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Communicate Effectively

I am increasingly intolerant of technology created to connect us, but do so inefficiently and can often reverse the wheels of relationship.

I believe that effective communication, in all its forms, is advancing something.  It's purpose is wrapped up in describing reality and demanding an action in one way or another.  Ineffective communication does the opposite.  It fails to describe what is really going on--either by way of not saying anything, or by dancing around the real point.  Additionally it doesn't summon up a valid request--again, by either saying something poorly and pussy footing around the idea, or by not even getting it out there at all.

We know that all forms of communication are not equal to the human organism.  Through millions of years of evolution God has engineered a creature that relays information through intensely physical subtleties. These include tone differentiation, facial responses (which can also be heard auditory), gesturally and through posture.  Science has put forward that as much as 93% of meaningful communication is registered at the body level, rather than textually.  This means that really very little real understanding is even capable of happening beyond that physical level.  So what happens when we close it out--when we effectively shut off those receptors?  Miscommunication, poor communication, increased projection, and generally speaking a whopping WASTE OF TIME!

If my goal in communicating with you is to deliver something that you connect with fully, and that engages responsive mechanisms in you, wouldn't I want to use the most effective means possible?

Anything that can be ignored easily is a waste of time.  Anything that doesn't make maximum impact in terms of communication (when that's your goal) is a colossal drain of energy.  Ones that we've become accustomed to are things like: surfing the web, emailing, texting, and business meetings.  Those things give you impressions or exposures, they will confirm what you are already convinced of, but do little to advance meaningful exchanges.

It gets better--all of those highly ineffective forms of communicating all create a sense of absolute urgency, in which your immediate attention is interrupted.  Not only are the inefficient in dealing with their own agenda's--but they then dilute another set of contact.  Examples--remember sitting with your loved one, family member, spouse, or friend--you're laying your heart out, having REAL communication and BAM, you notice...they're staring at their phone.  A tweet has just come through, a Facebook notification has just gone off, an email has decended from the ether, a text just got pushed.  They're now distracted, and so are you.  You attempt to regain your composure, remember where you just were--they apologize profusely, and you move on.  But the moment is gone.

And what has been subtly communicated is that your experience and interaction is less important to your loved one, than a tweet from someone on the other side of the world.  Their attention went to their priority.  That's how real communication works.  We give attention to what is important! 

Do you get that?  Do you get that investing in that form of communication is not only inefficient in terms of meaningful interaction, but it actually puts other, higher, forms of exchange at risk?

This is what I'm coming to:

Text only what is extremely time-sensitive or extremely unimportant.  Dates. Times. Locations. Instantly accessible data. Or a dirty joke to a friend who can't possibly take it as anything other than funny.

Email only that which is extremely time-sensitive or extremely unimportant that you can't in good conscious text.  In other words something slightly longer, but that fits into the same categories as above.  Data. Not experiences, theories, opinions, concepts....

Call when you cannot physically meet.  This isn't the best form of communication, but its better than the other two.

Meet when the communication really matters to you. A real friend. A colleague who you want to convert into a real friend, etc... In other words some one or something that isn't just data or isn't really time sensitive.  For that, use the earlier two.


and whatever you do follow the Nixon Rule...don't write or record what you don't want to be reminded of later...LEAVE NO PAPERTRAILS...

The point...have good relationships.  Don't waste your time and others. Ya know?

How to Communicate Effectively

How do you measure successful conversation?  What quantitates a meaningful exchange?

For many people its about hearing some one and feeling heard. But recently I've begun to wonder if this isn't just a subtle form of manipulation.  A kind of lying to yourself and the other party, by failing to appreciate what's really going on.

Think about it.  I communicate something to you, hoping that you'll hear me.  And, I listen to you, hoping you'll hear me.

Wait.

Read that again.

Do you see that in either case, I'm speaking or listening based on a hope that I'll be heard.  Much of our so-called empathetic listening is an attempt create reporte for further dialog.  It's actually what I identify as a greater body of REACTIVE communication.

Reactive Communication says something in order to solicit a response. I say you look nice because I want you to say that I look nice back.  I say I had a great evening because I want to know that you had a great evening (because that'll make me feel better about myself).  I listen because I want you to listen. On and on.  In Reactive Communication my entire motivation for speaking is based on a desired outcome--namely ME GETTING SOMETHING OUT OF IT! It's a kind of insecurity that needs the others validation in order to feel valid.

