The Erotic Warrior

An excerpt from the Introduction to The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul (White Cloud Press, 2014)


The Erotic Warrior

Arriving back at the old brick farmhouse, stepping inside the heavy wooden front door, the quiet house welcomes me home with its familiar scents of wood, dried sage and lavender. An effervescent energy continues to well up in my core like a bubbling spring and though I don’t generally write in the evenings, I know that I must put words to paper. Right now. Write now. Beyond the mystical experience in the field, apart from the nearly unbearable lightness of my being, something else is arriving through me… a grey dove of inspiration or a whirling storm of lightning bolts, I don’t yet know.

I slip off my shoes and leave them at the door. Barefoot on the cool wooden floors, I walk to the large, farmhouse kitchen to put on the kettle for tea, desiring something light and aromatic such as jasmine pearls. My body continues to feel light as air and expansive as supernova, exploding out in rings of a shock wave. A few minutes later, seated at the broad table with my notepad and favorite fountain pen, the small ceramic teapot steaming fragrantly and an empty porcelain cup beside me, I begin to write. In the evening stillness of the empty house, the gold nib of my pen glides across the page with a scratching sound, trailing a jumble of black letters and insights in its wake.

Who is the Erotic Warrior?

The Erotic Warrior is the embodied agent of soul, his realm the deep imagination, creativity and the sensual world. Open to his senses, he is intrinsically connected to his ‘life force,’ to Nature and the great Mystery. He exists as potential within every man, waiting to emerge from patterns of containment into authentic possibility and action.

The Erotic Warrior is a multidimensional and sensual being. He is a man enraptured with the world as it blossoms, unfolds, crumbles and dies before his wonderstruck eyes. He howls for the beauty of a moonlight night, reaching for the great luminous pearl that can only be found in darkness. He dances naked in his inner city apartment or on a windswept beach. His great heart weeps for the cruel injustice and lonely terrors of humanity, the dark shadows of man, for the shame and aggression that stalk like hungry wolves. He trembles at his own possibility, both light and shadow, at what he might bring or withhold from the world.

The Erotic Warrior serves Eros, variously described as both the oldest and youngest of the gods. It matters not the Warrior’s religion or absence of one: Eros beckons all, whispering of beauty and stirring deep longing in the soul. The deity of desire, the god of lust and love and longing, Eros embodies connection.

The most powerful force in the Universe is allurement, the power of gravitation, binding everything from atoms to chemical compounds, from planets to spiral galaxies, together in an invisible dance. Eros is attraction not in the physical, superficial sense but in this deeply dynamic, energetic longing and connection.

When Eros beckons, worlds collide and cohere.

The Erotic Warrior is alive with his soul’s passion. No matter his career or work in the world, the Erotic Warrior is an artist, a builder, and an explorer of possibility. He is a voyager and a sensual visionary. A wild soul. He apprentices to his own embodiment as one who seeks conscious connection with the world around him; as related to honeybee, grove of aspens, and every facet of Earth as he is to his fellow man.

The Erotic Warrior senses that life on this planet is one of communion and interconnected relationship. The more that he opens and expands through his sensory body, heart and imagination, the deeper he is drawn into that mysterious web. He is awake as a fully sensory, sensual being; alive to his senses, to the breath that animates his body, to all that inspires. Inspiration, literally, is breath. The senses lure him outward into communion, deepening his connection with the ‘other-than-human’ world.

Irrespective of its current shape or limitations, the Erotic Warrior perceives that his body is created as a place of power and grace, a vessel of potential and vital passion. He cultivates somatic sensitivity and mindfulness, seeking to discover the ways that he unconsciously restricts himself in life and how such limitation manifests in the bodymind. He allows himself to experience the full range of his emotions, tending to what is buried and blooms in the sensory garden of his body. Where in his bones and breath has he locked away anger, grief, power or elusive dreams?

The Erotic Warrior understands that the collective darkness of humanity runs deep and that he is a manifestation of light and shadow, both. He seeks to bring a healing light to his wounds, integrating them within himself to become a soulfully embodied and conscious lover, partner, husband, father, teacher and wise elder. He will claim and honor his anger, beating his jagged sword into a plough, and use his energy to cultivate growth, healing and wholeness. He allows himself to be broken open, for only then might he be wholly changed and strangely free. Whole.

The Erotic Warrior is a man who understands that life is a continual invitation to open to something far larger than what he has imagined. Only his own patterns of containment—etched and embedded into the bodymind like curious runes that predict his fate—hold him back. Through allurement, passion and connection, Eros draws him outward from his shell into a deeply embodied journey of emergence, expression and eventually, elderhood.

Such a man finds wonder and awe in the most ordinary things, from dewdrop prisms sparkling upon the grass to the spider devouring her prey in a shimmering web. Whether through the ever-unfolding mystery of his beloved or the sight of his children playing in an open field, he seeks to savor the stream of moments that constantly flow over him. As he passes through the world, alone or in the warm arms of a lover, he savors the fleeting beauty that constantly surrounds him. Where there is beauty, there is love, expansion, and evolution of heart and mind.

As Eros beckons him onwards with a strange music, he glimpses that to live fully from soul is to hold a sacred conversation with the ‘other-than-human’ world. Such a conversation demands deep listening—to himself, to others, and the unfolding Mystery—and what emerges will not only enliven his soul with passion but also transform him in the process. He deepens into conscious relationship with the place he dwells, becoming ever more aware of his own connectedness in the web and deep ecology, and ever more mindful of his choices. Eros and the Earth conspire through the power of place to aid his evolution and soul journey.

The Erotic Warrior celebrates that the creative, sexual and spiritual energies are all streams of the same river of consciousness. With its erotic light and shadow, sex holds a key to profound integration and transformation. Sacred and profane are simply two sides of the same coin. Through mindful awareness, he seeks to understand and transform his patterns around pleasure, power and sexuality. Alive with breath and heightened sensation, his body becomes a temple of pleasure, a sensual terrain that offers a portal to the Divine.

The Erotic Warrior acknowledges the sensual connection with everything around him and the mysterious Spirit-stream in which we all live. He trusts that he has something vital and precious to offer the world, and in his journey to discover that gift, Eros is always his guide. Allurement, passion, and a felt sense of aliveness draw him on. He may be a warrior but it is of a spiritual sort, and he views the world through a lover’s eyes. The Holy is everywhere. Through each and every being, through the wild soul, the Universe celebrates its own imagination and grandeur.

I AM. Not because I think but because I FEEL, and because all of the world exists as one entwined web of relationship.

As the song of the Earth and stars embodied, he sings the deep music that he hears in his soul and that resonates in his bones. He moves through his days and challenges with a fluency of presence. He journeys to the edge of the world and back—or beyond—navigating with his heart, trusting in body as vessel, and his soul for the sail.

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I look up from my writing. Beyond the leaded glass windows and their framework of hundred year old, diamond-shaped panes, the soft hands of evening have drawn a hazy indigo curtain across the English countryside. In the thick quiet of the old farmhouse, I lay my fountain pen aside, hushing the steady scratching of its tip across the paper. Deep, velvety silence settles over the room. I draw in an expansive breath and push the pages of scrawled script away from me.

My hand is tired and cramped from the steady stream of inspired writing but my body feels open and peaceful, tingling softly with an easy current of energy. It is as if a sudden storm has blown through, leaving a sense of rearranged calm in its wake.

Rearranged, indeed.

My revelation in the upper field still reverberates through my bodymind like the roar of silence after a great bronze bell has been rung. I know that I cannot adequately describe what has happened nor what I have seen as the world’s veil lifted away. All words fail. Mystic revelations are always ineffable. Yet in the quantum shift occurring within me at this moment, an expansion in my core and breath, I understand this:

Animated by a song of Divine intelligence in form and non-form, everything IS relationship and harmonic resonance.

I sit quietly, breathing into the softness of my body, staring at the scrawled pages words that have come through. In this moment, I don’t yet fully grasp my own writing on the Erotic Warrior, yet I sense that everything is about to change and that my life has just veered unexpectedly in a different direction.

So be it.

Somehow I am charged with bringing this revelation into words and action, though I do not comprehend fully how this evening’s experience weaves with my current work with the soul. I doubt that I have the skill or vision to manifest it into adequate form. Surely it should fall to one more qualified than I. Yet I know that we must all go naked and vulnerable to the gods, insecurities in hand. I accept the challenge thrown down at my feet, inviting me to choose something different, something much larger than what I have previously imagined as possible.

