The One Secret to Feeling Totally Alive

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

– – –

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

Feeling Alive Doesn’t Require Pain or Pleasure

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

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

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


My Secret for Feeling Fully Alive Most of the Time

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

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

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

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

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


Life is a Lot Like Surfing…

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

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

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

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


The Solution is Simple

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

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


It’s a Choice

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

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

About Michael J. Russer

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

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. Go to 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 ( He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

– See more at:


The Way of Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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


HeArt – Art Patterson’s Story

by Art Patterson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art Patterson

Art Patterson

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

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


Twenty-Seven Shovels

Category: Fatherhood, Memoir 

by Randall Rogers, Reprinted with Permission

27 Shovels

27 Shovels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Man

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guest Post: Depression and the Strength of Asking for Help

Category: Men and Health 

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

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

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

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

Medical Treatment

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

Lifestyle Changes

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

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

Support Resources

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Men’s Health Network

Sourced from

American Psychological Association

National Sleep Foundation

Mental Health America


Guest Post: Support During Trauma: You Are Not Alone

Category: Men and Health 

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

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

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

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


What Stops Leaders from Empowering Others?



guest post by Alain Hunkins – Pioneer Leadership

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

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

The #1 response (41%):

They empower their employees.


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

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

Most leaders I work with strive to be empowering.

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

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

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

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

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

Some qualities about Alexander you should know:

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

So can I ride to school, Dad?

I paused.

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

Thoughts flew through my head:

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

That first instinct was to shut things down.

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

Where are these thoughts coming from?

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

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

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

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

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

That ego-voice was shouting at me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure, Alexander, you can ride to school.

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

But make sure to wear your helmet!  

But I caught myself in time.

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

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

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

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



by Niklaus Towne

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

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

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

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

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



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


ManKind Project Durango Helping Teens in High School

by Tim Birchard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the Keys To High School Success conference, contact Tim Birchard ( or Michael Cahn (


Tim B

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


The Dimming Embers – a poem

Category: Poetry 

The Dimming Embers

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

Timbers falling on dusted earth.

Then from the sky, tears of Life falling.

Quenching the thirst of landed seeds.

Leafing into new days of timbers rising!

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

~philippe berthiaume 3/2/2014


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


Shadow of You – a poem

Category: Poetry 

Shadow of You.
Of light and dust.
And skin and bone.
A man among men.
You were never alone.

Shadow of You.
Of light and dust.
You carried me then.
In your skin and bone.

Shadow of Me.
Of light and dust.
And skin and bone.
A man among men.
I am never alone.

Shadow of You.
Now light and dust.
Not skin and bone.
I carry you now.
In my skin and bone.
A man among men.
We are never alone.

~philippe berthiaume 12/14/14
~honoring the memory of my dad.


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


All of Me – a poem

Category: Poetry 

by Brooks Harrelson

All of Me

All of my soul wants you,
What part of me can I show you?

My lover wants to hold and care for you,
warm you in the cold nights, and grey spaces,
wrap you in protective blankets of love against
the howl of change and the grief of loss until
the Spring blossoms in your soul, and filling,
lights your smile and your eyes. And,
I want to be held so by you.

My friendly, savage beast wants to romp and play
with you in the fields, nuzzling, chasing, laughing,
tumbling down and down in carnal delight to rise
and start again, from dawn to blissful sunset exhaustion.
Fiercely, wildly, gently, strongly, putting all of myself into you,
and receiving all of creation in return.

My magician wants to look deeply into your eyes,
and connect our souls,
to explore the paths of consciousness and future,
to sail on dreams of possibilities,
and follow our fears to magical gifts of the heart.

My sovereign leaps with joy at your sight,
and would shower you with gifts from abundance.
I want to live at your feet in service,
I want to use the power of our joint magnificence to bless all who surround us,
and to sit, with you, in glory.

The heavens call me and hold my hopes. You are there.
The earth below supports me. I feel you there.

And all these are in my heart, that wants just to touch your heart,
A little.

April ’15

Brooks Harrelson is married and a father of three, of whom he is exceptionally proud. He’s been in software development for 54 years. He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in June 1999. He’s active in the Men On The Loose I-group, a Leader in Training for the ManKind Project, and active in the Arlington MA Diversity Task Group. His personal mission is, “I create a world of blessings through connection and service.”


Men’s Work is a Tug of War

from the Lair of the Wildman

boyoutIf you had attended Elementary School or High School with me, you would immediately recognize me in this photograph – I am the one up front. In fact, I don’t think I was as cool as this kid.