It gets worse.  WE DO IT ALL THE TIME.  I would say 90% of communication that I encounter on a day to day basis is Reactive. Saying something to solicit something.

Pay attention.  Notice what you say, and when you say, and what you REALLY WANT!

So, what should we do instead?

Here's my suggestion: PROACTIVE communication. 

Say something because it expresses your reality.  Say it without expectation of response. Say it without wanting a single damn thing from the other person.  Say it because its true, and you can't do anything other than say it.  I would suggest even state what you want without wanting anything.  I know, that sounded Zen.  But what I mean is that its ok to say what you want, as long as your honest about it and can understand that you may not actually get what you want (because there's another real person involved who you can't control by manipulating them with their words).  Because that's what you mean.

Instead of saying, "I had a good time last night...." and trailing off with the hope that they will respond in kind, say whats true:  I had a good time last night with you and I'm actually wondering what you felt about it?"

Or don't lead with your impression at all--that may be another subtle way of demanding a particular ego-stroking response, "What did you think of last night?"

Here's why its so important--if you're only communicating in order to get a response, you're not really ever able to actually receive their truth, and you're certainly not giving yours. You're just extending platitudes tailored to illicit a kind of interaction that makes you feel better.  It's got to stop.  It's doing no one, least of which you, a lick of good.

I know--because up till two years ago I did it all the time.  I was brought up assuming reactive communication was real communication (it's NOT).  And I mastered the art of subtly controlling the outcome of a persons response by leading them with my words.  The reason I was doing it was because I was insecure, in who I was.  I needed a set of reactions to feel OK. If I called someone it was because I was feeling needy--not because they needed the call.  If I treated you kindly it was because I wanted someone to treat me kindly.  If I said a gentle word it was because I was hoping for one in return.  If I said it was a nice day outside, I wanted your interaction (not necessarily because it was a nice day at all!) Do you get it?  Almost everything I said or did was motivated by a desire for a particular self-serving response.

Something changed.  A lot changed actually.  But one of the things was because that form of chatter had ceased working. It left me feeling unknown and isolated.  What's more is that I was increasingly encountering people who wouldn't play my game.  They understood themselves well enough to respond with genuineness and not platitudes.  They weren't willing to keep up the culture of lying to make life run smoothly.  Slowly, with lots of conscious paying attention--I have trained myself to be a proactive communicator.  My goal is state my reality without expectation of response.  One of things that starts to eliminate is superfluous communication.  My texts or emails are short, clipped, informational.  My dialogs often have a stated point. I am working to ensure that what you hear from me mirrors my absolute felt reality.

It's making a difference. It's making me a person you can count on. Who you know exactly where you stand with.

I'd invite you to try it too.  The results might surprise you.



Why You're Going to Have to Change

He came to me sobbing. His wife had cheated on him. His career was spiraling out of control. His drinking had gone from every-so-often to almost all the time. His faith life had failed him. Bottom line, he was disintegrating fast.

This man had been one of my best friends for years. We had gone to concerts together, started businesses together, and been in the same social circles. But, I hadn’t known the pain he was in.

The worst part, he confided in me, was that he wasn’t sure if he actually even wanted THOSE THINGS—the job, the spouse, the spiritual community. Here’s what I told him—”You probably haven’t wanted those things for a long time—and you’ve been half-assing it, and pulling back to prove it.”

He looked confused for a moment and then nodded, “I guess that’s true. But what should I do?”

I told him with absolute certainty, “You’re going to have to change.”

It is difficult--but not impossible--to rewrite your story; your way of being in this world.

Of course who you are seems so instinctual, so automatic.  And that is exactly what it is--a rather downloaded way of living. But character--who you are--is actually the sum total of HOW you are. Which means change is possible, if you're practical.

Why did that man, my friend “have to change?”

Because he was miserable. And he was making everyone around him miserable. He had assembled the life he thought he wanted, as many of us do in our early twenties, only to realize it was hardly his basic desire.

Rather than challenge himself to shift, he simply kept up the pretense and waited for everyone else to act in a response. He wanted his wife to make the decision—and she did. He wanted his employers to make the choices—and they did. He wanted a passive life, and that is exactly what he had. He was constantly being acted on.

