Apprenticeship to Love: Towards Authentic Relationship, March 14, 2024

  • Today’s questions: What threshold invites you? What frightening step forward that seems to welcome your annihilation? And what ritual can you prepare, to offer yourself as the gift you are to this moment of diminishing?
  • Today's suggested practice: Day 14 of this month's practice, to pause and feel the sacred space within (see my "Short Practice,” below)
  • My practice today: 6am: 15 minutes: mantra meditation on Ganesha, grounding myself to prepare for this day
  • Did I do my vulnerability practice today? Y How about you? Y/N?

The next Apprenticeship to Love virtual workshop with Sarah Anderson, "for intimacy," is now open for limited registration at . Free to all Premium, Premium+, and EXTRA subscribers


Am I not here, as a man, to conquer? To build something? To leave my mark, legacy, a palace, a hero's story? These are the questions we ask ourselves in our youth, before the world has had Her way with us and, perhaps through grinding or testing, reduced our expectations of ourselves. Diminished us.

There are those among us who think the answer lies in resistance. In reviving our adolescence. Our hard bodies. Our hard hearts. Our one-pointed ways of being and loving and denying Her magic.

That is the promise of what we experience, regularly, as fascism in this culture. Fearing the thresholds with no promise we deny the body. We deny the truth it persists in telling: "I am," it says, "A seasonal garden. And every season offers rich experiences and wisdom, perhaps the richest of all in the wintering through."
As with so much in my life, the prospect of diminishment was frightening. Too frightening to be accepted without considerable resistance. How strange then (or not!), that in my experience of crossing the thresholds of this diminishing, I am met by so much more of what life —and love—, in all of Her many guises, has to give me.
We don’t get to be who we are without sacrificing at least some of the dearest aspects of who we thought we were. We have, as humans, developed a technology to help us: rites of passage.

I haven't become the man I am —or, as I am now fond of say, "the man I love"— without sacrificing aspects of myself that I was very attached to. Aspects that I believed, on the other side of the threshold, made me the man I am. I was wrong about that. I'm so much more.

But my fear is endemic. This may be why the culture generally, and we masculine-identified men particularly, resist ritual. Because every rite of passage involves sacrifice. And in a culture that pretends to worship the individual above all else, the "self" above all else, anything that smells of psychic or spiritual self-immolation is anethema. Something to be avoided. At all costs.

What a strange thing it is, to yearn for the goods and privileges of "adulthood," but to still cling to adolescence, and deteremined to have both. To experience the merging that is "falling in love," and to simultaneously resent the loss of our vaunted independence. To experience the energetic and physical merging of sexual union and especially in the momentary annihilation of the "little death," but to deny its deeper calling to spirirtual self-immolation by creating instead an entertainment, a circus of pleasure disembodied even as it is focused exclusively on the body.
I used to think I was strange, that following my own "little deaths" I would want to hide. Embarrassed. Vulnerable. Threatened by I know not what. Wanting to run from the woman with whom I had, apparently, shared a certain intimacy.

I thought I was stange until I read an article written by Wilhelm Reich in Berlin as a particularly ugly version of fascism was flexing its muscles and its denial of the body with a virulent body-culture of its own making. Reich, who wrote about the body and fascism in other contexts, wasn't commenting on that in this article. But he was describing a common experience among the men he was working with. And it echoed my own. A fear of being with that moment of loss of self that is part of how we experience our "little deaths."
We do not, as masculine-identified men, like to lose control. I certainly do not like to lose control. My sexuality is a challenge to me, then. I am biologically drawn to penetrate and ejaculate. But if I allow myself to be the man I am —a little more aware than my primate biology is ready for, perhaps; a little more sensitive to deeper things and to thresholds and consciousness, etc that my "monkey body," as one teacher calls it, knows what to do with— if I allow myself to be the man I am becoming then I am also called to lose control.
There are many younger men who, in pursuit of deeper and more "spiritual" sexual experiences are drawn to practices of non-ejaculation or "semen retention." But I am wondering: is this self-discpline another way of protecting ourselves from the vulnerability of the "little death" and the loss of control we experience in its throes?

A woman "loses control" regularly. If in no other way, with every cycle of the moon, for much of her adult life. Her body is trained to trust deeper currents and tides than her own willfulness and discipline. The culture pathologizes this as best as it can. It makes her body's cycles something to be ashamed of, or at least modified chemically. (For any man reading this, I encourage you to pay attention to the moon cycles of the women around you, and how they cope —or celebrate, this too is becoming more of an option— with the pain, the awkwardness, the loss of control, and then imagine anything similar in your own life. For me it is sobering. Another form of diminishing my ideas of the importance of self-control, etc in my life.)