Who is the Erotic Warrior? He is something more than a metaphor or mental abstract; he is the multidimensional potential for every man. As the embodied agent of Eros, he is a living and breathing example of the Sacred Masculine, one who lives in a soul-centered manner and celebrates his wild soul. He is part of the awakening and healing of both humanity and Earth.

Like a shockwave of consciousness rippling around the globe, an evolution is at hand. As humanity struggles with the chaos and implications of its material and exploitive existence on our planet, the Great Work of cultural transformation is decidedly underway. Looking around at our current state of affairs, from rampant consumerism and mounting violence, to environmental destruction and climate change, there is serious cause for concern. Yet as much as there is to grieve, there is also much to celebrate. And there is always hope.

The Soul of the World is singing itself awake through each of us. Some are listening and some are not, but all are essential. The Sacred Masculine is slowly and surely reemerging as a keeper of consciousness, a timely and essential response to the crisis and changes at hand. From the Green Man to the Erotic Warrior, he takes many forms but the Sacred Masculine is always an embodiment of conscious relationship and the appropriate use of creative power. In every guise, he is hand in hand with environmental, cultural and sacred activism, while teaching about conscious relationship, the authentic, soulful use of personal power, and spiritual ecology.

Welcome, my unmet friend, to your soul quest. It is a man’s journey to soulful embodiment, passion, power and personal authenticity through his breath and unfurled senses. Do you feel the sense of personal calling, tugging at you in dreams and strange longing? It’s the reason you are alive—an invitation to come into the body to feel… deeply. Discovering the Sacred Masculine is a descent into the sensuous, an opening and expansion that never ends but spirals steadily into realms of untapped creativity, Deep Imagination, earth and body wisdom, and the Mystery. This is the way of the wild soul.

The time has come to re-imagine what it means to be fully human, to descend into the bones and breath. Join me, brother, on a journey to discover awakened heart of the Erotic Warrior and the Sacred Masculine—a transformation and evolution as men—that we all might stream together in the conscious, soulful wave rising up to change the world.

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[This post is excerpted from The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul (White Cloud Press, 2014) © all rights reserved, used with permission]

Shadows and Healing

(A recent post written for the Soul Artist Journal. While it does not specifically relate to gay/bi/trans men or the Sacred Masculine, in these challenging days after America’s national election, the healing I speak of is relevant to all of us.)


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While surely these are challenging times, I continue to say that the path remains inward—into our shadows to unearth and embrace the heart of compassion and empathy.

Outside my window, the branches of a coconut palm sway in a warm, coastal breeze like graceful, serrated green fans. 

For the past two weeks I have been in Honolulu, helping my mate prepare for the 36th annual Hawaii International Film Festival, in his role as Executive Director. Here in the islands, as I sit and gaze at the azure waters of the Pacific, autumn on the mainland with its cool air and falling, painted leaves, seems a world away, like something from a book or a movie. And yet as removed from the world as this emerald archipelago generally feels, even here the US election and its aftermath weighs like a heavy cloud or shadow. 

Indeed, shadow seems an appropriate word in many ways, as the repressed elements of America’s collective consciousness—a tsunami of anger, fear, racism, bigotry and greed—now rush forward and sweep onto the presidential stage. For two days following the election, I chose to abstain from any media news feed. My only exception was Facebook, where I briefly glanced at some of my friends’ posts, and selectively read a few insightful and inspiring pieces by people whom I admire or “follow” (or that my friends “follow” and have shared). And “shadow” was a word in nearly all the posts I encountered.

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Rarely do I speak or write about anything overtly political, and I refrain from posting my political views or opinions (which are decidedly “green,” progressive, and earth-centric) on social media. Partly this is because I think politics, in general, is reductionist; us versus them, red versus blue, Democrat against Republican, or Conservative versus Labour versus Green, etc.. While it is convenient to use such labels, what we are actually witnessing and attempting to describe is the interplay (and conflict) of differing levels of the intersubjective agreements we might call “worldviews,” which reflect a framework of value systems applied to sociocultural evolution. 

Cultures evolve through a distinct set of stages, from lower to higher, as the societies and individuals evolve and integrate within them; each set of values is a response to solving the problems of the previous stage. On a level of politics, people will embrace a party or group that reflects their worldview’s particular level of development. The inherent challenge is that we cannot understand or grasp a reality or worldview more evolved or expansive than our own current level. Until our own circle of identity shifts (say from “egocentric” to “ethnocentric,” or to “nature or world-centric”), we simply haven’t the capacity to embrace more expansive worldviews than our current one. It is literally beyond us. 

As I wrote in a post a few weeks ago: “In certain respects, our personal growth resembles rings of a tree; we become larger and more expansive than younger versions of ourself, still containing those smaller circumferences but also exceeding them. At each stage, we may or may not even acknowledge that we are growing, and we don’t yet perceive the wider, larger Self and worldview that we will later embody. We might look back and detect the earlier phases and versions passed through and outgrown, but not yet the larger ones to come.”

Hence, a tribal culture in Afghanistan or traditional society in Iraq cannot leap ahead to a democracy; there are several evolutionary stages that must be navigated and passed through first, both on individual and collective levels. Closer to home, the Conservatives simply cannot understand most Democrats or progressives—let alone the Greens—because their worldview has not yet expanded to the wider, more inclusive circles of identity.

In a nuclear age and time of global shift, of course it matters who holds the reins of a country, but ultimately each of us must look within to find and create the change we seek. Amid the collective despair of the moment, we can easily become fixated on the idea that our national election is the most compelling and urgent story, especially for those of us who care deeply about human rights, the planet, and all its denizens. Yet the Larger Story of our collective evolution is bigger than this—much bigger—and rather than looking for salvation in a leader (or anyone else), the most transforming journey remains an inner, spiritual one. When our personal growth progresses and unfurls—very often through a soul crisis—it becomes transpersonal; collectively, our individual evolution (which MUST include “shadow work” and facing the demons in our inner darkness) also realigns the cultural worldview, nudging it slowly along the upward spiral. Too slowly, it seems.

Opinions of politics and evolution aside, I believe that most of modern Western culture, particularly America, suffers from a deep soul sickness. Evidenced by our addiction to money and technology, along with a pervasive ennui and lack of meaning in life, it is caused in considerable part by an absence of the sacred, alongside our pathological disconnection from what we might call wildness and Nature (despite that nature exists everywhere, right down to our cells and soul). An unwavering faith in science and “progress” has given us many answers and explanations, along with an increased comfort and ease, yet it has also robbed us of much of the magic and mystery that once underpinned human life, while turning the living world into merely an array of “resources” to be exploited. 

Perhaps it seems overly simplistic to say that capitalism, the Industrial Revolution, and an extractive, corporate economy have resulted in the breakdown of society’s fabric, but many experts worldwide have persuasively argued exactly this view, and I am inclined to agree with them. Certainly it is nothing new for people to feel disenfranchised, ignored, powerless, angry, and disillusioned with their lot in life, and to express the related feelings as hate, bigotry, chauvinism, greed, or violence—acting out the lowest level of human behavior. Yet the fact that so many people are choosing to embrace such traits and expressions in order to espouse and support their “values,” reveals just how deep our collective Shadow really is. 

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siberian_shaman

Mongolian shaman

Most indigenous, traditional people and cultures believe in the presence of spirits, and that malevolent ones can enter a person and take over in the form of “possession.” Traditional healers, medicine men, curanderos, and shamans use a variety of different methods for removing the foreign entity, employing spiritual or energetic measures as well as various plant medicines to literally purge the bad element from the body—as with ayahuasca ceremonies, where “la purga” (usually vomiting or diarrhea) caused by the medicine, constitutes an important part of the healing process.

On my own healing journey, I believe that the source of our woes is much more complex than simply evil spirits (though I know firsthand that they exist), pathogens, genes, incomplete psychological development, trauma, or energetic imbalance … or even politics. If only it were as easy as giving everyone a powerful emetic and/or purgative, or performing a “soul retrieval” or working with plant medicines, to restore us to some semblance of well-being and sanity.

