Apprenticeship to Love, May 15, 2024

  • Today’s questions: What do you most desire? Are you leaning into it? Are you leaning back from it, and allowing it to be more beautiful than you can imagine? What fear keeps you from leaning back?
  • Today's suggested practice: to breathe and feel the tension, pressure, friction, and stress, and then allowing it to become more beautiful than you can imagine... (see my "Short Practice,” below)
  • My practice today: 2am: 60 minutes: asanas, pranayama (breath work) meditation for balancing the elements, for allowing the pressure, friction, tension, and stress of this moment to become what it needs to be...


Every month, for most of her adult life, she knows the rhythm of birth, and death, and sacrifice. But still, she looks to me for courage. And still, I am afraid.

Every marriage will be bloodied, made sacred, by dying. The woman you marry will lead you through this dying, if you have the stomach and the heart for it. Only in trusting her instinct for blood will you know how to lead.

Sadly, most of us —and I count myself among this number— will be too afraid to lead where she calls. That wilderness, we will cry, is “too much.” And so we fail ourselves, and her, and our marriage vows.

But we are more than our fears. And though the taste of this bloodying is bitter, it is necessary…
I am reading a novel that I might call the author's own apprenticeship to love. There are enough parallels with my own apprenticeship that I am enchanted. It may be, as the author is so fond of saying, a "sign."

Other signs: the book came to me from a colleague. She picked it up, randomly at a neighbourhood book exchange, and reading it, knew it was for me. I carried it with me for a time. I lent it. It came back. And now, I am reading at a time that is ripe, when I am in the dark and in silence (a place I am becoming more familiar with, trusting more rather than resenting or trying to claw my way out of). The author's story, a fabrication from his experiences and wonderings, buttresses my own. It is an erie thing, to find myself in these words.
We are, we masculine-identified men, afraid of the dark, and afraid of blood. We have much to learn, but our culture has defeaned our ears and blinded our eyes. What was once sacred, is defiled. Denigrated. Where there was wonder and mystery is now both cold, dry light —and fear, masquerading as masculine superiority.
Last night I listened to a woman, in tears. Her eyes were wide open. Her heart there too. Her words, her own apprenticeship. Afraid to reveal herself to herself. Seeking the wilderness within and beginning the painful process of peeling back the layers of domestication. Feeling her own timidity in the face of her power, but also her man's fear. He is like so many of us. Like me. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of the wildnerness. Afraid of being overwhelmed. Afraid that she will be taken away from him.

Another woman, listening, commented, It is a good thing you have the container of your marriage to hold you. You in your opening, he in his fear. The first woman agreed. I held my tongue.
Marriage is a vessel, a boat. In times past it was a boat that carried us through troubled waters. Now it is a leaky vessel carrying both too much expectation and given not enough care. Now, instead of carrying us through troubled waters, it is abandoned in these very waters. We think it is the problem. We think this vessel is the why of our domestication, is our prison, as men and as women. I don't think so. But mine is a minority report. And so we continue with one half of the fairytale, the wedding, but will not let ourselves be tested in the other half of the story, the necessary bloodying and dying, the sacrifice, that any passage through troubled waters requires.
In the story I am reading a man and a woman are married. They are, on the face of it, happily married. Or, at least he thinks so. (How many times have I been here? Too many. Hence this book, these chapters.)

As with so many marriages where the husband does not understand his deeper spiritual signifance he mistakes his wife's leaving as the end of the marriage. He is wrong. (This too is all too familiar, all too painfully familiar.)

But his wife cannot tell him that he is wrong. Because for as long as he believes he is right, he is right. So all she can do is follow her path into her wilderness. And trust. Not herself. Not her marriage. Not whatever vows may have been spoken. What she does is not a matter of trust but of simply putting one foot in front of the other in a way that is "right." And, that perhaps her man has the depth to, one day, begin his own pilgrimage into the dark. Will submit to the diminishment and the sacrifice that will allow him to know himself as her husband, still.
Words, I was reminded the other day by my colleague in our conversation about the dark and mysterious portal that is a woman's body, are beautiful things. Gifts that must be offered, with care, with reverence. And with the moist, dark blood of our hearts rather than the dry light of our minds.

When I chant mantras I am, I was reminded today, opening my capacity to hear beyond words. To know whether they come from blood. To discern their deeper meaning.

When we make vows there will be blood. There will be call to sacrifice. To testing our resolve. No words can make this easier or less disturbing. We are, when we marry, submitting ourselves to be deeply disturbed. Bloodied.
She is always drawn to the mystery. To her wilderness. Her darkness, and the blood of it. If I am to be a true husband to her blossoming —and why else would I submit to the bloodying of marriage if not to know the unimaginable beauty of her blossoming?— I must lead her through the darkness and the blood of it by following her willingness to go deeper than I dare.

This is not, as I tried to say last night as I listened to women express their blood power and their wonder at it, our "work" as men; it is our art. To on the one hand trust that this darkness and sacrifice she calls us into is what we need to become the men she knows us to be, and on the other to find within what is left of ourselves to dance with everything she offers, and make it holy.

She does not know her power, or her beauty. It is our art to know how to reveal her to herself, that her blossoming completely and utterly overwhelms and —perhaps— redeems us.


🌀 Practicing mantras, like sharpening a kitchen knife, makes your effort effortless . . . comprehension slides in naturally. Eventually, you’re no longer paying all your attention to the words, but absorbing the subtleties within the words. (GS&GK)

🌀The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)

🌀 The entire purpose of sexual yoga can be understood through this one technique—leaning back.
It is a demonstration of equanimity, discipline, consciousness, trustworthiness, transcendence, and love, all in one gesture.
…Observe the sensations of pleasure. Allow them to consume your body-mind, without reacting, without grasping. The “irritation” of intense sensation transforms from uncomfortable to ecstatic. Your body becomes electric. Desire cooks you from the inside out. (Justin Patrick Pierce)

🌀You deserve nothing. (Kendra Cunov)

🌀I appreciate you. (My beloved, she who must be ravished by my powerful and rooted presence, my capacity to "lean back")


This month's practice, to breathe and feel the tension, pressure, friction, and stress, and then allowing it to become more beautiful than you can imagine:
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 do I desire? Am I leaning into it? Am I leaning back from it, and allowing it to be more beautiful than I can imagine? What fear keeps me from leaning back?
    • Then, follow the short practice here:
      • Stand, or sit, or lay yourself down, and bring your attention to your body.
      • Feel the ground beneath you. Allow the earth to hold you with gravity. Feel how dense and heavy you are. Feel also how lightly you sit or stand or lay on the earth. Feel yourself between the pull of earth's gravity and the subtle but persistent pull of the sun, the stars.
      • Begin to breathe long and deep into your belly. Slow the inhale to a count of four or six. Slow your exhale to a count of six or eight or ten. Repeat three to five cycles of breathing, going a little slower with each cycle. Continuing to notice yourself held by the earth, raised by the sun and stars and sky above. Feel the subtle tension and pressure and friction and stress that allows you to be and rest and move in this body.
  • When you’re done, take 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.