For me, those years in school were a nightmare. Sure, I was usually the last one picked for a team, I was clumsy and pudgy. We didn’t have much money and my mother made clothes for me that caused quite a sensation; and teachers usually liked me – a sure fire method for exclusion.

All those truths hurt and caused conflict but the thing I wanted most was to ‘belong’, and I don’t know if its the nature of people or wanting something so badly, but thats the thing I just couldn’t have.

That truth is what makes the story that follows compelling for me. Following March’s Conversation Circle, where once again 16 men showed up to get real about their shadows and gold, I received an e-mail from a man widely known in the community. This man is a long-time warrior but a man who hangs on the fringes, dresses differently, is a lightning rod for judgement and an self-appointed eccentric. He had heard through a friend of my Conversation Circles and wanted to be included on the e-mail list. My gut response was “No!” That is how I found out I was perfectly willing to be in the background part of the photo too.

So to speak it clearly, I, who was painfully familiar with being made fun of, being excluded, and the butt of sarcasm and even ridicule about things that might or might not have been true – was suddenly willing to perpetrate those acts against another man.

I sat with this unwanted e-mail a few days before responding. By now I had had an opportunity to look more closely in my mirror. I saw a very accurate and unflattering image of my ego and attachment to things that are not even mine – like the beautiful and provocative energy of this circle of men. I saw my fear of having to share, my fear of things changing and the illusion that I have any control over change. Most powerfully, I saw my own need to “feel special” and what I was willing to do to perpetuate that feeling rather than “knowing” that it is inherently true.

A few days later, this man agreed to sit down face to face and talk with me. I had included him on the next e-mail but, there was more work to do. It is worth noting that I was 35 minutes late for that breakfast meeting. He doesn’t carry a cell phone and I went to the wrong restaurant (of the same name) and noticed the Universe permitting me to be humbled on my way to being humbled.

After a brief greeting and exchange, I got right to it. “Jim,” I said, “Thank you for the e-mail you sent, it gave me a chance to see myself more clearly.” I looked in his eyes deliberately, took a deep breath and continued, “When I read it my gut response was that I didn’t want to share my group with you. And, that is not the kind of man I choose to be.”

Now an amazing thing happened when Jim responded, he said, “Thank you for seeing me brother!” There were no bells nor magical chimes, but I am telling you the world felt a little shifted. Not only that, Jim gave me permission to share our story for the sake of a bigger picture.

Reeling from the blessing I had received in my conversation with Jim, I thought I saw a larger opportunity. Could I share this story with the Circle? What if sharing the truth of my own prejudice and attachment to ego in this regard, could allow more of us to look honestly at the fractured condition of our community of Warrior men? So, with the intention of sharing the ‘ugly’ truth about myself, I called and personally invited more than a dozen men, who sit on a different side of our tribe to to ‘step into’ my discomfort with me. The more I called, the easier it got. Hell, those who I didn’t have numbers for I Facebook messaged and texted.

To set the tone last Friday, after men landed and checked in, I announced that we were going to have a Tug of War, assigned two Team Captains, and, just like in High School they selected teams one by one. I had a remarkably old and familiar feeling in my gut. It began a meandering and heartfelt exploration of belonging and not.
Of wanting and not daring to want.

I was, until this moment, ambivalent about disclosing to you that, aside from Jim, not a single man I called personally showed up. However, I just realized what the real Tug of War is.

Wild Man

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


The Confusion that Leads to Distraction and Overwhelm

guest post by Alain Hunkins – Pioneer Leadership

sirensSome months back, I shared a post (The Antidote to the Interruption Age) about how we’re no longer in the information age–we now live in the interruption age.

Do you feel more overwhelmed and distracted than you used to?

If your experience is anything like many of the leaders I work with, you probably answered yes. 

Part of the reason we’re so much more distracted than ever before is quite simple:  there are a lot more things to distract us than ever before.

Before technology enabled us to create a boundary-less world where we could work, connect and consume 24/7, we didn’t have this kind of access.  It’s as if we’re now swimming in a perpetual ocean of information.

As exciting as riding these waves this can be, this swimming can easily turn into floundering–on a good day, we’re treading water.  On a bad day, it can feel like drowning.

The cause?

We confuse opportunity with priority.


It’s a shiny, glittering window that magnetizes the senses.  Looking through its frame is thrilling.

Like the Sirens that called to Odysseus, opportunity offers you possibilities at every turn. There are the obvious distractions:

  • Read this about this horrible tragedy/natural disaster!
  • Learn about what great lives your friends are having!
  • Get the inside scoop on your favorite celebrity!

or the more subtle ones:

  • Call this client back who never buys, but is real friendly to talk to.
  • Check in with a colleague to once again “vent at the appropriate level”.
  • Read more articles on what I’m working on, because I need to do more research before producing.