I talk a lot with men who want to get back control in their life. They’re tired of being pushed around. They ache because being the one holding all the plates in the air. But if they want out of this position, they’re going to have to change their way of being.

MASCULINE ARCHETYPE

According to one of the father’s of modern psychology, Carl Jung, the collective unconscious consists of instinctual and universal thought patterns that humans developed over thousands of years of evolution. Jung called these primal imprints on our being “archetypes.”

For Jung, archetypes form the foundation of all individual experience. You could be a wealthy and soficisticated stock broker in New York or a bushman in Sub-Saharan Africa—Jung would argue that no matter who you are, you have the same archetypal behaviors embedded within you.

Jung believed that we most readily saw these archetypes of human behavior come to the surface in the conscious mind through symbols, rituals, and myths. As later mythologists would argue, these patterns and concepts of archetypes help us understand why there are so many commonalities in various world myths and rituals. For example, the dying/resurrecting God figure can be found in the stories and myths of ancient Greeks, ancient Sumerians, Christians, and Native Americans.

So too, Masculine and feminine archetypes are in each one of us. These principles transcend genitals, or sex types like male and female. These two archetypes simply are ways of encoding the world, and have been so for thousands of years. It is wrapped up in mythology and how cultures have storied their reality. We often turn a blind eye to these ancient messages, and consider them as outdated or ignorant, but they were saying something, both then and now. Their symbols are tied up in how we think and operate, and we do well to pay attention to them.

In archetypal langues “The Feminine,” often perceived as a goddess or an energetic force, is wild and raw. She is filled with passion and non-directionality. She is the ocean. She is an ever shifting flow of energy going where she wants. She is powerfully emotive. She is vitality and life. The Feminine is also associated with nurturance, softness, and gentility. Whenever a person inhabits these places they are connecting with the feminine.

The Masculine is the polarity of this. It is directional energy. It is purposeful, ordered, and sculptured. It is the Earth. It is emotive also—but as aggression, intensity, and decisiveness. The masculine is also secondary. Meaning that traditional cultures understood that the Feminine force is stronger, interestingly enough (while we won’t explore that in detail now, its worth noting). In fact part of the masculine’s work was to cut away from the Feminine. This was depicted in stories as Male deities slaying Female ones, or male heroes cutting down monstrous females. Of course we could take this at face value and find a rip-roaring example of “The Patriarchy” here, or understand that they were symbolizing the journey of development for the Masculine in their culture. Part of the work of the masculine is always to “shove off from” or “cut away out of” the soft comfort of the feminine.

If a man has becoming comfortable, attached to his sweet way of living, and wishes little disturbance on it, but also feels directionless and purposeless, we might accurately say he is over-connecting with the Feminine, and not with The Masculine (the same might also be said for a woman).

One of the assumptions I have of most males in culture today is that they are addicted to comfort and security and know little of purpose. This imbalance is driven by an overabundance (and over-emphasis) of Feminine archetypes, and insufficient road maps into the Masculine ones.

In order to progress men need understand a certain kind of change-initiation happens. They need to tap into this most basic of Masculine core archetypal movements.

I’m going to spell out how change occurs. This may be helpful, because it make concrete exactly what any of the Masculine (and purposeful) archetypes require of us.

If we want to change who we are we must change how we are.

HERE’S THE METHOD

(new)intension -----> (new) decision -----> (new)action -----> (new) habit -----> (new) character.

Think of someone who is an unconfident slob. He's overweight. His clothes are baggy. He slouches in his chair. He grumbles about everything. He's the perpetual negative nancy or naysayer. His self esteem is in the pits.  Here's the thing...I've been there.

When I was thirteen, entering into 8th grade, I was having all kinds of problems with school--and among other things I was failing English.  That summer my parents got a call. The school wanted to put me in a special English class.  I was against it. I didn't want to be sidelined--even if I was a loser, a failure.  Then the truth dropped. They wanted to put me in a self-directed Honors English class.  They didn't think I was poor at English at all.  They thought I was fantastic, and wanted me to explore that gift.  My entire self-image begin to change over the course of that year. By the end, I believed myself to be somewhat exceptional.  My behaviors and beliefs collided into a whole new way of being.

Go back to our slob. Here's his path...

