Apprenticeship to Love: Meditations on this Path to Authentic Relationship, February 5, 2024

  • Today's playlist: Listening to the noise of household appliances, robotically heating my home, cleaning my air, and other things that I take for granted...
  • Today’s questions: Who do you choose? And why do you choose? Is it about your personal desires, or do you want something bigger, for your family, your culture?
  • Today's suggested practice: Day 5 of this month's practice, a breath work for "balancing," to allow these thoughts and feelings to move through you, with less resistance (see my "Short Practice,” below)
  • My practice today: 4am: 45 minutes: yoga, mantra meditation for Muladhara and the calling of Shakti
  • My vulnerability practice: I am begining to know, in my bones perhaps, that to be chosen is not the same as things becoming easy. Clearer, perhaps, but not necessarily easy. And, wondering, open-heartedly...

★ My conversation, about matrimony and other things, with two of my heroes, Stephen Jenkinson & Kimberly Ann Johnson, is now posted here:



Dimitris, a tango teacher and writer who often asks the right questions, a few days asked words to the effect of, Why would we not welcome the warm embrace?

Kimberly Ann, who you may know from my references to her as one of my modern-day heroes, asked recently, What does matrimony mean to you? And how do you choose?

What I know: I, and most every man and woman and child I've had the pleasure to be with, longs to be held in the warm embrace of love. Yet even the children know that there is a risk to this seemingly inconsequential intimacy. By the time we are adults, most of us have been taught, not so gently, that the risk is greater than so many of us are willing to take.

By the time I talk to them as adults, in their 30s or 40s or 70s, this knowledge is too often a thick scar that, yes it protects, but it also dulls and numbs the body. And so compromises are made. Risks not taken. Feelings now allowed to blossom in the garden of their being.

Over dinner one evening over a decade ago two learned tango teachers opined on tango, on broken hearts, and that this is why we dance: to be held in the so-often safe structure of three or four songs, and permitted to feel a moment of bliss. An intimacy that we've agreed begins and ends within the tanda (our three or four songs together).

Another teacher, Stephen Jenkinson, in his conversations with Kimberly Ann Johnson, the conversations that became the Reckoning book, talked of the "necessary skill of heartbreak." Necessary because each of us will face the loss of loved ones. And even if we have no loved ones, we face the loss of ourselves to this thing we've made of our own lives.

Tango becomes a place to practice this skill of heartbreak. To feel the hesitancy of some in my arms, and the willful surrender of others, their readiness to dance into heartbreak or its pale equivalence. Because some who enter into the embrace are truly wanting to be broken open, and to feel the bliss of themselves held and allowed to unravel and flow and blossom, knowing that after our three or four songs there will be a tenderness. And it will, as we break the embrace, as we leave each other, feel a little like the heartbreak we've learned to know as the absolute verification of being alive, as Jenkinson suggests.
I’ve known her warm embrace. I’ve known her surrender. I've heard her soft calling for me to hold her in this place of breaking open, and been deaf, unwilling to answer her call.

Today, even in the silence between us, I know her radiance. And, if I allow it, I am flooded with the darkness of her intimate secrets and I hold her, gently, against my heart, a million miles apart. Yet, here, with me, dancing a strange dance of our heartbreak.
What have I squandered? Much. So much. And come to see that I had tried my hardest to avoid the risk of heartbreak. But —good for me!— I was not quite so hardened as I thought I was. Hard. Insensitive. Taking things —her vulnerability, for one; her gifts, for another— for granted. Yes. All of that. And, still, aware of how foolish I can be. An idiot, she recently suggested. Yes, an idiot. But no more than any other who, afraid to hurt again, finds so many clever and useless ways to not take the risk of knowing myself, knowing another, becoming intimate with my own heart's yearning to be held in a warm embrace.

And yes, the yearning to be trusted, again.

And then, knowing this experience: to be trusted, again and again, and knowing myself better through this losing & finding. This being tested by life, and by the one I love. The one I was an idiot not to know because I would not risk.

We were talking about dancing, my friend and I. Sitting on the beach. In the sun. Warmed. Relaxed. And sharing thoughts on favourite things, like leading women in social dances, and what a wonderful thing it is. To dance. To lead. To feel their bliss blossoming in their bodies.

And he said something that made me question my harsh judgements of so many of my fellow men. There are times, he says, when the follow wants to pull him closer, and he does not want that closeness, that intimacy.

I was surprised. I shouldn't have been. I've experienced that reluctance myself. But almost never. And what I usually hear from men is the kind of conquistador attitude that this culture promotes as what "real men" want: more of women's bodies pressed close to ours, more of that taking that causes so many women on the dance floor to be suspicious of our invitations to warm embrace.