Opportunity is sneaky:  it travels at the speed of thought, so you can imagine a glorious outcome without putting in any effort.

Priority moves slower.  It travels at the speed of action.   Rather than surfing the waves, working a priority means staying on shore, grounded and focused on whatever’s most important.

Priority translates into work.  What needs to be done right now?  What do I need to move forward?

  • Call these five prospects.
  • Do the laundry.
  • Finish that report.
  • Have that difficult conversation.

Opportunity is usually attractive and sexy.

Priority:  not so much.

I recently came across a quote that seems particular appropriate to this:

“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.”


What do you do to keep your priorities straight, and not get caught riding the waves of potential opportunities?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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

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



Stones of My Fathers – a poem

Category: Poetry 

Stones of My Fathers

Stones of my Fathers.
Mud under foot.
The Great Pyramids of Egypt and Mexico.
Laid by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Cobbles under foot.
America, Europe, the Middle East.
Laid by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Marbled Cathedrals, Temples, and Mosques.
Made by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Carved blocks.
Michelangelo’s David.
The Slave’s White House.
Made by your hands.

I honor you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Wailing walls from Boston to Berlin,
Jerusalem, and China.
Segregated in. Segregated out.
Laid by your hands.

I cry with you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Crushed under foot, flat and smooth.
With painted lines, yellow and white.
Laid not by your hands.
Now stained with Red.

I cry with you.

Stones of my Fathers.
Carved with names.
Bones of the innocent.
Dying on you.

New York City.
Los Angeles.


Stones of my Fathers.
I pray for you.

~philippe berthiaume 4/24/15


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


Prodigal Father, Wayward Son – a Book by Sam & Gifford Keen

by Boysen Hodgson

I read “Fire in the Belly” in my early 20’s. It was a powerful addition to my list of favorite personal development books, along with “The Book; on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,””Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” “The Road Less Travelled,” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Yes, I was a young man searching.

Sam Keen’s powerful voice for the sacred masculine was terrifying and liberating. It felt unattainable. Maybe it was. Now, in 2015, as a man in my mid-forties, the masculinity presented in “Fire in the Belly” still resonates. And, with the progress of time and culture, it doesn’t feel as transcendent as what I see some men actually living.

Though the message he brought was radical, Sam Keen was still a man of his time. Sam Keen, as a father, a husband, and a working man, was different than the stereotype of the 1960’s corporate suburban provider, but his expressions of the values of manhood were a horizontal shift rather than an up-level into a new paradigm. His realisations about manhood were an essential and natural next step in an evolutionary process, similar to what Robert Bly captured in “Iron John.” Modern man’s search for the intersection of life-giving power without Patriarchy’s death-dealing oppression. It was a vision of men trying to kindle a spark of wildness in a time that felt deadening, and find their tender hearts in a time when their hearts felt hardened.

Some things have changed. Many have not. The evolution of our gender system is ongoing, and progress happens. I am fiercely optimistic. I see men living with power and compassion all around me. I see men awakened. Sam Keen played a role in this emergence – and for that I am deeply grateful.

“Prodigal Father, Wayward Son” the new book co-written by Sam Keen and his son Gifford Keen is reflective of the unintended consequences of the kind of manhood that a younger Keen wrote about, and a beautiful testament to the power of vulnerability, truth-telling and forgiveness. It is a series of stories told by Father to Son and Son to Father on a path to reconciliation.

Gifford and Sam Keen offer up the past unflinchingly. Sometimes it’s difficult to read. But what I loved about the book is the tenderness that emerges in the empathy that they discover together. It takes hard work to get there. It takes a level of personal responsibility and vulnerability only achieved through effort over time, the kind of effort that requires a fire in the belly.

I was fortunate to speak with Gifford and Sam in February 2015, shortly after the book was published. I believe that the Sam Keen I spoke with is a wonderful example of the evolution I explore above. What I experienced in the conversation with Sam and Gifford were men whose hearts were wide open, compassionate, and ready to speak the truth.

See the full interview here.

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 received his BA with Honors from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, after completing 2 years of Design coursework at Cornell University. He has been helping companies and individuals design the change they wish to see in the world for 15 years. He’s a dedicated husband.