Intend--literally envision who he WANTS to be, who he believes he is capable of being.  Decide--commit his will power to becoming what he believes he might already be. Then adopt new behaviors.  Change his posture. Stand straighter. Lose some weight. Get a new hair cut. Put a different wardrobe on. Invite him to engage in conversation rather than run from it. Teach him self-regulation where he can manage his anxiety through different breathing techniques and thought patterns. Watch as people begin to see him differently. Watch his confidence grow. Watch it become second nature. Watch new habits crystalize after repetition. Interact with a whole new character.

This is a really crass illustration. But I've watched it happen. At times I've lived it. The trick is in the first three steps...INTENTION. DECISION. ACTION.

You don't have to be the person you are today. Change is not only possible. It's practical.

Our character is defined by our habits....anything you do all the time is who you are.

Across the years I’ve struggled with this, around addiction, self-centeredness, deceit and self-righteousness especially. I’ve developed, like all of us, coping skills to avoid pain in the moment—but really just make things worse in the long run, for me and others. However, when blind spots become apparent, I want to be responsive to the work. To actually bringing my best intentions to bear. If I want to change these aspects of myself then shaming myself and blaming myself or others really isn’t going to help, is it? What will? Work. Designing a life that is impervious to addictive patterns, becoming relentlessly honest with those closest to me, letting go of ego, and doing things for others. The opposite of the character I have often portrayed is exactly what is called for!! It’s not about wishing and hoping, it’s about willing and working at it. 

BALANCE

One of the earliest sets of myths we have comes to us from ancient Sumeria, The Epic of Gilgamesh. This is a significant set of stories for many reasons. First, it is incredibly old—going back to what we might call the “dawn of civilization” and reflects just what our ancestors transitioning out of hunter-gatherer cultures thought and saw in their world. Second (and I feel to be most important), the Sumerian culture was the front line of this transition. They were really the initial experiment of moving from nomadic to sedentary cultures, from connected to soil and seasons, to toiling by the plow and enforced labor rituals. Truly, their early reflections upon those moments holds great significance for the human experience.

The Epic of Gilgamesh has within it two intriguing characters, who play small roles in the shaping of the central hero, Gilgamesh. Their names are Lilith and Enikudu. Obviously Lilith goes on to achieve much greater fame in feminist literature. Enikudu recedes into relative anonymity. However, they’re both worth mentioning here.

Lilith is noteworthy because she is said to be a dark maiden who builds her house within a sacred tree, along with a serpent. The hero Gilgamesh goes to slay the serpent and Lilith then abandons the tree and flees into the wild where she takes up her home.

Enkidu is actually far more complex and developed as a character. He is said to be a wild and hairy man, in tune with the animals and committed to freeing them from those who would capture them. His path is that of becoming ensnared by the villagers who sedate and seduce him through plying him with wine, bread, and sex (about right, all things considering). Eventually he is tamed. He cuts his hair and begins to live as a domesticated male.

What is fascinating is that this story includes a witness to the people of the Wild—those who are undomesticated and unbroken by the yoke of civilization. These characters represent our primal and archetypal Masculine and Feminine spirits. And they both have lessons to teach us. Enkidu’s story is truly a heartbreaking one and reminds us how our primal nature can be caged, in part, thanks to our primal appetites. It suggests that the Masculine can be drawn into a prison, of its own choosing. Security and stability, along with the need for provision are a snare that ancient peoples understood was working upon them. Lilith’s story helps us to remember that the Feminine’s instinct is to create a safety also from within a wild place, alongside of wisdom (as represented by the serpent—an ancient symbol for wisdom in that culture). However, when hunted down and terrified, can retract and often disappear altogether, becoming a wound and a shadow to us.

In total the appearance of these two characters helps us know that the counter-balance to the civilized and enslaving elements of the world is actually a Wild and Free vision of the Masculine and Feminine. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t need a balance between The Masculine and Feminine. This is the dynamic of living WILD & FREE. We need BOTH. Men especially, in this current evolution are being inundated with aspects of the sacred Feminine—empathetic emotionality, BEING (as opposed to doing), and softness. These are important, but not outside of the masculine edge also. But committing to active change we literally push ourselves into that masculine edge.

Here’s why that matters—because, going back to my friend, if we’re ever going to be happy, we’re going to have to start making decisions that are congruent with our actual intentions. Not what we imagine others would want. Not what we hope for. Not what posterity is demanding—no….Decisions out of who we are. And that kind of directionality is us, connecting with the Masculine again. But it’s also us connecting to happiness once more.

