Apprenticeship to Love: Meditations on this Path to Authentic Relationship, December 29, 2023
• Today’s questions: Can you feel when your heart is open? When it is closed?
• Today's suggested practice: Day 25 of this month's practice, to step into your polarity (see my "Short Practice,” below)
• My practice today: 5:30am: 45 minutes: yoga, mantra, Healing Heart Hum meditation
• My vulnerability practice: To stand in the once ancient forests and remember and feel as I chant, Akaal
★ Please join me for 11 Days of Pranayama for the 5 Elements, FREE when you register before Dec 31 ($111 regular pricing) at https://bit.ly/3RAx41j
This is a gentle way to "come into balance" with yourself, and to begin to gently, very gently break open your heart to love.
Our practice starts January 1.
We are in the darkest days, the longest nights of the year. In northern Germanic lore, these are the Rauhnächte —the nights when Wotan rides the storms with Frau Holle, gathering up the souls that have departed.
This has long been a significant time of year for me. Not because I was attached to pagan Germanic traditions (though some, like the Christmas tree, and the singing of carols in the dark nights near the winter solstice, give me strange and persistent comfort). I do know that my sister's death (was it January 4 or 5th? I'm never sure, and for some reason do not feel the need to know the exact date) meant that for me and my family this became a holy, if secretive holy, time.
I say secretive because we were all locked up in our own private grief. Perhaps spending time in the forests where I've long known there is ancient (if impenetrable) wisdom is how I've come to share this grief, and know it as love, my first experience of heartbreak?
This year Marieke of the Amsterdam-based Kundalini Yoga School, one of the teachers who was so instrumental in me helping me find myself five years, and especially with the Lower Triangle Meditation which was my practice during these dark days five years ago —this year Marieke initiated an 11-day Rauhnacht's practice that incorporated the Sikh tradition of chanting Akaal: a way of sonically moving the souls of those who've left this life to their home in the ethers. It's a good practice for me. I go into the woods, and chant. I remember the ancient forest. I remember myself, my vulnerability. I remember my sister
"You are an unusual man." She said this as I responded to her questions about family, about my relationships with my children, my stepsons. Her questions about the travails of the early days years of marriage and children, and what came after.
"Other men wouldn't do what you've done," she continued. She meant: Other men wouldn't make the kinds of commitments I've made, or follow through on them.
That may be true. From what I've seen, what I've heard, from the many, many men I've come to know with some intimacy as friends, colleagues, as fellow travellers in men's groups and therapy and retreats, as students and clients, from these experiences I'd have to say that what she says rings true. I am an unusual man. Most men don't live as I live.
But I am also more tested than many of these men. The heartbreak I experienced as a child, this has had a profound impact on me. And on how I love.
I'm not a saint. I'm here, reflecting on my very painful apprenticeship to love, because, like all the men I've known, I struggle to be vulnerable, to love, to receive love. I'm a work in progress. And the women who've loved me have suffered because I've been a slow learner. I am not without grievous sins. Regrets.
But, at this point in my life (oh how I wish I'd understood this as a younger man, but so it is...) —now I have the luxury of a relationship that affords me considerable silence and space within which to know myself. I want proximity. I want to hear my beloved's voice, to feel her soft and round and yielding body in my arms and under my fingers. I want. But more than losing myself in that familiar distraction of the flesh and its pleasures I want to be true to who I am. Because, though I have appetities, I am not just a man with appetites. And for me to know —and love— the man I am, that takes the discomfort of this apprenticeship, and the Siren song my beloved sings for me.
I have my thoughts on the suffering of feminine-identified women who open their hearts and bodies, desiring to be seen, heard, known, loved by men like me. I cannot know this suffering. But I hear it. I can feel a shadow of its vibration.
I used to hide from this shadow of knowing. I had many ways of being clever and impenetrable. Many ways that made her suffering more acute.
But it protected me, these ways. Something I'd learned from my father, the culture: how to not feel her pain. Frankly, what shadow I felt was too frightening and overwhelming to want to know it at all.
There are men who I've known who haven't been so "clever," have had more humility and courage. Have faced the music, as it were. Listened to her Siren song and allowed themselves to be broken open to better receive love. Not me. Not until this last failure to know love.
Family has been my redemption. Perhaps. At least, feeling into what my daughers, and then my stepsons, needed to be whole, this mitigated the worst of my self-deception. I am aware of this whenever I spend time with my granddaughters: How much they love being alive, and how easy it is for this culture —whether through less loving parents, through a less aware grandfather— to begin to build the guardhouse of the heart that most of us live within from a relatively early age.
I asked her, my beloved, recently about children, whether she'd wanted them. Yes, she said, but she'd never found a man worthy.
Of all the ways I've failed, I don't count fatherhood as one of them. Husbandry, yes. And so I would not have been a worthy husband to her at a time when she and I might have had children, and so not worthy of being the father of her children. So I am grateful to the women who've opened their sacred wombspace, either literally carrying my children, or carrying and caring for my stepchildren, delivering them into my care as a father, as a stepfather.
I know there are many, many men who know the gift of this carrying in the literal and energetic wombspace. I've never heard a man say these kinds of words. But I know some men understand the sacrifice and surrender a woman makes, to give birth to us as fathers. In this I am not unusual. I am, I hope, simply one of many and many more to come who bow to Her and Her gifts, and especially as She manifests in the women and children who are vulnerable to us.
I will walk in the woods again today. I will chant Akaal and remember. And I will bow, in gratitude to the woman whose Siren song shattered my self-assurance and hubris and broke my heart open to feel myself and this life and this love more fully.
You are, she said, An unusual man. …and so the cock crowed for a second time during these beautifully dark days of the Rauhnächte, and I am reminded of who I am & what I am doing in this life.
🌀When the [men] are present and in their hearts, the womxn of the world will unfold the future (the womb) with great joy, creativity, and confidence. (Guru Singh & Guruperkarma Kaur)
🌀The [women] of the world need the Hans’s of the world to soften. (My wise friend)
🌀I test you. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)
TODAY'S SUGGESTED SHORT PRACTICE
Day 25 of this month's practice, to step into your polarity:
Please read through first, then ...
- Today, wherever and however you choose, take a five minutes to do this short practice:
- First, ask yourself: Can I feel my heart open? Can I feel it close? And, do I know why and how it opens? And why and how it closes? And are any of these of my own choosing?
- Then, follow the short practice here:
- When you’re done, sit or stand for another minute or two, breathing gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself, Do I feel right? In alignment with the man or woman I am? Do I even have an inkling what that might feel like? Do I even have an inkling of what it feels like to be out of alignment with myself?
- 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.
★ In 2024 I will be hosting a series of workshops and retreats with feminine colleagues, for couples. Please see the upcoming events site at sacredbodies.ca/events for more information. For some of these there will be discounts for Premium and Premium+ subscribers. FMI on becoming a Premium or Premium+ subscriber please see https://apprenticeship-to-love.ghost.io/#/portal