Individually or culturally, there is no “cure” for our Shadow other than looking at what we have ignored, repressed or locked away as unacceptable. We must gaze truthfully into the mirror, accepting that the darkness or ignorance is not simply “them” —whomever we perceive those to be—for each of us is both darkness and light. As C.G. Jung commented when speaking of the Shadow, “I myself am the enemy that must be loved.”

Our society is very broken, rife with despair as its shadow runs amok. Yet as a healer and an “evolutionary”, I know it is only crisis that forces us to change, especially on a large scale. Evolution happens at the fringes, never in the status quo. We have only to look at nature, history, and the story of the cosmos to see that crisis is always the catalyst for previously inconceivable leaps forward in development. And this great upwelling of collective shadow, along with our impending crisis of climate change accompanied by the breakdown of globalization, may be the factors that push us past the tipping point into a necessary—and ultimately healing—shift.

In the meantime, millions of people currently find themselves in a state of shock and grief, both of which have real effects and repercussions on the bodysoul. Any overwhelming stimulus, especially one that seems potentially life-threatening, whether on an individual or world scale, triggers a traumatic response in our autonomic nervous system. As Americans now come to grips with a reality that was previously unimaginable, we must find ways to allow the trauma—for that is exactly what has happened for many—to discharge, unwind, and sequence through, so that it doesn’t remain frozen and held in the body. [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is actually previous trauma still held immobilized in the nervous system, and the right impetus or stimulus again triggers a well-patterned “fight or flight” response.]

Yet one of the ways we can begin to emerge from shock is to find appropriate ways to discharge the held energy in our nervous system. Crying might be a good start for accessing the grief, followed by exploring movement and sound, and finding ways to put that grief (or outrage) into meaningful action. My friend Ariana Saraha (whose hauntingly soulful music I’ve praised in a previous SAJ post, “The Wild Songstress: Daring to be Yourself”), recently wrote on FB and to her followers, “I will feel the grief and continue to sing, wail, drum, and pray for this great world, for this breathtakingly beautiful land, for indigenous people and their legacies of wisdom, for the scurrying-swimming-galloping-flitting-soaring-innocent things, for the humble ones who choose to serve rather than dominate, and for those who grieve in this time for the many, many pains of this world…”

I find her words to be beautiful, insightful, and wise, for we can best help grief to heal if we actually allow it to move, rather than remaining held. And along with some form of embodied movement and sound, we can turn to Nature, for it is about the only thing big enough and “real” enough to hold the depths of sadness (or rage) as we work through to reclaim the heart of Love.

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Indeed, Mother Earthautumn-path is the larger story that holds and supports us all. Almost exactly a year ago, in a SAJ post called “Kneel and Kiss the Earth” I wrote: “Whenever I am out of sorts—blue, restless, unwell, disappointed—I need to touch the earth, feel it soft and yielding beneath my footsteps. Always it is the embrace that I must return to. Tell me what you love, it breathes voicelessly as the wind rustles the surrounding trees, and I will remind you who you are.”

Just a week later, following the attacks in Paris, my heart heavy for a place that is dear to me, I shared: “It is good and right to shed tears for the world, I think, but may we weep also for its staggering beauty. Everywhere. And if you cannot find beauty in what surrounds you, go in search of it—or create it with your hands and heart, and then give it away selflessly. Freely. Madly. Even if it’s just a song. A poem. A story. Perhaps a garden. Or a simple supper for your beloved…” (from “A Heart Open to the World: Finding Beauty“)

Those words still hold true for me, perhaps even more today than when I penned them, now seeing America so bitterly divided. Friend, a larger story enfolds us than the headlines we see splashed across the newspapers or on TV, and while surely these are challenging times, I continue to say that the path remains inward—into our shadows to unearth and embrace the heart of compassion and empathy, and to carry it back out into the world, offering what each of us may bring in service to something greater.

May the journey be a healing one. For all of us.

Blessed be.

 

5 Things A Conscious Gay Man Discovers About Manhood

(Adapted from a post written for elephant journal  in 2015, garnering more than 21,000 views.)


conscious_man_gmpWorking on yourself is like peeling an onion; there’s always another layer beneath it to be discovered, examined, and learned from.

In my early twenties, mostly estranged from my adoptive father, I wrestled repeatedly with what it meant to be a gay man. I used to spend a lot of time walking and wandering amid the great evergreen forests of Oregon, opening to nature and pondering life. Intelligent and intuitive, there was a part of me that thought I had a lot of things figured out; another part of me, however, the larger segment, was still looking for answers.

Surely the heart of manhood rested in something more than reaching a certain age, earning a living, having children, or the gender of whom we love.

It seemed to me then (and even more so now) that authentic manhood had a good deal to do with growing up inside — psychologically and even spiritually — somehow maturing and evolving into a better human. A conscious man. For better or worse, there is no shortcut, and as I have written in a previous article (“Authentic Manhood: Rites of Passage and Soul“) the growing process is made all the more difficult in that our society lacks authentic rites of passage and wise-hearted mentors. Too, it seemed all the more challenging because I met so few gay men that I admired, or who understood that ‘coming out’ was only a step in the personal journey and not the final destination.

As I struggled along, trying to locate my path, endeavoring to become more ‘conscious’ as a man — and long before I had any notions of a “sacred masculine” — I learned a few things.

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1) You have to find your own way. It is said that at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, home of the legendary Oracle, were carved the words, “Know thyself.” As Shakespeare put it much later, “To thine own self be true.” If you want to discover your authentic purpose in life, there is no well-marked, clearly-lit path. Most likely, you’re going to stumble around for a few years (maybe even dozens), finding and losing your way in a darkly tangled wood. Strangely enough, that wandering is an essential part of the process in finding the real you.

As I have written elsewhere, “True adulthood is forged from exploring and living the questions that cannot easily be answered yet must be asked. Who am I? What or where is my place in the world? What do I most fear? And love? What am I willing (or afraid) to feel? What do I uniquely bring to the larger story that is unfolding, and what will I risk to bring that forward?”

2) Heart and intuition are non-linear. As men, whatever our sexual preference, we’re generally taught and encouraged to value reason, logic, and linear thinking; our center of identity is the head, not the heart. Yet addicted as we are to rationality and notions of ‘progress’, straight lines don’t exist in nature (our extended body and soul); everything is really a spiral and arc.

Even falling objects, which seem to obey a linear descent, do not. Our planet spins on its axis while orbiting the sun, cruising at 18.5 miles per second. The solar systems itself is hurtling on a spiral (not truly elliptical) trajectory through the galaxy at 155 miles per second. The seemingly straight path of the falling object, if it falls for one second, has actually traced a spiral at least a hundred and fifty-five miles long.

Come down to your heart, brother. Learning to feel, to take the longer, winding route (see #1 above), and to heed our curvilinear intuition is one of the most transforming skills (yes, it is a skill) that we can learn.

3) Real worth comes from within, not some external measure. While our society is obsessed with material possessions and superficial qualifications, the things that matter most in life are generally invisible: love, allurement (including gravity), energy (including electricity), passion, vitality, empathy, spirit. These seeming intangibles are really what knits everything together.

At the end of the day, my self-worth as a man comes from something other than external validation (i.e. my boss, co-worker, spouse, father). Similarly, it’s something more than success on a certain project, the brand or price of car/truck that I drive, the location of my house, size of my paycheck, or the girth of my ‘manroot’.

Happiness, as they say, is an inside job. Self worth, too. If we’re always chasing after someone else’s approval or validation, we’ve abdicated our own journey. (That said, see #5 below.)

4) Sex can awaken the soul. Pleasurable as the physicality and eroticism of sex is, it can be SO much more. Men tend to focus on sex as an activity centered around our genitals rather than the heart. Unless we’ve explored some form of eastern spirituality, been blessed with a highly conscious lover or two, or have worked to unlock our armored heart, most guys have no idea that sex can be enlightening and transcendent — a chance to be broken fully open and transformed.

Gabrielle Roth, the renowned movement teacher and author, said that in order to come fully into our power, one of the most essential tasks in our lives is to learn how to make love. Roth asked, “How many of us know how to have a total, full-body, cathartic, shaking-all-over sexual experience?” Not many of us, especially men. Not even gay men. Yet when we finally discover soulful sex, we realize that it is healing, powerful, and consciousness-raising.