40 Powerful Purpose Quotes from Across the Ages

by Brandon Peele

Since the beginning of history, humans have had a deep relationship to their life’s purpose, and sought to gift future generations with this message, weaving purpose into art, philosophy, literature and religions.  Our ancestors who heeded the call of purpose, who made their life’s purpose central, reached unheralded levels of achievement, fulfillment and spiritual realization.

Need a lift? Need some inspiration? Check out for a free 75 minute Webinar – “Purpose 2.0 – Upgrade Your ‘Internal Operating System’ for a High Impact Life.” If you want change in the world – and in your own life – it’s time to upgrade your operating system.

This gallery of 40 purpose quotes is only the tip of the iceberg for what is out there. Leaders of all kinds from throughout history have arrived at a similar place … KNOWING and LIVING from a deep sense of purpose is key to feeling fulfillment, significance, and belonging.

Brandon Peele

Brandon Peele is the Founder of The EVR1 Institute, and co-Teacher of the Man on Purpose Course, a powerful 7-week LIVE online course that connects men to their life’s purpose.  Brandon is a co-author of the Purpose Activation Blueprint (, a free workbook that helps men build the life and world they want.


Guest Post: Spice Up Your Relationship with a Blind Date

Want to learn and experience something new with your partner? Try going on a “blind date”. Here’s how it worked for Michael J. Russer.

– –

by Michael Russer, originally published at the Good Men Project 

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.


From Dad’s Toolbox

from the Lair of the Wildman

There’s a wrong I’d like to right. The man I wronged is dead, so I am asking you to hear my truth in this regard. If it resonates, so be it, or, share your truth.

I was 48 when I first heard of a Warrior Weekend and the idea that there were other men in the world that wondered . . . ‘is this it, is this what being a man is?’ was foreign to me. I was hungry for the company of men I just didn’t know it, I was more often hiding behind the skirts of women, looking for validation. Or just plain hiding.

I grew up in Minnesota in the 60’s, the son of a hard-working, high-school educated man. He was plain-spoken, raised on a farm (that I cherished), he cried once that I can remember – when his father died, he was a perfectionist, and, he was profoundly unavailable to me emotionally.

I took this personally and when I began to spend time with men, it became fashionable for me, in reviewing the life I had with my father, to proclaim that he really wan’t much of a father, or, that he didn’t have much to give and therefore could really be the father I needed. I want to amend that story I made up.

Richard was a self-taught carpenter. He spent most of his early to middle working life in the employ of developers and the year I was twelve he had a great partner. Every day, for months that year, Dad and Bob hung 100 sheets of rock a day. It was the equivalent of five houses a week. Do words written with unabashed pride read differently? Richard was 48 that year and it wasn’t long after that he went into business for himself.

Richard was how I worked my way through college. Not every son gets to know the intimacies of this ancient father/son dance, but some do and I count my self lucky. As fortunate as I feel, know too that working for a father is a bugger. A perfectionist is seldom a perfectionist unto themselves and so it was with dad. My work and ethic was under constant and unwavering scrutiny. This was especially true in the world where ‘plumb’ and ‘level’ reside. As an adolescent, I was frequently given to ‘good enough’. I didn’t get it.

Let me put it another way. The idea that all things are ‘connected’ doesn’t emerge from Buddhist philosophy; it came from a carpenter, and he wasn’t born with it, its functional wisdom that is the product of trial and error. Try building a wall on a floor that isn’t level. Try hanging a door in a wall that isn’t plumb. Install a window or cabinet in a room and, damn, if one thing doesn’t lean on the other. There’s something sneaky about plumb and level because a degree here, is a foot on the other side of the room. The consequence of being inattentive in this moment, can mean unforeseen tragedy a month or a year down the road. Gives me pause even now.

When I was 28, a buddy and I built a cabin in the foothills of Mt. Shasta in northern California. My emotionally unavailable father drove the straight 46 hours out with me in a Jeep Wrangler to help. We didn’t talk so much about life, but he brought his tool box.

When I was later married and at 33 started to build another cabin on a lake in western Wisconsin. My father spent weeks and months helping me finish the place. We disagreed on politics, religion, and gutters but he brought his tool box.

Then, at 42, in an attempt to save my marriage we sold everything and bought a run down 100-acre ‘start over’, It was an 80-year-old man who brought his tool box and drove the 80 miles out to help where he could. Finally, divorced, I moved back in with dad to help him out with his Cancer diagnosis and collect myself, I began to go through his tools and when he died in June of 2012, I used some of them to build his casket. He loved the long clear grain of fir.

I reflect from time to time on the things I have built in my life and recognize with a flush, that I didn’t clearly see what dad was really giving me.

Wild Man

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



« Previous PageNext Page »