It’s easy to divorce ourselves from our depths—from those parts of ourselves that are connected to intention and being. We do so when persecuted, when sedated, when afraid, and when seduced. We do so when external forces act upon us, and when internal insecurities are exploited. However, in order to change and go forward we must make a commitment to attach to both truths within us.

Maybe its time to re-write your story. Maybe you need to find that part deepest within yourself in order to change, or become the man you were made to. Give it a try?

 

 

Sex Starts in the Morning

I'll never forget when my best friend, already an old married dude, gave me the one piece of advice I NEEDED to know on the eve of my wedding..."Sex starts in the morning..."

This had been a hard fought truth. His spouse was like a finely wound watch or a sports car. She needed to be finessed and tended to. You couldn’t just power your way into her good graces. It had to be earned.

Some guys don’t get this. They think that they can just push harder, brush on through, and power forward to get their way. We’ve all seen dudes like this. Maybe we’ve all been like it from time to time ourselves. But here’s the truth—you will not keep nice things or nice people in your life if you keep on taking that brutish, beef cake, burly approach to life. You won’t. You may get what you want—but there's a difference between getting what you want, and getting people to LIKE giving you what you want. 

If you invest in a relationship, you're more likely to get what you want consistently.

  • Do you want to go out with your buddies more often?

  • Do you want to have more sex?

  • Do you want others to respond when you ask them for things?

  • Well--I'm about to show you how to do just that.

Before I do--a quick note--some folks have been quick to say, "Isn't this MANIPULATION?!?!!"  The simple answer (for the simple minded) is yes. 

However, it is almost unimaginable that we would NOT be doing this.  We are constantly asking for things, developing plans, persuading others, or evoking a feeling to get what we want... the difference is that some people are highly effective at it--while others are not. 

What do I mean by this?

I'll never forget when a person I was working with said, "People always treat me like I'm helpless...And I hate it..."  My response was that I wasn't convinced they did hate it.  Why would they?  Others gave them what they wanted.  In fact their being treated as helpless was only an affect of actually BEING helpless. They had become HIGHLY effective in securing assistance, getting taken care of, and being helped out. 

What the person didn't like was the ICKY feeling they got about always feeling like a victim of circumstance, or being perceived as dependent. They got what they wanted--but they noticed people did it begrudgingly. Often times they’d get feedback that they were lazy, or eventually people would check out of their relationship because they took too much care. Bottom line, the person was getting what they wanted—but it didn’t last.

In other words there might be a more effective way to not only get what they needed in that moment, but also walk away with an improved relationship.

THE METHOD

The method I'm about to show you remedies the relationship destructive ways we try and get results, by reinforcing it with compassion, and loving-kindness--as well as actually caring about the person who is helping.

This isn't a skill you use on everyone. When I'm needing something from the gas station attendant I might not be mindful of building a solid relationship that will stand the test of time. But with my wife...HECK YES...I'm trying to use this skill constantly...

So men and women, here's today's PRO-TIP, step by step:

1) Be Gentle: Use your softer side...be NICE...No harsh tones or aggressive posturing... Try using a soothing voice and some tenderness. It goes a long way. Yeah that’s right, you’re totally phony pro-bro voice that you’ve dropped by two octaves to impress the dudes at work won’t work in this moment. Raise a bit, give it some inflection. Move the eye brows for god’s sake. Smile even—couldn’t hurt.

2) Act Interested:  I think its important to point out that I said, ACT interested... YOU MAY NOT BE!  It's ok. Not everything catches our attention. Not everything grabs us. But that doesn't mean we can't be fully present with our attention and engagement. Don't check your cell phone while your spouse is talking to you. Don't status update in the middle of their story. That's showing them you don't care. And no--don't take the non-emergency phone call in the middle of dinner...it says that others are more important than the people right in front of you. Act like they matter if you want to build the relationship.

3) Validate their emotions: Validation doesn't mean that you agree with a person, it just means that you acknowledge them. If someone launches into a rant, you can say, "Wow...you're really passionate about this..." BAM! They've been heard. If someone is totally tearing up and crying uncontrollably, you might venture, "It seems like you're upset..."  Again, what can you empathize with?!?!  There's always something.  Sometimes I deal with some really tough cookies who might say, "I want to go postal on the whole world..." Now, I probably wouldn't just bob my head and say: "YES!!!"  Instead, I can validate that they're having a hard time, their back is against the wall, and they feel angry beyond belief. It's that simple....