5) Working on your sh*t is an ongoing process. While I initially sensed that being an evolved man arose from some internal measure of psychological (and spiritual) maturity, I had to learn that such maturation is an ongoing and often difficult process. Once upon a time, I thought I was pretty damn enlightened; really, I didn’t know crap — especially about my own patterns and projections in relationship (which is always where they show up).

Working on yourself is like peeling an onion; there’s always another layer beneath it to be discovered, examined, and learned from. And just like an onion, sometimes it brings tears to your eyes. As if the personal excavation isn’t challenging enough, allowing oneself to be vulnerable through the process (and developing skilled communication) adds a whole new level of intrigue.

Personal growth is seldom painless. Yet in the end, regardless of our sexual identity, growing through our wounds and emerging from our patterns of self-limitation (we ALL have them) is what lies at the heart of being a conscious man — and being fully human.

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Perhaps it’s no surprise that my own journey and ongoing questions about manhood eventually led me to working with other men — leading workshops and groups, as well as individual coaching and counseling — and writing a book on the subject. I’ve learned that our questions are pretty much the same — at least at the outset of the “what does it mean to be a man” quest. The answers are different for each of us, and will likely change as we shift and evolve.

I’m still wandering amid the wise, silent trees these days, pondering life. Listening. I never cease to be amazed how much I learn about life from observing nature. If I want to make this really simple, everything I’ve learned about conscious manhood, whether we’re gay, straight, or somewhere in between, could be distilled down to just three words:

Grow and evolve.

 

5 Things Your Soul Wants You To Know

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Somewhere deep inside, your wild, authentic soul is whispering. Are you listening?

Feeling a bit stuck in my work and a little weighted down with some burdens I’ve been carrying around lately, I decided to get out of the house and go for a walk along the sea’s edge.

The morning shimmered bright and blue, the foggy marine layer still far offshore, warm enough that I needed only my light jacket. Gulls cried in the air as I traversed the sandy dirt trail, and a cool breeze caressed my face while wrapping me in the sounds of the ocean. Not twenty feet distant, sapphire waves crested with white foam broke upon the rocks, and with every step I felt lighter and more expansive than when I set out from my cottage.

The power of nature, its beneficial effects on our overall wellbeing, our psyche and soul, is immeasurable, and I write about it repeatedly (the better part of a recent book, actually). Yet as I walked the familiar seaside trail this morning, musing on my work along with my seeming troubles and disappointments, it felt like my soul itself was reminding me of a few things—the first of which I was already doing, and opening the door to other insights I needed to remember.

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1) Go outside. Breathe the unconditioned air. Feel earth beneath your feet rather than concrete, vinyl flooring, or synthetic carpet. Get real and elemental again, and take off your shoes, allowing your sole to reconnect with soil … and soul. Move, stretch, breathe deeply. Your wild soul is a part of nature, not apart from it. From an evolutionary standpoint, your soul and nature are the same thing: the embodied creativity of the cosmos. Nature, even a backyard or city park, helps us feel alive, open, and connected to something larger.

2) It takes courage to follow your soul. No one discovers and embodies their true purpose, that strange mysterious calling, without risk. Soul is the ineffable, creative blueprint of who we are meant to be and become—a bright wedge of freedom in the heart—our personal authenticity. But to follow its whispers and allurements, its challenging directive to leave the comfort of the familiar village and venture into dark woods alone in search of something, most will resist. Instead they will choose safety and stability, but at what price? We cannot have growth and security both, it’s one or the other—and security is mostly an illusion. And “coming out” as a gay or bi man is only a very early step in the larger process of evolution and transformation.

3) Being broken open is part of the soul’s process. We all live within our own chosen shell, that familiar armor of ego and persona that we project to the world; yet to grow and become authentically who we are meant to be, the casing must crack. In choosing to follow our soul—into creative work, a new adventure, or even into the arms of romance—it is guaranteed that we will be split open. When it happens, we find ourselves vulnerable and exposed. Old, familiar ways don’t seem to work anymore, and sometimes we’re not at all sure where we’re headed or who we are. Yet for better or worse, this is simply part of the process, because only when we’re broken open can we become something larger and more authentic—the person we’re meant to be.

4) Your deep yearning is the entry point for a larger life. There is a reason you are alive, and part of the journey in life is discovering that unique design. It is the longing for an authentic sense of aliveness—passion, vitality, connection and meaning—that holds a key to the soul’s purpose. Our deep yearning, even if we cannot clearly articulate what it is, offers the entry point for the larger life that awaits us. The feeling of something essential missing isn’t something to be fixed but followed, even into a darkly tangled wood. Especially then. It is often in the places that we most fear that we will find what we seek, or most benefit from.

5) You don’t have a body, you have a ‘bodysoul’. Your physical being is something infinitely more than a mechanical machine with parts that break or eventually wear out; each cell hums with unimaginable intelligence. Every part of you harbors consciousness and memory—intuition and creativity, even. The soul is not disconnected or apart from any of your human body, but rather essential to it. Tending to the physical—healthy diet, exercise, adequate rest, time in nature, etc.—so that it thrives also nourishes the mind and soul; whereas neglecting it—junk food, drugs, lethargy, living only in technoworld—we become dulled on all levels of being. The paradox is that you are much more than your body, yet it remains the vessel with which we navigate life.

◊♦◊

A lone California brown pelican cruises low over the shimmering waves, barely moving a wingtip as he glides effortlessly. Watching him, my own body feels expansive as the wide blue horizon. In heeding my soul’s prompt to come and wander this shoreline, to escape the four walls that confine me too often, my entire experience has realigned for the better. I’ve come home to myself again, my conscious and uninhibited best self. And whenever I become open and connected, I embody an essential aspect of the Sacred Masculine.

True, my seeming troubles haven’t disappeared and the day’s work remains waiting for me, yet having stepped outside into nature, my perspective is shifted once more. I feel awake, recharged and connected to something larger, less burdened by the up and down difficulties of life and living in touch with the soul. Here, now, I am a significant step closer to well-being and balance.

Cliché as it sounds, every day really is a journey, an opportunity to say yes to our soul’s calling or to turn away, back to the computer screen and million distractions of the Internet (and those gay hookup apps on your smartphone). Yes, sometimes you will feel broken open, or like you’re simply flailing about in trying to offer something of value to the world. Difficult and uncomfortable as it feels, trust that it’s part of the process, and you have to find the things that nourish you deeply—body and soul.

Somewhere deep inside, your wild, authentic soul is whispering. Are you listening?

 

Eros, Longing, and Soul: Reconsidering Passion

(Adapted from a post originally written in 2015 for my former column at Good Men Project.)


eros

The natural world — the human body, included — is the sensuous (often sexual) manifestation of Eros on this planet.

“Where is your eros?” I asked my new client.

We were engaged in a one-on-one coaching session via Skype, he in Seattle and me in California, discussing his ongoing search for deeper meaning and authenticity in life. When I enquired what and where eros might be for him, a puzzled expression clouded his bearded face on the screen and wrinkled his brow.

“Eros… ? I don’t know what that is… or at least not in the way you’re asking about it.”

“It is your ‘life force’ and passion,” I offered. “Eros more than desire, and definitely more than sex or even love. If you want to get really deep or a bit metaphysical, it’s the force that holds the entire universe together and drives our lives.”

◊♦◊

To the ancient Greeks, Eros was the god of desire, the son of beautiful Aphrodite. In most myths, his father is Hermes, swift-footed messenger of Olympus, but in others he is the son of Ares, vainglorious god of war. As a handsome and alluring divinity, Eros embodied the masculine aspect of love and was a powerful deity in his own right. Sometimes regarded as a male fertility icon, the god of desire personified the energies of lust and intercourse, as well as beauty and love.

When the conquering Romans later adopted the Greek pantheon, they diminished mighty Eros into a pint-sized, chubby cherub. The sexy and arousing god devolved into the mischievous Cupid, hiding behind clouds to dart unsuspecting souls with his bow and arrows of desire.

Further trivialized by our modern culture, Eros-turned-Cupid is now the stuff of candy valentines, hothouse-grown roses tied with satin ribbon, pop songs and fluffy Hollywood movies. A multifaceted and misunderstood energy, mighty Eros is routinely whittled down to a notion of sexual love. The word erotic, which stems from Eros conjures the following definition:

e·rot·ic (adjective)

  • arousing, or designed to arouse, feelings of sexual desire
  • characterized by or arising out of sexual desire

Diverse, beautiful and powerful as sexuality is, physical eroticism is but one expression of this magnetic force.

