from Target groups are not present.
  1. Risk discomfort- discomfort is guaranteed when doing this work!
  1. Try not to be self-righteous with others- it only pushes them away from doing their own work.  Also, try not to label others as “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, “classist”, etc.
  1. Gently and respectfully challenge the internalized oppression of people in Target groups.
  1. Support the value of separate meetings, events and activities for members of Target groups. Targets need a safe place to do their Internalized Oppressions work, while Non-Targets need a safe place to do their “Isms” work.  This makes it safer and cleaner to do our work together
  1. Promote the leadership of people in groups that traditionally are not found in leadership positions due to their Target status(es).  This may mean giving up your own leadership in these organizations.
  1. Work to change system-wide problems that may be the root causes of inequality and oppression.  This might include issues at the institutional or cultural levels, as well as the personal and interpersonal levels.
  1. Develop alliances among groups.  This would be a strong institutional level action.
  1. Have a vision of and celebrate a healthy, vibrant multicultural society.  Isn’t that why we’re all doing this work in the first place?
  1. Also, look to ways to be an ally within your own cultural groups. (For example, a straight man supporting other straight men to work on their straight privileges.)

In Service and Deep Sadness & Reflection,

Rick

Colluding Lion

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Aggrieved Entitlement and Evolved Masculinity

Baldwin-Faced

Let’s face it, together.

Aggrieved Entitlement is a term I picked up from Michael Kimmel. It is the existential state of fear about having my ‘rightful place’ as a man questioned … challenged … deconstructed. Aggrieved entitlement is being told ‘No’ when the prevailing mythos of the culture has taught that I have a ‘right’ to something because of my birth (as male, as white, straight, educated, able-bodied … the list goes on).

Because men are not programmed to allow fear or to process grief, sometimes we compress it … this loss of meaning and power … into rage, violence, aggression, demonization of ‘other.’ The compression will find an outlet. It seems beyond ‘phobia’ or ‘ism,’ though it will often be tagged as such.  We must face as a society that we PROGRAM men to be this way. Toxic masculine codes, deeply embedded in the soul of our nation, are breaking us. 

And as Steven Barnes reminded me recently, not just masculinity. The [imposed] duality of gender, masculine and feminine, are two sides of the same complex coin.  The repression of femininity into its toxic shadow also hurts us in profound ways: materiality turned to objectification and self-loathing, sensuality & self expression turned to manipulation, power compressed into toxic shaming, fear of violent masculinity turned to the repression of emotional expression. The inability of our society to alchemize the complexity of gender leads us to where we are right now, standing on a fault line that is sending wave after wave of fracturing energy through our culture.

For men, constant behavioral reinforcement of the masculine mask of invulnerability inevitably leads to what we see … mass killing. Mass killing of LGBTQ people. Mass killing of brown skinned people. Of women and children. Mass killing through suicide, drug addiction, eating and drinking ourselves to death.

Mass killing through our nihilistic urge to extinction.

100%. This is NOT about MEN. I love men. I have dedicated my life to working with men. This is about the cultural and systemic construct called Masculinity. Toxic shadows of once sacred gifts that have long been infused into masculinity are intimately, economically, and politically tied to systemic oppression, violence, and destruction. In the past there was no movement or population large enough to say ‘No’ to the terror inflicted.

Today, the urge to peace and equity has created a critical mass. The violating power of masculinity is now being deconstructed. And those of us that feel this pressure have many choices we can make. Some men explode, some implode. Either way, they do great harm. Some men will disappear, their flame extinguished. I see them every day, hollow men trapped in a trance of transactions marching toward the grave. I do not expect that this will change soon. And yet progress toward a more just future will continue.

In this evolutionary time, many men will rise to the challenge. Many men are rising right now, even as I write. The crucible of this shift will reveal the strongest and most passionately nurturing men this planet has ever seen. There are so many beautiful and good and strong characteristics to be honed and burnished in men – so much potential for fulfilling a new role as partners in the creation of a new culture.

I follow a longing, an urge to beauty and connection, wildness and order.

The good news is that WE have the power to change the culture. Men – come stand with me and so many others. Come enter the dark path to your soul. What blinding brilliance you will find in that dark cave … I could try and tell you, but my words would fail.

Boysen Hodgson

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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How to Find “The One” and Never Settle For Less

Category: Men and Relationship 

Most people settle when choosing a mate and end up living to regret it –fortunately this is completely avoidable…

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

– – –

In terms of finding your “perfect” mate, let me break the news to you, there is no such thing. At least not on this planet. No one is perfect, everyone has flaws. With that said however, it IS very possible to find “The One”; a mate with whom you are so compatible and turned on by that the thought of having settled will never enter your mind. And the way to find (actually “attract” is a more accurate term) them is very straightforward.

Nearly Everyone Settles

How many people do you know are crystal clear about who they want to share their life with? And by “crystal clear” I mean actually took the time to write down in great detail who this person is. Chances are it is close to zero.