When she experiences my "little death" in her body it is a sign that I, if only for a moment, have been reduced. Obliterated. Held only by her body, and the profoundly "other" energy of her body.

As I've said, at one time in my life I found this hard. I experienced it as a weakness. No one taught me about this. The pedagogy of sex was grotesque for me as a young man. I believe that it still is. Unless we are lucky enough to be guided by a woman with a deeper knowing of herself.

But even this guidance was not enough. I did not understand that I needed to cross a threshold from adolescence with an open and willing heart, to become something greater than I could imagine. Did she know this? Maybe. Probably not with words, but certainly with her body she would know this. What I believe she —and this is true for any of the few women I was in some way "committed to" (I put quotation marks here because what did I, this man afraid of crossing thresholds, know about commitiment?)— I believe she knew yearned for my softening. A softening that would allow her to trust me.
I don't want to dismiss practices that moderate the ejaculatory impulse out of hand. We, all of us, are still experiencing a vestigal "rape culture." It shows up in many subtle —and not so subtle— ways in our relationships. (I was told by one woman teacher of sacred sexuality that for many women a man's erection is experienced in her body as a demand.) Without care and without a softened and open heart we participate in an abuse of trust that has consequences. One of these, I believe, is the all too common withering of women's sexual interest in marriage or long-term cohabitation. Another is the valorization of the romantic or "honeymoon" or adolescent phase of these relationships. It must always be spring time in our gardens. This is exhausting. Unrealistic. Abusive of ourselves and our sexuality.

Women's bodies experience cycles and seasons that are hard to deny. For men, the denial comes a little easier. And the culture is mad to help. We pathologize our softening as "erectile dysfunction." We are now trying to "solve" our "male menopause."

Our masculinity has its own seasons. We are foolish and cruel to deny ourselves our seasons. We could be creating rituals. Rites of passage. Acknowledging that thresholds wait for us, inviting us into unimaginable experiences of ourselves, of life, of love.
A man tells me this story: He has had a lifetime of active sexuality. A little too active, he acknowledges, as he reflects of often feeling as if he were not in control of his need to penetrate the women who were all too happy to receive him. But now, beginning to grey, his potency is gone. And now his wife attends to him, playing with his flaccid member with an interest and devotion that is new.

Why, he asks her, Why didn't you attend to me this way when I could "do something" about it?

Because, she gently replies to this man who is himself a gentle man, You would get pushy as soon as you were aroused. Now I get to experience more of you, and more of myself, than just your demand, even if it was a gentle demand.
We know so little about the magic of our sexuality. We know some science. In our younger years we experiment with quantity of experiences. Sometimes some of us experiment with the quality of experiences, maybe even the "sacred" of our experiences.

Like so much of who and how we are there is so much to appreciate when we know ourselves as bodies not only held by our experiences and sensations, but also time. We are a garden of delights. This garden has seasons. With changes in colours and textures. Hard and soft. Dark and pale. Thin and thick. Noisy. Quiet. Surface, and depth.

What am I learning, and what am I, in turn, trying to teach?

Slow down.

If you are in a man's body that may mean less penetration and less ejaculation. It may mean feeling desire without a commensurate neediness to resolve or "fix" it.

Maybe this means, for all of us, to becoming more sensitive to small invitations to the thresholds of our lives, and to create rituals for these passages. To prepare ourselves so that we are a little less fearful of the unknown and unimaginable we face. It certainly means acknowledging the tug to look backward for answers. By now we should know this: the answers of our youth are no guide for the years after adolescence, except perhaps in this way: our bodies are capable of so much more than we know. They are, in fact, capable of becoming the one we are so afraid of losing in the diminishment that life, and love, require of us.


🌀You are not like that anymore. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)


Day 14 of this month's practice, to let these thoughts and feelings move through you, with less resistance:
Please read through first, then ...

  • Set two alarms, for times of the day when you have a five-10 minutes to become conscious of who and how you are in this day.
  • When the alarm sounds, wherever and however you are, take a few moments and:
    • Ask yourself: What threshold invites me? What frightening step forward that seems to welcome my annihilation? And what ritual can I prepare, to offer myself as the gift I am to this moment of diminishing?
    • Then, follow the short practice here:
      • Stand, or sit, and bring your attention to your posture.
      • Feel the ground beneath your feet or sit bones, tilt your chin slightly to lift your chest open and straighten your neck.
      • Take a deep breath, through your nose, and hold it gently for the count of six. Relax the breath for the count of eight. Repeat three times.
  • 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? Am I 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.


★ If, as you face the thresholds of your life, you are interested in creating ceremonies or rituals that "change the world," let's talk.