In the words of noted Jungian analyst and author, James Hollis, “Eros is the ‘life force’ — desire that wishes most to connect, to build to combine, to fuse, to generate with the other.” Closely entwined with soul, it is a primal force seeking expression in the world through us, perhaps even to serve its own mysterious ends as destiny.

In a fuller sense, Eros is energetic longing — the gravitational allurement that holds the Cosmos while it expands and collapses. The electrical charge that pulls subatomic particles together, it is the essential attraction that builds atoms and ants, molecules and microbes, bones and beasts, binary stars and burgeoning solar systems.

◊♦◊

“In all its many forms, Eros is the creative force that pulls us into conscious relationship with life. The natural world — the human body, included — is the sensuous (often sexual) manifestation of Eros on this planet. If our senses and hearts are open, longing draws us into the beauty and mystery of the sensual world as a lover, seducing us, stoking the slumbering passion in our core.” (excerpted from The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul by L.R. Heartsong)

Eros is desire in the truest sense: that which goes beyond merely sexual energy and embraces the deep yearning for union and wholeness. It is the longing that arises in the body, heart and soul to connect with the other in a deeply meaningful and felt way — somatic and embodied.

Often we feel the initial touch of eros as allurement, a curious attraction to explore something — a mysterious place, a new creative expression (painting, wine making, sculpting, writing), perhaps a forgotten pastime from childhood, or embarking on a personal journey. These curious allurements are signposts, directing us to a deeper, more authentic sense of ourselves, and they are worth following.

There is a reason you are alive, and part of the journey in life is discovering that unique design. It is the yearning for an authentic sense of aliveness — passion, vitality, connection and meaning — that holds a key to the soul’s purpose. Our deep longing, even if we cannot clearly articulate what it is, offers the entry point for the larger life that awaits us.

◊♦◊

In working therapeutically with men for twenty years, I believe that what most of us are truly seeking is a sense of connection: with self; with lover or partner; with family and work; with community and the world; nature. We feel a deep, nameless longing for something that seems missing from our lives, yet remain unclear on how to take the next step.

For many men, finding a true sense of eros is challenging. Society offers a wealth of superficial substitutes and distractions, but little that feeds the soul. Few of us know how to make that meaningful contact we seek. Instead we are blindly groping and grasping in misguided and frustrated attempts: an affair, sports cars, unbridled materialism, various addictions including social media and internet porn.

And gay men seem to have decided that eros is simply about sex. Yet even if we are connecting our genitals with our heart for a more embodied approach to sexuality, important as that is, it’s but one small aspect of true eros.

Authentic eros is something more than excitement or arousal — that sleek new BMW, the ‘hottie’ you’re chatting with online or the guy on Scruff — it evokes something expansive in our core. It whispers of the reason we are here. That longing you feel is really a summons from your soul — the innate, most authentic part of your being — inviting you to something larger than the life that contains you right now.

Go deeper, friend.

What arouses, draws and moves you? What is your deepest longing? What stirs a sense of creative energy within you? Where do you feel that in the body? If you could do one thing and knew you wouldn’t fail, what would it be?

There is a reason you are alive. A more authentic, powerful and passionate man waits inside you — the one you’re secretly hoping to be but maybe also a little afraid of — the man that the future hopes you’ll become. An embodiment of the Sacred Masculine.

Only destiny knows where your deep longing will take you.

I ask, where is your eros?

 

There’s No Such Thing As A Gay Soul

(A post written initially for my former column at Good Men Project in 2015.)


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The notion that the soul of gay people is somehow different, or special, perpetuates a focus on our differences rather than how we are really the same.

“You never write about being gay,” an activist once leveled his charge at me. “Don’t you think you have something very important to offer in your work, as a role model to your readers, by sharing your sexuality?”

Frankly, no, I don’t.

Let me be clear. I have been ‘out’ since I was a 20-year old preppy twink in West Hollywood (that was at least three lifetimes ago). Even in my early twenties, as I wrestled with what it means to be a man, a gay one no less, it seemed to me that my sexuality was not the defining factor of masculinity or manhood. It felt much more important to be recognized as an artist, a healer, a writer — or simply a good, caring person — than it did to be ‘gay’.

For two decades, I have worked with men in therapeutic and transformational contexts: initially as an Integrative massage therapist, as a body-centered therapist (somatic psychology and trauma work), and as a facilitator of mens’ groups and wilderness-based soul work (think ‘rites of passage’ and modern interpretations of the pan-cultural ‘vision quest’). In all this, I have been ‘out’. And while it has enabled me to share a common bond with the gay men I’ve worked with, it has not been essential to my work.

My partner of twenty-five years is equally out and visible. As the executive director of the Hawaii International Film Festival, he was recently featured in Lei (a nationally distributed, award-winning travel magazine focusing on gay travel to Hawaii & local LGBT culture), and the article contained photos of us at home in Kailua, our English Whippets, etcetera. Neither my mate nor I are off the radar as a gay couple, but what I choose to omit from my broader-scale writing is because I’m guided by a deeper belief as to what I feel is important.

◊♦◊

Most of the work I do in the world — my recent book, my various other writings, workshops and coaching — has centered on soul and what it means to be fully human, as in activating our deepest potential. I define ‘soul’ as the unique blueprint of our being, the authentically creative essence of who we are (or are meant to become). And I differentiate that from spirit, which I perceive as the transcendent energy that connects us to everything in the Cosmos. While it’s true that we are all just stardust of electrons and protons, each one of us is something much more — something essential yet indescribable.

There is a notion among “spiritual” gay men that our very soul is different. Mostly unspoken in this belief is the attitude that we are special, and a bit (or a lot) more evolved than our straight brothers — a slight smugness that somehow we’re further ahead on the journey. It’s an idea that I find self-congratulatory and off-putting. Slightly dangerous, even.

While I do think that gay men carry a unique gift in that we are often able to integrate the more ‘feminine’ aspects of self — typically those receptive, nurturing qualities and an appreciation of beauty — such balance isn’t always the case. Countless gay men pathologically reject their feminine aspect and adopt a one-dimensional, hyper-masculine persona (a phenomenon that deserves a separate article in its own right). However, it is not a ‘gay soul’ that makes us different.

Soul itself is beyond gender and sexual orientation, neither masculine nor feminine. Non-dual, non binary, soul simply is. We come into the world with it as our animating spark, and I personally don’t believe it is what imprints us as gay or straight.

Gender identification is an early developmental task, discussed at some length in my book. As infants and children, our soul is expansive and wide open, but then slowly we learn our ‘roles’ as little boys and girls; the essential, creative blueprint is overlaid with a thick mesh of familial, societal and cultural programming. As we grow into adolescence and our sexual orientation, a provisional identity and ego become our guiding strategies rather than the soul, and remain so until much later in life — unless we are the ones, like artists, who hear the soul’s summons and follow it early on.

◊♦◊

Thirty some years ago, Don Clark, Ph.D., wrote the pioneering book, Loving Someone Gay. As I struggled to ‘come out’, my mother, a psychotherapist in California, handed it to me after reading it herself. Thanks, mom. What struck me most about the work, the morsel that I have since carried in a pocket for decades, was Clark’s description that ‘coming out’ is not a simple act of courage, but rather a complex, multistage process.

Honestly, I don’t recall all the steps, but I think there were seven. What most of us consider ‘coming out’ is actually only Step 3, which is followed by an embrace of militant activism and community pride in Stage 4. For most people, that essentially marks the end of the journey — we’re out and proud! — though there are still important steps remaining, and most don’t get to them. Clark placed the ultimate stage of coming out as the realization that our sexuality doesn’t really matter; in the heart, we’re all the same.

Now before I am blasted for paraphrasing Dr. Clark’s model and my words being taken out of context, this is NOT to say that the essential work of activists in the middle ‘coming out’ stages isn’t important. It is essential. The pioneering footsteps of our gay forebears, the Stonewall generation, and the current activism for equal rights, gay marriage, and parenthood is nothing short of vital and inspiring.