It's a compelling trope, the warrior, the conquistador, the seducer, etcetera. We are well-schooled in it, even after two generations of so many women telling us that this expression of masculinity hurts and limits. And we have been slow to recognize —at least many of us, and I include myself here— that what I most want, her blossoming into beauty and love and so much more, is really only limited by my version of what I believe it is to be a man.
Towards the end of my recent conversation with Stephen Jenkinson I made a generalization about young men's anger and frustration. Instead of directing this anger and frustration at women, it is more rightly directed towards my generation and the generation of our fathers and grandfathers, I said. We have not been leading our sons and young men well. We have not taught them how to be men worthy of women's love and trust. To borrow from his language, we've left them a patrimony of little value.

He was quick to respond, telling me that the laying of blame is too easy and not helpful. At least that's how I heard him. What he says is worth hearing, and I will listen to it again, and again. It's important at this time when young men and young women are becoming, at least in the Western world, more and more polarized politically, with young men, as they were in the 1920s and 1930s, drawn towards fascism as a way of protecting privileges. Stephen Jenkinkon's comment to me was that blame, if there is blame to pass around, lies in a culture that's been millenia in the making.

Yes. That sounds true. It feels true. And... And I do believe that it is the work of this generation of men, my generation, to begin to teach a different way to be with each other and with women and with children. I see it happening. I see that we've learned much, mostly from women in our lives. And, in a negative way, so much from our fathers and grandfathers about how we do NOT want to be be.

So there is this "keeping our heads down" that Jenkinson refers to about so many of the young men he talks to. Good men. Keeping their heads down. Too much risk.

But there is Stephen Jenkinson, not keeping his head down. There is a teacher like John Wineland, not keeping his head down. And, I hope, I too and beginning to risk raising my head, suggesting there is a way for us, as masculine-identified men, to be that is redemptive, to borrow from Jenkinson's lexicon.
My friend and I were talking of dance, the joys of leading some women, not all. There are some dances where technical skill and "knowing the steps" makes a difference. But, for most social dances, what's really important is: that the lead has self-confidence in holding and guiding the follow; that the follow is willing to trust the lead to hold and guide them through the music towards deeper pleasure. And despite all of us wanting to feel the "warm embrace," so many of us who want to lead and who are masculine-identified men, we are not felt as trustworthy by the women who would follow us.
Kimberly Ann Johnson, apropos of her upcoming "Forgotten Pillars" project with Stephen Jenkinson and her own recent marriage, asked (I'll paraphrase and beg forgiveness for any misinterpretations), What do you choose in romantic relationship? What does matrimony mean to you? What does marriage mean to you?

In writing these chapters it has been one of my intentions to probe the "Why?' of my choices. To know myself more through the "What did I want?" of these long-term, committed relationships.

I responded to KAJ's question with a provisional answer: that, right now, given the always-changing nature of my wants etc, it is the converation I choose, a conversation that is often deeply silent, always stirring, rarely comfortable. I'm drawn to Nietzche's guidance in marriage. Though he had no practical experience in the matter, he spoke to something that is true for me now, that I am finding in our conversations a way to be myself and to be a man that allows a beautiful dance to emerge between us. This dance is changing me. It is changing my family, subtly.

Not an easy dance. But beautiful beyond my imagination. And it is this that I would offer to those men who would come to me for any guidance, a way to dance heartbreak and to lead oneself and a beloved into a blossoming into bliss. In this way, this dance begins to subtly transform this culture of masculinity.


🌀What would happen if we chose our romantic partnership less from a personal point of view and more from a family- or culture-building perspective? (paraphrasing Kimberly Ann Johnson)

🌀When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

🌀 In order for our spiritual practice to be transformative it is very helpful to centre it around something that inspires, guides, and motivates us and that has the ability to awaken a potential power within us.
…Life sometimes is very challenging, hard, horrible or terrifying. When we can look this [in] …the eye our fears, repulsions, and attachments can melt and we can become whole, unlocking a power within us that will help us to face everything that comes our way. (Kundalini Yoga School, Shakti sadhana, Day 29)

🌀The Conscious Warrior practices the cultivation of wonder and awe. (John Wineland, Precept 7)

🌀I test you. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)


Day 5 of this month's practice, to let these thoughts and feelings move through you, with less resistance:
Please read through first, then ...

  • Set an alarm, for a time of the day when you have a few 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 minutes and:
  • Ask yourself: Who do I choose? And why do I choose? Is it about my personal desires, or do I want something bigger, for my family, my culture?
  • Then, follow the short practice here:
  • When you’re done, sit or stand for another minute or two, breathing gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself, Do I feel right? In alignment with the man or woman I am? Do I even have an inkling what that might feel like? Do I even have an inkling of what it feels like to be out of alignment with myself?
  • Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
  • Continue with your day until the next alarm sounds, and repeat.

★ The January Apprenticeship to Love virtual workshop is now available on video to Premium, Premium+, and Premium EXTRA subscribers. Please ask me for the link if you haven't already received it.