4) Be Cool: This is such a bad-ass thing.  Just by being cool about something, easy, and unflappable, you can take down the energy in a room.  Think of someone erupting in anger and aggression... You have a few options...but usually responding in kind doesn't lead to any place good.  Lowering your voice, having an easy manner, and playing it real cool literally drops the intensity.  I do this ALL THE TIME--and so can you!

There it is. In short a step by step method to get people to like giving you want you want. Just by being gentle, interested, letting them know you're getting their world, and being cool about things rather than boiling hot.

BUT AM I JUST FAKING IT???

I can think of another dude who thought that anything short of “the brutal truth” and “naked honesty” was lying or negative manipulation. Let’s just say he also wondered why he didn’t have close relationships and his spouse often expressed that they don’t enjoy him. What was going on? Same story—he didn’t understand that in order to most consistently experience the positives of relationship, we need to put in the effort. We can’t always just—get what we want.

I suppose there’s the fear of being a socio-path. When we break down what that means in experience, you might say that you don’t want to be calculated or over-analyzing your decisions just to get what you want. I get it, and this is noble. But actually this isn’t that at all. This is about knowing that it’s not simply about the WHAT, it’s also about the HOW. And that how we interact with others has an impact, on them, and on us. This is the opposite of being sociopathic. You’re actually caring about the person enough to take their experience into consideration.

I can hear the objection now—but aren’t you really just taking them into consideration because you want something?

Sort of…

But what you want isn’t only MORE sex, MORE time with friends, etc…you want MORE of this relationship.

Look, I remember in my first marriage I had an idea of “unconditional love.” By that I thought that they needed to love me regardless of how shitty I treated them or whether or not I poured into the relationship. Here’s the reality—it’s not true. Unconditional love may be possible, but not this side of heaven. Turns out bad behavior merits bad results. She happily kicked my ass to the curb. And good for her! She knew that she was worth more.

We treat people how we want to be treated. I learned the hard way that in order to keep or build relationships, and to keep getting the things you desire, you have to practice kindness, connection, and caring. There’s really no two ways about it.

So. Here’s my challenge to y’all. Try this.

Be Gentle. Act Interested. Validate their emotions. Be Cool.

oh, and you’re welcome.

Being a Man isTerrifying

What most women I know don't get about men is the terror that governs a man's inner world.

Getting Through It

Men are scared of having relationships, being in their bodies, having and caring for kids, making a meal by themselves, being alone, getting soft or intimate, connecting with big emotions, becoming violent, or committing to a partner.

I could go on and on--how often I see it! This ocean of terror is locked inside and seems to seep its way into every part of a man's world. Most of all it seems to rise and swell with providing for families or making a way in this world. A father recently confessed to me that he felt "terrified" that he couldn't take his kids to Disneyland this next year because the money just wasn't there. He was overwhelmed with fear of disappointing them, of NOT giving them the life they imagined was needed.

Women who support the men I’ve mentored often complain that their husbands or sons seem to mope around looking exhausted and weighed down. 

It often appears like its a struggle for men to enjoy the moment.

The sense of "constraint" and obligation, of looking like life is a chore, comes from feeling a need to master the fear. What often is complained about concerning men's need to conquer and subjugate starts right here. In response to our sense of terror we attempt to conquer life. It's not just being Attila the Hun--it's also making lots of money, having plenty of friends, wracking up exciting experiences, screwing their way through female relationships, or even practicing the spiritual life and mastering meditation, religion, or science. It’s about starting that podcast, building a brand, or even initiating a band of brothers.

The fear driving this need to conquer is always the same. Dare I say it?

The Mother.

No—Not your mom. Not actually, not exactly.

Deeply buried in the male psyche is the image of The Mother being one with him, holding him captive, and then forcing him to attach to her, to be dependent on her. The archetype of fertility and life turns out to be the greatest Monster of a man's dreams.