There is an old saying: “When you don’t know or care where you are going don’t be surprised by where you end up.” Let’s face it, most people go through life waiting (hoping) to meet someone where the chemistry kicks in big time. And when it does and it’s mutual, well, you’re off to the races! Wonderful, right? Except most of those races are either short or soon become very routine, unfulfilling or you just end up getting thrown (painfully) from the horse. That’s because chemistry alone is simply not enough to help navigate the complex waterways of long-term human intimate relationships. When the chemistry starts to wane, what is left is often the stark realization that the person you choose may not be ideal for other aspects of your life that are important to you.

When I met my future wife in 1982 there was chemistry and shared values. Yet, the writing was on the wall when we had this conversation just before we tied the knot. We asked each other what we wanted out of our life together. She responded with something like: “I want a house with the picket fence, two kids, a dog and a cat –the Leave it to Beaver experience, I just want everything to be ‘normal’”. To which I responded: “’Normal’ is the last thing in the world I want, I’m here to make a difference in the world.” And, in addition to that, we were also not particularly well-matched sexually.

Despite these differences, I knew she would be a terrific mother (which she was and continues to be) and she knew I would be a good father and provider for the family and a faithful husband (which I was on all counts). Our marriage lasted 26 years before I ended it. We do have two wonderful and successful adult children and the first half of the marriage was okay –just not great.

Basically, we both settled and paid the price for it eventually. And the reason we settled is that we each fell into the trap of finding a mate the same way the vast majority of people do, we waited to find someone where there was a spark and (hopefully) some shared values.

And I am here to tell you that is simply not enough if you want to have an amazing relationship that only grows stronger over time, rather than fizzle out as most do.

My “Dream Woman” Project

Dream_Woman_ThumbnailGiven that the last 11 years of our marriage my wife and I were effectively roommates, I was determined to not let that happen again. I also knew I wanted to share the rest of my life with a mate. So, only two weeks after ending the marriage and moving out, I launched myself into what I call my “Dream Woman” project. Over a period of several days I feverishly wrote down my unbridled and extremely detailed description of who this person was from every aspect and nuance I could think of.

In looking back on this process I realize the key to doing this successfully was having the courage to look deep inside myself and become abundantly clear about what was important to me in a life-long intimate relationship. Most people are afraid to be this clear, I think because if they are, they will also be consciously aware of the possibility that they may never find this person and end up disappointed. So instead, like countless others, they avoid risking clarity in the hopes that serendipity will just hand them their perfect mate on a silver platter –right. Lack of clarity practically guarantees you will end up settling –every time.

If you are interested in taking a look at my own Dream Woman Project, just click the image to download the PDF. When you do, you will see that in addition to being quite specific in my writing, I used visuals and images extensively to help describe what I wanted.

You can make your Dream Woman (or Dream Man) project as elaborate or simple as you want. The important part is writing it down and being as specific and detailed as possible. Taking this approach is essentially the same as going after anything else you truly want in life. It takes clarity, determination and a willingness to fully lay bare what you really want in the face of knowing you may not achieve it.

Clarity is More Important than Planning

When I created my Dream Woman Project I had no clue as to how I was going to find her. And, I deliberately left out how that was going to happen. I simply trusted that the Universe is a lot wiser than I am when it came to those details. The only thing I did was keep myself active and socially available (i.e. open to meeting new people and experiencing new things). If you expect to catch a fish, you at least need to be near the water.

For the entire year after I wrote my Dream Woman Project I didn’t even date and rarely even looked at it. Then, in the most unusual of circumstances, I met my current Life Partner and didn’t even know it at the time.

The Benefit of Not Falling Head-Over-Heels

When Jacky and I first met, I was preparing to go to Brazil for a three-month “reset” of my life. I wasn’t even looking at that point. And quite frankly, while we both were intrigued, it was hardly what you would call love at first sight. Thank God it wasn’t because that gave each of us the space and level-headedness to become good friends before becoming intimate.

About a year after we first met I decided to look at my Dream Woman Project for a course on Extraordinary Intimacy I was about to give. As I re-read through this document my jaw kept dropping lower and lower in disbelief. I called Jacky over to look at it with me (she had never seen it before) and when she did she gasped and said “Sweetie –that’s me!!” Turns out she fit what was described in my Dream Woman Project 100%. Not 80% or 90% –100 percent to a “T”.

We will soon be celebrating our 4th year together and our relationship only gets stronger and more fulfilling with time. And with respect to our intimacy, as powerful as it was when we first became sexually active with each other (you know, the “rip your clothes off” stage) it pales in comparison to what we now experience.

Taking the Risk

If you don’t take the risk to be absolutely clear about with whom you want to share your life, you have effectively chosen to settle by default. When you do express that clarity in writing it won’t guarantee that you will find that person, but it will significantly increase the chances you will. And, perhaps most importantly, you will know that you gave it your all instead of being a passive bystander waiting for anything remotely interesting that may cross your path.

This will likely be your greatest adventure in life. Don’t sell it and yourself short by taking the lazy way out by settling for less than you know deep down you want and deserve.

