Apprenticeship to Love: Meditations on this Path to Authentic Relationship, October 12, 2023
• Today’s questions: Is there another who leads you with your tenderness? Are you willing to feel your own tenderness, and let this lead you through the confusion and the happiness and the pain of this life?
• Today's suggested practice: Day 12 of this month's practice, to notice & receive while in motion (see my "Short Practice,” below)
• My practice today: No practice. Sleeping in after an exhausting day.
• My vulnerability practice: To notice the difference, between seeing her tears now, and how I avoided them before, and how I let these tears reveal myself, my regret, my longing...
This is a powerful song she sings. She is so tender she breaks my heart with her silent tears.
The Siren is a much-feared aspect of the feminine energy. Odysseus, with characteristic cleverness and unwillingness to step into what the Sirens offered, managed to both hear their song and avoid his dissolution.
But what if the Sirens in our lives are here to release us from the ways that are not working?
I will repeat this, often, until I know it in my bones: I lead by following the feminine.
It's always a risk, to allow myself to feel this much. To feel this deeply.
I've learned that the tricks we learn as men, how to not-feel, how to avoid intimacy and tenderness, these are not worthy of me anymore. Nor her.
Still, I'm rarely confident as I make this step into feeling so deeply, which is often a stepping into profound stillness and silence.
How hard it is, to stand in stillness, to hold her tight against the world, and to feel so much hurt, confusion, sensitivity, with only my breath and my own stillness to offer.
I was listening to David Deida coaching a young man yesterday. The young man's issue was related to his "purpose" and his experience of purpose (or lack thereof) against the call to go deeper into intimacy with his feminine beloved. I'll paraphrase what I understood.
These are both important, and not necessarily separable, Deida suggested. They don't need to be in conflict. Our need for purpose is perhaps one of the most painful and most important things we can experience as masculine-identified men. Knowing our purpose will allow us to go deeper into intimacy with a feminine-identified woman: we are no longer distracted by our worry about purpose.
In my 20s I was liberated from the pain of not knowing my purpose by feeling myself thrust through a door. That door, fatherhood. Yes, I chose to step through the door. My integrity drew me through. And it was scarey as hell.
But then, liberation: being a father became a beautiful purpose, one that has deepened as I now step into being a grandfather.
Deida asked this young man, What are you feeling called to do, the thing you must do before you die? This is your purpose. And so, for me, being the best father I could be has become one of my guiding lights, how I bring the depth of my being into this life. And, having figured that out, I am free to devote myself to this most unconventional intimacy with my beloved.
Consider this: What if we, masculine-identified men who are so easily distracted by feminine sexual energy (in women's bodies, but perhaps most importantly, in our own bodies, where it most often manifests as sexual impulsivity), what if we became conscious of what we are feeling? What if we paused, as Christine Emba suggests? What if we put aside the cultural norms that insist on more sex=better life, and began to honour and respectfully hold space for the alchemical fires of our sexuality?
One of my greatest accomplishments, one of the things I'm most proud of in my life, is the conscious waiting I initiated before becoming sexual with a romantic partner I was profoundly attracted to. I paused.
One of my greatest regrets is that I didn't consciously choose to wait before becoming sexual in a romantic relationship that was offered to me with so much tenderness (recklessness, she calls it). I did not pause.
I cannot lead with any confidence or depth unless I am grounded, and unless I am able to "feel into" my beloved. My sexual training —how I was raised as a boy, how this culture teaches me as a man— does not prepare me to be man she needs, yearns for, yearns to love.
The movie Barbie offers us a clue as to where we are and how we move forward. Like so many of us, Ken does not know who he is, or how he is to be a man. Barbie invites him to begin his own journey to himself, even as she embarks on her journey to be herself.
This is familiar. And true.
In the 1980s and 1990s some of us masculine-identified men were pushed and/or drawn to an early form of "men's work." Making it up as we went along. Or, if we were lucky (I was lucky), being led by a counsellor who had some experience in guiding us men to ourselves. Some of us were in that group because of the emptiness in our lives and our lack of guidance from the generation of our fathers. Others, "pushed" by the unhappiness of our romantic partners as they confronted the pain of being a woman growing up and living in "the patriarchy."
Drawn. Pushed. Usually a combination of factors. As I do my research into men's groups I keep seeing this dynamic: men who feel there is something more, men who are told by women in their lives (often wives, long-term partners) to begin to do the work.
This is, for all of us, uncharted territory. We hear the Siren's song. We step into a new and unfamiliar vulnerability. We wonder, What does it mean, for me, to be a man now? What does it mean now, compared to how I faced that question almost 30 years ago when I first began to sit with men and come to know myself?
Call me lucky: I have few distractions now. I have a lot of time and space to be silent, when I choose. And more often than not, I am choosing silence and stillness.
Call me lucky: I am learning to "hold this space" of a deeper and more quiet version of myself, and in this space she trusts me enough to allow tears. To share an unspeakable tenderness. And, following this tenderness, I allow my heart to break open. I am dashed upon the rocks of my ego, my always-thinking, always-planning mind. Broken open to just feel.
Here is where I am myself, the man I am now. Here is where I dance the art and the love that is between us.
Call me lucky.
🌀 Only the one who descends into the underworld rescues the beloved. (Soren Kierkegaard)
🌀...we have become accustomed to treating our desires as something to be satisfied as immediately as possible—eat the cake, buy the shoes, have the sex— otherwise we risk the charge of not being true to ourselves. We describe sex in particular as a need, hearkening back to our Freudian (and liberal-capitalist) understandings of deprivation as a fate worse than death. Sexual desire is an uncontrollable force, stronger than any norms, customs, responsibilities, or relationships that might stand in its way, and it's often too much to ask for us to control ourselves in the face of it.
But it's possible that we are actually overselling sex, and underselling our own free will. (Christine Emba)
🌀I want to be seen. I want to be accepted as I am. And loved for that. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)
TODAY'S SUGGESTED SHORT PRACTICE
Day 12 of this month's practice, to move and to notice, and to receive:
Please read through first, then ...
- Today, set two alarms, one for the early part of your day, one for mid-late afternoon when you may be feeling low energy.
- When the alarm sounds, wherever and however you are, take three, five, 11, or 30 minutes to do this short practice:
- When you’re done, stand for a minute or two, breathing gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself, Is there another who leads you with your tenderness? Are you willing to feel your own tenderness, and let this lead you through the confusion and the happiness and the pain of this life?
- Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
- Continue with your day until the next alarm sounds, and repeat.