We see this in ancient mythology. The slaying of Tiamat the Dragon (the female goddess of the ocean waters) at the hands of Marduk ( a young male deity attempting to free the world from the feminine) is the most ancient creation myth we know. The bringing of order and land out of the swirling womb of chaos early in the Hebrew Scriptures is another example of this. Norse mythology depicts a slaying of a primordial cow—a vision of fertility—as what births humanity. In fact, most early agrarian societies had some form of these myths in which the masculine destroys the feminine, or binds it. Men cannot enjoy life, or the feminine, without attempting to conquer it, because we are terrified of it.

Life itself, with its rise and fall, and torrent of potential mishaps, simply looks alarming to the male ego. It appears as the chaotic attachment, the emotional embrace, we received—first in utero, then in life. We deal with it as best we can--often by escaping it or conquering it. Earlier I mentioned examples of conquest styled behavior, but drinking, using drugs, zoning out on the couch, watching sports (as opposed to playing them), playing video-games till all hours, or being a Zen master, are all great examples of the male impulse to escape. To be a man is inevitably to seek distance from the Feminine.

Because the Feminine is identified with uncertainty—that which we cannot control or even understand—it is the thing that both feeds us and confounds us. We both are drawn to it, and horrified by it. As with women—so with life.

I know what you're probably thinking--especially if you're a woman. "My man is NOT afraid...he's lazy or he's driven, he's tired or he's just a high achiever...but FEAR is NOT his thing."

I get it. That's certainly the line we've sold you, or been sold our selves. And the truth is, its far easier to deal with escapism or over-achievement (the SYMPTOMS) than the fear (the ROOT CAUSE). But I guarantee that until a man deals with the overwhelming sense of terror that is bound up in him, he will be rigid, remote, a pleasure seeker, addict persona, guarded, distant, or a work-a-holic...

Men--you know I'm right. You feel it, don't you? Your fear of commitment, vulnerability, and sitting with women experiencing BIG emotions, are all examples of this. Waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat about finances is an example of this (especially if there's enough money in your bank account to fund a small army, already). Whether you want to admit it or not, fear lies at the heart of so much of your daily life.

Are you tired of it already?

An old remedy works in this case.

Love.

The beautiful, and poetic, verse, "Perfect love casts out all fear" is a true statement.

Because men feel constrained, feel tethered to life, and as if our back was being broken under the weight of having to soldier on, we have to experience a sense of rejuvenation. A mature man draws this energy from those around him who are connected to life in a way that is unrestrained--his children, his partner, or some form of the feminine.  Radiance, generosity, and grace are all experiences that temper and soften the rigidity that creeps in, and covers a man with fear.

Love penetrates through fear. Love leans in and drowns fear in a wave of givenness. Love exhausts itself until there is nothing left.

I’ve received this kind of love.

As I’ve said before—I’ve struggled with intimacy addiction. Attachment, and its physical embodiment, sex, have had a profound impact on my undealt with shadow. It’s damaged many I’ve loved in the past and effected individuals I’ve cared about. Not unlike the Prince in Beauty and The Beast, my own selfish choices, impact everyone around me (remember how in the movie his choices bring about a curse that turns a castle into a haunted house, friends and servants are transformed into cracked dinner ware, etc…). My own darkness, shaded others. What changed that for me? There came a moment when the weight of my struggles was heavier than I could bear and I anticipated being left alone to deal with and be buried by them. Instead, my friend and lover, my wife, looked at me—saw me—and LOVED me, unconditionally. She said, in the most unimaginable terms, “You belong—with all your brokenness, woundedness, shadows and gold. You are LOVED.” Not unlike that movie, in which Belle’s kiss unwinds the curse on the Prince-turned-Beast, so too the effects of her love began to undo the knots of ego and illusion I had been drowning in.

How do I know love conquers fear? Because I’ve experienced it.

An Assignment

Men--if you're reading this, practice imagining being invaded by loving kindness. Picture laughing with your kids or playing with your partner. Remember wrestling with them and being overcome by their enjoyment. Acknowledge that the very thing you're terrified of--being conquered by life, is also the exact thing you adore.

Women--if you want to know how to support your men when they're locked down with anxiety, or the behaviors I talk about above (conquest or escapism), don't become harsh or demanding--but drop into your own living connection with the earth, with your own softness. Free him with your crazy kiss, or take him on an adventure with your smile alone to motivate him. Touch him and enliven him.