Yet really what we’re fighting for is the embodiment of that final ‘coming out’ stage: the realization that sexuality doesn’t matter, that we’re all equal, and underneath the surface — sexuality, gender, color — essentially the same.

And while much has been made of celebrating diversity, I find myself musing these days ever more on what it would be like to celebrate unity instead, especially because it seems so desperately lacking in our world. What if we could focus on how we are the same, rather than how we are different … ?

◊♦◊

Back to the soul. In my weekly post, the Soul Artist Journal, I don’t focus on anything ‘gay’ or even evolving the masculine; I’m casting my net a bit wider than that. Regardless of our sexuality, the essence of becoming a conscious, aware person and appreciating that transformational journey is similar for all of us. The prejudices and discrimination we face may be different, but in the heart and soul, we are all struggling to embody what it means to be fully human.

In writing The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul (White Cloud Press, 2014), I wanted to craft a book that was inclusive, rather than exclusive. The heteronormativity of most spiritual/soulful books — to say nothing of “men’s books” — has long left me feeling disenfranchised. In terms of the soul and evolved masculinity, as I sit and marvel at the fiery glow of sunset, whether the hand I hold is that of another man is mostly irrelevant. Like the soul and awareness, love simply is.

Certainly, embracing and celebrating our sexuality — however we express it — is an essential part of living an authentic life (as in my recent post, “Sex and Soul: A Man’s Journey“). Yet as an archetype, the Sacred Masculine has nothing to do with who we love, only how we love; meaning, in the most open-hearted way possible. And I offer that life, irrespective of our sexual orientation, is an ongoing celebration of deliciously human moments — from being hotly tangled up naked in the sheets to feeding the little birds along the porch’s wooden railing on an autumn morning.

Like nature, the soul is interconnected; nothing is separate. The soulful journey is about rediscovering passion and connection with the larger story. Finding/creating authentic work that delivers a sense of meaning. Making a difference in the world and savoring the simple human moments of the day. These have everything to do with the preciousness of life, of feeling deeply with a compassionate heart, and trusting the strange currents of mystery — and they are far beyond gender or sexuality.

You may be straight. Or gay. Or dancing somewhere in between in a zone that defies convenient, flimsy labels. Whoever you are, and whomever you love, may you realize that in matters of heart and soul, we are far more alike than we are different. I say that your one mission is to become the most authentic, bravest version of yourself possible — the Sacred Masculine — and to offer something of beauty and value to the world.

I wonder, brother, what will you bring?

 

Why A Man Needs A Wild Soul

(A post written initially for my former column at Good Men Project.)


man-clouds

In the modern world, where identity is only as deep as our business card, or the screen we’re staring at, we need something authentic and alive.

As a youth growing up in greater Los Angeles, ‘nature’ was something that seemed very far away from me. Both as a child and adolescent, I felt mostly content within the grid of concrete and palm trees, tailored lawns, shopping malls, and traffic-clogged freeways. For an escape, I always had the refuge of my room, my books, and a wild imagination.

Yet when we would occasionally go to the mountains above Palm Springs to stay in a friend’s cabin in Idyllwild, watching the raccoons at night on the deck, amid the fragrant tall pines as I explored the natural world, something stirred to life in me — something that never went fully back to sleep.

In my early twenties, I found myself living in a lonely adobe tower on a wild mesa near Taos, New Mexico. Five miles down a rutted dirt road, the nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away, and the house was surrounded on three sides by 28,000 acres of national forest. I had no television, radio or phone; in every way imaginable, I was a very long way from Pasadena.

Having left my first significant relationship with a man, I was wrestling some ghosts and old patterns, but the deeper calling was that I wanted to somehow feel more alive in an authentic way. I wasn’t just running away, something in my soul was calling me to a wild and lonely place.

I spent six months there; working in a half-assed way on the manuscript for a novel, but mostly roaming alone amid the piñon and juniper trees beneath a wide turquoise sky, imagining myself as some solitary gay cowboy. Often I felt crushingly alone, but that part of my soul awakened in my youth by nature was becoming fully embodied.

Living on the mesa, where the only sounds I heard were windsong, the croaking of ravens, and scruffy coyotes yip yipping at the moon, I stopped wearing a wristwatch. I apprenticed to ‘nature time’ — slowing down and learning to watch clouds, shifting moods of light and weather — and discovered that the world around me was far more alive than I had ever imagined.

Somehow the wild aliveness of the natural world mirrored something hidden, powerful and essential in me. In a curious way, I felt I was finally coming home to myself — to the real me, the one I had always hoped to discover. A wild soul.

◊♦◊

In the 1990’s, a trio of now-classic books launched the mythopoetic men’s movement: Iron John, by Robert Bly, Fire in the Belly, by Sam Keen, and King, Magician, Warrior, Lover, by Robert Moore. Collectively they sold more than two million copies. Bly, in particular, urged men to discover the Wild Man, the “deep male” within us, and legions of readers went into the woods with groups of others to bond and reclaim a deep part of their psyche, to embrace a new kind of masculinity — in touch with its wounds and shadows, reclaiming its rituals and also its wild heart.

Though this movement was mocked by media and the mainstream, and though it eventually faltered under a backlash from both men and women, something deep and essential had been touched, something close to the bone. In the decades since then, a host of men’s gatherings, workshops, trainings, ‘vision quests’ and wilderness ‘rites of passage’ work have sprung up, all of them focused on the deeper questions of what it means to be a man. A Wild Man or a wild soul — like the one I met while living on the untamed mesa.

A neo-movement is rising. A new generation seeks its own answers to the perennial question: what does it mean to be an authentic man connected to his wild soul? The question persists because deep down inside, under the armor and the surface persona, whether gay or straight, most men feel a sense of emptiness, that something essential is missing. We feel more powerless than powerful, and in a humdrum world we want desperately to feel alive.

◊♦◊

Some years ago, apprenticing as a guide for an organization that leads wilderness-based ‘vision quests’, I began to realize the sheer numbers of men seeking something deeper than what their lives currently offer. We feel the deep longing for a life of authenticity and connection but don’t know how to move closer to or embody it; we’re trapped in our lives by chains of work, family, social pressures — or simply our own patterns.

A deep immersion in wilderness, especially in the company of other soul-seeking individuals as in ‘rites of passage’ work or a men’s gathering, is bound to change you and awaken the Wild Man. Not everyone needs such a catalyst, but most of us need something … because in the modern technoworld, where identity is only as deep as our business card, or the screen we’re staring at, we need something more.

In a modern urban culture, the vast majority of us are very disconnected from any sense of ‘wild’. We are thoroughly domesticated. Wedded to technology and distractions, any sense of wildness and nature has been effectively banished from our air-conditioned lives. The result is that we are severed from a deeper, authentic sense of ourselves — from our innate power and the sensual, wild soul. (To be clear, I mean ‘wild’ as in free, natural and unchained, not destructive or out of control.)

This doesn’t mean that we have to live in a log cabin on the side of a mountain, or on a sagebrush-strewn mesa; for most of us, that isn’t very practical for our work in the world. (And as gay men, it could get really, really lonely.) But it does mean that we need to get out into nature, because that is always the best place to discover or reconnect with the wild soul. Nature is our extended body and spirit — ecstatic, abundant, sensuous — and it awakens us to something ancient and wise.

Our citified, technological lifestyle severs us from nature and our true aliveness. Yet to discover our wild soul means we must also begin examining the other ways in which we keep ourselves domesticated, ‘safe’ and small: the patterns and habits that limit us, along with our Shadow — those repressed, hidden and undesirable parts that we have locked away.

◊♦◊

Within each of us, in the silence between breaths, exists a deep longing. It’s a yearning for a larger life in which we feel connected, authentic, rooted, and powerful. This longing isn’t something that needs to be fixed; it is the summons of your wild soul.

There is a gift that only you can bring to the world. Discovering and then offering that forward is what the soul helps us to achieve, and in doing so, we come fully and authentically alive.

Brother, I dare you to go in search of your wild soul: whether in the wilderness, the urban jungle, or simply in your own heart, find him. He’s waiting for you.

 

Sex and Soul: A Man’s Journey

(A post written initially for elephant journal, later published at Good Men Project.)


torso_tattoo

Sex is the lover’s tango of the masculine and feminine within us, regardless of our gender or that of our partner.