– – –

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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Why Ego and Intimacy are Strange Bedfellows

Category: Men and Relationship 

When it comes to romantic relationships, the ego is like the moon: romantic, literally necessary for our survival and has the ability to drive us temporarily crazy on a periodic basis. When you allow your ego to be the main driver of your relationship it will cause it to crash every time, sooner or later. While we can’t escape having an ego we can learn to live with it and even leverage it (appropriately) to achieve deep, connecting intimacy that continues to grow over time.

Ego and the Heart

What I am about to share with you is based upon my personal experience and keen observation of, and conversations with, many other couples. This is simply a model of human nature that works exceedingly well for me as for others who have adopted it. You don’t have to believe it’s true. All I ask is that you suspend judgment long enough to see if it resonates with you and your experience.

In the simplest terms, human beings have a dual nature and experience of reality. One based in our head as a mental construct (i.e. Ego) and the other as a core “essence” beyond the physical or intellectual which I call the Heart –our source of Awareness, the Observer.

Our ego forms early in our childhood with built-in wiring whose primary purpose is survival. It is shaped and formed by our experiences throughout life (especially during our vulnerable childhood) and expresses itself through our personality.

Our Heart (metaphorically speaking) is the true, unadulterated non-physical essence of who we are when we come into this world. Some philosophies call it the Soul, Higher Self, True Consciousness, Awareness and so on. For our purposes here, I’m simply referring it as our Heart.

The Heart never changes, can never be hurt or broken, is never needy, has no drama and is always fully at peace. Our Heart is where true, lasting connection with others originates. Keep in mind that any negative qualities typically attributed to the heart in our culture are really the realm of the ego. So next time someone says “She broke my heart.” consider thinking in terms of “She broke my ego.” instead. When you make it a practice to re-frame any negative aspect of your relationship this way you will be amazed at how it quickly it eliminates the charge around it.

Egos Falling In Love

When we fall in love with someone, it is primarily our egos that are doing the falling. I am not disputing that a deeper, ineffable connection (i.e. the Heart) is not there also; it often is. However, the flirting, physical attraction, charm etc. all come from the ego. Our egos can get very, very excited (“OMG, I’m SO in love with him/her!!!”) when we connect with someone who fulfills most of our relationship needs (assuming it is reciprocal, otherwise our egos get trashed). In fact, it seems that the typical definition of “love” is completely driven by our egos.

Who we are attracted to and how we interact with them is driven almost exclusively by our Sexual Operating System, which I’ve covered in previous articles. Because this most visible part of romantic connection is so ego-based, if left unchecked, it also becomes the source of the relationship’s undoing: every…single…time.

Ego is the Eclipse of the Heart

The Heart is like the sun, always shining, always pouring out endless supplies of warmth and connection. Relationship troubles start when we allow our ego to eclipse our Heart, by blocking its ability to transmit and receive true connection with others, especially our significant other. Ego is the armor we put up to “protect” ourselves from emotional wounding, tricking us to believe that it is our Heart it seeks to protect when in fact it is only trying to protect itself. And in so doing it effectively blocks our Heart’s ability to transmit and receive that deep connection with others. A connection so profound and transcendent that I propose we call this “Love” with a capital “L”.

When someone we love hurts us and we shut down or withdraw because of it, it is our ego that is hurt and the ego that forms the barrier. Our Heart continues to shine unabated as always. And just knowing that gives you a head start in reconciling the unlimited expression of your Heart with the needs of the ego.

Awareness as the Great Mediator

Consider for a moment as to what would happen if you took the time to become aware of your ego’s machinations. To stand back as it were to observe how the ego is driven by survival needs to interfere with the very thing you want most, transcendent connection with your partner.

When you develop the discipline (it require discipline because the ego fights it tooth and nail) to simply observe your relationship interactions in the context of ego, it puts you in a position to interrupt the ego’s reactive tendencies. And when you are able to do that consistently you will effectively eliminate all the drama from your relationship.

Does this mean that becoming aware and being the Observer will ensure your relationship will survive? Not necessarily. There may come a point (or not) when it is in the best interests of both parties to move on. However if it does come to that, through your awareness you will release each other out of Love rather than struggle over ego-based neediness and fear of loss. The ego sees this letting go as a little “death” while the Heart sees it as a celebration of what was, what is and what is to come.

As long as we are part of this human experience we will have an ego. It is both necessary for our physical survival and often quite helpful in our efforts to improve our circumstances. It is no surprise that most of our society’s leaders and innovators have rather healthy egos that motivate them. And as you read this last sentence I wouldn’t be surprised if your ego was saying something like “See! You need me to succeed!” It just never stops and simply cannot help itself.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be in the driver’s seat. By being aware and dispassionately observing it in action you give that steering wheel back to your Heart, the true essence of who you are. And when your Heart is your guide you will never, ever go astray.

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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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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.

– – –

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.

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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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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

– – –

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

– – –

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.

– – –

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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