Acknowledging we have fears is the first step, then moving from terror to love is the game changer.

5 Books Every Man Should Read

There are a dirth of recommendations out there. I almost hesitate to add to the massive burden of words “necessary” for every man to feel happy, healthy, and alive. Here’s the truth: you DO NOT need them. You don’t. You can get through life, as a man, living fully and deeply, without reading a single blessed word. Really, I believe that. 

But, one of the ways we transmit our ways of being in this world is through culture, and for at least the last six thousand years, through written words. There is a value in being challenged by ideas and stories not our own, by concepts unfamiliar to us, and by experiences that push us to our limits. That’s what this list is all about.  

The truth is this list is hardly comprehensive. It’s not an exhaustive body. We may issue that at some point—but not now. This is just a primer. So, if you see them—buy them. Don’t check these out from the library—OWN THEM (Click on the picture of the book to head straight to AMAZON). You will want to digest them many many times. That is, if you’re serious about your growth. Without further ado, the 5 Books Every Man should read. 

 

1) Meditations by Marcus Aurelius  

It is difficult to oversell the importance of this book. Here’s the thing, it was written almost 1800 years ago, by a man who’s life is unimaginably different than most of ours—he was a Roman Emporer. He didn’t set out to write a book for beta-bros in the 20th century working on their alpha game. He wrote a motivational journal for himself. And it was so fucking amazing they kept it. The advice and kick-ass wisdom in this small little handbook for life will give you reason to wake up in the morning. I use it as a devotional and have for several years now. Learn from the best. Let this mans soul invade your own and make it real. (One word of caution: edition and translation matters—buy the one linked to here, with the Raven on its cover!) 

Along the same lines I would recommend: The Will to Power by Nietszche,  Letters on Life by Rilke, and A Failure of Nerve by Friedman

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

Look, there’s a lot that’s come out before and since this book. There’s a lot to critique about this book, and its author. But—its still the book I’ve handed out to more men than any other. It’s written directly to the reader, “Today, take one step to do what you were born to do...” it’s aggressive, it uses phrases that men don’t use publicly, “your woman” and it drops the F-bomb a lot. He covers the polarity between the Masculine and Feminine, how to fuck like you mean it, and how to live your best life now. If you want an ass kicking towards purpose, this is your ticket. Read it. 

Also check out: From Wild Man to Wise Man by Richard Rohr, King, Warrior, Magician Lover by Moore, How to Make Sh*t Happen by Sean Whalen, Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen and Iron John by Robert Bly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) The Way of Men  and Becoming Barbarian by Jack Donavan  

I know I’ll take flack for this. I’ll have friends who will say there are better written books by less controversial figures. I get it. I hear you. And, you’re wrong. These twin books (different books but so complimentary they should be read together or even put into one volume), are written in a bare knuckle, no holds bare style. They aggressively target not only what it means to be a man today, but also how to be in relationship with other men, and how to relate to the dominant mono culture (The Empire of Nothing as Donavan refers to it) around us. While not all ideas within it are worth wrangling over, at least one idea within these pages should take you by storm and motivate you towards a shift. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram  

I read this book on a four hour flight and found my world upside down as I disembarked. Truthfully this book holds the profound keys to connecting with self, spirit and the more than human world around you. It’s a challenging book linguistically. He’s writing as an academic. Some of the chapters I had to wrestle through. And it was worth it. He explores the nature of Nature, our obsession with words over presence, breath “magical,  and becoming animal. This is a book that profoundly prompts us to become more alive. 

If you like this kind of writing checking out Morris Berman's book Coming to Our Senses or the Reenchantment of the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart compiled by Robert Bly and James Hillman

Poetry. For many men this is a dirty word. Fuck it. There are things we can see better out of the corner of our eye than head on. Poetry helps us do that. Get used to it brother. This book brings together many of the great poets (Neruda, Rilke, Oliver, Cummings) and puts them in relationship to the seasons of a mans life. It helps us see our place in this world. How many times in a dark hour did I pull this book out and laughed or wept accordingly? And honestly, the poem “Balls” is worth the price of the book. 

So many amazing OTHER poets to recommend--really anything by Pablo Neruda or Rainer Maria Rilke, but I might also throw in the poetry of Hafiz as translated by Daniel Ladensky. 

 

 

Alright man, get these. It’ll start you and companion you on the journey!