—–

In the soft purple haze of summer twilight, miniscule bats twirl and zoom erratically in the air. Through the large bedroom window, I watch their evening dance as I lie naked on the bed, quiet and placid at last. The waves of erotic energy rising up from the sacrum — a force that lifts my spine from the mattress, washing through my body like the rolling ocean — have finally subsided.

My entire being feels fully enlivened and quietly glowing like sunset, while my energetic field is a crackling ball of nearly luminous energy extending several feet in every direction. I am light as air, a shroud woven of silver blue silk. After a full-body orgasm, I’m floating in an altered state of consciousness, drifting out with expanding galaxies in a dreamy state.

My beloved has slipped away to the bathroom for a steaming, post-coital, aromatherapy bath, leaving me space and silence to integrate the energetic expansion that ripples through every fiber of my being. I could easily transcend my body right now — instead I remain savoring the subtle sensation, still cascading up my spinal column while watching the twirling bats outside in the fading, violet sky.

Our sex has been a full-spectrum event this evening: building from exquisitely tender to highly animated and aggressively rough, a thrusting dance of power and surrender. The wild soul fully unleashed.

Yet I’ve remained deeply embodied in sensation and breath, fully present with my mate, saturated in the moment and the body with its shifting energies unleashed by the fire of erotic energy. Steeped in sensation, when we engage in movement, breath, sound — a willingness to be open rather than restricted in any way — a current of sexual/creative/spiritual energy flows freely as a river.

Most men have no idea that orgasm exceeds ejaculation, that it holds potential for an experience far beyond the sharp and pleasurable rush of seminal fluid outwards. Or that we can enjoy a full-body orgasm without ejaculating. In an energetic, full-body orgasm an individual is flooded with waves of sensation and power that can last several minutes, completely rearranging his inner landscape. Cultivated through breath and embodiment, it is a profoundly expansive experience, one that facilitates dilating from emotional somatic patterns in the most pleasurable way.

Observing the zooming bats, I’m supremely aware of the openness and expansion in my being. I am energized but hushed, every sense highly attuned to the slightest vibration. I feel as if I have just emerged from a deep and blissful meditation, not entirely certain which reality or dimension I inhabit. Every restrictive pattern or thought has exploded in a starburst, and my heart is wide enough to hold the world in loving, golden arms.

While my beloved silently soaks in the tub, the night outside descends like a velvet curtain. Naked and quiet, my senses and heart wide open from full-body orgasm, I watch the nightly dance of the bats. What if we all embraced our senses and our power — including our sexual energy — so freely as every other living being on Earth? What if we apprenticed to our sensual being, becoming ‘pleasure scouts’ as we nurture our own personal power and ‘life force’?

In our quest for authentic passion and soulful meaning in life, pleasure and power prove curious stumbling blocks for most men. Yet this is also the arena where we stand to be significantly transformed if we deepen into embodiment and awareness.

Sex is the embodied dance of power and surrender, of action and receptivity, the song of eros. It is the lover’s tango of the masculine and feminine within us, regardless of gender or that of our partner.

My bodymind expansive as a fiery star, the small and subtle waves still ripple up my spinal cord to sequence out through my extremities. I reflect for a moment on my own sexual journey in life, considering my evolution from a young man who was so insecure about his body, so vulnerable at being naked, I could only have sex with the lights off. How tightly shame keeps us bound … and how good it is to be free.

◊♦◊

My sexual journey is as important to my self esteem and personal transformation as any other work I’ve done on the path to becoming an authentic, conscious man and embodying the Sacred Masculine. Exploring both the light and shadows of sex, learning to be deeply ensouled and connected to the heart while naked with another, has been essential in learning to be free and integrate self expression.

Gabrielle Roth, the renowned movement teacher and author, said that in order to come fully into our power, one of the most essential tasks in our lives is to learn how to make love. Roth asked, “How many of us know how to have a total, full-body, cathartic, shaking-all-over sexual experience?” Not many of us, especially men. Yet when we finally discover soulful sex, we realize that it is healing, powerful, and consciousness-raising.

If we loosen our restrictive patterns, sex holds the power to free the soul, unleash our authentic energies, and offers a gateway to transformation.

Brother, what is your shame at being a sensual, erotic being? What barriers and patterns of containment do you place around your sexuality? And what might it be like to be free, to discover the soul of sex as a man?

 


[This post was adapted from The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul by L.R. Heartsong (White Cloud Press, 2014). Used with permission. All rights reserved.]

 

And He Danced. Wildly. Naked.

(A post originally written for the Good Men Project and my column there on the Sacred Masculine.)


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When you reach the end will you be able to say you had the courage to live your most authentic, soulful life?

—–

“Please write your obituary. Write it for the most authentic, soulful life that you wish you had lived.”

Such was the instruction from the senior guide to the dozen participants of an 11-day wilderness quest as we sat in a loose circle on the dry, bare earth.

Away from the main camp, a pen and notebook in my hand, seated in the late spring shade of a sycamore amid the jumble of boulders in an Arizona canyon, I pressed my spine against the tree and considered my life — my current existence and the larger one that beckoned.

I was apprenticing as a guide for nature-based “rites of passage” work, part of my journey towards a meaningful, soulful life — one that fully embodies my authenticity and personal power as a man. But where was I on that path, especially in relation to writing an obituary like the one requested?

Most of us spend the first half of life creating an identity: an ego-based persona built with influences from family, education, work, social and peer groups, and religious affiliation. Consciously or not, it is what we’re taught to do, and what we see others doing.

Few of us realize it, but that identity is also stitched from our inner wounds and workings, our patterns and habits. Most of us want to look good, and we decorate our persona with external objects such as job title, style of clothing, car, and house. Family, perhaps.

Yet this identity projected to the outside world is not fully who we are.

Below the superficial façade — stylish, successful, sexy, strong — is a hidden and secret part of the self. We may not fully grasp exactly what this deeper part of us may be, but we sense its presence like a shadowy figure standing behind or beside us.

In each of us there is something deeper. Something nameless. Elusive.

Beneath that carefully constructed identity, even if we have accumulated material success, most of us feel a sense of disconnection. It’s like a hollow core, something essential missing.

Usually, we unconsciously project onto the outer world what we feel is lacking in our lives, thinking that what is not in here must be out there. Thus we go chasing after (or are encouraged to buy) what we think might fill that void: physical connection, new lovers, sports cars, exotic travel.

Yet almost always these objects of attraction fail to touch the deeper part of us.

For most, part of what we sense is missing is the inherently creative part of our being — that indescribable wedge of light that I call the soul. The blueprint for an authentic life, soul is the element that connects us to something much larger. If we pay attention and follow, it guides towards becoming the unique person we were meant to be.

“Inside, something waits to be born. Something vital and secret, tender and powerful.

For a chick in the dim confines of its shell, the space grows too small. At a mysterious moment, something stirs it to wake up and begin pecking with its beak against the wall. It doesn’t know what waits beyond the small, dark world of its existence, only that it must break free. Tightly folded up, it hasn’t yet discovered its own wings. Yet it risks its entire existence, the only space that it has ever known, to struggle forth into what it is meant to become.

How many of us listen to our own innate intelligence in such fashion? Offering a million distractions but little of true grace, the false gods of Money and Machine have seduced most of our world. The inside of the modern shell is lined with television and computer screens, lulling the restless quietly back to sleep.

As a man, are you willing to crack your protective shell that you might emerge into a much larger and unimagined version of your self? How much longer will you remain tightly curled up in close, familiar confines, chanting to yourself all the convincing reasons why you must not risk breaking free?” (excerpted from The Bones and Breath, by L. R. Heartsong)

To emerge from the shell you don’t have to quit your job, leave an intimate relationship, take a year off, live in a mountain cabin, move to a foreign country, begin psychotherapy, or undertake a wilderness “vision quest.” Granted, these may all be perfectly relevant and worthwhile things to do at some point of your journey, but they are not necessarily required for you to begin emerging into a soulful, authentic existence.

What is required, however, is that we have courage. Soul courage.

A life worth living, one that pursues a deeper meaning and sense of connection in the world — the kind that my mentor asked us to write our obituary for — isn’t simply handed to us. It requires building, risks, and leaps of faith.

Many forms of courage exist: the heroism of dashing into a burning building to save someone, the willingness to face our addictions and give them up, the bravery to confront an enemy or social injustice.

I think of soul courage as daring to be someone fully authentic and different. It is the boldness to go off alone on a quest — either an inner or outer one — to discover our truth and calling in the world. It’s the fearlessness to find the deeper, hidden part of yourself and the risk to live from that place.

In other posts and articles, I have offered that men need to embrace a heart-centered, evolved masculinity — the Sacred Masculine — yet the prerequisite to any such soulful transformation is courage.

To evolve requires vulnerability and risk, the readiness to look at our patterns — mental, emotional, somatic — that keep us limited and small. Disconnected. Superficial. No one embodies his deepest authenticity without courage. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Something in you waits to be born, its shape unguessed at until it emerges.

If we’re going to risk emerging from our shell and becoming something larger, more powerful and alluring, courage is essential.

Brother, I know you have it within you, this soul courage. I say it rests at the heart of the masculine — the Sacred Masculine, especially.

In that Arizona canyon, I rested against the tall sycamore and listened to the sounds of nature around me, watching a hawk trace circles against the blue sky. I considered how I wanted to memorialize my “best” life, then I opened my little notebook and wrote:

He questioned what it meant to be an authentic man.

The ideal of the Sacred Masculine inspired him: cultivating personal power and using it appropriately for positive benefit, the ability and willingness to feel deeply, and an understanding of the interrelatedness of life.

He tended the earth and practiced stewardship. He opened his heart and softened his criticisms of others.

Repeatedly, he followed his longing. He wrestled with demons, took leaps of faith, and died to any identity that had grown too small for him.

He cast aside shame and guilt, choosing to laugh, to weep, and to live with abandon — trusting that love would shatter him into something larger.

Passionately he loved the wild places of the world. Barefoot, he quietly spoke the language of rivers, trees and stars.

He sang, walked, wrote, cooked, and shared… all to nourish the soul.

And he danced. Wildly.

Naked.

If I told you to pen your obituary today for your life as it exists right now, how would it read? Go ahead, write it. Then write the one for the soul life you most want to live, the one whispering somewhere deep inside you.

I offer that the only real difference between the two is soul courage.

 

Meet the Green Man: Archetype for A Wild Soul

(A post originally written for elephant journal, later adapted and shared with the Good Men Project.)


rivergreenman

Somewhere in your soul, there’s a wild man of the wood waiting to be discovered.

—–

After days of cold, grey rain, I needed to get out and walk.

Opening the gate in the tall deer fence, I stepped through into the soggy field with its newly sprouted carpet of vividly green English wheat. The sky shimmered blue overhead and a sheer, golden light illuminated the bare trees and the rolling Downs in the distance.

I headed south from our Sussex cottage, my rubber Wellies squashing noisily through the waterlogged grass and mud at the edge of the field. I had no clear intention of where I would walk but I wanted to avoid any roads and to keep only soft, wet earth underfoot, so I wandered footpaths that wove like bedraggled ribbons over wooded hill and dale.

Tromping along the muddy trail, enjoying both my exercise and being enfolded by trees and fields, I found myself reflecting on the Green Man, an ancient pagan archetype of masculine connection with Nature.

Far older than Christianity, the Green Man reemerged powerfully in the twelfth century, and his image can be found carved into stone pillars in cathedrals throughout Europe. At the sacred site of Chartres, France, the Green Man can be found at least seventy-two times within the great cathedral, and over a hundred of his stone faces decorate Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.

greenmanDepicted with his beard and hair growing or formed of leaves, vines and boughs, the Green Man is the steward of the forests and land. He embodies a silent, gentle wisdom through his respect of all living things.

Bearded and inherently masculine, he models a different kind of manhood and strength, one that is based on relationship, caring, and true husbandry or stewardship. He gives us a powerful metaphor and depiction of the Sacred Masculine.

Living in the Old World, particularly when I wandered through whispering woods or less domesticated places, the gentle Green Man often entered my consciousness. On some subtle level, his energy is still present in the British Isles, somehow still existing in the wilder places and as a reemerging part of the regional folklore.

He is often called Jack of the Wood, or Jack of the Green, and is the basis for popular folklore characters, such as the Green Knight in the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Robin Hood. In his classic form, the Green Man seems to be reemerging and growing in newfound popularity around the globe.

We do not have to be neo-pagans to appreciate this ancient, archetypal energy — an image of malehood entwined with nature and mystery. We don’t have to follow any religion at all. We do, however, need to possess a sense of soul.

In a previous article (read “Authentic Manhood: Rites of Passage and Soul”), I offered that ours is culture that lacks authentic rites of passage, soulful initiations and wise elders. In a materialistic society that doesn’t really value or support the soul, many of us are searching for some sense of deeper meaning in our lives.

In that search, we look to discover an affirming embodiment of the masculine that is connected to something larger. Men need role models who teach us that we each have something essential to bring to our community and the world, mentors who understand that everything is related to everything else, and that the heart is a true compass.

Enter the Green Man, a strong and compassionate masculine who respects the hidden laws of nature and interconnected relationship. In a modern incarnation, he stands for environmental awareness and action; he symbolizes cooperation with nature rather than dominion over it for resources, wealth, and power. In a sense, he is the original eco-warrior.

In the search to discover a role model or affirming embodiment of the masculine, if we look to classic myths to archetypes we could find multiple metaphors that represent the Sacred Masculine, yet somehow the Green Man seems uniquely relevant, approachable and timely.

A few years ago, I returned from Europe to live in the States. While I cannot say that on my walks in the wilds and semi-wilds of coastal California I sense the Green Man as I did in England, I seem to have taken on that archetypal energy in a different manner. He is in me.

He’s reflected in the choices I make with my food — where was this raised, how was it produced, how far has it traveled to reach me? When I shop at the weekly farmer’s market and put my dollars directly into the hands of those who tended the earth and grew the ingredients for my supper, the Green Man is there.

He is present in the way I wash my dishes in a plastic tub in the sink and then pour the water onto the plants on my deck and garden. (Yes, it’s an eco-friendly dish soap.) He is my awareness of my carbon footprint, driving less and staying local, and having a fuel-efficient automobile.

The Green Man is present in each of us when we endeavor to buy and use less, when we recycle and reuse as much as possible. Nature never wastes anything. We embody the archetype when we practice stewardship and remember that everything is interconnected and in relationship.

The bearded man of the wood also represents and personifies something essential that we have lost: the wild soul.

In a modern urban culture, the vast majority of us are very disconnected from nature. We are thoroughly domesticated. Wedded to technology and distractions, any sense of wildness has been effectively banished from our air-conditioned lives. The result is that we are severed from a deeper, authentic sense of ourselves — from our innate power and wildness. (To be clear, I mean wildness as in nature and soul, not destructive.)

I’m talking about something more than merely “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Essential as our connection with nature is, nearly every one of us could benefit from some broader re-wilding: a loosening of our suits, neckties and familiar restrictions. We need a reconnection with something more authentic, more feral than fashionable.

The wild soul is the authentic, creative, timeless core within us — the part that not only connects to and appreciates nature, but also is nature.

I cannot count the hours I spent roaming the green landscape of England in my years of living there. Beneath a heavy grey sky, crossing tidy fields bordered with hedgerows, or wandering through shady dells and whispering woods, I met sly red foxes, spotted deer, bounding rabbits, and all manner of wild things.

With my senses open and ajar, I felt not only a sense of my own wild soul — an expansion in my heart, a quiet humming of visceral power in my body — but also a kinship with the living earth. We are not separate, after all.

When I walk in wild places — anywhere, really — and see the world not just an assortment of separate objects, or even an ‘ecosystem’, but as an interconnected, creative relationship, that is the Green Man and the Sacred Masculine embodied in me.

It is the Green Man who daily feeds the scrub jays, dark-eyed juncos, hummingbirds, and crows that I share this patch of earth with. And he’s there when I sit outside on the front porch in the evenings, observing the light fade amid the gnarled oaks and windswept Monterey cypresses, or watching the fog roll in to blanket the town.

In his quiet, affirming way, the Green Man teaches that the wild soul and the Sacred Masculine are interwoven, and that we are all interconnected — human, non-human, and planetary.

Somewhere in your soul, there’s a wild man of the wood waiting to be discovered.